Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Burrard Inlet waterfront from above (2)

We have a post from a year ago with an aerial view of the Downtown waterfront in 1965, shot from over Stanley Park, looking eastwards. This one is a decade older.

Our ‘today’ shot is actually from May 2020, and missing two new office towers that are still being built, but there are only a few recent shots that line up with a historic aerial image like this. It’s an image that’s thought to be from 1955. it’s clearly not from before 1955 when CBK Van Norman’s Customs House was completed on West Pender next to the Marine Building. On the bottom edge of the image the roof of the Hotel Vancouver can be seen. Today, on the west side of the street the Burrard Building can be seen, but it’s not in our ‘before’ image. That was completed in 1956, so that means the image must date to the later half of 1955. That was when the city started to see a new wave of development, after a significant wartime and post-war slump.

There are two substantial looking buildings to left of centre. They’re both on Thurlow, on the 1100 block of West Georgia. The narrower building to the right was known as The Alaska Pine Building. Developed by Great West Life (who also had their local offices there) it was designed by Thompson Berwick Pratt and completed in 1953. It was leased to Alaska Pine and Cellulose Ltd, who re-branded western hemlock as Alaska Pine, and so found a way to market a previously disregarded forest tree.

The larger building to the south was developed in 1950. It took the base four storey car showroom developed by Chevrolet in 1926, and added three additional floors. Initially budgeted at $850,000, the work to add the  floors and clad the entire structure eventually cost the government, the developer of the building, $575,000 more. Questions were raised in Ottawa because the contract was let on a non-competition basis to Allen and Viner, who a local Conservative member argued were given the contract as ‘friends of the government’. It became the tax office.

Neither building survived very long. The Government building was demolished around 1983 and stayed as a parking lot for several years. There was an office building proposed in 1994, but that wasn’t built and the land was incorporated into a larger site, it now has the Shangri-La hotel and condo tower, the tallest in the city (and the whole of Metro Vancouver, although not for much longer). The Great West building became the Fidelity Trust Building, but was redeveloped in 1992 with a new 24 storey office building developed by Manulife and leased to BC Gas.

Amazingly very few other buildings in the area were more than three storeys high. There’s just one other bigger building, to the left of the two office buildings. Surprisingly, it’s still standing today, albeit looking very different from 1948, when it was built. 1145 Robson Street was also a government office, developed by Allen and Viner, and also the subject of the same partisan political debate. While the company were just the contractors on the Begg Brothers building, they were the developers here, and the sale to the government for double the land cost and building permit value combined left the Conservative member for Quilchena asking pointed questions about deals for ‘friends of the government’. (Carefully worded questions; the member was a lawyer). The minister replied “I do not know these people at all”.

There’s just one small red building visible in the forest of towers in today’s image. That’s the Banff on West Georgia, which was built as Florence Court between 1909 and 1911. The Stadacona, behind it to the north on Bute, is blocked from this angle by towers. Both were easily visible in 1955, as was the Felix Apartments a block to the west, and also still standing today. The large cleared site on the waterfront was the site of Pacific Coast Lumber’s sawmill. By 1955 it had been cleared away, and the oddly located Bayshore Inn was built here at the end of the 1950s, (at the time) completely surrounded by industry.

Image source: West Vancouver Memorial Library Digital Collection 3385.PR



Posted 2 January 2023 by ChangingCity in Uncategorized

Horse Show Building – West Georgia Street

Our postcard shows The Horse Show Building, constructed on the south-west corner of West Georgia and Gilford, in 1909. There had been a successful horse show in the Drill Hall on Beatty Street a year earlier, so some members of the Vancouver Hunt Club decided to form an Association to have their own, larger hall. Eleven architects submitted designs, but the winner was from Seattle. Warren H Milner designed the $45,000 building, and a Seattle builder, A E White, was the lead contractor (with F C Franklin). (H B Watson, one of the rejected architects, defended the superiority of his design, but had to be content with morphing it into the design for the Industrial Building at Hastings Park a year later).

The building had a capacity of about 3,500 people, plus extra standing room, and for concerts, with chairs on the main floor, the capacity could be stretched to 7,000. Construction was fast – the permit was granted in January and the first show in the building was in April. This was despite the difficulties the contractors faced, as the architect explained to the Vancouver Daily World “We struck a swamp which we thought we would never get to the bottom of. It was several feet deep, and we had to fill that up with concrete. We also ran across great stumps twelve; feet across. Then for over ten days the ground was frozen so that wo could not get a pick into it. Then we had a great deal of difficulty in getting the dirt to fill the ring. We were just figuring on putting a suction pump into the bay and bringing out sand when some excavations were started and we managed to get along. Everything in the calendar has happened to delay us and nevertheless we have got through.”

The use of the building for horse shows, or anything else the public could attend, was short-lived. In 1910 there was a boxing match featuring Jim Jeffries, an American world heavyweight champion from 1899 to 1905. Sam Berger was also American and the first to win an Olympic gold medal in heavyweight boxing and became Jeffries’ manager in 1909. This is a Vancouver Public Library photograph taken by Bullen Photo Co., Vancouver. The date on the original is 31 January 1910, when Jeffries appeared in an “all-star combination” match.

There were a few other events held up to 1914, including three wrestling matches that year (in March Dulwall Singh defeated Tabusadzy, and the mysterious Walter Miller (The Masked Marvel) beat Al Hatch. In June Pat Connelly (billed as The Gallway Tiger, but based in Vancouver) beat Gus Schönlein (who wrestled as Americus, and was from Baltimore) and in August the crowd got their money’s worth from a bout between Dr. B F Roller (a physician, based in Seattle) against Pat Connelly, which ended without a winner as a time limit draw after two hours.)

Once war was declared the building was used for military purposes, becoming home to the Irish Fusiliers and soon renamed as the Stanley Park Armouries. It changed hands, and was owned by Morris Wagner, and he continued to lease most of the building to the Irish Fusiliers. Morris and his wife, Tina, were killed in an automobile accident in Mexico City, in 1958. The Toronto General Trust Corporation administered the Wagner estate, but in 1960 the building caught fire, and was completely destroyed. The site sat for 40 years, owned from the early 1970s by Runvee Georgia Properties Inc, a branch of Sir Run Run Shaw’s family business. It was bought by Prima Properties to develop Laguna Parkside, a 76 unit condo and townhouse project designed by Merrick Architecture, completed in 2007.


Posted 2 September 2021 by ChangingCity in Uncategorized

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Nelson and Hamilton Street, looking northwest

This image was taken around 1912, inside Recreation Park, a sports facility that occupied a full city block between Homer and Hamilton, Smithe and Nelson. Because the 1912 insurance map shows the ‘Grand Stand’ was at Smithe and Homer, the photographer, (W.J. Cairns, Ltd), must have been on the touchline on the opposite corner, looking northwest towards Homer.

The picture shows a field lacrosse game between rivals Vancouver and the New Westminster Salmonbellies. The Vancouver club was run by Con Jones, and their home pitch was in Con Jones Park (later Callister Park – where the PNE Grounds are today). The picture was taken around 1912, so there’s a chance Vancouver are winning. The Salmonbellies had a fabulous run in the early 1900s, becoming Provincial Champions every year up to 1908 before travelling to Montreal that year to take The Minto Cup, defeating the more established eastern teams for the first time. They had a lull for a few years, before winning The Mann Cup for the first time in 1915, and in 23 other years since. The club still exists, and still play in Queen’s Park, but no longer attract the home crowds of 11,000, many travelling on adapted open freight wagons through the forest from Vancouver to watch the games.

Vancouver’s Recreation Park was operated by a private company, and was home to other activities besides sports. Built in 1905 by Layfield and Williams, it was also the home of Vancouver’s Northwestern League baseball teams. The grandstand seated 6,500 and the grounds were built on a former cow pasture owned by the CPR. The opening baseball game saw Vancouver Veterans beat Victoria Legislators 4-2, with 3,500 paying the 25c admission.

For several years the park became the temporary home to the Greater Norris and Rowe Circus. The circus travelled using the railways, growing from 3 cars in 1901 to 20 in 1909. The touring schedule was brutal. They spent the winter in Santa Cruz, in California and then worked a different city six days on, Sunday off, from March to early December. They visited pretty much every medium and large city in western Canada and the western and central United States, and Mexico. They visited Vancouver for a day in June 1906 (having previously been in Seattle, Sedro Wooley and then New Westminster) and were in Kamloops the next day. They would pack up the show after the evening performance, travel overnight, stage a grand parade of the animals and performers next morning, and then perform an afternoon and evening show, and repeat that all over again.

In 1907 they went to Bellingham from Seattle, then Blaine, and on to Vancouver before heading to Saskatchewan. In 1908 there was the luxury of playing Sedro Wooley, them New Westminster on a Saturday, a day off on Sunday, then two nights in Vancouver, before heading back into the US to Bellingham and Everett. In 1909 they played 2 nights again, in May. They didn’t visit in 1910 – early on in the tour, in Kentucky, “Bad weather, poor business, salaries and debts unpaid” saw the closure of the circus.  We don’t know when this picture of the elephants was taken, but it was during one of the later visits because the circus only had three elephants in 1906.

There were a few other events in the park; a ceremony following the death of the King in 1910 and a celebration on the coronation of King George the following year.

The area immediately to the south had been released for development in 1909, and rapidly built out into the warehouse district of Yaletown. In 1912 CPR decided not to renew the stadium lease, and it was rebuilt at Athletic Park at 5th and Hemlock in 1913, on another piece of CPR property. Timing to sell off the newly available land was terrible. The economy collapsed, then the war started. Much of the site remained undeveloped until 1937. Storage warehouses were eventually built, but most had no heritage value and in the early 2000s most of the site was redeveloped as Yaletown Park, a three tower condo project. Some of the density was allowed to build taller (more valuable) towers, leaving a part of the site as a public park. Because there’s underground parking, the landscaping consists of trees within raised bubbles of granite pavers, leaving a hard undulating design with limited use. Rumours of a redesign to a more user-friendly space have yet to come true.

Image sources City of Vancouver Archives CVA 371-608 and CVA 677-1019


Posted 30 August 2021 by ChangingCity in Uncategorized

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