Howe Street – 500 block, west side (1)

This 1981 image shows a block that really hasn’t changed in nearly 40 years, despite being ‘underbuilt’. On the corner is a 1978 tower designed by Underwood, McKinley, Wilson and Smith. It replaced an earlier building that we looked at in an earlier post (and as it looked a little earlier). The new tower was developed by Grander Developments, the Canadian arm of UK Property developers Hammerson.

Across the lane is a 1935 Art Deco building designed by Gardiner and Mercer. It started life as the Pacific Athletic Club, developed by Jack Pattison, and more recently became the Executive Building. In the 1970s it was home to Maximillians Club and Symphony Hall, but today it’s office space. It’s bigger than it appears on the street, with six floors tiered back from Howe Street.

There are pictures from 1936 of the interior, including this one. There was a badminton court, a very comfortable lounge on the main floor, and 2 squash courts on the top floor. To watch squash you had to climb up a ladder and go along a walkway in order to sit on plank seats behind the courts. The courts were repurposed as a second gymnasium after the war.

The membership numbers boomed after 1947 when it became legal for the club to serve alcohol to members. After prohibition only a limited number of beer parlours were able to sell liquor to the public, and operated under very restrictive rules. Nightclubs (theoretically) couldn’t serve alcohol until the mid 1960s – patrons smuggled their own drinks in and kept them under the table.

Next door is a 1928 building that by 1981 had a contemporary glazed façade replacing the original.

This block of Howe Street became commercial in the 1920s – it started life as a mostly residential street, as this 1913 image shows. Traffic appears to have been busier than it is today, but the caption explains that it was the Rotary Club leaving the Compressed Gas Company’s offices for the Royal Nurseries on August 12th.

In 1981 there was (and still is) a relatively tall, narrow office building from 1966 at 549 Howe, which replaced a store developed by motor engineer Harry Hoffmeister in 1913. There’s a 1923 two storey retail store next door at 551 and a three storey building from 1929 to the south at 555, and a single storey 1933 building next to that.

The next single storey retail building is the oldest on the block, from 1912, developed by real estate agent J J Grey and originally designed by A E Cline, costing $6,000 to build.

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-W04.30 CVA 99-4465 and CVA Bu P535

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Posted September 23, 2019 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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