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Roberts Building

18-20 Water Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6B, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2003/01/14

Exterior view of the Roberts Building; City of Vancouver, 2004
Front elevation
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Other Name(s)

Roberts Building
Granville Hotel
Red Cross Rooms
18-20 Water Street
Western Canada Cordage

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)


Listed on the Canadian Register: 2005/02/21

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Roberts Building is a four-storey plus lower level commercial mixed-use rooming house building. Built in 1911, it displays sophisticated Classical Revival design elements typical of the Edwardian era. It is located on the south side of Water Street in the historic district of Gastown.

Heritage Value

Gastown is the historic core of Vancouver, and is the city's earliest, most historic area of commercial buildings and warehouses. The Roberts Building is an early mixed-use building, which included a rooming house on the upper floors with street level and lower level commercial space, representative of the area's mix of activities throughout its early history. Rooming houses such as this provided both short- and long-term lodging, serving primarily those who worked in the seasonal resource trades such as fishing and logging. The combined commercial and residential functions contributed to the lively street life in Gastown.

The site is also valued as a sophisticated design of the Edwardian era, displaying Classical Revival elements. The use of white glazed brick was a less expensive alternative to the more widely used terra cotta cladding. It is additionally significant as an early surviving design by architect Hugh Braunton, who was active in Vancouver from 1905 to 1914. His work was elegant and restrained, suiting the straight-forward requirements of Edwardian mercantilism.

Source: City of Vancouver, Heritage Planning Street Files

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements of the Roberts Building include its:
- spatial relationship to other Late Victorian and Edwardian era commercial buildings, in close proximity to the waterfront of Burrard Inlet and the Canadian Pacific Railway yard, with Trounce Alley to the south side
- form, scale and massing as exemplified in its rectangular plan with side airshafts, flat roof and four-storey plus lower level height
- siting on the property lines, with no setbacks
- Classical Revival architectural details, such as a block modillion cornice with egg and dart detailing at the parapet and the storefront level
- four vertical pilasters with ornate capitals on the front facade
- fenestration, including: wood-sash pivot windows with double transoms on the front facade; deeply inset central triple-assembly wood-sash pivot windows with transoms flanked by double-hung 1-over-1 wood-sash windows on the rear facade; and double-hung windows in the airshaft on the west facade
- masonry construction, including front facade cladding of white glazed bricks and the use of common red face brick on the side and rear facades
- side entry to upper storeys
- white marble stairs and white marble wainscotting leading to lower level, with coloured mosaic tile inset at top of stairs
- recessed main floor entry doors that form a projecting centre bay display area
- interior features in the ground floor retail space such as fir flooring, engaged columns, ceiling beams and elaborate pressed tin ceilings
- glass prism blocks in sidewalk for basement areaway lighting



British Columbia

Recognition Authority

City of Vancouver

Recognition Statute

Vancouver Charter, s.593

Recognition Type

Heritage Designation

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Developing Economies
Trade and Commerce

Function - Category and Type



Commerce / Commercial Services
Hotel, Motel or Inn
Commerce / Commercial Services

Architect / Designer

Hugh Braunton



Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

City of Vancouver, Heritage Planning Street Files

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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