Central Business District

We’ve been scouring our ‘borrowed’ images to try to match this 1956 aerial – it’s in the Vancouver Archives, and John Mackie says it was taken on December 27th by Bill Dennett – (the Archives didn’t record the date). Although it’s nearly impossible to find a contemporary image with the same angle, distance and elevation to match, this is a pretty good approximation, also take in December (the 10th) last year by Trish Jewison in the Global BC traffic helicopter, close to sunset, and posted on her twitter feed.

We can line the images up because the Hotel Vancouver is visible on the left, and although the Marine Building has disappeared in a forest of towers, the Post Office in the centre is still very clearly visible. Since December there are two big holes through the building, and two cranes on the roof (with two more to come). In 1956 the structure was just being completed – the largest welded steel building in North America, at the time. Now it’s getting two new office towers, an atrium retail space, and will be the largest building in Vancouver, with thousands of new office employees, many working for Amazon who have pre-leased much of the space. Before it was built in the mid 1950s the street had small houses and commercial buildings, just like the block to the east still had in 1956.

Across the angle of West Georgia was a Texaco gas station next to a building only recently demolished. It was one of ten gas stations we can identify in the picture – today there are none. There’s another gas station at the bottom of the picture, next to the Drill Hall, and on top of the Dunsmuir Tunnel, which can almost be seen, heading for the waterfront. The Vancouver Sun printing works can be seen across the road from the gas station, on Beatty Street. Today it’s the heat plant for the central steam system, but proposed as another interestingly designed office tower.

It’s also possible to see the Hudson’s Bay building, and Spencer’s Department store – now SFU office and teaching space. The block to the east of the Post Office (closer to us) is the Queen Elizabeth Theatre and Playhouse today, but in 1956 the block was still full of houses and small commercial buildings. They must have been close to demolition, as the theatre opened in 1959.

The same is true of the block to the south, which today has the Main Branch of the Vancouver Public Library. It too still had houses dating back to the turn of the century, (including this row on Robson) when this was a residential neighbourhood, with rooming houses and small businesses. While some of the houses had been cleared by 1956, the fire station was only recently opened. Larwill Park, in the foreground, hidden today behind the Spectrum residential towers, is still a parking lot (awaiting a decision on a new city Art Gallery), but in 1955 it was the bus station, opened in 1947.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 296-033; Trish Jewison, twitter.

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Posted July 1, 2019 by ChangingCity in Altered, Downtown

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