Archive for July, 2020

Despite the ever-growing forest of towers and townhouses slowly engulfing the city, there are still a few buildings here and there that have survived the wrecking ball. I’ve spent these last few months of solitary confinement combing through Vancouver’s photo archives looking for some evidence that Vancouver actually did have an architectural past. Not a glorious, castles-and-chateaus kind of past like some places, but a good solid century of civilization.

I have found quite a few buildings and landmarks that are still recognizable today, and have lined them up with a current photograph from the same location. At least I’ve tried to. It’s hard to accurately replicate the location, height, and focal length of the original shot, so in many cases the perspectives are a little off. One thing I’ve noticed: there are a hell of a lot more trees now than there were then, and they get in the way of a lot of my shots!

Here are a few, and I will continue adding more as long as I’m allowed outside. (If you didn’t figure it out already, you can use the slider to swipe between the old and new images.) My thanks to the City of Vancouver Archives, the Vancouver Heritage Foundation, and a number of blogs that have chronicled the history of these structures much better than I have. Note: The pictures are quite big and it might take a moment for them to show up on your phone, so just be patient.\


Added July 28, 2020.

El Cid Hotel, 1985 and 2020.

The building at 340 Cambie street has had many names over the years. Its life started in 1895 as the Commercial Hotel, when this corner of the city was a magnet for the riches of the Klondike Gold Rush. In the 1970s it was renamed the El Cid, and featured crushed velvet wallpaper and heart-shaped waterbeds. Sandwiched in between the hotel and the massive Flack Block is Vancouver’s smallest building, known only as Rose Brothers Barbers, after one of its tenants over its 125-year-old life. (Photo courtesy City of Vancouver).





Added July 26, 2020.

First Baptist Church, 1920 and 2020.

A century separates these two photographs, and the church looks as good as it ever did. Soon a 60-storey megatower will rise above it, right where the Hobbit House used to be.


The Hickey Block, 1940s and 2020.

Built in 1889 after the Gastown fire, The Hickey Block at 228 Abbott was originally a hotel with a saloon on the ground floor. Recently renovated, today it is the home of Montauk Sofa Company.



Added July 21, 2020.

St Paul’s Hospital, 1935 and 2020.

There has been a working hospital on this site since 1894, but the present structure was built in 1913, with several more additions throughout the years. Recently a new location was established for the hospital, and the Burrard Street location has been sold and will be redeveloped.



Added July 18, 2020.

Ashnola Apartments,  1940s and 2020.

This beautiful old-timer has outlasted all of its original neighbours, and now stands alone at the entrance to Mount Pleasant. It was originally built in 1912 by Dr. Israel Powell, whose accomplishments include organizing and naming the streets in the area after provinces.  Fortunately it’s designated as a Heritage ‘B’ structure so it should stick around for a while. It’s current retail tenant sells donuts, giving you yet another reason to check it out.



Fairmont Barracks, 1917 and 2020.

Originally built as a private school for boys, the school had to move after only a few years to make room for a military hospital. The RCMP took it over in 1920, and it has served as a training facility and barracks through the years. In 2014, the property was acquired by First Nations members, and a joint venture between them and Canada Lands Company is in the works. Not surprisingly, the rich history of the Fairmont Barracks is a source of great pride for RCMP members, and great pain for the indigenous community, so its future is being hotly debated.