Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Victorian Resolutions

So five days into the New Year. How are your New Year's Resolutions going? Still sticking to them or have you given up?

I just read an article that was saying bad habits get wired into our brains and we tend to lean towards the things that give us instant pleasure. Like chocolate, alcohol, smoking and other things. But don't fret, it doesn't mean that a person can't make changes just that it may not be as easy as we think.

And if one of your resolutions was like mine and was to get into shape then you can take solace in knowing that exercise raises dopamine - that pleasure seeking chemical in our brain that keeps us going back to that which brings us pleasure. Ergo exercise will eventually become a pleasurable habit that we seek over and over. I will take their word for it since I haven't experienced that yet.

But on to my blog.

This is an unusual building for Vancouver. It was built in 1911 and shows a Victorian Italianate commercial style. The bay windows, which were restored in 1989, show a high level of craftmanship with the concentric brick arches and perforated gables.

The Great Northern Railway has been associated with this building as has the Great Northern Transfer Company.

The cornices are, as you can see, metal shaped to resemble gables and the parapet below is perforated for decoration. As well the symmetry of the facade is enhanced by the side doors and there is moulded brick panels beside those side doors.

And although this may be an unusual architectural style for Vancouver, 80 East Pender is not the only building that was designed in this style.

Here is a building that seems to have been influenced by the Victorian Italianate style but as you can see it is missing the gables and some of the decoratative touches as well as the side doors.

But those bay windows on the second floor remind me of the first building.

Another building that uses the bay windows is the Victorian Hotel at 514 Homer Street.

Built in 1897 this was originally called Victoria House and was built as a three storey rooming house.
The exterior is in basically the original condition and has a grid of bay windows - practical purpose being that they allowed for ventilation and maximum light.
Victoria House was built during the Klondike era and is an example of the transient nature of Vancouver in those days. Many people 'landed' in Vancouver to gather supplies and such before heading off the to the gold fields to hopefully make their fortunes.
Whoever designed this building - it appears the name of the architect has been lost to history - had a flair for the decorative as well. If you look at the bay windows you will see it isn't plain and the Victorian Italianate style can be seen in the tall, narrow windows and the segmental arched window openings with their decorative hoods on the first storey.
Interesting note. The first storey of this building is elevated due to an above ground basement.

Victoria Place was connected internally at one time to the Victoria Block.

Okay it doesn't look like much now but in 1908 when architect William F. Gardiner was commissioned by the  British Columbia Permanent Loan and Savings Company to design this building it was something else.

Look at the windows.

Those distinctive and useful bay windows. And the decorative touches. This is an Edwardian era structure that lacks the ornamentation of the Victorian style. But is also a fine representation of Classic Revival detailing.

The Victoria Block had a unique mixed-use plan: the first floor was for retail; the second for offices and the third for residential.  
It was also an important contribution to the development of Victory Square as the commercial and retail centre of downtown Vancouver during the earliy twentieth century.  
Yes the Victoria Block has seen better days and yes it is an important part of our history. Hopefully it will be brought back to its former glory.
I hope you find the beauty around you.
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