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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Portland Aerial Tram

The first time I visited Portland, I arrived at the aerial tram on a statutory holiday. That meant the tram was not running. I even purposely took the streetcar all the way from downtown to ride the aerial tram. So after being disappointed on my first visit to the tram, I was not about to be disappointed this time.

However, a funny thing happened on the way to the tram. We were heading east along Hawthorne Boulevard and drove right across the Hawthorne Bridge. Sounds simple. However, the Hawthorne Bridge is a drawbridge. Lucky us. We had to wait 10 minutes as a tugboat approached from downstream and had to make its way up the Williamette River.

waiting on the Hawthorne Bridge

So after this little delay, we drove over to the Portland Aerial Tram. If you are driving from downtown, it’s best to follow the signs that say South Waterfront. One good sign that you are going in the right direction is that you will be following the streetcar tracks. Keep following the tracks and you will come across the lower station for the aerial tram.

We found a lot of on-street paid parking in the area. I paid too much thinking I needed a lot of time to explore, but an hour is more than enough. So don’t overpay. Also, when you collect your ticket/receipt, remember to stick it to the window closest to the sidewalk, not on your dashboard. I remember I had to do this with my parking tickets in downtown Seattle as well.

We followed the signs to the tram. The signs are not in great abundance, but you should easily see the tram line hanging high in the sky. Just go to where the line meets the ground. Or if you are taking the streetcar, just get off at the very last stop and you will be right there at the lower tram station.

If you are interested, you can also walk around the South Waterfront neighbourhood. It’s a large steel and glass tower neighbourhood. On the ground, it isn’t all that animated. Perhaps because it’s a new neighbourhood that is separated from most of Portland by Interstate 5. However, the Oregon Health & Sciences University (OHSU) building that is directly beside the tram station is fairly busy on the inside.

A round trip on the aerial tram is $4 per person. Tickets are dispensed at a ticket vending machine. I thought we would be able to keep the ticket after boarding, but the attendant collected all the tickets. So take a photo of your ticket if you want a little memento of your ride. Or you could pay $4 to keep a ticket for yourself, if you really wanted to.

Currently, as you ascend the hill, you quickly see the construction of a pedestrian overpass. I overhear a local explaining to a friend that the overpass is meant to connect the new South Waterfront neighbourhood with the neighbourhood on the other side of I-5. It also gives residents on the other side of I-5 a chance to visit the waterfront without having to drive over.

There are only two cars that operate on this short tram ride. As we made our way up the hill, we passed the other one that was making its way down. With the two trams, service is roughly every 10 minutes. An advisory on the website says service slows to a tram every 15 minutes when winds are high.

high above I-5 in the Portland Aerial Tram

One thing I noticed as we rode the tram is the lack of towers. There’s the two termini on either end and one tower near the lower station. However, it’s completely free hanging from the one tower to the top. That’s a pretty far way to string these giant cables.

Also, these aerial trams are very different from other aerial gondola I’ve ridden. I’m used to seeing the small gondolas that carry a few people at a time. Those are the gondolas common at major ski resorts, like Whistler. This gondola can easily carry two dozen people and a few bikes.

At the very top of Marquam Hill, is the upper tram tower plus the campus of OHSU. We had disembarked at the top and wanted to walk around to see what was there. We quickly noticed that we were in a hospital. A nice hospital, too. Doctors, nurses, and other staff were busy zipping about. Patients were patiently waiting for their appointments. I assume this is a private university given how upscale everything felt. I could be wrong, though. I just felt that there was money here. Wifey quickly quipped, “Who ever willingly goes to a hospital as part of their vacation.”

After using the restrooms, we went back to the tram station. The tram station offers a great view of the city. If it were a clearer day, we could see the mountains further off. Today was very cloudy and rainy at times, so we were just happy to be able to see the city.

So we made our way back down on the tram. There are no attendants to collect tickets on the way down. Payment is only ever made on the way up. Apparently, staff and students of OHSU ride for free. Nice perk.

On the way down, I had a clear shot north of downtown Portland. So make sure to keep to the left of the tram if you want a clear view of downtown on the way down. I would stay on the right side if I were heading up. Again, it was a very cloudy day and the grey skies obscured any and all mountains.

Back at the bottom at South Waterfront. A streetcar had just arrived and the driver was taking a break. Good time for more transit photography. However, we wouldn’t be taking the streetcar this time around. It was back to our car and off to downtown.