City Hall – Westminster Avenue

The City of Vancouver’s first purpose-built City Hall was wooden, built on Powell Street near Water Street, and expanded in 1888. Here’s the second location, on Westminster Avenue – today’s Main Street. To the south when this 1930s image was taken, was the Market Hall, and to the north the Carnegie Library. Sansom and Dawson won the commission to design this building in 1889 – but not as the City Hall. They were designing the new City Market (with a hall upstairs) which occupied the building until 1898 when the City Council decided it would suit their purposes better as offices. The Vancouver Daily World reporter, having inspected the original plans, wrote “The exterior design of the building is a decided departure from anything we have seen around, and reflects very creditably upon the architects for their ability in designing, and when erected will be one of the handsomest structures in the city, the entire planning showing care, correctness and practicability.”

The market was moved quite a bit further south, by the bridge to Mount Pleasant (as False Creek went all the way to close to Clark Drive in those days). It didn’t do well in such a relatively isolated location and was moved back here some years later. Here’s a 1908 image from the same angle showing the side of the hall before the market returned.

The city didn’t get round to another location for their offices for 30 years, finding their quarters increasingly cramped over the years as the city grew, and the administrative functions with it. Finally, in the mid 1920s, they leased the Holden Block, an office ‘tower’ (for its day) on West Hastings, and after extensive alterations to add a Council Chamber, they relocated, only to move again to the present City Hall in 1936.

Today there’s a modest two storey building, first built in 1959 and altered in 1979. It’s no doubt a good candidate for redevelopment in future.

Image source: City of Vancouver archives CVA 447-298 and Vancouver Public Library



Posted 14 September 2017 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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