English Bay from Above

Here’s one of the earliest aerial images we’ve been able to match to a contemporary picture. It’s an undated image, but is likely to be from the mid 1930s. The Marine Building is the tower on the left, completed in 1930, and the new Hotel Vancouver (the third) is standing to the left of its predecessor. The second hotel was completed in 1913, abandoned as a hotel in 1939 and demolished in 1949. The structure for the new hotel was completed in 1932, although it was another seven years before it was completed internally and brought into use. We think the block to the left of the new Hotel Vancouver must be the Hotel Georgia opened in 1927. The chimney, to the right of the second hotel was the hotel’s power plant, located behind the York Hotel which was originally an annex of the second hotel, completed in 1911.

On the waterfront, next to a jetty, and before the pier, was Englesea Lodge, and across Beach Avenue just to the east is the Sylvia, which was apartments before it became a hotel. Both buildings were designed in the early 1910s by W P White, a Seattle architect. In the 1930s the residential West End started just to the west of the Hotel Vancouver, and the mix of houses and apartments reached to the edge of Stanley Park. Even Burrard Street (which didn’t lead to the bridge until it was built in 1930) was predominantly a residential street outside the commercial core.

The shorter pier, originally built in 1907, was demolished in 1938. In a 1936 letter to the Vancouver Sun, W M Elgie Bland wrote “It looks like a cheap industrial wharf landing, unsightly eye-sore, ruining the whole aspect of English Bay and the fine view of West Vancouver and the mountains. I should have thought every West End resident would have jumped for joy at the prospect of its removal, the quicker the better.” Mr. Bland didn’t mention that he lived in Englsea Lodge, so had a personal benefit from the pier’s removal. The longer pier started out as a two-storey tearoom built in 1923 on shore by Llewellyn G. Thomas, who lived with his wife in rooms below. He built a 50- foot extension in 1925 with a Winter Garden dance hall, and the next year added a pier which extended 337 feet into English Bay. Thomas sold the business in 1927, and by 1932 the operation was bankrupt. New owners added attractions; in 1937 Dal Richards and his orchestra played there every Wednesday and Saturday and in 1938 a Hammond electric organ was added to  the Winter Garden and it became a roller skating rink for the next two years. After the war Theatre Under the Stars used it as rehearsal space and offices, but by the late 1950s the pier had been removed. Local residents opposed the idea of a replacement pier in the mid 1980s.

Our before image was taken by the RCAF, and is in the University of Washington Photo Archives. The contemporary view was published by Trish Jewison on 27 September 2020, who shot it from the Global BC traffic helicopter.

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Posted 24 December 2020 by ChangingCity in Altered

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