B C Electric Substation, Main Street

The Vancouver Public Library say this image was shot on 8 July 1920 by the Dominion Photo Co. It shows the electric substation for BC Electric that dominated the street – and especially the wirescape – around this stretch of Main Street. It was built and rebuilt several times over a few years. Some work was designed in-house, but in 1903 Blackmore & Son had designed the substation on the corner here, costing $32,000 and built by E Cook.

This image shows a $12,000 addition built in 1912 as well; (the building on the right). A year earlier one of the the concrete smoke stacks had cost $16,000, designed by C C Moore and Company. They were specialist engineers who also supplied the boilers in the sugar refinery, and they had constructed the first $6,000 chimney in 1910 designed by Weber Steel Concrete Co, a US specialist chimney designer.

After this image was shot, in 1923, Coughlin & Sons were hired to carry out another $15,000 of alterations, although there’s no obvious difference to the buildings in this 1929 VPL image, except there seems to only one chimney remaining for the auxiliary power supply. (B C Electric had built a hydro-electric generating station at Buntzen Lake as early as 1903).

B C Electric built a new substation just to the north of these buildings, between 1945 and 1947. The Murrin Substation is still standing, and in use, today. Designed by McCarter and Nairne, the open air transformer yard replaced the buildings to the west, down Union Street. A new smaller substation building designed by Sean McEwan was added more recently on the corner. (William G. Murrin was the president of the British Columbia Electric Railway Company from 1929 to 1946.)

The Murrin Substation is currently expected to be decommissioned around 2030. BC Hydro reviewed a number of options, including rebuilding a new substation on the Murrin substation site. A new site has been acquired, as upgrading the existing facility isn’t a viable option because it sits on seismically unstable soil. It’s technically not feasible and cost prohibitive to seismically upgrade the site to appropriate levels.

With the viaducts to the immediate south expected to see removal and redevelopment, this stretch of Main Street will look very different in a few years time.

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Posted 15 July 2021 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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