Archive for the ‘Province Building’ Tag

The Province Building – 140 West Hastings (1)

Here’s 140-142 West Hastings Street, on the same block of the street the Woodwards sits. A number of buildings on this block were built in the late 1890s, and this is one of them. The building has been used as an art gallery for many years, but it started life in 1898 as the offices of the Province Newspaper, Walter Nichol’s Victoria newspaper that moved into Vancouver and eventually took out Francis Carter-Cotton’s rival News-Advertiser in 1924, moving to his smarter offices in the process. In 1926 when this photograph was taken it had become ‘The Arcade’ a retail centre that may have replaced one of the same name that had been built on Hastings at Cambie in 1894 by Harvey Hadden, originally from Nottingham in England. The Arcade took in the main floor of the Stock Exchange Building next door as well, and was almost certainly designed by Townley and Matheson. Later it became the National Furniture Store.


The 1912 image on the right shows the original Province office facade before the retail conversion opened it up. Massive changes have occurred on the block in the past two years – at one time almost everything was abandoned or so run down that it looked like it would be demolished or converted to housing. However, recent demand for character office space and the impact of the Woodwards project have seen clean up and refurbishment of many of the buildings. This building has been for sale for some time, and will undoubtedly see a similar change in the future.

Image source City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1399-546


Carter Cotton Building – 198 West Hastings

The Carter Cotton Building was completed in 1908, so was one of the earliest tall thin office towers that were built in a frenzy in the city in a 5-year period from 1908 to 1912.  Built on Hastings next to the Courthouse (these days Victory Square) with a steel frame, it was designed by Cox and Amos as offices for Carter Cotton’s newspaper, the Daily News Advertiser. Carter Cotton was born in Shoreditch in London as Francis Cotton – nobody knows where the ‘Carter’ came from.

His early history is as mysterious as his name change – he may have been in India, and he was certainly in the US, making money, then borrowing heavily against an irrigation canal company and land investments for cattle both of which failed in 1886 leaving him owing $300,000 and escaping Denver by jumping on a train while his creditors were locked in his office.

He arrived in Vancouver less than a year after the fire, and within a few months had a partner and a new role as editor of a newspaper created with someone else’s money and the merger of two rival papers, the News and the Advertiser. He stayed as editor of the News Advertiser until 1910, and used the paper to launch into municipal and then provincial politics. Despite having written against speculative capitalism he got involved in high risk investments in trust companies and real estate. In 1907 he commissioned the new building, seen here in a postcard probably photographed soon after its completion a year later. Despite the suggestion in the Heritage description of the building, as far as we can tell it was never home to the News Advertiser.

When it was announced in the press in 1908 there was no mention of his newspaper interests. “Another large building is that proposed by Hon. F. Carter-Cotton, who owns the only vacant corner in the business section of the city. He will erect a seven-storey structure that will be absolutely fireproof, and it is proposed to have it ready in about a year. The Eastern Townships Bank will take the whole of the ground floor. The building will be located diagonally across Hastings Street from that to be erected by the Imperial Trust Company.

He sold his newspaper (which was struggling against aggressive competition) in 1910 and acquired land on the north shore, and promoted a bridge and tunnel company to improve access over Burrard Inlet. When the pre-war crash occurred these investment vehicles collapsed and he owed $150,000 more than he owned. Meanwhile the building he had developed took on the name of the Province newspaper, the rival that had taken him out (and acquired his building some years later). They linked the building to another Carter Cotton development to the south, the Edgett Building.

More recently history has been repeated somewhat – in 1998 Millennium Development Corporation restored the building as their headquarters, and in 2010 the City of Vancouver took ownership as part of the settlement for the remaining debt owed by Millennium on the Olympic Village project. The building was sold on again in 2012.


Victory Square

The three significant buildings seen in the view from Victory Square in 1927 are still there. On the left is the 13 storey Dominion Building. Started in 1908 by the Imperial Trust Company it was designed by J S Helyer and Son. John Helyer handled the architectural aspects of their projects, while his son Maurice was more involved with the engineering.  An over optimistic belief that the necessary $600,000 would be easy to raise led to a shotgun merger with the Dominion Trust Company, and the building was completed in 1910. Perhaps it would have been called the Imperial Building if the merger hadn’t been needed.

The Dominion is said to be the first steel-framed building in the city, and on completion the tallest in the British Empire. When it was built it was across the street from the Courthouse, which was replaced in 1913, and later transformed into Victory Square with the Cenotaph, which can be clearly seen in this 1927 photograph. Several books and websites carry statements like this “Tragically, the Dominion Building’s architect, J.S. Hellyer, is said to have tripped, fallen and died on the interior staircase during the opening party for the building. His ghost reportedly haunts the staircase.”

It may well be true that Mr Helyer (not Hellyer) did fall at some time during the building’s construction, but the fall was not fatal and father and son went on to design other buildings. John Helyer finally died in 1919, having seen the building suffer further financial crises, with the Dominion Trust Company selling the building to the Dominion Bank, the Trust Company President W R Arnold committing suicide and the main financial backer Count Alvo von Alvensleben bankrupt.

The smaller building in the centre, the Flack Block was completed in 1899 to William Blackmore’s design for Thomas Flack who made his money successfully prospecting in the Klondike. On the right is the Carter-Cotton building, also steel framed and completed in 1909. Designed by Cox and Amos, it was home to the News-Advertiser newspaper. Later acquired by the Province newspaper, it continued as editorial offices until 1960. The Flack Building has recently had an expensive and superb restoration designed by Acton Ostry Architects that has added a new fifth floor. And the only significant addition to the picture? The 43 storey Woodwards W Tower designed by Henriquez Partners and completed in 2010.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Park N19