Re-Inventing CPR/Waterfront Station

Fastening a ‘historic site’ plaque to a building doesn’t ensure that everything about the site will be preserved as it was. It is vanity to assume that we, with our contemporary sophistication, are able to still the hands of time (or developers). Historic preservation of a site requires compromise if it is going to have any utility.¹

I was reminded of this when looking at today’s Waterfront Station (yesterday’s third Vancouver CPR Station) and, especially, when viewing a number of CVA’s archived photos of the building. This post will use some of these images to highlight changes to the station over the years.

Look Up . . . Look Waaaay Up

CVA 152-1.094 - [Construction progress photograph of the third CPR station] 26 JUne 1914

CVA 152-1.094 – Construction progress photograph (interior, 3rd CPR station). 26 June 1914. The chandeliers suspended above the main waiting room (and hallway lights in the distance in the east wing) in the image above are no longer present in Waterfront Station; they have today been replaced in some cases with CCTV security cameras. Also, the skylights are gone.

CVA 152-1.214 - [Construction progress photograph of the third CPR station] 28 April 1914

CVA 152-1.214 – Construction progress photograph (exterior, 3rd CPR station). 28 April 1914. View of the roof and skylight zone (beneath wooden slats?) from above. This also affords a better sense of the scale of the entire building and uppermost floors with office space

Lunch Counter

72300492-c1ca-4723-a44e-127362bcaebc-CVA70-02 (1)

CVA 70-02 – Interior, 3rd C.P.R. Station (Waterfront Station). 1973. Art Grice. The sign posted beneath the clock (‘Daylight Saving Time’) in the early 1970s suggests that it wasn’t straightforward to adjust the clock’s time setting! The photographer seems to be facing the eastern wing of the station (where the Rogue Kitchen & Wetbar is today, but another view suggests that the lunch room was actually in the west wing). There also appears to have been a small bank of pay telephones on the Cordova Street wall in the ’70s; a nearly extinct technology today!

Passenger Platforms

NOPE ! Looking EAstward - CVA 152-1.098 - [Construction progress photograph of the third CPR station] 24 NOv 1914 - View is looking west along Cordova St. Photograph shows passenger plat

CVA 152-1.098 – 3rd CPR station exterior looking east roughly from where Cordova meets Howe today. The image shows rail passenger platforms on the exterior of the station situated where the 2nd CPR station had been located until 1914 (demolished that year) and where the Project 200/Granville Square platform ultimately would be built (above the platforms) in the early 1970s. It looks as though (from another photo) to get down to the platforms, passengers would exit the station at the place where today, seabus passengers leave the station to walk across the pedestrian bridge and then descended an exterior staircase. (Note: Cordova St didn’t extend westward beyond Granville at the time this image was made, and would not do so until the 1950s).

CVA 447-182 - CPR Granville Ramp May 1969 W E Frost

CVA 447-182 – CPR Granville Ramp. W E Frost. May 1969. By the year that this image was made, the platforms had been re-purposed as vehicular parking stalls!

Washrooms in the Station. Ah . . . Civilization


CVA 70-02 – Cropped. Interior 3rd C.P.R. Station (Waterfront Station), interior concourse 1973 Art Grice.  Public Washrooms in the eastern wing! What a difference with today. Why there are no public washrooms in this principal public downtown building today is beyond my understanding.

Western Wing Stairway (and Whither Victory)?

Can P34 - C.P.R. Station and Docks, Vancouver, B.C. c1916

Can P34 – Exterior 3rd C.P.R. Station and Docks, Vancouver. c1916. The entry to the west wing of the station was originally at grade with Cordova. Today, the western entryway is much higher and has necessitated (at roughly the same time as Project 200/Granville Square construction?) the building of a major interior staircase up to the western entry/exit to the station. (See 2018 photo below for a view from top of the ‘new’ staircase). The ramp was to allow vehicular traffic to connect to Pier D (which was fated to burn utterly in a fire in 1938).

View from the top of the western wing stairs, looking east within Waterfront Station. 2018. Wes Hiebert photo

View from the top of the western wing stairs, looking east within Waterfront Station. 2018. Wes Hiebert photo.

CVA 99-4224 - Concrete trolley pole 1932 Stuart Thomson

CVA 99-4224 – Exterior 3rd CPR Station (just the tip of the west wing visible) looking north up Granville at Cordova Streets. 1932. Stuart Thomson. The station was still at grade with Cordova in the 1930s. Also, note the original position of ‘Winged Victory’ sculpture (Great War, and later also WWII memorial) at the west end of the station. The memorial was moved to the east end of the station, presumably in the 1970s in conjunction with Project 200/Granville Square concrete edifice (specifically, the parking garage), which would have obscured the memorial if it had remained here. This is evident in the 1980s image shown next).

CVA 779-E04.02 - 601 West Cordova Street 1981

CVA 779-E04.02 – 601 West Cordova Street. Waterfront Station (formerly 3rd CPR Station). 1981. Note that Winged Victory has flown away from the east end; she’s ‘gone west’.

Smoking Room and Other Delights

CVA 152-1.217 - [Main waiting room at third CPR station] c1914

CVA 152-1.217 – Main waiting room at third CPR station. c1914. To the right of the cavity through which today skytrain and seabus passengers pass, are two labelled rooms: an Info Booth and adjacent to it, a Smoking Room. What rooms were in the western wing isn’t clear, although I suspect that the Women’s Waiting Room may have been up there.

CVA 152-1.217 - [Main waiting room at third CPR station] c1914

CVA 152-1.217 – Crop of the previous image. I tired cropping the image to see if I could read the sign in the western wing where I suspect the Women’s Waiting Room used to be located. No luck. But in the process, I noticed the tres cool tulip-shaped wall sconces. Those are long gone!

There’s More to the Building Than the Waiting Room!

CVA 152-1.221 - [Employee locker room at the third CPR station] c1914

CVA 152-1.221 – Employee locker room at 3rd CPR station. c1914. The heading of this section, notwithstanding, Waterfront Station certainly doesn’t go out of their way to make the other parts of the building accessible to the general public. The employee locker room shown in this image was probably not a public locale, either. But it is safe to assume that in whatever passes for a similar sort of room these days, these gorgeous wooden lockers are no longer present.

Did  You Know?

Within Waterfront Station, in addition to the main floor (where the ‘main waiting room’/lobby is, there are four upper floors? And (presumably) at least one or two lower (basement) floors – although the latter are not even shown in the public elevators. The building is deceptively large!

CVA 152-1.224 - [Office at the third CPR station] c1913

CVA 152-1.224 – Office inside 3rd CPR station. c1913. Safe to say that the office furniture has been replaced on more than a couple of occasions since c1913. I was granted admission to the upper regions of Waterfront Station on only one occasion back in the late 1980s when I was looking for work in the Terminal City and had an interview (alas, unsuccessful) on an upper floor in the office of a political lobbyist who was seeking a researcher.

CVA 1477-151 - [Visit of Australian Premier Bruce] ca1926 Dominion Photo

CVA 1477-151 – View of the interior of 3rd CPR Station near entry to ticketed passenger area. This photo shows the visit of Australian PM Stanley Bruce to the city in ca1926. Dominion Photo. The Australian prime minister is shaking hands with Vancouver’s Mayor at the time, L.D. Taylor. Bruce seems to be sporting “spats” on his shoes, unlike Taylor. Standing left of Bruce is Mrs. Bruce (wearing ladies’ spats) and Nels(son) Lougheed, a local lumberman and B.C. MLA (soon to become public works minister). Lougheed was the namesake, ultimately, for the more commonly used name for Highway 7.


¹Sean Kheraj made a related point in his excellent 2014 book, Inventing Stanley Park

This entry was posted in Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), railways, stuart thomson and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Re-Inventing CPR/Waterfront Station

  1. Mark Weller says:

    I actually worked inside the CPR Station building back in 1990 for a telemarketing firm. Makes sense when you think about it. The company employed students and others for minimum wage, so easy access to the SeaBus and the SkyTrain helped connect to that labor pool. The office space was cheap cheap cheap due to the obscure location. And – if someone had a problem with the company and wanted to file a complaint (or punch a call representative) they couldn’t find the place!

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