I had the joy of joining one of the Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s walking tours. My work allows me to have Fridays off and I finally found an event I can attend on a Friday. This fall, the Vancouver Heritage Foundation is organizing two-part historic walks of Hastings Street. I missed part one in September, which was the Hastings West walk, but I jumped all over this Hastings East walk last Friday.
Just across from Woodward’s are a few buildings in differing states of use and disuse. Maurice, our guide, pointed out that at one time, there was a restaurant here called the White Lunch. White Lunch was apparently not just another pretty name, but implied exactly what it said – lunch for whites, only.
Maurice had a couple of black and white photo printouts of the White Lunch with a fancy neon coffee cup sign. (You can find the photo at laniwurm’s Flickr page, but it’s an all rights reserved photo, so I won’t display it here.) I can only find this 1981 photo of the White Lunch. However, I don’t even know if this is the original White Lunch on Hastings.
We walked eastward along Hastings and came across what I think are two well-known institutions of the Downtown Eastside. The first is Save-On Meats. Who would think that an old butcher shop would be such an institution, but it was one of the businesses to survive the decline of the Downtown Eastside. Save-On Meats was in danger of disappearing until an entrepreneur stepped in and revitalized it. Now there’s a window serving different food items to locals at reasonable prices.
Save-On Meats is also brightly adorned by a giant neon sign complete with cartoon pigs. What’s a great neon sign without some cartoon animals?
Then there is the Army & Navy Department Store. Wow. What a fixture Army & Navy has been for decades. It’s still running it’s business out of it’s Hastings Street location. Mind you, the outside has seen better days and it looks like the owners said screw it to the esthetics of the exterior. One walk participant wondered how the city let Army & Navy get away with such an ugly exterior.
Across the street from these two institutions sits a giant empty lot. Apparently it has sat empty since some of the buildings burned down decades ago. However, part of the empty lot and the now-adjacent Portland Hotel used to be home to the Majestic Theatre, also once known as the Second Pantages Theatre. (Hey. I didn’t realize that Army & Navy used to be on the south side of Hastings?)
Maurice described how this theatre was once the most beautiful theatre in town and had over 1,200 seats. Unfortunately, this theatre was demolished in the late 1960’s to make way for a parking lot. Parking lot, eh? Isn’t that a familiar tune? Maurice’s photo (not available here) of the second Pantages makes me think of the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto.
In the next part – we walk past two icons of this part of Hastings and a giant empty lot which was much more grand in its past life. As you can see, there’s a new condo just behind the lot. More signs of gentrification?
At least now the Portland Hotel which occupies the land where the Majestic once stood offers low-cost housing and services to the neighbourhood. Even this little cafe, the Potluck Cafe, provides employment for people in the Downtown Eastside. Maurice recommended we come back some other day and partake.
In the next part, we arrive at Pigeon Park, Carrall Street, and one of the newly restored gems of the Downtown Eastside, the Pennsylvania Hotel.
- Vancouver Heritage Foundation
- Vancouver Archives – Photographs
- AHA Media Blog – Rediscovery of White Lunch Restaurant on Hastings Street
- JazzStreet Vancouver – Pantages Theatre, the Second