Description of Historic Place
The McLennan and McFeely Building is a large five-storey brick-and-stone commercial building at East Cordova and Columbia Streets, in the Gastown area of Vancouver. The place includes the former Canadian Pacific Railway right-of-way, which cuts diagonally across the northwest corner of the property.
The McLennan and McFeely Building is valued as a good example of a warehouse constructed in British Columbia's commercial centre during the early twentieth century. The building’s heritage value lies in the historic relationship between Gastown and the economy of early Vancouver. The building is representative of the importance of Gastown as the trans-shipment point between the terminus of the railway and Pacific shipping routes, and the consequent expansion of Vancouver into western Canada’s predominant commercial centre in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The building’s construction in 1906 by the McLennan, McFeely and Company Ltd., a company specializing in the import and distribution of hardware and building supplies, illustrates the growing warehousing industry in Vancouver.
Robert Purves McLennan, a Nova Scotian who arrived in Victoria in 1884, established himself in manufacturing architectural metalwork. A year later, he called friend Edward John McFeely, an Ontarian with whom he had worked in Winnipeg, to join him in partnership. They capitalized on the opportunity provided by the railway and rapid growth of the West by relocating the McLennan, McFeely and Company Ltd. from Victoria to Vancouver and operating one of the largest warehouses in the city.
Built next to the Canadian Pacific Railway tracks, this building illustrates the importance of the McLennan and McFeely operation. This facility and its proximity to the railway enabled the company to distribute goods far and wide. Its stores were found as far north as Atlin, just south of the Yukon border, and in Dawson City - communities whose economies were result of the Klondike Gold Rush, although the firm's (and Gastown's) prosperity continued far beyond that event.
The building's architectural value lies in its Commercial Style, typical of warehouses in Gastown, and in its unusually large scale with more than 150,000 square feet of floor space spanning seven lots. The original five-storey building with masonry exterior and heavy timber frame construction was designed by Vancouver architect Edward Evans Blackmore, a significant designer whose other projects included the Cambie Street Young Men’s Christian Association and the first Pantages Theatre. This warehouse replaced a smaller building a few blocks west. As the firm grew, it expanded the business into the building at the north of the property, now addressed 211 Columbia Street.
The firm remained in this building through the 1950s, under the name McLennan, McFeely and Prior. By the 1960s the company was acquired by British-owned Acklands (now Acklands-Grainger), a major supplier of industrial products with 200 outlets and eight distribution centres in Canada.
By 1975, sportswear manufacturers Koret of California in Canada acquired the Cordova Street building for use as a regional distribution warehouse. Koret retained the lower floors until 1999, while the upper storeys were used for film production and as art studios. In 2004, this building was converted to residential lofts.
Source: City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program
The character-defining elements of the McLennan and McFeely Building include:
- the massing of the building directly up against the two street frontages, the lane, and the CPR right-of-way
- the swath cut out of the property by the CPR right-of-way, which is valuable as an open space and an interpretive opportunity
- the loading dock on the rear elevation, at the railway right-of-way, which demonstrates the relationship to the former train tracks
- the two street elevations, with the 'pier-and-spandrel' treatment of the buff brickwork on the four upper floors
- the metal fire escapes on the Cordova Street and railway right-of-way elevations
- the brick corbelling (rather than the more common metal cornice) at the roofline
- the sandstone window lintels and sills
- the wood-sash double-hung windows (predominantly one-over-one) on the street elevations
- the steel lintels with decorative rosettes over the ground-floor windows on the street elevations
- the double-hung sash windows on the rear (right-of-way) elevation
- the stone string course below the second floor
- the lane and right-of-way elevations, including their arched window heads
- the stone piers at the ground floor
- the large display windows on the ground floor, with wood dividing bars
- the exposed, heavy timber frame on the interior, consisting of massive wood posts, beams, and floor joists, with metal beam- and joist-hangers
- the wood floors
- the mosaic on the floor by the original Cordova Street entrance, inscribed 'McLennan & McFeely'
- the bridges (pedestrian overpasses) over the lane, connecting the historic place with the adjacent building at 211 Columbia Street
- the platform for the former water tower on the roof
- three elevator penthouses
- remnants of painted signs on the brick walls