Flux and Consistency on Unit Block East Hastings

Detail of CVA 99-3884 - Windsor Hotel [at 52 East Hastings Street]. 1931. Stuart Thomson photo.

Detail of CVA 99-3884 – Windsor Hotel [at 52 East Hastings Street]. 1931. Stuart Thomson photo.

I’m going to begin today’s post with a tightly cropped version of a CVA Stuart Thomson photo of what looks like a lovely commercial district in downtown Vancouver (the full image appears below). In these three shops, as my wife correctly points out, some of the major needs/wants of a man living at the time are covered! He could begin with a stop at Bert’s Barber Shop (where a shave and a haircut are a little more than “2 bits”, but at least he could still get a haircut for that price); while there, conveniently, he could have his hat (a “must-wear” for the well-dressed, urban, middle-class man) steam-cleaned. When he emerged from Hastings Hat Cleaners, our chap could stop in at Windsor Tailors to have a new suit custom-measured for pick up, probably, within a week. And then, leaving there, thoroughly worn out from this series of tasks, our hypothetical fellow could pop into the Log Cabin Lunch for a tasty meal, say, of roast chicken and spuds with a coffee. To me, this still sounds like a couple of hours well spent!

Well, it won’t come as a shock to you (if you paid attention to the the title of the post or to the caption on the photo above) that the photograph is not of Hornby, Howe, or Georgia Streets, where one might expect to find comparable types of shops today, but on the unit block (address numbers less than 100) of East Hastings (near Pioneer Square – aka ‘Pigeon Park’ – at Carrall Street).

CVA 99-3884 - Windsor Hotel [at 52 East Hastings Street]. 1931. Stuart Thomson photo. (Full, uncropped version of the image at the beginning of this post).

CVA 99-3884 – Windsor Hotel [at 52 East Hastings Street]. 1931. Stuart Thomson photo. (Full, uncropped version of the image at the beginning of this post).

There are a couple of things worthy of note, I think. On the one hand, and most obviously, the neighbourhood has changed dramatically. The Windsor Hotel, today, is known (principally by those living in it) as the Washington Hotel (a SRO rooming house) at 52 E Hastings. And in the building adjacent (which, then and now, was called the Gross Building) was, until recently, a pharmacy that has been closed by the authorities, apparently. So it is pretty plain that the sort of shops and those who patronize them have changed.

Less obvious perhaps, is the extent to which the buildings of an earlier Vancouver have been retained. If one looks up and down Howe or Hornby Streets today, for instance, you would be hard-pressed to find any surviving buildings of the vintage represented in this photograph (roughly, of the 19-teens).

In short, one lesson seems to be that poverty tends to be kinder to heritage structures (in terms, at least, of preserving them in some condition) than is great wealth.

The same section of unit block East Hastings. June 2015. Author's photo.

The same section of unit block East Hastings. June 2015. Author’s photo.

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