The DTES in 12 buildings
~ As one of the earliest developed areas of Vancouver, the Downtown Eastside is home to some of the city's most striking — and historic — architecture. Here are 12 buildings that give a taste of that.
Balmoral Hotel, 159 East Hastings St.
Parr and Fee Architects
The Balmoral Hotel, a nine-storey building located on East Hastings Street close to Gastown, was opened in 1912 as a high-class place away from home for wealthy travellers and businessmen. The Chicago-style elements of the hotel, including the organized, grid-like façade and massive overhang, were common on buildings built in the early 1900s in Vancouver. Architectural firm Parr & Fee designed the Balmoral, while the well-recognized neon sign on the front of the building was designed in 1940 by Neon Products, a local company, which by the 1950s was one of the biggest neon sign producers in the world. The hotel has more recently become host to occasional live music events.(Source: http://www.historicplaces.ca)
Holden Building, 16 East Hastings St.
The Holden Building, which was completed in 1911, was initially developed by realtor William Holden to house the Vancouver branch of the Montreal-based Molson’s Bank. In 1929, after extensive renovations under the guidance of city architect A.J. Bird, the Holden Building became Vancouver’s City Hall. The municipal government would use it until 1936. For many years, the building was owned and operated by the Downtown Eastside Residents Housing Society. When the BC government accused the society of mismanaging funds in 2010, the affordable housing units passed into the control of a court-appointed receiver.(Source: Exploring Vancouver: Ten Tours of the City and its Buildings by Harold Kalman with photos by John Roaf. / The official guidebook of the greater Vancouver chapter of the architectural institute of BC / UBC Press/ Morriss Printing Co. Ltd. / 1974)
The Chinese Benevolent Association, 108 East Pender St.
Before the Chinese Benevolent Association moved in, the site of this building was the terminus for the Vancouver, Westminster and Yukon Railway. The Association formed in 1906 and approximately one year later constructed this building. It is the earliest example of the architectural style that now characterizes Chinatown.(Source: Exploring Vancouver: Ten Tours of the City and its Buildings by Harold Kalman with photos by John Roaf. / The official guidebook of the greater Vancouver chapter of the architectural institute of BC / UBC Press / Morriss Printing Co. Ltd. / 1974)
Dominion Building, 207 Hastings St.
J.S. Helyer and Son
Construction on the Dominion Building was completed in 1910. It was Vancouver’s first steel-framed high-rise, and when it was completed, it was the tallest commercial building in the British Empire. Urban legend has it that the architect, John S. Helyer, died after falling down the stairs at the front of the building. Current tenants include a talent agency, a popular Lebanese restaurant and an art-supply store.(Source: City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program)
Carmichael House, 1145 Union St.
Carmichael built this Victorian cottage for use as his home. He also built many houses around the area pre-World War I. The Vancouver Heritage Program restored this house’s original colours as part of its “True Colours” program, which paints heritage houses the colours they were when built.(Source: Vancouver Heritage Foundation)
Duncan Building, 119 West Pender St.
H.L. Stevens and Co.
The Duncan Building, also known as the Shelly Building, was constructed in Chicago School style and stands across the street from Victory Square. It is defined by its windows that are organized in a grid-like fashion. The building was originally owned by Howard J. Duncan. The building failed financially because of its location until 1925, when Cora Marie Shelly and her husband, William, a successful entrepreneur, bought it and breathed new life into it.(Source: City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program)
The London Hotel, 700 Main St.
William F. Gardinier
The London Hotel is actually two buildings. The first, a low-rise brick structure at the corner of Main and East Georgia, was completed in 1903. The second, one storey taller, was built behind the first and added frontage along both Main and Georgia. The hotel was frequented mostly by miners and forestry workers. In the 1930s, the proprietor added a beer parlour to the basement restaurant, and because of the liquor laws at the time, had to change the façade significantly to prevent the bar from being seen from the street. In 2010, the current owner restored the building to something more closely resembling its original appearance.(Source: City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program)
Lonsdale Block, 36 West Cordova St.
The Lonsdale Block, now most famous for housing Vancouver’s flagship Army & Navy location, was built in 1889. Its first owners were prominent local businessmen Thomas Dunn and Jonathan Miller. Dunn, a Scottish ex-pat, was a hardware merchant and, during Vancouver’s first civic election in 1886, was elected alderman. Miller was Vancouver’s first constable and postmaster. Known then as the Dunn-Miller block, the building acquired its current moniker when North Vancouver property-owner A.H. Lonsdale purchased it during the Klondike days. The Lonsdale Block and its neighbours were extensively restored by the Army & Navy, starting in 1973.(Source: Exploring Vancouver: Ten Tours of the City and its Buildings by Harold Kalman with photos by John Roaf. / The official guidebook of the greater Vancouver chapter of the architectural institute of BC / UBC Press / Morriss Printing Co. Ltd. / 1974)
Pub 340, 340 Cambie St.
Formerly known as the Commercial Hotel, Pub 340 is now one of Vancouver’s most well-known live music venues. The façade of the building has undergone extensive changes since its construction. The building was designed in the Edwardian style. During its time as a hotel, its clientele was middle-class travelers. Before Pub 340 moved in, the hotel was briefly called the Stadium Inn and at one point was redecorated with Spanish styles and called the El Cid Hotel.(Source: City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program)
Hotel Europe, 43 Powell St.
Parr and Fee Architects
Hotel Europe has the distinction of being both the first fireproof hotel in Western Canada and the first reinforced concrete structure in Canada. The building was turned into affordable housing in 1983. The ground floor now houses a printing company, and the basement beer parlour has been entirely filled in.(Source: City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program)
The Packing House, 21 Water St.
Chercover Engineering LTD
Exact date unknown
The Packing House, also known as the Lee Importers Building, was constructed in the early 1900s on the site of the Sunnyside Hotel. It started out as a meat warehouse/cold storage plant and, in 1969, was renovated to become an office building. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, The Packing House was home to Punchlines, Vancouver’s first comedy club. Nowadays, its tenants are mostly IT firms and talent agencies.(Source: City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program)
Woodward’s Building, 126 West Cordova St.
Charles Woodward (1903); Henriquez Partners Architects (2006)
Woodward’s has spent most of its life as a massive department store. It was the largest supermarket in North America as the time of its opening. As the Downtown Eastside began to decline socially, and as most other department stores began to move to Pacific Centre, Woodward’s couldn’t maintain strong business as most of the store’s working class clients stopped shopping there. It went bankrupt and shut down in 1993. In September 2006, all of Woodward’s, except for the oldest section of the building, was demolished to allow for redevelopment. Reopened in 2010, Woodward’s now serves as a hub for residential, commercial and institutional spaces.(Source: City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program)