VHF Burrard Street Walk – Nelson to Davie

This is the last part of the Vancouver Heritage Foundation‘s walk along Burrard Street.  We went south down Burrard Street past Nelson Street.  Maurice pointed the two hotels near Nelson and Burrard.  There was the older Century Plaza Hotel on the west side of the street and then the Sheraton Wall Centre, which stands on the tallest point on the Downtown Peninsula.  He retold the story of how the Wall Centre’s north tower was built a darker glass that the city had originally approved.  The City wanted a lighter tone glass that would blend in with a blue sky.  However, the darker glass would have stick out like a dark spire crowning the highest point in the downtown core.  The Wall Centre and the city eventually arrived at a compromise where the already-installed dark glass would not be removed, but the upper two-thirds would be the lighter tone glass.  Hence, the funny two-tone Wall Centre at Nelson and Burrard.

Further down we walked to St. Paul’s Hospital.  St. Paul’s is a Vancouver institute.  Maurice told how the Mother Joseph of the Sacred Heart came to Vancouver in the 1890’s to build this hospital.  Here’s an excerpt from Heritage Vancouver’s site:

The original St. Paul’s Hospital was a 25-bed, 4-storey wood frame building designed and constructed by Mother Joseph of the Scared Heart. An accomplished carpenter and reputedly the first woman Architect of the Pacific Northwest, Mother Joseph was responsible for more than 30 hospitals, schools and homes for those in need. The land, then a piece of wilderness on Burrard Street, had been acquired for the purpose by the Sisters of Providence to serve the fledgling City. The Hospital cost $28,000 and opened in 1894, just eight years after incorporation of the City of Vancouver. In the years that followed, twelve more buildings would be built by the Sisters.

The original wood frame building is no more, but the current red-brick Burrard Building, or Centre Block, of the hospital was built in the 1910’s.  It’s a rare living historic building to find in Vancouver. If you’ve ever entered St. Paul’s, it’s a confusing maze of cobbled together buildings and wings.  I would have gotten lost inside the hospital if it weren’t for the signs pointing me to the auditorium.

Across the street is a building that you would not think as having much heritage value.  It’s the Burrard Hotel.  It is definitely a throwback to a different era.  It’s neon sign unabashedly declares its own kitschy-ness from the 1950’s.  Maurice really want to bring us into this hotel to check out how the 1950’s feel has been re-invented in this hotel.  The hotel is also home to the first licensed coffee shop in Vancouver that can sell alcohol on their menu.  I love the courtyard in the middle of the hotel.  Check out those chairs!

The Burrard Hotel was the official end of our heritage walking tour down Burrard Street, but Maurice offered to take those who still had time into St. Andrew’s Wesley United Church.  It’s the old stone church building on the southwest corner of Nelson and Burrard.  So we backtracked north along Burrard.  I was glad that I did not miss out this opportunity.

In contrast to Christ Church Cathedral, the church was dark and stone all around.  The dark sanctuary is what makes the stained glass windows at St. Andrew’s Wesley shine brilliantly on the inside.  Many of the stained glass windows on the side of the sanctuary are done in the French dalle de verre style of stained glass.  Note how the mosaic of each stained glass window looks like it’s composed of dozens of broken pieces of glass.  It was really unique.

At the front of the sanctuary was the altar with a giant crane cloth.  It was a gift to the minister of St. Andrew’s Wesley. I can’t recall the details now.  However, there is also a giant stained glass window above the altar area, as well.  It is in a totally different style in contrast to the dalle de verre windows around the sanctuary.  The church guide pointed out a few red dots on this large window.  Those were apparently holes created by stray bullets from shootings in the neighbourhood. Yikes!

I would love to thank Maurice Guibord for another excellent walking tour. He is a fountain of information and enthusiasm on each and every tour.  I also want to thank the Vancouver Heritage Foundation for organizing such excellent tours.  I really do recommend that you join any one of their many tours.  Be it a heritage tour or a house tour, it’s all been worth it.

I hope you have enjoyed the recaps of my experiences on these walking tours.  I truly look forward to joining more of these tours in 2013.

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