In 1913 Vancouver had a thriving theatre district that included eight movie theatres as well as stock theatres like the Pantages and the Empress——both completed in 1908.
Over the years we’ve managed to pretty well destroy all evidence of these theatres—the Capital, the Strand, two Orpheum theatres, and of course, most recently the Pantages Theatre at Main and Hastings that as Heritage Vancouver so succinctly put was “demolition by neglect.”
Theatre companies put on lavish productions at the Empress that called for sheep and horses on stage, as well as cars. For Faust, the stage crew built fire-breathing dragons 20-feet long; and for The Aviatrix they constructed a copy of the new Wright Brothers aeroplane and flew it on piano wire. At one point the Empress had the biggest stage west of Chicago.
By the late 1930s rising costs, movies and the shift of the city away from Main Street sounded the death knell for the Empress. But instead of finding a new use for the building, in 1940 down it came in a pile of rubble.
This is what we’ve done with the site.
For more posts see: Our Missing Heritage
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