This is an ongoing 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.
Bill Allman is a “recovering lawyer” and instructor of Entertainment Law at UBC. Bill has been a theatre manager (the Vogue), president of Theatre Under the Stars, and a concert promoter through his company, Famous Artists Limited. He is no longer willing to move your piano.
Favourite existing building: The Jericho Sailing Club because the main club building, along with the hostel, Jericho Arts Centre and the City works yard, is the only remaining structure from the RCAF Station Jericho Beach. In its latter years, the RCAF Station was home to several army units including 156 Company Royal Canadian Army Service Corps. That was my father, Major Arthur Allman’s unit. Dad’s office was housed in one of four massive hangers that stood on the site until the ’90s. It was in one of those hangars that, as the young child of a Militia officer, I sat on the knee of my very first Santa Claus and I played on the private DND-owned beach. I learned to swim in the ocean water outside what is now the Sailing Club.
The building that should never have been torn down: I want my opera house back. The Vancouver Opera House, opened in 1891 and hosted a wide variety of “legitimate” dramas as well as vaudeville and music; but not much opera. The theatre was elegantly appointed and intended by the CPR to add to Vancouver’s status as a world class city. Over the years, the theatre often changed hands and, after a complete renovation in 1913, had a life as the “New Orpheum.”. The old Vancouver Opera House survived until 1969 when they ripped it down in favour of that effing Pacific Centre Mall. Nothing says “culture” like a shoe sale.
Kristin Hardie is the curator for the Vancouver Police Museum.
Favourite existing building: I can’t help but choose 240 East Cordova, now the home of the Vancouver Police Museum and once the Coroner’s Services and the City Analyst Laboratory. Built in 1932, it was the last project architect Arthur J. Bird worked on in Vancouver. Fitting that he ended his career with the Morgue, no? The two-story building is made up of a wonderful mixture of classic Georgian Revival and Art Deco styles . The original design elements inside include the Georgian banister up the front stairs and the unique arched wooden roof in what was once the courtroom—oh and not to mention the actual rooms and autopsy tables used by the pathologist and the Coroner’s Services during 50 years of death investigations.
The building that should never have been torn down: The City Hall on Westminster (now Main) street was a robust turreted building that acted as Vancouver’s municipal and political hub for 30 years. It was built in 1890 to house a market on the lower level and a community gathering space above. It became City Hall eight years later. I love that it was nestled deep within the bustling east side neighbourhood–the busiest part of the city before big businesses started to move downtown. There, it was accessible and stood face-to-face with the regular people of the city. That in-and-of-itself should have guaranteed its longevity. I mean really, who tears down their own City Hall? The wrecking ball came in 1958 and in its place is a squat, single story brick eyesore.
Pamela Post is an award-winning Vancouver journalist, broadcaster and part-time journalism instructor/mentor at Langara College. She was born in the West End and now lives next door to the Sylvia Hotel.
Favourite existing building: This stately brick and terracotta building stands proudly as a vestige of a long-vanished Vancouver. Designed by architect William P. White and built in 1912 as an apartment building before being converted to a hotel in 1936, it’s named for the owner’s daughter Sylvia Goldstein. GM Ross Dyck tells me that in the autumn, the hotel used to get calls from the Coast Guard station in Kitsilano, saying boaters in English Bay were confusing the bright reds and yellows of the vine with a building on fire. The same family has owned the Sylvia since 1960 and steadfastly celebrated its heritage while regularly refusing lucrative offers to sell. A family recently celebrated its fifth generation of family members married at the Sylvia. The first was a young soldier, heading off to war in 1914. I often say to my friends ‘ahh, the Sylvia Hotel – where it’s always 1947.’
The building that should never have been torn down: The Englesea Lodge which once sat on Beach Avenue, was also designed by the same architect as the Sylvia Hotel in 1911. Throughout the ‘70s, the seven-storey building was a pawn in a civic battle royale between the Vancouver Park Board that viewed it as an ‘eyesore and blight’ at the entrance to Stanley Park, and a city council which was facing a severe housing shortage (sound familiar?) and pressure from the heritage-loving ‘Save the Englesea’ movement. The latter which proposed a rent-controlled residence for seniors with a tea/coffee house and educational facility in the lobby. In the end arson took care of the problem and the Englesea was removed from the landscape in 1981.
For more on the series see:
- Heritage Streeters with Anne Banner, Tom Carter, Kerry Gold and Anthony Norfolk
- Heritage Streeters with Michael Kluckner, Jess Quan, Lani Russwurm and Lisa Anne Smith
- Heritage Streeters with Caroline Adderson, Heather Gordon, Eve Lazarus, Cat Rose and Stevie Wilson
- Heritage Streeters with John Atkin, Aaron Chapman, Jeremy Hood and Will Woods