Archive for the ‘Hotel Vancouver’ Tag

Third Hotel Vancouver

Georgia & Hotel

Here’s a 1939 image showing the Hotel Vancouver, and the Hotel Vancouver – the second one to the east dressed in bunting for a Royal Visit and the one to the west (on the right) just completed in time for the King and his wife to stay there.

When the Canadian Pacific Railway came to Vancouver, they were given valuable tracts of land by the government and city businessmen to persuade them to build the terminal station here. When the Canadian Northern wanted to start services from Montreal and Toronto to Vancouver, it was a different matter. While  construction on the line started in British Columbia in the summer of 1910, details of the terminus were still undecided. In February 1913 Mayor Gerry McGeer negotiated to provide the land for the railway to come into town. In exchange the railway would build a 500 bed hotel, a tunnel under Grandview to the Main Street stations, extensive station works and development of the filled False Creek Flats and electrification of the terminals (the Northern Pacific Railway were a party to the agreement as well). Altogether the works were estimated to cost $8,000,000 (The railway company had to fill part of False Creek in – but that wasn’t really an issue as they needed the new land for their operations).

However, back when it was first announced it wasn’t going to be without a rival if the CPR had anything to do with it. They started construction of the second Hotel Vancouver  in 1913, and the final wing was completed it in 1916. That wasn’t the end of their ambitions for the hotel; on October 15 1920 the Contract Record reported further plans for the Hotel Vancouver.

“Plans Now Here, Provide for Rebuilding of West Wing and Interior Alterations.

At a cost of probably considerably more than one million dollars, extensive changes and an addition are to be made in the near future to the Hotel Vancouver. Besides many important interior alterations, the plans for the enlargement of this big hostelry include the tearing down of the present west wing of the hotel, which is of quite modern construction and was built only about fifteen years ago, and its reconstruction on a much larger scale to conform to the architecture and size of the rest of the big caravansary.

It will be remembered that Mr. J. C. Wetmore, a noted New York architect, who designed the famous Biltmore hotel as well as a number of other modern skyscrapers in New York, was here last summer in company with two of the C. P. R. chief architects, and went carefully over the hotel with a view to determining what would be the best means of enlarging the structure to meet the pressing demands of increasing tourist travel, especially during the summer months. That these architects have not been idle in the interim is proven by the fact that very complete plans for the contemplated improvements have now arrived in the city. Coincident ‘with the arrival of these plans comes Mr. F. L. Hutchinson of Montreal, general superintendent of the C. P. R. hotel system, who is to confer with local C. P. R. officials in regard to the best time to start work on the alterations and the rebuilding of the west wing. While not definitely decided yet, it is expressed that an early start will be made on the work and in that case the demolition of the old west wing may he commenced in January and an effort made to have the new wing completed in time for to alignment the accommodations for the midsummer tourist travel. The Hotel Vancouver now contains. a total of nearly 800 rooms, but with the rebuilding of the west wing on a much larger scale, the new plans give the hotel nearly 1,000 rooms, which will mean a large increase in capacity.

Among the interior changes provided for on the plans are the shifting of the main entrance to Granville street and’ the retention, of the present entrance on Georgia street a special doors for women. The present ballroom on the ground floor of the Granville street frontage will be done away with and the space absorbed into a much larger rotunda to obviate much of the congestion which now exists when ocean liners or large excursion trains arrive. A new and larger ballroom, is to be. provided for on the second floor of the west wing and larger dining loom space also planned in that section on the ground floor of the rebuilt wing. Many other improvements that will make the Hotel Vancouver one of the greatest hotels on the continent are also included in the plans.”

Hotel 1926As far as we know, nothing ever came of these plans. Meanwhile the rival CN grand hotel was on hold as well. The First World War got in the way – and the economy was already slowing considerably up to the war (With the exception of the CPR’s hotel, relatively few large buildings got started between 1913 and 1919). By the end of the war the railway was under the Canadian National banner with federal support as the Canadian Northern had been forced into bankruptcy, and the government had taken over.

While pressure was applied to revive the 500 bed project after the war, nothing happened, although in 1925 the Winnipeg Tribune announced “At a conference with Mayor L. D. Taylor, today, Sir Henry Thornton, president of the Canadian National Railways, intimated that it was practically assured that a large hotel would be erected by a local syndicate and operated in connection with the Canadian National Railways. Provision of a hotel was undertaken about 12 years ago by Mackenzie and Mann, the railway builders, as part of the terms by which they secured from the city for railway terminals“. In 1927 the city started court action to get the hotel built, claiming $1,500,000 compensation from the two railway companies (CN and Northern Pacific). Finally CN agreed to build the hotel, and in exchange the city agreed to let the CNR off from building the tunnel and station works – as this 1926 Ottawa Citizen clipping shows the company estimated the uncompleted work would have cost them over eight million dollars.

hotel-1931&32The designs for the new château style hotel (by Montreal-based architects Archibald and Schofield) were approved and the framework finally started in December 1928, the steel frame of the new hotel took several years to complete (as this 1931 image shows on the left). By 1932 the cladding had been applied, but the hotel sat unfinished for several more years, a constant reminder of the depression the economy had entered.

In 1938, with the prospect of two huge rival hotels in the city, the City Council agreed to allow the new hotel to be run by a joint CP and CN Board of Directors as the Hotel Vancouver Company, an arrangement that continued through to the 1980s. The news coverage at the time said both hotels faced the prospect of operating deficits, and promised the existing hotel would close, but have a new use – although the Montreal Gazette pointed out that no alternate use was actually identified. The prospect of a Royal Visit by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to the city finally prompted the completion of the new hotel and it was opened during the royal visit in 1939 having cost $12 million.

With the agreement to jointly run the new ‘huge grey stone structure’, CP closed the second hotel. Some suggest that construction of the second hotel might have been of indifferent quality and the building was deteriorating but there’s no evidence of this, at the time it seems to have been purely an economic decision based on demand for hotels in a period when the economy was still shaky and the country was just entering a second period of wartime uncertainty.

CP never found an alternative use for the second hotel, and homeless Second World War veterans occupied the vacant hotel building at the end of the war. It was officially turned into a barracks before finally being demolished in 1949. The site sat empty for many years until the construction of the Pacific Centre Mall got going in the early 1970s. Today the Eatons/Sears portion of the mall is getting a total reconstruction around the 1970s frame, while the Hotel Vancouver is also receiving a facelift.

Image sources, City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1376-154, CVA 99-3679 and CVA 99-3710


Posted 23 December 2013 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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Second Hotel Vancouver – Granville and Georgia

The history of the redevelopment of the second Hotel Vancouver is surprisingly complicated. The CPR opened the first hotel in 1888. In 1893 the added a new wing known as the Van Horne wing on Granville Street, and then another completed around 1904 on Georgia Street at a cost of $100,000. This was designed with the intent of setting the style of the new, much larger hotel. By 1908 Eric Nicol noted that the Hotel “had 205 rooms, 75 with bath connections – a ratio bordering on hedonism”.

In 1910 the CPR excavated on Howe Street and in early 1911 built Honeyman and Curtis’s Annex. Meanwhile, at the end of 1910 the new CPR architect W S Painter obtained a building permit for $2,000,000 for an ‘Addition to hotel’. In January 1912 it was reported that a $1,000,000 14-storey replacement hotel would be built for the CPR. It wouldn’t just fill the Granville and Georgia corner – as the 1917 image above shows it filled the block all the way back to Robson and Howe.

In May under the headline ‘To Start work on CPR Hotel in Fall’ the Contract Record said ‘The latest advices from Montreal by the C P R inVancouver state that the board of directors ot the railway company have approved an appropriation of  $1,200,000 for the proposed reconstruction of the Hotel Vancouver, and another $215,000 for the power plant in connection with the hotel The latter building is now in course of erection.

The main hotel building will occupy the site of the hotel office or central section and will be extended south as far as the Opera House lane. It will be at least twelve stories in height, and two additional stories will be added to the Georgia st wing completed about eight years ago.

When completed the hotel, it is said, will have the largest ground floor corridors  of any hotel in existence. Construction will be started late this fall as soon us the rush of tourists is over. The plans are now being prepared by Painter & Swale, Metropolitan bldg.’

In October the Daily Building Record reported “Plans were filed with the building inspector yesterday for the proposed rebuilding of the Hotel Vancouver, corner of Georgia and Granville sts, at a cost of $800,000. The structure will be of steel and concrete with terra cotta facings.

The bldg will be heated by steam and all of the partition walls will be fireproof. Hardwood floors are specified also 3 passenger elevators and one for freight. The central portion of the bldg will be 14 storeys in height with wings on either side, the New Orpheum theatre, which is now being erected, being in the nature of a wing to correspond with the railway company’s main hotel bldg. Painter & Swales, Metropolitan bldg. are the architects. A contr has not been let as yet.”

By November 1912 the architects (who had moved offices) were looking for suppliers of the terra cotta and the steel contract was let to J Coughlin at a cost of $200,000.  Then everything slowed down. In 1913 reports covered a revised version of the plans “The Canadian Pacific Railway recently deposited plans for four additional storeys to the central portion of the Hotel Vancouver, Vancouver, and for the east wing fronting on Granville street, at an estimated cost of $1,100,000. The estimated outlay on the work of reconstructing the central portion of the hotel, calling for twelve storeys, was $800,000, so that with the addition of the work now proposed, the ultimate cost will not be far short of $2,000,000. According to the plans, the central part of the structure will be sixteen storeys in height, and the east wing will be eleven storeys, with the exception of the centre, midway between Georgia street and the Orpheum theatre. Here a large hall will be situated, for banquet purposes. The entrance to this hall will be 87 feet by 59 feet, and will be from Granville street. The whole structure will be of reinforced concrete and steel construction, faced with pressed brick.” Painter and Swales obtained another permit – this one for $1,100,000, and construction started. The various replacement sections, additions and the extra height were now said to be costing $2,500,000. By the time the project was being built the architect was Francis Swales; like Francis Rattenbury who was the initial choice for the new hotel, W S Painter had abandoned the task.

Even then, everything wasn’t complete. The Granville Street wing was the last to be added, replacing the Van Horne wing, and completed in 1916. The company confirmed that year they would be adding 250 more rooms but not until the war was over. The company said the hotel had already cost $3,000,000 and the addition would cost $750,000 more. That part of the project never happened. Even as it was being planned, a long term future of the project was in doubt. In the meantime, the most remarkable and expensive building that the city had seen was open for business, with fabulous views out to the north shore mountains from the sixteenth storey roof garden and terrace. We’ll return to the story of the hotel’s future in a further post.

Main image source: City of Vancouver Archives, Second Hotel Vancouver CVA 677-969


First Hotel Vancouver, second addition

We have shown this image as it looked about three years later already, but the trees in that picture pretty much obscure the third addition to the Hotel Vancouver. In 1901 The Canadian Pacific Railway again hired Francis Rattenbury to design a new wing of the hotel. It took a while to build, but apparently opened around 1904.

It was in an Italianate style, and from the postcard here it rather looks as if they expected to demolish the first hotel designed by T C Sorby. But as the picture above shows, the eastern wing of the addition was never completed. Instead it was cut off rather alarmingly and there would be a nearly ten year gap before the CPR were ready to replace the hotel and the first addition, also designed by Rattenbury. When they did that, they brought in new architects, initially W S Painter and later Francis Swales, who prepared a series of different designs all reasonably similar in style to the second addition which was incorporated into the final building. Both parts of the hotel had postcards celebrating their appearance.

Today as we have noted several times recently we have the Pacific Centre Mall. The second addition sat where today the TD Tower is located. Cesar Pelli designed the two dark towers (they’re brown, but appear almost black unless the sun is shining on them).


First Hotel Vancouver – Granville & Georgia

The Canadian Pacfic Railway needed a hotel to serve the passengers arriving on their trains at the station located at the foot of Granville Street. T C Sorby had designed the station, and he got the job of designing the hotel too. It was up Granville – not too far, but enough to leave some space for new CPR sponsored commercial buildings, and to pull some activity away from the earlier city centre to the east, where there were already plenty of hotels (none of them on CPR land).

Sorby’s hotel opened in mid 1888 to a design that even he didn’t like – complaining of CPR cutting what they considered to be superfluous details – which in those days were what architecture was often about. (That’s it on the left in about 1890, soon after it was completed.) The CPR were supposedly equally unimpressed – Sir William Van Horne, the CPR President is reported to have said to Sorby “so you’re the damn fool who spoilt the building with all those little windows”. One local newspaper even likened the building’s design to a workhouse. An 1897 newspaper, ‘The Ledge’ published a story which ran “The Vancouver World publishes a long letter from the executive agent of the C. P. R. to the city council, requesting exemption from taxation for buildings proposed to be erected for a passenger station and warehouses. The World publishes cuts of the proposed structures which are said to be in the Queen Anne style of architecture and are fully in keeping with that monument of external ugliness, the company’s hotel Vancouver. The architectural illustrations in the World resemble a compound of a decayed grist-mill with bits of the bastile and the tower of London added.”

Presumably looking for a better response the CPR hired Francis Rattenbury to design the 1893 addition to the south. Rattenbury was only relatively recently arrived in Canada, but at the age of only 25 he had just won the competition for the new parliament buildings in Victoria. In Yorkshire, where he had arrived from, he had been designing buildings in the ‘model’ mill town of Saltaire – or so he told the Vancouver Sun, although actually he hadn’t even been born when that development had taken place. His design for the hotel extention didn’t really have much to do with the original building – that’s it to the left of the ‘before’ image above from 1904, five storeys high. Although Sorby’s hotel was identified for replacement as early as 1900 it was still around for a few more years.

Rattenbury was hired to design a further extention to the original in 1901, which he carried out in an Italienate style that isn’t so very different from his design for the city’s new courthouse five years later. Rattenbury fell out with the CPR, and anyway was busy with other projects including the Empress Hotel in Victoria, so in 1910 architects Painter and Swales were hired to replace a much bigger and more elaborate replacement for both the first hotel and the 1893 addition which was eventually finished in 1916. We’ll feature that building in a future post or two.

These days the site has the Cesar Pelli / McCarter and Nairne designed Pacific Centre Mall which is now anticipated to see a major redesign in the near future with Sears having confirmed their intention of leaving later in 2012.


York Hotel – 790 Howe Street

The York Hotel sat at the corner of  Howe and Robson. It first appears in the street directories in 1930, and was still going as the York Motor Hotel in 1968, just before it was cleared away for the Pacific Centre Mall project, where the City of Vancouver used compulsory purchase powers to assemble the double block needed for the underground shopping mall thought necessary to compete with new suburban malls.

The York doesn’t look like a 1930 building – and that’s because it wasn’t. It was built in 1911 as an annex for the Hotel Vancouver at a cost of $190,000. It seems likely that it was built to maintain a CPR hotel presence while the first Hotel Vancouver was demolished and the second Hotel Vancouver – the more flamboyant one – was built. That hotel was demolished after the Second World War. The Honeyman and Curtis designed annex was more restrained, and eventually it lasted longer.

The designer of the postcard for the York were using their artistic licence to its full extent. The cloudy sky to the north is added to cover the much larger and flashy Hotel Vancouver, and the massive laundry chimney that gave the block a distinctly industrial feel. Amazingly the flag that appears in many similar postcards really was on the building – which is by no means true of every appearance. The top of the Vancouver Block on Granville Street was also carefully removed.

These days the much unloved Sears building, designed by Cesar Pelli while working for LA architect Victor Gruen sits on the site. Owners Cadillac Fairview have paid a small fortune to buy the Sears lease to allow the building to be reconfigured. Current rumours suggest a new major retail tenant below, and the top four floors of retail turned into 300,000 square feet of offices around a new atrium. As much of the concrete wall would be removed and replaced with glazing as can reasonably achieved.


Posted 2 April 2012 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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Granville Street – 700 block west side (1)

Not many people think the contemporary building is an improvement on the 1920s pictured here. Granville Mansions stood on the corner, the Orpheum Theatre (not the current one) stood next door, and then the Hotel Vancouver (the second one, not the current one either). Originally the theatre site was where the Canadian Pacific Railway put the Opera House. The Hotel Vancouver was demolished in 1946. Granville Mansions were built around 1907 and Mayor L D Taylor lived there for many years, as did his employee and future wife Alice Berry.

The Mansions were damaged in a 1957 fire, and replaced in the early 1970s with Cesar Pelli’s retail building for Eatons (now Sears, part of the Pacific Centre Mall). Pelli was working with Victor Gruen and Associates of Los Angeles, and McCarter Nairne were the local associate architects. The curved off-white concrete box has not aged well (although the TD and IBM towers to the north by the same architectural team are now less controversial than when first built and dubbed ‘The Black Towers’).

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 371-820