Archive for the ‘Harbour Centre’ Tag

Molson Bank – West Hastings and Seymour – ne corner

In 1898 the Quebec based Molson Bank established a bank in Vancouver. Founded by two of brewer John Molson’s sons, the bank built several branches in the city before merging with the Bank of Montreal in 1925. Montreal architects Taylor and Gordon designed the building in a Romanesque style with more than a hint of Venetian about it. Here’s how it was pictured in the year after it was completed. The style was very different from the Scottish baronial they followed for their other Vancouver commission, the Bank of Montreal on Granville Street.

In 1925 (perhaps reflecting the Bank of Montreal takeover) Spencers department store took over the building to consolidate their ownership of the entire block face. Their new store at the eastern end of the block, designed by McCarter and Nairne, was completed in 1925 but only partly as  planned. Only 100 feet of frontage was built, and the remaining buildings on the block were retained and reworked into the Spencers store. This 1926 illustration shows that Spencers had much more grand plans to fill the entire lot., and explains why the existing frontage has a corner feature that isn’t replicated on the western end.

In fact, the Molson Bank building lasted all the way to 1973, as part of the Spencers (and later Eatons) store, until their move the Pacific Centre Mall, and the clearance of the site for the Harbour Centre which took place in 1973.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA M-11-29

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Harbour Centre – West Hastings Street

With the closure of Sears in Pacific Centre, it’s interesting to look back 31 years to their earlier location. The Harbour Centre project was completed in 1976 and Simpson-Sears were the retail anchor. Their store occupied the lower floors of the new building adjacent to the Spencer’s department store that had been incorporated into the project. (Spencers became Eatons in 1948, but then moved out in 1972 to their new Pacific Centre Mall location. When Eatons were bought by Sears a few years ago, the Sears name returned to Downtown Vancouver once more).

Back in the mid 70s the tower and viewing platform became the Sears Tower, and this 1981 image shows how the Harbour Centre looked when Sears were still there. The location wasn’t a great success, and Sears closed on New Years Day 1987. The windowless box that worked as a department store was converted by adding office windows, and the Harbour Lookout became the best viewing opportunity in the city.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-E05.09

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West Cordova and Seymour – se corner (2)

Here’s an earlier (1930 VPL) image of the Cordova Street frontage where Seymour ends. As we saw in the previous view of this corner Clarke and Stuart’s printing works and warehouse was built on the corner in 1906, and alongside David Spencer (and later his sons) has established a massive retail emporium. Before Spencers started building there had been two sets of earlier buildings, wooden ones erected soon after the fire, and then brich replacements, including one of the many ‘Horne Block’ developments.

In 1920 Clarke and Stuart still had a store here, and also one at 550 Seymour. A year later they only had the new store, and Spencer’s had taken over control of the entire block. From the look of the chimneys on the roof, they used the upper part of the Clarke and Stuart warehouse to add new boilers for the entire complex. From this angle it’s also possible to see how Spencer’s 1907 and 1911 store buildings were actually taller than the 1976 Harbour Centre that replaced them. The complex incorporated most of the store facade but did some really terrible things to the lower part of the Cordova Street frontage (and no favours to Seymour Street either). These days SFU Harbour Centre are in the Spencer’s part while offices fill the Harbour Centre tower and the lookout on top offer views over The Changing City.

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West Cordova and Seymour – se corner (1)

This 1973 image shows the St Francis Hotel on the west side of the street, and on the opposite side of Seymour, Clarke and Stuart’s printer’s store and warehouse. Clarke and Stuart occupied the building from when it was built for them in 1906 (to Grant and Henderson’s design) until 1920, when Spencer’s took it over. The rest of the block was also occupied by various iterations of David Spencer’s department store. The next building to the east is a Thomas Hooper designed 1911 addition to the larger building he designed a few years earlier next door to the east. The much bigger building beyond that is McCarter and Nairne’s 1925 massive expansion of the Spencer store.

Clarke and Stuart had been located further east on Cordova from before the turn of the century, operating as a bookstore but also selling typewriters, pianos and organs.  Their former building had a makeover at some point, losing the cornices and details, but apparently retaining the original windows.

David Spencer, a Welshman, arrived in Canada just slightly too late to join the Cariboo gold-rush and instead bought the Victoria Library, a stationers and bookshop,  in 1864. Following the success of that he partnered with William Denny to buy ‘The Victoria House’, a dry goods store in 1873, and five years later a new store under his own name. In the 1890s he bought a site on Hastings street for a location in Vancouver but a rival, Drysdale-Stevenson Company built a store on an adjacent site before he was able to develop his own building. Spencer acquired his rival’s business in 1905, and immediately built a $150,000 expansion. The store had immediate  success in Vancouver, and the Spencer company and Charles Woodward out-competed each other to add new extensions and departments year after year.

In the mid 1970s the Harbour Centre was built to replace Spencer’s store (which had been taken over by Eatons in 1948, and who then vacated to the new Pacific Centre Mall). The building was designed by Toronto-based Webb Zerafa Menkes Housden Partnership (who had also designed the CN tower at around the same time). The 1920s part of the Spencer’s store was incorporated into the building, which these days also includes the Downtown campus of Simon Fraser University.

Image source City of Vancouver Archives CVA 447-379

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West Hastings and Richards – nw corner

Here’s the north west corner of Hastings and Richards, up the hill from Cordova. Today it’s the library of the SFU Harbour Centre at main floor level, and offices and meeting spaces above, behind the facade of McCarter and Nairne’s 1926 building for David Spencer’s department store.

Back in 1907 when this Vancouver Public Library image was taken it was one of C O Wickenden’s rustic stone faced buildings from the first boom in city-building – in this case the Bank of British North America, an established Canadian institution from 1835. The Bank, having confirmed that Vancouver really was a serious opportunity for business and not just an overnight railway town, built their new building in 1892 between the CPR station and the more established Gastown. In 1908 Wickenden designed an extension to the building.

In 1918 the Bank of Montreal took over operations, and continued in the building until 1925 when David Spencer’s new store was built. A Welshman, who had operated a store in Victoria from 1873 (and before that a private library), Spencer expanded his operations in Victoria and later Nanaimo. Spencer himself give up control of the company to his five sons, who quickly moved to establish a store in Vancouver in 1905 and a significant expansion in 1907.

The company continued to grow, taking over the Standard Furniture Company and their premises in 1911 to create a store that equalled or exceeded Woodwards.  David Spencer died in 1920, but his name lived on in the even grander new 1926 store. Eaton’s took over Spencers in 1948, and then moved on to Granville Street in 1972, leaving the building to be incorporated into the Harbour Centre redevelopment by Webb Zerafa Menkes Housden including a Simpsons-Sears store which closed in 1987 and the arrival of SFU’s Downtown campus in 1989.

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