Monday, October 3, 2011

Powell Homer

Today I want you to come back to Gastown with me. First of all we'll take a look at some buildings on Powell Street.

This is 58 Powell Street which was built in 1910 to the designs of Vancouver architect Joseph Henry Bowman. It was probably built for labour agents White and Bishoprick.

This building played a vital part in helping Japanese males immigrate to Canada during the pre-World War I era when Canada was labour hungry. Many of the men found jobs at the nearby Hastings Sawmill.

From about 1910 until World War II the inhabitants of this building were primarily Japanese businesses and individuals.

The architecture of this building is typical of the bland, early twentieth-style commercial style common in the downtown core.

The style and choice of the awkward lot of 58 Powell Street - the building is in a strange piece of land that was created by the oblique intersection of the CPR track with the street - speaks to the value of the land in the area at the time and the modest means of the owner.

Another red door at the neighbouring building. This is 56 Powell Street, a three-storey, mixed  retail and commercial building that was probably built in the mid to late 1890s. The building is a good example of the transition from the busy Victorian Italianate and Richardsonian Romanesque Styles to the much plainer Commercial Style.

When the building was constructed it was probably owned by John Babcock Lovell of Victoria. Lovell invested in real estate in the growing city of Vancouver. By 1904 the building was owned by Angelo Calori whose family owned the nearby Europe Hotel. In fact for some time the upper floors were used as an annex to the hotel. The use continued as those rooms were later used as residential or housekeeping rooms.

Over time the ground level has been home to a leather goods merchant, a barbershop, a pool hall and a cafe - typical uses for the area.

Now I am taking you out of Gastown and to the corner of Homer and Smithe Streets to give you a glimpse of this three-storey apartment building composed of two symmetrical blocks flanking the main entry facing Smithe Street. The Homer was built around 1913.

One of the important features of this building is the record of the transition of the era. The single family home residences were give way to more densely populated mix of uses.

The building’s exterior is representative of good speculative development: the classically-derived exterior composition of base, body and capital regions; the substantial brick base to the wall assemblies and between bays on the floors above; the dominant window bays on the second and third floors overhanging the public space; and the substantial cornice-work with classically-inspired details in relief.

I walked by this structure this summer but it was shrouded in scaffoldings and such. Thankfully The Homer is emerging just as beautiful as before.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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