Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Marine and the Dominion

This imposing structure is at the corner of Burrard and West Hastings downtown. The Marine Building is a top-notch  example of the art deco style. It's 21 floors, 321 feet (97.8 metres) is topped by a unique design that makes the building look like it is rimmed in icing from a wedding cake.

In the spring of 1929 Mayor W.H. Malkin, keeping with the theme of the building, blew a blast from a golden whistle and the construction began. Sixteen months later, on October 7, 1930, the new Burrard Street Marine Skyscraper opened. Uniformed doormen waited by the extravagent entry way to open doors and help visitors. It was something from a fantasy, or a movie.

The plaster work was apparently done by melting down something called horse glue, pouring that over the forms then pulling it off easily when the time was right. (I got that information from vancouverhistory.ca. I don't really know what it means. So if someone would like to explain it to me I would be grateful)

The building is extravagent, luxurious and opulent. It reeks of wealth and prestige. Unfortunately the stock market crash a year earlier had made people wary about spending money. And although they probably liked to look at the Marine Building many were afraid to commit to the rents although those prices were comparable to other buildings in the downtown core.

The company that had put the building up, G.A. Stimson Co., was hurt financially by the crash and having such a lavish office building nearly empty was not helping. In 1931 the company tried to get the City of Vancouver to take the building at a little less than what it had cost G.A. Stimson Co. to build it but that deal fell through. Finally in 1933 the building was sold to the British Pacific Building Co. which was owned by the Guinness brewing people (fitting then that the Elephant and Castle pub and restaurant is currently a tenant on the main floor!)

One of the tenants that moved into the building was the architectural firm of McCarter and Nairne who had designed the building. They moved in approximately July of 1930 and moved out in February of 1980 - five months short of the fiftieth anniversary. They were the longest lasting tenants. The firm moved to the Credit Foncier Building at 850 West Hastings.

The firm moved to the Credit Foncier Building at 850 West Hastings and all they have to do is look out the window to see their masterpiece. The attention to detail is awe inspiring and it has lasted for eighty years.

This is the building the firm moved to.

Remember when I wrote on the Sun Tower and the style of the dome at the top? This looks pretty familiar, I wonder if it was done the same way.

The Credit Foncier Building is a heritage building. It was built in 1913 and designed by the firm Barrot, Blackader and Webster. It is forty one (41) metres high and has ten floors.  The construction materials you see at the front belong to the people working the new Jameson Building being built next door. The Credit Foncier Building  will be dwarfed, I couldn't even look up and see the top of the new structure without getting dizzy.
Also on West Hastings is the home of the Dominion [Bank] Building. This second empire style structure is located at the edge of Gastown and was designed by architect John S. Helyer. An urban legend has it that Helyer died after falling off the front staircase of the building. Urban legends are part of what makes life interesting. And since the Dominion Building was built in 1910 it probably has a few tales associated with it.
I walked on the opposite side of the street so that I could get a few good photos of this building. As I was positioning myself and waiting for the traffic to ease I noticed something else at the corner of West Hastings and Hamilton
In case you can't read it here is what it says:
"Here stood Hamilton, First Land Commissioner Canadian Pacific Railway 1885. In the silent solitude of the primeval forest he drove a wooden stake in the earth and commenced to measure an empty land into the streets of VANCOUVER."

Gives me a bit of a lump in my throat I must say.

I also saw something interesting across from the Marine Building.

People were repelling down the side of the bulding. I watched for a few moments but then I left. One man walking by said it was a fast way to wash the windows!

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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