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.
I was surprised to discover that when the Birks building opened in 1913, it took out three of Vancouver’s earliest office buildings, including the four-storey Sir Donald Smith block (named for Lord Strathcona) and designed by Bruce Price in 1888.
According to Building the West, New York-based Price was one of the most fashionable architects of the late 19th century. He was the CPR’s architect of choice for a number of Canadian buildings, and although he designed several imposing buildings in Vancouver between 1886 and 1889, not one of them remains today.
The Van Horne block (named for the president of the CPR) at Granville and Dunsmuir, later became the Colonial Theatre, and one of Con Jone’s Don’t Argue tobacco stores, before becoming another casualty of the Pacific Centre in 1972 (see Past Tense blog for more information).
Price also designed the Crewe Block in the 600-block Granville: “built of brick and granite, with sixteen-inch pilasters running the height of the three-storey structure”* It lasted until 2001.
The granite-faced New York block (658 Granville) which Price designed in 1888, and the Daily World described as “the grandest building of its kind yet erected here, or for that matter in the Dominion,” would be replaced by the existing Hudson’s Bay store in the 1920s. According to the 1890 city directory, the building had a mixture of residents and businesses including the Dominion Brewing and Bottling Works, the CPR telegraph office, and John Milne Browning, the commissioner for the CPR Land Department.
Browning lived at West Georgia and Burrard in a stone and brick duplex that Price designed, described as “Double Cottage B.”* According to Changing Vancouver, sugar baron BT Rogers bought the property in 1906, and had the house lifted, enlarged and turned into a hotel called the Glencoe Lodge.
The hotel was torn down to make way for a gas station in the early 1930s, and 40 years later, was bought up by the Royal Centre and is now the uninspiring Royal Bank building.
*source: Building the West: early architects of British Columbia
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