Friday, May 8, 2015

The Hastings Great White Way

Two views of hotels. This was taken in the 1900s by Philip, Timms. The Astor Hotel was at 147 Hastings and the Commercial Hotel at 330 Cambie.

Stuart Thomson took this photo in 1925 at the corner of Hastings and Carrall Streets. The rounded building on the right is still there.
The circus comes to town! In the 1900s Philip Timms took this photo of either the Ringling Brothers or the Barnum and Bailey circus.

The Pantages Theatre at 20 West Hastings, the Army and Navy Store is at 40 West Hastings. Stuart Thomson took this photo sometime in the 1920s.

Nowadays, people crowd the nightspots on Granville Street when they are looking for some adult fun.  But it wasn't always that way. At one time, Granville Street was considered elite with its opera house. When someone wanted to have fun. they flocked to "The Hastings Great White Way" - nicknamed that after the "Great White Way" of New York City. The lightbulb-covered way stretched from Victory Square to Main Street.

It was five blocks of theatres, cinemas, pool halls and restaurants, featuring entertainment for the everyday man. Vancouver was, after all, a working town at that time and on Hastings, people could see more down home entertainment like vaudeville and skits. Stuff like that. More theatres than you can imagine were crowded into the five block area.

Southeast corner of Hastings and Carrall Streets. Philip Timms took this 1900 photo.

 1915 photo at Hastings and Carrall Streets. Taken by R. Broadbridge
Leonard Frank took the above photo of the Beacon Theatre in 1932. It is in the location of the Pantages Theatre.

The Bailey Bros took this photo in 1890s of the Vancouver Club on Hastings Street.

For those of you who may be wondering, vaudeville was a live variety show. And it wasn't only for the evenings. Sometimes a vaudeville theatre could be open for 12 hours a day. The stage was seldom empty as the acts rotated throughout the day. 

These acts contained entertainment we see today such as singers, dancers, comedians and musicians. There were featured child performers, animal shows, minstrel and "freak" shows. 

Imagine walking through the street in the 1910s and 1920s. Light bulbs, thousands of them, light up the night. Little bulbs highlighted theatre marquises and doorways. Streetcars thundered by, their bells clanging.  At that time, the theatres didn't have lobbies. A person would buy a ticket then enter the theatre and the music would blare out over the street.

What fun! What excitement! It must have been so exhilarating to walk the Hastings Great White Way.

This photo was taken by Philip Timms in 1915 of two posters advertising vaudeville acts. 
Another 1915 photo of a vaudeville bill taken by Philip Timms.

The ceiling at the Pantages Theatre, October 4, 1922. Taken by the Dominion Photo Co. 
October 7, 1922. The ticket booth at the Pantages Theatre. Dominion Photo Co. 

But everything must come to an end. Including vaudeville and with its demise, so did the Hastings Great White Way. It is said that vaudeville came to Vancouver to die. We did hang on to the form of entertainment long after the rest of the world moved on. 

Circuit Vaudeville came to town well into the 1940s. That was around ten years after everyone else gave up on it. One theatre manager even tried to run a live vaudeville show in 1958 from noon until 5 am. It didn't last long.

However, for years Vancouver held on to a piece of that era, the Pantages Theatre. Whereas other grand theatres had long disappeared, the Pantages was still there. Sadly, the area of town it was in has decayed as well as the building and it was torn down in 2011. If you want to know more about the last vaudeville house in Canada, you can go to an earlier entry.

 A March 26, 1926 photo of Hastings Street at night. Taken by the Dominion Photo Co.
Another March 26, 1926 photo taken by the same company but this time of the Pantages Theatre. This is the one which was demolished in 1967 to build a parking lot.

The date of this photo is unknown but it is the first Pantages theatre at 144-156 East Hastings. It was demolished in 2011 along with a few neighbouring buildings.
A 1923 photo of people walking by an advertisement for a Houdini performance at the Orpheum Theatre.

I would like to thank an article in the Vancitybuzz for the above information and the Vancouver Public Library for the photos.

I hope you find the beauty around you.


  1. Great architecture for its time. Pictures are great so is the history of those building. Thanks Love all the pictures of your past weeks posts.