Description of Historic Place
The Flack Block is a four-storey masonry commercial building, designed in the Romanesque Revival style, with highly articulated stone clad principal facades and characteristic round-arched windows framed by paired columns. It is situated on a corner lot at the intersection of Hastings and Cambie Streets, with an angled corner facing Victory Square.
The Flack Block is significant as a landmark component of the early retail and commercial fabric of West Hastings Street, one of the most prominent commercial streets in early Vancouver. Vancouver was a major supply and transportation centre during the Klondike gold rush, resulting in burgeoning mercantile trade and significant construction. The initial outfitting of the Klondikers occurred on Cordova Street, but as money and investment poured into the city, Hastings Street was transformed into a popular retail and commercial street. The Flack Block was one of the largest buildings constructed in Vancouver during the Klondike era, and provided stimulation for further commercial development in the area. This prominent site was located across the street from Court House Square (now Victory Square), one of the city's most prestigious locations, and within close proximity to regional transportation facilities and the booming commerce of Gastown. As a landmark building, the Flack Block attracted professional tenants including barristers, physicians, dentists, brokers and agents, along with ground floor retail tenants that reflected the development of Hastings Street as the primary commercial and shopping street in Vancouver during the first half of the twentieth century. This prominent and fashionable structure stood in marked contrast to the more modest brick and wooden structures in the area, and continues to maintain its landmark presence.
Additionally, the Flack Block is significant as an important surviving example of the work of William Blackmore (1842-1904), one of Vancouver's most accomplished early architects. Blackmore's work in the Romanesque Revival style helped to establish the character of Gastown and Victory Square as successful and progressive commercial districts. Designed in 1898 and built in 1899-1900 for Thomas Flack, who made his fortune in the Klondike gold fields, this building exhibits the mature development of the Romanesque Revival commercial style, with its powerful rhythmic articulation, textured surfaces and unity of materials that conveyed an image of corporate strength and security appropriate to late Victorian and early Edwardian-era sensibilities. The Flack Block retains significant characteristic stylistic features, including its rough-dressed stone facades, round-arched windows, voussoirs and twinned columns.
Source: City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program
Key elements that define the heritage character of the Flack Block include its:
- corner lot location, across from Victory Square
- placement to the property lines with no setbacks
- commercial form, scale and massing, as expressed by its irregular, four-storey plan, and flat roof with straight parapet
- masonry construction of brick and stone, rough-dressed sandstone facades, and granite foundations
- regular fenestration with double-hung 1-over-1 wooden-sash windows
- characteristics of the Romanesque Revival style, such as principal facades of rough-dressed stone in varied textures, round headed window openings surrounded by voussoirs, deeply recessed windows separated by engaged columns, and elaborately carved cushion capitals which form imposts for the voussoirs
- additional exterior features, such as the original location of the front entrance on West Hastings Street, and a secondary entrance on Cambie Street with original transom with dentils on the transom bar
- early facade elements that survive at the ground floor level but are obscured by later coverings, including rough-dressed sandstone piers with elaborate capitals and iron I-beam window headers embellished with rosettes
- surviving original interior elements such as window and door mouldings, doors, millwork in main stairwell, stairwell tiling and cast iron columns in the basement
- areaways that extend out underneath both Cambie and Hastings Streets, which retain their original granite block structural walls and piers