Our Missing Heritage: The buildings along West Georgia Street

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1924 Vancouver streetscape by W.J. Moore

I came across this photo* of downtown Vancouver in 1924 while I was playing on Vancouver Archive’s site yesterday. It took me quite a while to figure out what I was looking at. There’s the Vancouver Block sticking up in the background—you can see the familiar clock—but check out all those other amazing buildings: the Strand Theatre, the Birks Building and the Second Hotel Vancouver—all missing from our streetscape less than half-a-century later.

The hotel was the first to go. Built by the CPR in 1916, you can see some of the incredible detail of the architecture in the photo (above). It even had a trellised outdoor roof café. It was all too grand for Vancouver apparently, because when the third (and existing) Hotel Vancouver was finished, its days were numbered. Eatons bought the site in 1949, pulled down the building and it remained an empty lot for the next two decades. The lot became the Eaton Centre in 1974, then Sears, and now it’s Nordstrom, a US department store.

Georgia from Seymour google mapAcross the road from the second Hotel Vancouver was the beautiful old Birks Building. Well not that old really, only 61 in 1974. She was killed off to make way for the Scotia Tower and ugly Vancouver Centre (you know the one with London Drugs on Granville and Georgia).

london drugs

* CVA Str N201.1

For more posts see: Our Missing Heritage

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

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  1. It’s often hard to understand the concept of “improvement” or “development” in this context.
    I have a photo, made in the eighties, at nearby intersection of Robson and Howe, across from the Courts. I set up my camera on an empty lot (can’t remember what was there before), next to the white cube of the Sears building. Going on Google Streetview, it is now site of a nondescript glass box. One day, perhaps, Vancouver will lose its obsession with glass boxes.
    In the meantime, the city has lost so much of its heritage.

    1. “One day…” I expect that day will be exactly the same day as the big earthquake! We’ll regret our glass boxes on that day, for sure.

  2. Lest we Forget……on many different levels. How sad that such a beautiful grand hotel could be taken down and for what greater good. It would be wonderful if history didn’t repeat itself.

  3. Being really picky (sorry)… The Strand was behind the Birks building on the same block. Your hair salon was across Seymour Street. The sunken plaza replaced a row of handsome brick row houses constructed in the early 1900s.

    The current Hotel Vancouver was constructed by the Canadian National Railway, part of the condition for allowing them to fill the eastern basin of False Creek. The CPR and CNR agreed to jointly operate the new hotel, hence the closure of the old (and fabulous) hotel at Georgia and Granville.

    1. Thank god for picky friends. I’m actually quite relieved that I wasn’t getting my hair cut in the foyer. So the sunken plaza was where the Telus building is now? would you have any pictures of the old houses?

      1. The Changing Vancouver blog (changingvancouver.wordpress.com) posted a before and after on January 20, 2012, and there’s another Archives shot Mil P93 showing the row house and the office buildings on Granville St. And yes, Telus Garden occupies the site of the sunken plaza, the hair salon and White Spot.

  4. I absolutely loved the Strand Theatre! It was beautiful!! The old Birk’s building was amazing inside. They used the old ‘Tube System” with Clerks putting the money into tubes, and sending them up through a vacuum system, to the Cashiers who sat in a locked booth on the second floor. They’d make the change, and send it along with the customers receipt, back down so the clerk could give to the customer. I worked there when I was 16 for a summer and saturdays, for a year or so. The famous Birks clock, was where all those in Love would arrange to meet! It had great significance to people in Vancouver for several decades. When they moved the store and clock down to where they are now, it just wasn’t the same. I’m quite proud of my “Birk’s Clock” charm bracelet!

    1. What a great story! Would have loved to see the tube system. Actually I would have loved to see those buildings. They all came down before I moved here.So strange to see photos of them now.

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