Carrall Street and West Hastings

There are three identifiable buildings in this picture and we’ve looked at their history individually in earlier posts. The Interurban station is on the left, with the offices of BC Electric above, designed by W M Somervell and completed in 1911. We looked at the yard behind the building as well. Today, the opening where the interurban trams would exit is a window to a lighting showroom.

The Burns Block, seen here in 1930, was built in 1909, and designed by Parr and Fee. On the main floor was a meat shop, as the developer was Burns & Co, an Alberta-based meat empire, with the Vancouver arm of the business run by Dominic Burns. The company’s local offices were on the scond floor, and there were a variety of offices including F R Humber, a dentist, and E R Flewwelling, a jewelry maker. They were both still here in 1955, but some time after that it became a residential building, although the bathrooms were shared on each floor. The single room occupancy housing was closed down in 2006 having failed fire safety inspections (there were no working fire alarms, for example, and the fire escape exits were blocked). It was vacant for a few years before restoration by new owners Reliance Holdings, designed by Bruce Carscadden Architects and opened in 2011. It was still an SRO, with shared bathrooms but the tiny rooms were called ‘micros suites’ and the rents were multiples of the welfare rate of rental payment. In 2021 Reliance sold the building to BC Housing for whom the 30 studio units are now be managed by Atira Women’s Resource Society. The rooms are available for women who are committed to reducing or stopping substance use. Wraparound support services include clinical counselling, primary health care, transitional skills development, 16-step support recovery groups, an art therapy program, community meals, family reunification and short-term access to recovery support.

Between the BC Electric building and The Burns Block was the right of way once occupied by the railway. There was a barrier that would block the street, which was the city’s major artery, whenever a train came through. The final steam train ran across Hastings in 1932 after a tunnel was dug from the waterfront to Yaletown.

To the west was the Beacon Theatre, which started life as a Pantages Theatre, and ended as the Majestic. Designed by B Marcus Priteca late in 1916, construction wasn’t started until 1917, with the theatre opening in 1918. Alexander Pantages spent over $300,000 building the theatre. During its time as the Pantages Theatre, it headlined stars included Charlie Chaplin, Stan Laurel, Jack Dempsey and Babe Ruth. Architectural writer Miriam Sutermeister noted that the theatre was “considered at the time to be the most richly embellished and efficient theatre of the Pantages chain.” renamed The Majestic, movies started to appear between vaudeville bookings, and in 1946 the thetre became The Odeon, showing movies almost exclusively. A final attempt to revive vaudeville in 1958 as the Majestic wasn’t a success. The acts were brought in from Las Vegas, and Carl de Santis and his orchestra provided the music. There were still two movies, but the theatre struggled and vaudeville really was, finally, dead. Demolished in 1967, the site was used for parking for 30 years before Arthur Erickson’s design for non-market housing as the Portland Hotel was completed in 2000.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 447-299

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Posted 17 February 2022 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone, Still Standing

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