Hastings West Historic Walk – Part 12 | Bonus – The Dominion Building

Hastings West Historic Walk Route - the marker above Victory Square is the Dominion Building

Our Vancouver Heritage Foundation‘s Historic Walking Tour of Hastings West ended in Victory Square.  We had taken a little over the 2 hour time allotted for the tour.  Some people had to get going, but Maurice invited those who had time to join him at the Dominion Building.  The Dominion Building is the distinct orange and red building across the street from Victory Square.

The Dominion Building was completed in 1910 and was the tallest building in the British Empire at the time.  This part of town was central to business and finance in the early 1900’s before businesses started to shift westward.

The Dominion Building (left) is now towered over by the new Woodwards tower in the background

As a kid, my parents used to own a clothing store just behind the Dominion Building along Cambie Street.  However, I never ventured into the Dominion Building at the time. I was more interested in the toy department a couple blocks down at Woodward’s.

Abvoe the Dominion Building entrance

The entrance of the building on the outside sets the stage for grandness.  There is some ornamentation that decorate the wall above the entrance.  The name of the building is displayed twice.  The etched-in name is probably the original.  While the glass and its lettering looks like the 50’s style lettering found on many Vancouver apartment entrances from that era.

Gated marble staircase

The lobby is lined with a marbled looking panel that runs around the lower part of the walls.  The elevators look like they are from classic episodes of The Twilight Zone. I keep thinking of the Tower of Terror found at Disney amusement parks.  To the left of the elevators is a gated stairway.  There is another staircase in the lobby that leads to the second floor that can be used.  So it’s interesting to find a gated marble staircase here.  Is this possibly the rumoured staircase where the building’s architect tumbled to his death?

The view up to the 13th floor of the Dominion Building

We went up to the second floor where you can see the openness of the inner staircase.  This staircase runs from the second floor to the top on the thirteenth floor.  It makes me wonder why this staircase doesn’t start on the ground floor.  Perhaps it takes away from the feel of the lobby if it started from there.  Nowadays, staircases in modern buildings are after-thoughts that are concrete and windowless.  None are as grand, open, nor airy as these early 20th Century staircases.

Mail chute in second floor elevator lobby

Right by elevator, there was a mail chute similar to the one found in the Standard Building.  Except this was the little mail slot on the upper floors into which people could drop the mail down.  I forget if this little bit of old tech is still in use.  It would be great if it is.  In how many buildings do you ever see mail chutes?

Maurice encouraged us to walk around the second floor.  Although the Dominion Building is a heritage building, it is a fully functioning office tower.  It’s not just a facade to heritage and history.  It’s a working piece of history.  As I wandered down the hallway, I could see accounting offices and an ESL college.

As we were chatting in the second floor lobby, a lady on her way up to her office couldn’t help but overhear parts of our conversation.  She stopped and asked us what we were doing.  Maurice informed her that we were on a tour with the Vancouver Heritage Foundation.  She asked us if we’d be interested to go up to her 9th floor design studio.

view of Burrard Inlet from Malene's studio

This lady was Malene Grotrian.  She is a fashion designer who was trained in Denmark and Italy that has been in Canada for over 5 years.  Her design studio was split up into 3 rooms.  A main room which was like a store that displays different pieces of clothing.  Then the other two rooms are for her work.  I was lucky enough to take a couple of shots outside her window.

view of Woodwards Building

Malene was a gracious host in letting us visit her studio and look around.  However, don’t just show up out of the blue to her studio.  She is running a business after all.  If you are looking to try on and purchase some of her collection, then I’m sure you are more than welcome to make an appointment.

And so ended, for real this time, our Hastings West Walk.  I’d like to thank the Vancouver Heritage Foundation for hosting these tours.  Big thanks to Jessica Quan of the Foundation in organizing these tours.  Another round of tours is scheduled for Spring 2012.  If you are interested, I highly recommend joining the walks.  If you can’t make the tours, then visit the Vancouver Heritage Foundation website for their Walking Tour brochures of different heritage neighbourhoods.  Last, but not least, here’s a big thanks to Maurice Guibord for bring his knowledge, passion, and enthusiasm to each walk.  It was a great pleasure.

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