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.
Now our little group was making its way towards Carrall Street and Pigeon Park. Maurice stopped us at one point and asked us to take a look at the ground. You could see the outline of old rail tracks in the pavement of a parking lot on the south side of Hastings.
In the beginning, these rails used to carry all the rail traffic through the neighbourhood. Imagine when this area was the heart of the bustling city and then these giant rail cars come rumbling through. Could you imagine how life would have to come to a standstill just to let the trains come through?
Eventually, the CPR built the Dunsmuir Tunnel from Burrard Inlet to False Creek and the trains moved underground. The old CPR right of way is still evident today.
The old right of way leaves a physical presence that is obvious from the air, and from Google Maps in this case. Even International Village preserved the corridor by lining up its atrium along the right of way. This giant slash in the geography creates some interesting urban spaces.
For one, there is the triangular Pigeon Park at Carrall and Hastings. It’s become the central gathering spot for the neighbourhood. Maurice said that a flea market sets up on the weekends in the park. Right beside the park is the Merchants Bank with its front facing diagonal to the street, but square to Pigeon Park. Again, this is a legacy of the old CPR right of way.
Right on the corner of Carrall and Hastings is the newly restored Pennsylvania Hotel. It’s another one of those buildings that is run by the Portland Hotel Society. The restoration looks clean and wonderful. The three-storey neon sign is a sight to behold. It’s a part of the return of neon movement in Vancouver.
Then just a couple of doors down from the Pennsylvania is a building known as the Tellier Tower. However, over the doorway, the carving of the words “Holden Building” boldly declare a totally different name. Multiple-personality disorder? Well, the building was once known as the Holden Building and was Vancouver’s temporary City Hall from 1929 to 1936 while our current City Hall and 12th and Cambie was being built. The Tellier Tower is now part of the housing stock for the Downtown Eastside.
And onwards we walked passed the former City Hall. There were still two more blocks before we reached Main Street. Part 5 will take us down to Columbia Street.