In Love . . . with a Photograph

Str P258 - [The south side of Robson Street looking east from Howe Street] 1948 O F Landauer photo

Str P258 – South side of Robson Street looking east from Howe, 1948. Otto F. Landauer (1903-1980) photo.

I think this is a superb post-war image of a Vancouver intersection.

What do I love about it?

First and foremost, I love that it is not a standard Vancouver view. This is not an intersection that was often photographed and, when it was, it was never (dare I be so categorical?) shot this way.

What do I mean? Well, consider for a moment what buildings are not in this image that might well have been included: the York Hotel (by ’69 to be demolished to help make way for the Eaton’s/Sear’s/Nordstrom’s monstrosities that have squatted on the NE corner ever since) — Landauer has included a couple of the York’s signs, but not the building; and the Clements Block/Alexandra Ball Room that housed Sprott Shaw Schools at that time on the SW corner (again, Landauer just hinted at the building by including Sprott’s sign without allowing his image to be overwhelmed by the whole structure).

I love that this image was made (just) prior to the construction of the new (and current) Granville Street Bridge. In my opinion, we seriously overbuilt that bridge. And the bridge had an impact (and continues to do so) on the look and feel of downtown. One of the subtle but very nice aspects of this photo is that Howe Street is still a two-way street in 1948. After the new bridge was up, it would become a one-way (northbound) thoroughfare. I think that affected this corner in a negative way.

I love the memories that stick with you when you’ve been inside shops in buildings like these. No, I wasn’t living in Vancouver in 1948; I wasn’t even born, then. But in the 1990s, I recall browsing in a used bookshop (it specialized in music and music scores) that was inside what was once the space occupied by Ann Muirhead’s floristry shop. Maybe it was the aroma of the space. Probably it had something to do with it being an independently owned book shop. But I have never forgotten being in that shop. You and I have been inside countless big box outlets over the years. But how many of those browsing experiences do you remember, specifically?

Finally, I love that the shops are human-scale and that they meet everyday, practical needs. As my wife put it so succinctly: “Who wouldn’t want to go into a shop called “Satin Dairy”?

Today, there is a big box sportswear retailer on the corner. How many times a year are you tempted to enter a sport shop?

Runners . . . Satin Dairy? ‘Nuf said.

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7 Responses to In Love . . . with a Photograph

  1. Hugh says:

    Everyone looks well dressed. No one’s in tee shirt and sweat pants.

  2. jmv says:

    Jane Jacobs would have liked this post I think!

  3. Erik Lund says:

    I have no idea how I was lead to this blog by a search for images of Paul Kennedy’s graphs of comparative historic great power iron and steel production; but I’m glad I was! Very cool. I hope I’ll be able to resist any temptation to steal images for my own.

    • mdm says:

      I don’t know either! The weird and wonderful ways of the Internet, I guess…. but I’m glad you are enjoying the blog site!

  4. Interesting… Is it the Alexandria Ballroom, or the Alexander Ballroom? There are far more references to it in old newspapers as the latter, than the former? Now I’m confused.

    • mdm says:

      Thanks for catching this, Aaron. It is “Alexandra” according to BC Directories. I’ve fixed my mention of it above.

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