Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Grant's Ormidale

Today we are going to visit a building on the southern tip of Gastown, about half a block from Victory Square.

Built in 1900 by architect George W. Grant, 151 Hastings Street was at the centre of commerce in the early twentieth century. This area housed many warehouse due to its proximity to the docks and the railway terminals. Goods were unloaded here and moved to the warehouses before being distributed to retail outlets.

Originally, 151 Hastings Street housed the offices of several wholesale importers and it was known as the Ormidale Block after the first owner, R.W. Ormidale.

(If you look at the  second photo, you will see that the name of the original owner is engraved in terra cotta.)

This building is designed in the Richardsonian Romanesque style. It was fashioned after the Marshall Field's Department store in Chicago, which Henry Hobson Richardson designed and built between 1885 to 1887. Although this building has many characteristics of that style, the window treatments are a bit unusual.

The small, rectangular windows are placed beneath the arch-and-spandrel rows and on the right side of the building, separated from the main facade by brickwork is an oval window set in brick on the fourth floor.

By 1920, the area was changing and the main business was moving west. This building became the home of the Metropolitan Stores - a chain of 'five and dime' outlets that catered to the blue-collar families. The Bata Shoe Company sold footwear from this location in the 1950s. As you can see, it is now home to Asia Imports.

There are some character-defining elements to this building. Such as the rectangular shape and massing, with a scale keeping with the streetscape. It is built right to the lot line with no setbacks; the name Ormidale above the one window as well as the presence of street level shops. 

It is also unique with the characteristics of the Richardsonian Romanesque style including a heavy base; the pattern of fenestration (the design and placement of the windows and other openings) rounded window surrounds on the upper floor, pilasters and corbelled brickwork under the original cornice line.

I was looking for more information to fill out this entry so I did a search on the architect, George William Grant. The one site I found on architects in Canada doesn't have his biography posted yet but his catalogue of work is impressive.

Starting in New Westminster in 1887, Grant has designed everything from the Royal City Hotel to the Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral to the Carnegie library in Vancouver. He designed cottages, entire blocks, houses and, as we have seen here, warehouses. 

He also had partners later in his career, someone named Henderson and then an architect by the last name of Cook joined the firm. However, there wasn't any information on those two.

Hopefully, in the future, I will be able to expand my knowledge of George W. Grant and cover more of his creations.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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