West Hastings Street west from Howe Street

This 1930s postcard shows several buildings that have been redeveloped, and three that are still standing. The extraordinary Marine Building dominates the older picture – one of Vancouver’s rare ‘street end blockers’ – and fortunately, a worthy example, designed by Vancouver’s McCartner Nairne and Partners, designing their first skyscraper. While it’s Vancouver’s finest art deco building, it was far from a positive example of development budgeting. Costing $2.3 million, it was $1.1 million over budget, and guaranteed the bankruptcy of its developers, Toronto-based G A Stimson and Co.

Stimsons were also owners of the Merchant’s Exchange, the building closest to the camera on the north (right) side of the street. That was designed by Townley & Matheson, and the building permit says it cost $100,000 and was developed in 1923 for “A. Melville Dollar Co”. Alexander Melville Dollar was from Bracebridge, Ontario, but moved to Vancouver as the Canadian Director of the Robert Dollar Company. Robert Dollar was a Scotsman who managed a world-wide shipping line from his home in San Francisco. His son Harold was based in Shanghai, overseeing the Chinese end of the Oriental trade, another son, Stanley managed the Admiral Oriental Line, and the third son, A Melville Dollar looked after the Canadian interests, including property development. (The Melville Dollar was a steamship, owned by the Dollar Steamship Company, which ran between Vancouver and Vladivostok in the early 1920s).

The larger building on the right is the Metropolitan Building, designed by John S Helyer and Son, who previously designed the Dominion Building. Beyond it is the Vancouver Club, built in 1914 and designed by Sharp and Thompson.

On the south side of the street in the distance is the Credit Foncier building, designed in Montreal by Barrot, Blackadder and Webster, and in Vancouver by the local office of the US-based H L Stevens and Co. Almost next door was the Ceperley Rounfell building, whose façade is still standing today, built in 1921 at a cost of $50,000, designed by Sharp & Thompson.

Next door was the Fairmont Hotel, that started life as the Hamilton House, developed by Frank Hamilton, and designed by C B McLean, which around the time of the postcard became the Invermay Hotel. The two storey building on the corner of Howe was built in 1927 for Macaulay, Nicolls & Maitland, designed by Sharp and Thompson. Before the building in the picture it was a single storey structure developed by Col. T H Tracey in the early 1900s. There were a variety of motoring businesses based here, including a tire store on the corner and Vancouver Motor & Cycle Co a couple of doors down (next to Ladner Auto Service, run by H N Clement). The building was owned at the time by the Sun Life Insurance Co. Today there are two red brick modest office buildings, one from 1975 and the other developed in 1981.

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