Farewell Ormidale

There are those who argue that preservation of a historic building’s facade is cause for celebration; that the building’s heritage is thereby  preserved. I am not of that group. I believe that preserving a heritage building’s facade is preferable to destroying the entire structure. But let’s be frank: saving the facade is not saving the building; the very heart of the old structure is being destroyed so that a new structure may stand in its place. Sometimes this is unavoidable. But let’s call a spade a hammer.

What prompted such an uncharacteristic rhetorical outburst? The loss over the past few weeks of a building that I didn’t know existed in the heart of old Vancouver’s downtown: the Ormidale Block. This one was a beauty, and its loss to the wrecking ball in recent weeks is a real one.

For historical background on Ormidale , see this link and this one.  For details on plans for the ‘new’ Ormidale, go here.

CVA SGN-924: "View of Buildings, Streetcars and Pedestrians at Hastings and Cambie Streets." 1909.

CVA SGN-924: “View of Buildings, Streetcars and Pedestrians at Hastings and Cambie Streets.” {Ormidale is the second building from the left — adjacent to the oversized Flack block, which rounds the corner]. 1909.

What is left of Ormidale as of yesterday afternoon, following demolition of all except the facade. Image was taken from behind the building site, from the lane way. Author's photo, 2014.

What is left of Ormidale as of yesterday afternoon, following demolition of all except the facade. Image was taken from behind the building site, from the lane way. Author’s photo, 2014.

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2 Responses to Farewell Ormidale

  1. Jennie Sebastian says:

    We at Century Group are very excited to be working in Gastown, and like many, are attracted to its historic legacy. We want to work to preserve that, while also contributing to Gastown being a commercial hub of international standing, so that Gastown remains vibrant and relevant. Therefore I wanted to make you aware of our commitment to its historic legacy and the work we are doing that we feel contributes to that; our designated Heritage Consultant Conservation Plan states that some 50% of the original façade has now been lost. Century Group is fully funding the entire refurbishment of the façade, returning it, as close as possible, to its original splendour with its 1900 design of double height curved glass storefront, replacing the completely absent bay window and undertaking painstaking brick by brick repointing and other costly masonry conservation tasks. This we feel will reinforce Gastown as a historic neighbourhood rather than diminish it as your blog appears to suggest. In addition to the restoration work, we are building a highly energy efficient and resident-healthy building in line with the City of Vancouver’s commitment to low carbon footprint initiatives and complying to new building code requirements for seismic resident protection. Please feel free to contact me if you’d like to discuss Ormidale further or have any questions about the project.

    • mdm says:

      Thanks for commenting. I’m not persuaded that preserving one wall of a structure (and nothing else) is worthy of celebration, but it is better than nothing.

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