Vancouver has a long history of being an architecturally significant city. There are many building scattered throughout the downtown core as well as the surrounding suburbs that empashize the different architectural styles that have been important throughout the city’s history. This series of blog posts will focus on a particular building for each decade, all the way from the 1900s through to the future – the 2030s!
This first post will guide us through the 1900s to the 1950s.
1900 – 1910: The Hotel Europe
In June 1886, Vancouver was struck by one of the most catastrophic events in its history: the Vancouver Great Fire. Almost 90% of the buildings in town burned down to their grounds, causing many casualties and leaving many families without a roof on their heads; even the famous Gassy Jack’s pub was totally destroyed by the flames.
The city faced a $1.3 million dollar loss; so, when the time of reconstruction came, the city council decided that the entirety of Vancouver had to be rebuilt using fireproof materials (e.g. bricks).
It was during this period that Angelo Calori, an Italian immigrant, decided to open one of the first hotels in town: the Hotel Europe.
Construction began in 1908 and terminated in 1909, making Hotel Europe one of the first hotels in Western Canada to have running water, electricity, and, most importantly, a completely fireproof structure.
The hotel was, eventually, bought by the city of Vancouver in 1983 and, thus, converted to an apartment complex for low income people.
I particularly like this structure as it is heavily inspired by the world-famous Fuller building (also known as the Flatiron) in New York City, with its “Renaissance Revival” architectural style.
Today, the Hotel Europe is still there where it was originally built more than 110 years ago and it’s one of the most iconic buildings in Gastown…too bad that it cannot be visited.
1910 – 1920: The Seymour Building
When I was attending Greystone College on Seymour Street, I couldn’t help but notice this massive white building right in front of my school; every time I looked out of my class’ window I was amazed by this wonderful Neo-Gothic architectural style that reminded me of the beautiful Woolworth building in New York City.
The Yorkshire Guarantee and Securities Corporation Ltd Building, later known as the Seymour Building, was built in 1912 and completed in 1919 due to delays caused by WWI, and it still exists today as one of the last Neo-Gothic edifices remaining in Vancouver. Designed by the Vancouver-based firm of Somervell & Putnam, the distinctive 10-storey granite-faced office tower stands at 525 Seymour Street in the heart of downtown Vancouver, where the bustling cityscape around the historic block has changed radically over the last century.
With its 10 floors, the Yorkshire Building was once planned to be the tallest in the city but was surpassed by the Sun Tower in 1912 (more than 7 years before its completion). Its elaborate granite facade was a symbol of progress and gave the whole downtown area a fresh and modern look.
Today, the building is leased out as an office space on a per-unit basis and has changed hands numerous times over its long lifetime. The building is proclaimed by its current owners as prime downtown office space, and the careful restoration and upkeep of the exterior and interior heritage details are a major selling point for those looking to rent a unique space for their business.
I personally think that the Seymour Building is a handsome structure that stands as a testament of timeless design and fine detail work in a city with a modern cityscape made of steel and glass.
1920 – 1930: The Marine Building
I consider the Marine Building to be one of the most exquisite examples of Art Deco today. This 22-storey construction is considered by many to be one of the most well-preserved and significant edifices from the 1920s. Its story is quite interesting and goes all the way back to the 1910s, when the Panama Canal was officially opened, making it possible to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The opening of the canal made Vancouver one of the busiest and richest harbours in North America; this fact attracted many investors from all over Canada, one of them being J.W. Hobbs – a man who believed that Vancouver deserved a brand new skyscraper to increase the city’s importance in the world. He was profoundly fascinated by the elegance of the Fisher Building in Detroit and thought that, in order to become an important city, Vancouver needed a building of the same league and style as the one in Michigan; so he hired the architect firm “McCartner Nairne and Partners” and invested 2.2 million dollars into the project. Construction began in 1929 and ended in 1930 during the Great Depression which condemned the building to remain mostly empty. They even built an observation deck on the top, but nobody, during those times, could afford the 25 cents admission ticket. Due to the terrible economic recession, Hobbs found himself in debt, so he sold the building for nine hundred thousand dollars to the Guinness family of Ireland to repay his creditors. Despite this terrible start, the building today has been assessed to be worth more than 90 million dollars, and its beautiful hall is still open to everybody to enjoy.
1930 – 1940: City Hall
Since I live in Fairview, every time that I have to take the skytrain, I have to pass right in front of this marvelous Art Deco building that serves as city hall; its massive white structure is visible from all over Vancouver and it is still used today as the city’s council home.
Located on 12th Avenue, the building was ordered by the Vancouver Civic Building Committee and designed by architect Fred Townley. The building is highly recognisable by its iconic twelve-storey tower with a clock on the top that is lit during the night.
Until 1929, the original Vancouver City Hall was located on Main Street, in downtown, but that building was too small to accommodate the council of a growing city. It was more than clear that a brand new Town Hall was needed, so, after being elected mayor in 1934, Gerry McGeer created an opposite committee to select a new location for a city hall. The committee chose Strathcona Park on W. 12th Avenue as a site, and City Council approved the selection in 1935, making Vancouver the first major Canadian city to locate its city hall outside its downtown.
Constructions began in 1935 and terminated in 1936, when the building officially opened its doors to the city’s council. The cost of the whole structure was 1.1 million dollars and that’s partly due to the fact that most parts of the interiors were decorated with statues and ceilings covered by gold leaves.
An additional wing was added to the original structure in the 1960s and, since then, the building was never altered again. Nowadays this stunning edifice is still home to the Vancouver’s city council and is loved by many Vancouverites.
1940 – 1950: The Vogue Theatre
Each time I stroll around Granville Street, my attention is captured by its façade that is beautifully crafted in the Art-Moderne style, which emphasizes sleek lines and fluid contours. The theatre has two symmetrical façades, constructed in textured concrete with elaborated iron screens. One of the defining features of the Vogue is its large neon sign which is topped by the silhouette of the Goddess Diana (the Roman Goddess of the Moon).
The Vogue, as the name may suggest, first opened as a theatre pretty similar to the ones on Broadway St. in New York but, since then, has evolved to host many different events and special occasions like the Vancouver Film Festival or the Vancouver Jazz Festival.
Even today its beautiful neon sign is still shining on Granville St. for many to enjoy.
If you are reading this, you’re probably anticipating your trip to Vancouver or are contemplating on taking a visit to our beautiful city! Along with the enhanced use of digital technology such as smart phones and tablets, applications are on the rise as the best hand-held digital side-kicks. Applications – also known as apps – are software that provides quick and efficient access to everything; from social media platforms to digital cutting boards for your kitchen counter, there is an app for everyone. We have gathered a list of the best (free!) apps to have on your phone that will guarantee to make your travels to Vancouver a well-organized and fun experience!
Tourism Vancouver is the city’s premier hub for creating the best experience for visitors from around the world. Just a few years ago, Tourism Vancouver launched its first app, Visit Vancouver, to enhance their innovative approach to tourism. Visit Vancouver provides everything, from food to events and activities happening around the city. If you are looking to plan your trip to Vancouver, the app also provides assistance with planning accommodation and transportation! The design of Visit Vancouver is visually pleasing to the eye as it also includes photos and videos. Click here to find out more about the app!
OnTheGoKids is the perfect app for families that seek kid-friendly events and festivals happening in the city. Created by yoyomama.com, a Canadian website with a focus towards family-oriented products, events, and other services, this app allows you to store information and access it offline – no need for Wi-Fi! Similar to our other apps mentioned, OnTheGoKids also has GPS and directions included. If you want to share your experiences, OnTheGoKids allows you to connect to social media platforms as well! Download the app here!
With nightclubs located all around the downtown area, Vancouver’s nightlife is always a blast! Developed and founded in Vancouver, Nightbound allows users to check wait times for lines, apply for guest lists and even access special deals and discounts! As an app that has been featured on about.com and BC Living, Nightbound is perfect for saavy club-goers! Click here to download the app now!
Street Food (Vancouver)
Within the last few years, the food truck industry has been incredibly successful. From food truck festivals in the Olympic Village to the daily gathering of food trucks at the Vancouver Art Gallery, there is bound to be a food truck that caters to your taste buds! The Street Food app provides a list of food trucks in the downtown core. It is colour coordinated so that you know which food truck is open and what time, as well as the websites and social media platforms. If you’re looking for some of the best, there is also a list of the top 10 food trucks in the city – try Mom’s Grilled Cheese Truck or Japadog! Click here to download!
We Heart Local
Many restaurants in Vancouver have opted for local BC family-owned farms and/or food businesses for their ingredients. We Heart Local is an app that provides a list of the freshest and highest quality of food items in your area, as well as recipes if you plan on cooking! This app is great for the economy of British Columbia and it also builds a tighter community among restaurateurs and farmers. Ready to try some local goods? Click here to download the app!
Developed by MetroVancouver as an initiative to encourage recycling, the TapMap app has remained as the go-to app for finding locations to refill your water bottles. With over 500 locations, TapMap encourages reusing bottles instead of plastic bottles, which end up in landfills every year. British Columbia has some of the cleanest water in the world – 30 000 samples are tested every year and the water is treated through world-class facilities. To quote Patricia Daly, the Chief Medical Health Officer for Vancouver Coastal Health: “most of the world does not have access to clean drinking water, but we have a pristine source of water here […] tap water is all I drink.” Vancouver is extremely environmentally friendly – join fellow Vancouverites and reduce, reuse, recycle! Click here for more information!
Translink is the transportation system for Metro Vancouver. Established in 1998, Translink has expanded from buses as their primary mode of transportation to skytrains, trains, and seabuses. Public transportation in Vancouver has improved vastly over the years – make sure you download the Translink app for access to live updates, maps, and stops! Click here to find out more!
Originating in the city of Ulm in Germany, Car2Go has been offering a unique way of transportation for its consumers since 2008. After you sign up as a member, you will be able to access any Car2Go vehicle in the areas offered, drive it to your destination, and drop it off. This reliable service is environmentally friendly and doesn’t charge you monthly – you pay as you go! Visit the Car2Go website for more information.
As a city that is constantly evolving, driving around Vancouver can sometimes be a hassle. The Go Parking app allows you to search up areas that provide free parking in your vicinity. Simply type in your location and Go Parking will compile a list with the distance included! Download the app for the inside scoop for free parking!
Harbour Centre’s Vancouver Lookout is celebrating its 40th anniversary. As a part of its “coming of age”, Vancouver Heritage Foundation has partnered with the Lookout and invites you to experience different perspectives on the city through a new event series from this special vantage point. Perspectives: Talks & Discussions will explore stories – surprising, thought-provoking, and thrilling – that have shaped Vancouver over time.
Five talks from different speakers will offer insight on a range of topics including Indigenous stories and context, South Asian history and immigration, architectural development and change, Vancouver’s music scene and nightlife, and the city’s seedy criminal history.The mix of daytime and evening events runs September through November. Coffee will be provided at morning talks.
For more information, visit: vancouverlookout.com/blog or follow #VancouverPerspectives on social media.
Please plan to arrive at Harbour Centre at least 15 minutes before the posted start to allow time to take the elevator to the Lookout. Each talk will begin promptly 15 minutes after the posted start time.
Blanketing the City: Musqueam Stories
Saturday September 23
Debra Sparrow and Kamala Todd
The dominant stories of our city tend to be those of the colonial culture, which has written itself into the built form and the narratives of Vancouver. Musqueam artist Debra Sparrow’s people have lived here for thousands of years, her people’s history and relationships with this land are “written in the earth”. Metis-Cree filmmaker and community planner Kamala Todd holds deep gratitude for the Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish people, who so generously share their lands and wealth – while being in many ways written out of the story and landscapes of Vancouver. Join us for a dynamic conversation that weaves important Indigenous stories and asks how we can inhabit an urban past, present and future which fully reflects and embodies the Indigenous people of these lands.
Historic Crime: Early Forensic Investigations
Thursday October 19
Join Author Eve Lazarus for a night of true crime as she draws on stories from her latest book Blood, Sweat, and Fear: The Story of Inspector Vance, Vancouver’s First Forensic Investigator. Starting in 1907 as the City Analyst for the City of Vancouver, John F.C.B. Vance worked in several buildings in downtown Vancouver before being named honorary inspector for the VPD and put in charge of the newly formed Police Bureau of Science (now housing the Vancouver Police Museum). Vance used his cutting-edge skills in serology, toxicology, firearms examination, trace evidence and autopsy to solve some of the most sensational crimes of the twentieth century. His techniques were so effective that there were seven attempts on his life, and for a time, he and his family were under constant police guard.
Heritage from Up High
Sunday October 29
Join John Atkin, as he explores the constantly changing Vancouver landscape and tells the stories behind some of its most iconic buildings and neighbourhoods. Hear about the Woodward’s site including the story behind the store’s demolition, learn about gold rush money, renewal and restorations around the Flack Block, gaze down at the Morris J. Wosk centre as you hear its tale of demolition threats and eventual adaptive reuse as well as the complex history of Waterfront Station where modern uses have breathed new life into this venerable building.
Vancouver After Dark: History of the Entertainment Scene
Thursday November 16
Downtown Vancouver was home to legendary nightclubs throughout much of the last century where, thanks to Vancouver’s geographic location, many performers would kick off tours. Today, most of the theatres of Granville Street are gone, and only a few legendary nightspots remain. How did some of Vancouver’s clubs remain, and others simply disappear? Is the city’s “Granville Entertainment District” really the answer? Author Aaron Chapman explores the history and future of Vancouver’s music scene.
Vancouver Heritage Foundation is a registered charity working to support the city’s built heritage through educational programming and awareness building. To find out more about VHF, visit vancouverheritagefoundation.org.
This event (November 16 only) will feature a cash bar from Vancouver’s first micro distillery, Long Table Distillery.
Cultural Landscapes: Vancouver’s South Asian Community
Sunday November 26
Naveen Girn, Paneet Singh and Milan Singh
In one of the earliest South Asian Canadian novels, Sadhu Singh Dhami wrote that sometimes the landscape of Vancouver can evoke the idea of home because “the Fraser was much like the Sutlej gliding through the plains of the Punjab.” This talk looks at how migrants over the past 100 years have worked to create belonging and thread their lives into the story of Vancouver. From the epic tale of the Komagata Maru to clandestine freedom movements, from the fight for civil rights to the living legacy of trauma and displacement, this talk will illuminate South Asian stories and intercultural relationships that can only happen in Vancouver.
The beginning of October in Vancouver brings with it the start of cooler weather, earlier nights and thoughts of Halloween. Summer has officially ended, but that doesn’t mean that Vancouver’s activities have ended with it. If you are looking to have a little fun this October, consider the following events!
Hit the Screen
Take a seat and watch some locally produced as well as internationally produced films at the Vancouver International Film Festival. This annual event is one of the biggest film festivals in North America. Check online for the show times and movie screenings, this is one event you won’t want to miss.
Photo by: VIFF
Vancouver International Film Festival
September 29 – October 14, 2016
Buy your tickets here
Take a Night Tour
Hear the mysterious and gruesome tales of murders and haunted places in Vancouver in an expertly guided tour. With stops in Stanley Park, the Mountain View cemetery and the Vancouver Police Museum, you’ll be entertained and have some interesting stories to tell your friends!
Haunted Vancouver Trolley Tour
Photo by: Vancouver Trolley
October 14 – October 31st 2016 (Excluding Sundays and Mondays)
*Tours will operate on Sunday October 30th and Monday October 31st
Find out how to book your tickets here
For the biggest collection of haunted houses and rides in BC, take a trip to Fright Nights at the PNE for a thrilling night!
Photo by: Fright Nights
Fright Nights at the PNE
October 7 – October 31
Buy your passes here
Ride a Miniature Train
A family favourite, the Stanley Park Ghost Train returns this with a new twist! Gather your family and friends in remembrance of our loved ones with the “Day of the Dead” themed ride. Be entertained by live entertainers, stunning lights, and music. Matinee trains run from Friday to Sunday, 11:00am to 5:00pm.
Photo By: City of Vancouver
Stanley Park Ghost Train
October 8 to October 31, 2016
Buy your tickets today and find out more here
Laugh Out Loud
Described as “Pixar meets Waiting for Godot” this unique blend of visually stunning imagery and physical comedy and wit will have you laughing all night.
Photo By: Tourism Vancouver
James & Jamesy in the Dark
October 5 – October 16, 2016
Buy your tickets today and find out more here
The Vancouver Lookout opened in August of 1977, and since then, the tower has seen many visitors come and go, as well as countless days and nights. The view from 553 feet (or 168 meters) above the ground is spectacular and breathtaking no matter the time of day or season, but there are some wonderful points of interest worth noting.
Many guests have asked about whether the view from the Vancouver Lookout is more captivating in the morning light, or once the sun goes down. No need to look any further, for we are going to compare and contrast the two views right here and right now!
Vancouver Lookout Day View
Why the Morning View is Unique:
In the bright light of day, you can see out for miles and miles. The enthusiastic tour guides are able to point out fascinating landmarks and buildings that cannot be easily seen without the clarity of daytime. You can see all the way to Burnaby with its tall buildings sticking out into the horizon, and even Mount Baker all the way in Washington state if it’s an especially clear day!
What & Where to Look:
Stanley Park – The park is easy to catch with its many trees shrouding the entire piece of land! It sticks out into the Burrard Inlet, and is a natural retreat away from the bustling downtown core.
Sun Tower – The mint green colored roof of the Sun Tower will catch your eye, and having been home to the Vancouver Sun newspaper, the architecture is definitely worth writing home about.
The Mountains – We are surrounded by beautiful mountains here, and three distinct ones pop out in the light of day. Grouse Mountain, Mount Cypress, and Mount Seymour are visible across the Burrard Inlet, and make for beautiful photographs.
Rogers Arena – The arena where the famed Canucks hockey team plays is almost directly in front of you when you enter the Lookout. Just take your eye to the smaller, dark dome to the left of the larger white one and you’ll be staring straight at the arena, where concerts and exhibitions are often held at when games are not being played!
Vancouver Lookout Night View
Why the Night View is Unique:
The city seems to come alive at night, with all the lights from the buildings, cars, and skyscrapers bursting through the darkness. In downtown Vancouver, the bright lights mimic those of New York City, although with a quieter charm. With beautiful views of lit up bridges, streetlights and glowing windows from across the entire city, the night view from the Lookout is sure to steal your heart away.
What & Where to Look:
Gastown – The oldest part of Vancouver is also one of the most charming places. At night, the rounded street lamps of Gastown light up the entire street, and is reminiscent of a little village. With souvenir shops and the most low lit pubs around, Gastown is the perfect place to enjoy a pint in.
BC Stadium – The big white dome is hard to miss in the daytime, and even harder to miss at night. With the world’s largest retractable roof and the ability to light up in animated color at night, the stadium is one of the most beautiful sights to behold after the sun goes down.
Lions Gate Bridge – The bridge crosses from the city of Vancouver to North Vancouver and West Vancouver on the other side of the Burrard Inlet. The suspension bridge was designed by the same architect that designed the Golden Gate bridge in New York City. Its twinkling lights reflected in the water below will make for a beautiful sight.
Canada Place – Built in 1986, this building is reminiscent of a sailing ship, for the theme of the World’s Fair that year was transportation. The structure itself lights up in beautiful colours at night and truly looks like a ship sailing out to sea!
Now that you have a good idea of the structures and buildings that stand out in the day and night, here’s the kicker: your ticket for the Vancouver Lookout is valid ALL DAY so you can take in the mesmerizing sights and enjoy a tour in the morning, and come back at night for the breathtaking view of the city lights.
See you there!