Granville Street on the Verge

CVA 228-633 – “Retaining wall north of 22.” Taken from a retaining wall on what would become the current Granville Bridge, ca 1954. Lee Parry Film Productions. (Image edited somewhat by author.)

I was trolling through CVA’s online photographic holdings this morning when I came across this image. It wasn’t the first time. Once again, I was struck by how much it appeals to me.

The appeal of this northward shot of downtown Granville Street is that it’s an image of the street at the end of an era.

Although neon is in evidence, it would, within very few years, be considered “ugly” and would gradually disappear from the street that was once known as “the great white way”. (If you’re interested in seeing a video of Vancouver neon, there is a pretty good one here (if I do say so myself).

The new bridge would permanently alter traffic (and retail) patterns with Howe and Seymour each becoming one-way streets. And the bridge would invite more automobiles than ever before into the downtown district. That, in turn, would result in the construction of the many parkades still dotting downtown today, as well as a great many service stations (I count 50-some on the 1960 map below).

In short, Granville Street and downtown generally were on the verge of major change at the time the 1954 photo was taken.

PD 2086 – Existing service stations, retail shopping centres and commercial zoning – a basis for regulating location of service stations, ca1960.

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8 Responses to Granville Street on the Verge

  1. David says:

    And amazingly the Yale Hotel at the right edge of that photo is still standing.

  2. Angus McIntyre says:

    Before Casinos arrived in Vancouver, the race track, the PNE and Bingo were the main sources of gambling in the City. When I worked as a bus driver with B.C. Hydro in the 1970s, the Howden Dance Hall in the photo was one of many Bingo games in Vancouver. Right in front of the entrance to Howden Hall was a bus stop, and I remember stopping my southbound trolleybus there. When you opened the front doors of the bus, you had a perfect view of interior of the hall through the often-open doors. Some Bingo hall attendance was so large extra bus service was added at 10:00 pm when they let loose.

    Wonderful video of Neon. At time point 3:52 is a neon sign for the Royal Hotel, and right in front of me in my living room window is the Men’s entrance neon sign for the Royal, with red crown over blue letters. The Alcazar Hotel marquee neon sign is in my study.

  3. Scotty Henderson says:

    That’s a great photo, and one I’ve seen before. Basically, January 1954 was when I re-started my life in the Vancouver area as a 9 year old Scottish immigrant. At first we were in West Van as my Uncle who put us up until we found a place, lived on Mathers Ave.In early 1955 we had moved into downtown for better work opportunities for my mother. By 1957, possibly earlier, I’d introduced myself to Ted Fraser’s Bookbin down the block on the left. I worked for 2 or 3 years after school as delivery boy for Granville Stationers, just the other side of the Austin Hotel stuck in between it and the Owl Drug Store on the corner of Davie (now a Blenz coffee shop). The only other store I recall from that period in the middle of the block on the left was a store selling radio analog tubes for radio amplifiers and TV sets. Their window was full of all types of tubes.
    Fast forward in the 60’s and I hung out a lot at the Bunkhouse just right on Davie while at UBC. Fast forward again to 1993-2000 I lived again downtown at Thurlow and pacific and then Drake and Howe St. Often went to the Austin, the Yale and the strip joint hotel The Cecil beside it. Kittycorner from the Yale was the Wildlife Economy store I often browsed. The Howden bingo hall was still there and seemingly still popular. By that time Granville Stationers and Owl Drugs had been demolished and a Blenz was on the corner where I often went at night to watch the foot traffic and cars while having a coffee and snack. Fitness world at Davie and Howe was my gym which was just a block from me, very handy.
    After 200 I was living on Boundary near Kingsway so didn’t go downtown as much but still like to visit Chip the owner at the old bookbin, which had changed hades 3 or 4 times I think and under different names like Aabbaaca Book and Comic Emporium or similar. Due to a lease expiring the Bookbin ended up moving across the street nearer to Davie, but at least still accessible. Later that lease ran out again and he moved to Broadway near Granville which was a good store, but hard to access as there was no easy parking. I know he lost a lot of clients because of that move. Gradually I went less and less myself until sometime about 2008-2010 I think he closed up shop.
    Hope you like my little bit of history of the area.
    Scotty Henderson

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