Friday, December 10, 2010

The Neon Glow

At one time Hastings Street was a hubbub of activity. It was used as a major point of departures and arrivals for commuters that rode streetcars, railways and passenger ferries. And, to a business, a high volume of people mean lots of potential customers.

Signs, especially the neon ones at night, would attract the attention of those with money to spend. In fact during the 1940s and 1950s, Vancouver's Golden Age  of neon there were reportedly more neon signs in Vancouver  than in any other city in the world besides Shanghai China.(Once there were 18,000 signs in our fair city.)  Many of the signs are long gone, most notably the one for the Smiling Buddha Cabaret which is now in the Vancouver Museum. But a few are still there.

The Astoria Hotel with a live music venue and a boxing gym.

Ted Harris Paint is no longer in operation and who knows what will happen with the sign. This was a family run business from 1920 until 2009 when it closed.

The Ovaltine Cafe is a place that if you watched X-Files, I Robot with Will Smith  or DaVinci's Inquest you might recognize since it was used in those productions and probably many more.The lettering over the front door, you can just see it under the Afton Hotel sign, was installed in 1943 by Wallace Neon and the top was placed there in 1948. Apparently the interior hasn't changed much since its 1942 opening.

The Afton Hotel was built in 1912 by architect Arthur Julius Bird for owner R.B. Hamilton and was originally designed to be an apartment building. It was altered in 1914 when Burlington Tailors and  Vancouver Postal Station Substation B on the lower floors and other government offices on the upper levels. In 1925 the upper floors were changed to a rooming house and the lower level went through a variety of merchants until the Ovaltine Cafe opened in 1942.

This one I don't think is that old or at least I cannot find any history on it. The Rickshaw is a live theatre venue located near many  historic buildings. Perhaps one day I will find out more.

This sign is not on Hastings Street though it resided at 390 West Hastings Street for many years. When the owner of Dunn's Tailors, Bob Smith, decided to move to 480 Granville Street he couldn't bear to leave behind the sign. Which, by the way, is the only sign in Vancouver with heritage designation.

In 1936 the Millar Clothing Co. of Montreal opened the doors to Dunn's Tailors. Not long after that store managers, Clarence and George Conn purchased the store and began their quest to make this the largest made to measure clothing company in Western Canada. And they succeeded in that. When trends changed and made to measure clothing wasn't as popular the Conn brothers wisely added high quality ready to wear garments while maintaining the exemplary tailored clothing they were known for.

When the Conn brothers retired in 1981 their store manager, Robert Smith, purchased the enterprise. With the aid of his son, Jordan Smith, Smith has made Dunn's into the largest independent menswear retailer in British Columbia.

The Dollar Meat Store on Pender Street near Gore has been there for over thirty years. Inside it is clean and the butchers even wear hats. Their styrofoam containers are embossed with the store's logo.

Someday I will have to go there and buy some meat I guess.

Have you ever heard of the fabled Temple Bar district in Dublin Ireland? Apparently, around thirty years ago, this place was smack dab in the middle of Vancouver's own version of that. There were five Irish bars in within spitting distance of each other. (Okay maybe not that close but they weren't that far apart)

This building went up in 1888 as the Klondike Hotel and had four storeys and the first two elevators in Vancouver. It was converted to Vancouver`s first government liquor in 1942 with the upper floors becoming a rooming house.
In 1968 four Irishmen purchased the building with the idea of turning it into an Irish bar with apartments upstairs. They hired a German fellow to do the construction and remodelling. Unfortunately for the Irishmen they ran out of money and couldn't pay Rudi when the job finished. So Rudi went to court and was awarded what became of Vancouver's most popular bars.

In 1978 Playboy magazine named one of the upstairs apartments as the most eligible bachelor pad in Canada. Those upstairs rooms must be something else.

So there is a little glimpse into the history of some of Vancouver's neon signs. Have a great weekend.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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1 comment:

  1. hey great blog by the way!
    That Rickshaw Theatre sign is quite new and only went up earlier this year. The Rickshaw opened in the summer of 2009 and had sat vacant since the early 1980s before that. The building itself was built in 1970.