In the 1970s, the Scotia Tower and the hideous Vancouver Centre—currently home to London Drugs—obliterated a block of beautiful heritage buildings at Granville and Georgia Streets. The development took out the Strand Theatre (built in 1920), and the iconic Birks building, an 11-storey Edwardian where generations of Vancouverites met at the clock.
Before Victory Square was Victory Square and home to the Cenotaph, it was a happening part of the city known as Government Square, because it was the site of the first provincial courthouse.
The impressive domed building was operational by 1890 and was the first major building outside of Gastown. It was quickly apparent that it was too small for our growing city, and within a few years had a large addition with a grand staircase and portico facing Hastings Street.
On May 28, 1989, we blew up the Georgia Medical-Dental Centre, a building on West Georgia designed by McCarter & Nairne, the same architects behind the Marine and the Devonshire Apartments. *
The Devonshire was first, designed as an apartment building in 1923. Next came the 15-storey art deco medical building—and the Marine Building was completed in 1930—the only one left standing.
My friend Angus McIntyre was a Vancouver bus driver for 40 years and often took photos of heritage buildings, neon signs, street lamps and everyday life on his various routes. His photos are always so vivid and interesting (see his posts on Birks and elevator operators) and when he sends me one, I stop whatever I’m doing and nag him for the back story.
Last week I wrote about the oldest house in Vancouver—well at least that’s what they called it when it burned to the ground in 1946. It was built in 1875, and until 1915, its address was Seaton Street.
Unlike most of Vancouver’s streets that are named after old white men, Lauchlan Hamilton, the CPR surveyor, named this one in 1886 after pulling it at random from a map (the town of Seaton is long gone, but used to be near Hazelton in northern BC).
Do you remember the little house on Richards Street between Nelson and Helmcken? It was one of the last ones standing and for years had quite the garden and lots of funky birdhouses and wheelbarrows. I was reminded of it when Glen Mofford posted a photo that he took of owner Percy Linden outside his house in the summer of 2001.
This is an occasional series that asks people who love history and heritage to tell us their favourite existing building and the one that never should have been torn down.
Patrick A. Dunae is a Victoria-born historian. A past member of the City of Victoria Heritage Advisory Panel, he is currently president of the Friends of the BC Archives.
The Birks Building at Granville and Georgia (where the London Drugs store is today) was demolished in May 1974. Two months earlier, on March 24, a group of people got together and held a funeral. Angus McIntyre attended and took photos, and he has kindly written a guest blog about the building and its demise.