A brief history of Vancouver’s City Halls

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Vancouver City Hall designed by Fred Townley
Vancouver City Hall in 1945 CVA City P45

Before Vancouver settled on its current City Hall on West 12th, it had been housed in a number of really interesting buildings. One of the earliest ones was at the corner of Powell and Columbia streets in a sketchy part of Gastown, rehabilitated and now owned by rock star Bryan Adams.

The Vancouver Police Department outside City Hall in 1886 VPL #1090
The Vancouver Police Department outside City Hall in 1886 VPL #1090

The first council started out in a tent shortly after the Great Fire wiped out most of the city in 1886. The tent was on the CPR pier at the foot of Main Street. Chief Constable John Stewart is pictured second from left.

Powell and Columbia Streets
Oppenheimer Bros Wholesale Grocers building 1898

Two years later David Oppenheimer was elected mayor and he moved City Hall into his warehouse on Powell and Columbia.

Old Market Hall, Main Street
Old Market Hall, Main Street

City Hall moved to the old market hall on Main Street (Westminster Avenue until 1910) in 1898 just south of the Carnegie Library at East Hastings and remained there for the next three decades. The building with its wonderful turrets was demolished in 1958.

Holden Block. Leonard Frank photo, 1936 CVA BuP56
Holden Block. Leonard Frank photo, 1936 CVA BuP56

In 1929 City Hall moved to the Holden Block at 16 East Hastings designed in 1911 by William T. Whiteway—the same architect who designed the Sun Tower and Kathryn Maynard’s Alexander Street brothel.

Vancouver City Hall from Yukon, 1937, Leonard Frank photo CVA City P21
Vancouver City Hall from Yukon, 1937, Leonard Frank photo CVA City P21

Since 1937 our art deco City Hall designed by Fred Townley has stayed at its current location on West 12th. You can thank (or blame) Mayor Gerry McGeer for the look and the location, the first time a major Canadian city had built its city hall outside of the city.

© All rights reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, all blog content copyright Eve Lazarus

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5 comments

  1. Hi there. Love your site and all the interesting historical details. Love it! Came across this image today in the City of Vancouver Archives that shows City Hall in this building: http://searcharchives.vancouver.ca/index.php/city-hall-on-powell-street
    It is also listed on the 1912 Goad’s Insurance Map as “Old City Hall” with an address of 149-151 Powell, just west of Main. I’m thinking maybe the Warehouse story might either be incorrect OR there is another chapter in the movements of the City Hall around our fair city. What do you think?

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