The Hall Building – West Pender Street

This 1929 image is very unusual for the angle that was used. The image is attributed to Stuart Thomson and shows a newly completed office building that was overshadowed by its flashier neighbours from the same era, the Marine Building, the Royal Bank, the Georgia Medical Dental Building and across the street, the Stock Exchange Building.

It’s unusual because the architects were from out of town – Northwood and Chivers were a Winnipeg firm of architects, and almost everything else they designed was in that city. While today it’s just known by its address, 789 W Pender, and earlier as The Hall Building, when it was being developed it was called the Coast Investment Building. It was 10 storeys high, and developed by the Hall Investment Corporation, whose President was E E Hall, who also ran Coast Investment. Hall Company Limited were Investment Bankers, and a January 1929 news story explained the development history. “Acquiring the half-interest of Sir Stephen Lennard. E. E. Hall of the Hall Investment corporation becomes sole owner of the $700,000 office block now under construction on the northeast corner of Pender and Howe streets, under the terms of a deal completed today. Mr. Hall has purchased all the stock of Sir Stephen in the Coast Investment company, which was formed for the purpose of erecting the building.”

The building was constructed by Carter-Halls-Aldinger, and they rushed to complete it in September ahead of the Marine Building. The Winnipeg architects weren’t acknowledged in the Vancouver press; McCarter and Nairne were described as the designers – we thought their role was to supervise the construction, but this 1929 sketch in the Vancouver Public Library gives equal billing to both firms. The likely reason for a Winnipeg designer became evident in the notice of the death of Elmer E Hall, in 1939, aged 74. He had arrived in Vancouver from Winnipeg in 1928, and had been born in Nashua, Iowa. He grew up as a farm boy before taking employment at a bank in Iowa. He came to Canada in 1906, and started a banking business in Outlook, Saskatchewan. He moved to Winnipeg in 1908, and his company The Central Grain Co became highly profitable. When it merged in 1928 he brought his funds to Vancouver. He was a director of many businesses in Winnipeg, including Equitable Trust, a Western Grocers and Security National Insurance Company of Canada, which operated a large line of grain elevators.

In 1970 McCarter Nairne and Partners designed an adjacent 15 storey building for the Montreal Trust, set back from the 1929 heritage building’s facade, and replacing single storey restaurant buildings. The expanded building still operates as successful multi-tenanted CBD office space.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-3792

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