Archive for the ‘W Marbury Somervell’ Tag

Bank of Ottawa – West Hastings Street

Here’s the Bank of Ottawa on the corner of Seymour and West Hastings in 1912. The new eight storey building was designed by W Marbury Somervell, but probably slightly changed by Somervell and Putnam (as it has a 1911 building permit in their name). It cost $225,000, and pictures of the construction show a reinforced concrete frame rather than all steel. The building bears a very strong resemblance to the BC Securities Building which is three blocks away and completed a year later to HS Griffith’s design.

The speed that construction could be completed on commercial buildings can be seen from the Contract Record report of September 1910. Work was just starting on the building site, clearing the existing buildings and excavating the basement, and it was expected the whole thing would be complete by May 1911, with occupancy coming a month later. There were 16 offices per floor above the banking floor, and the quality of the building was obviously aimed at all the other office buildings competing for tenants “The entrance to the vestibule and lobby will be handsomely done in marble, while the floors above will be trimmed throughout in birch and finished with mahogany. Other features of this latest addition to Vancouver’s tall buildings will be a vacuum heating system throughout, hot and cold water in all the offices, the Durham plumbing system, mail chute equipment, vacuum cleaning system for all the offices, and commodious toilet rooms on every floor.” The successful contracting bid came from McDonald and Wilson who started work in October 1910 and as far as we know completed on time.

In 1919 the Bank of Ottawa were merged with the Bank of Nova Scotia, and it stayed a branch of the new owners for over 30 years. In 1956 noted local architects Sharp, Thompson, Berwick and Pratt were given the design job of enlarging the bank building. The new project stripped the old building to its frame, replaced the small tobacco store with the billiards room behind (The Maple Leaf Club in 1946) that was next door and the restaurant with rooms over beyond that, and created a simple new office building which was nearly twice the size of the original. A more recent building upgrade in 1987 added an elegant projecting metal cornice to the building.

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600 block – West Hastings Street (2)

Here’s another view, taken a bit later than our last post (probably in 1911) of the south side of Hastings from Granville, looking east. Now you can see the facade of the Bank of Ottawa Building. The Bank of Nova Scotia absorbed the Bank of Ottawa in 1919 and continued to occupy the building. The Ottawa Citizen in 1909 reported the acquisition of the 52 foot wide corner property, and that the six storey building would cost the bank $250,000. In they end they seem to have got a bargain – although the initial design was attributed to W Marbury Somervell, the building permit was to Somervell and Putnam for $225,000 – and the building was eight storeys.

The new bank building replaced earlier structures that included a billiards hall and the Pill Box Drug Store. The Strand Hotel was also known as the Delbruck Block, and where the recently completed Canada Life Assurance Company building stood had been the site of the Leland House Hotel. The Canada Life Building had a branch of the Imperial Bank of Canada as well as lawyers, brokers and government offices. The Bank of Commerce on the corner also had tenants upstairs in ‘rooms’ including a number of land brokers and William M Dodd, architect. Mr Dodd, although not widely recognised, obtained some sizeable contracts including a $200,000 apartment building at Granville and 12th that is still standing today.

W J Cairns took the City of Vancouver Archives original CVA Str P411

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