Archive for the ‘George B Purvis’ Tag

Avenue Theatre – 719 Main Street

The Avenue Theatre sat on the western side of Main Street at the corner of Georgia, where the viaduct started, heading for Downtown. When it was built, it was on the corner of Shore Street with an arm of False Creek running up 200 feet behind it. It wasn’t a big theatre, the lot only 50 feet wide. In 1901 the site on Westminster Avenue had some small cottages next to a coal yard occupied by a tinsmith called Thomas Bell who stays there for several years before Joseph Batterstone, a shoemaker moves in and later A Archambault, a grocer. (Actually Batterstone was really Battistoni, one of an Italian family living in the neighbourhood).

In 1912 the theatre was built on the newly renamed Main Street by the Avenue Theatre Co. It was managed (until 1914) by George B Howard, who had previously run a theatre called The Lyric in the Oddfellows Hall on West Pender Street.  The architect was listed as the same as the owner, and the builder was G B Purvis, who must be the same George B Purvis from Seattle who also designed the Imperial Theatre just across the street. The building cost $80,000, and a year after it was completed the Georgia Viaduct construction was started. In 1915 it was where D W Griffith’s Birth of a Nation first showed. In 1921 it was home to a dance drama, The Lost Child, featuring the pupils of Mollie Lee.

Del LawrenceThe Avenue, in its early years, was also sometime home to the Del S Lawrence stock company, who also played at the Theatre on Gore. Mr Lawrence suffered a bout of food poisoning in 21913, sufficiently concerning that it was reported in the ‘New York Dramatic Mirror’

The Imperial was where B C Hilliam, a pianist and composer, first saw his work Oh! Oh! Oh! Captain B  performed. Hilliam was half of the vaudeville duo Flotsam and Jestsam, and composed the music to accompany poet Pauline Johnson’s Here’s a ho! Vancouver. Hilliam also wrote the music for The Belle of Burrard which had a hero called Stanley Park. In 1922 the orchestra was led by Marie Z Bryant when W C Scott was managing. The theatre only lasted as a building until 1935 (the year of this photograph). While the street directory lists the theatre in the names section, the address shows a Standard Oil gas station at this address.

That building also didn’t last very long. Between 1945 and 1947 the Murrin substation was built to the designs of McCarter and Nairne who added some subtle art deco ornamentation – although nothing like the work they carried out on the Marine Building.

The theatre seems to have been associated with a number of protests and causes. In 1917 there were anti-war meetings, and in 1935 the ‘On To Ottawa’ protesters met in the theatre before their trek eastwards (riding freight trains) to protest the conditions in the work camps established to deal with the severe economic depression that had started in 1929.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 447-395


The Imperial Theatre – 720 Main Street

Here’s the Imperial Theatre, completed at a cost of $60,000 in 1912. Except that by 1939 when the first picture was taken the theatre use had ceased and it became home to Walsh’s Auto Wrecking. Originally designed by George B Purvis, a Seattle architect who designed a number of other theatres, all of them better looking than the Imperial! It was owned by the Canadian Theatre and Amusement Co, who in turn leased it to the Sullivan-Considine vaudeville chain who started out in an ambitious way with the Sheehan English Opera Company performing Verdi’s ‘Il Trovatore’ with a chorus of 40 and orchestra of 40.

Over the years the theatre operated it changed names at least twice. In that period both Jack Benny and the Marx Brothers played the theatre, and in 1921 it became home to a Chinese Opera company called Lok Man Lin. In 1927 it was transformed to a pentecostal church – first the Pyramid then the Emanuel, but in 1932 as a result of unpaid taxes the City became owners, and in 1938 it became a garage – which kept going until 1967.

Then, in an entirely unlikely twist, in 1970 it once again became a theatre – or rather, a cinema, and after a two month stint showing Chinese movies it became the Night and Day, and later the Venus, specialising in porno movies, with, it has been suggested, a certain amount of additional live-action in the audience on occasions. It was acquired by Porte Developments in the mid 2000s along with two adjacent sites and a Gomberoff Bell Lyon designed condo project called Ginger was completed a couple of years ago.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1184-189