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Trapp Block

668 Columbia Street, New Westminster, British Columbia, V3M, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2004/04/05

Historic exterior view of the Trapp Block; Jim Wolf
oblique view
Exterior view of the Trapp Block; City of New Westminster, 2004
Front elevation
No Image

Other Name(s)


Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1902/01/01 to 1904/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2004/08/24

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Trapp Block is a wood-frame and masonry warehouse and commercial structure with a distinctive tan terra cotta front facade, located in New Westminster's historic downtown core. It was one of the tallest structures built on the south side of Columbia Street during the Edwardian-era and remains a landmark in the area. The front of the structure is six storeys high on Columbia Street; the rear facade, which faces Front Street, has seven exposed storeys.

Heritage Value

The heritage value of the Trapp Block is directly associated with the Edwardian-era development of downtown New Westminster, marking a formative period in B.C.'s resource-based economy. After the devastation of the Great Fire of 1898, the downtown was rebuilt immediately and continued to develop during the great western Canadian economic boom that preceded the First World War. The Trapp Block is a landmark structure on Columbia and Front Streets, the city's earliest and most historic area of commercial and institutional buildings. Much of the distinctive built form of Columbia and Front Streets dates from 1898 to 1913, when New Westminster was the major centre of commerce and industry for the booming Fraser Valley area, and served the local resource-based economy.

The Trapp Block is historically significant for its association with the wholesale and retail hardware firm, founded by Thomas and Samuel Trapp in New Westminster in 1880, which by 1914 was one of the largest such firms in Western Canada. The earliest part of the present structure was a four-storey section completed in 1902 as a satellite warehouse to Trapps' main retail store across the street. Expanded in stages as the business grew, a fifth storey was added to the structure in 1904, and further additions, including a new ornate terra cotta facade, were made from 1911-1913. The sloping site extends to Front Street and was well suited to the wholesale business, with a secondary frontage on the lower level that facilitated the movement of heavier products unloaded from the adjacent Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) rail lines and the harbour. In 1929 the Trapp Company hardware division and its long-time rival, Cunningham Hardware, were purchased by Marshall-Wells and continued to operate here for many years.

The Trapp Block is valued for its association with the architectural firm Gardiner, Mercer and Gardiner, which was commissioned in 1911 to complete the current structure and provide a cohesive ornamental terra cotta facade facing Columbia Street. The firm was a partnership of brothers Francis George Gardiner (1878-1966) and William F. Gardiner (1884-1951), and Andrew Lamb Mercer (1878-1959); the Trapp Block was one of their most prominent commissions.

Additionally, the Trapp Block is valued for its bold progressive Edwardian era architecture. Expressive of the new skyscraper technology of the time, the structure is notable for its transitional mixture of heavy timber and masonry elements. The extensive use of glazing on the front and rear facades maximized the use of natural light and increased the amount of product display space. The prominence and detailing of the terra cotta facade elements contribute to the visual dominance of the Trapp Block and help establish the historic character of the area. The front facade is an excellent example of the influence of the Chicago School on local architecture, as well as exhibiting a superb use of terra cotta ornamentation.

Source: Heritage Planning Files, City of New Westminster

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements that define the heritage character of the Trapp Block include its:
- location on Columbia Street, with a secondary facade on Front Street, part of a grouping of late Victorian and Edwardian era commercial buildings in historic downtown New Westminster
- boxy form, flat roof, vertical scale and symmetrical, cubic massing
- front, rear and side facades built to the lot lines, consistent with other buildings on Columbia and Front Streets
- dual ground level orientation at front and rear; expressed with a formal central ground floor entry on Columbia Street with flanking rectangular storefront openings, and a more utilitarian entry to the lower level on Front Street
- extensive use of glazing on the front and rear facades
- ornamentation concentrated on the front facade, with a more utilitarian expression for the blank side walls and the rear facade that faced the working harbour
- design elements of the Chicago School, such as: overall use of symmetry; tripartite arrangement of the front facade; Classical Revival details; projecting cornices; engaged pilasters; and decorated spandrels
- Chicago School-inspired tripartite wooden-sash windows on the front facade, with fixed central panes articulated with arched tops
- tan glazed terra cotta cladding on the front facade, highly articulated through the use of ornate framing and decorative elements such as cartouches, swags and garlands
- heavy sawn timber post-and-beam internal structure, with columns up to 36 cm square, beams up to 36 cm deep, and wooden floor beams and planking
- concrete cage sidewalls with masonry infill
- Trapp Block name plaque on front facade
- central flag pole on front facade



British Columbia

Recognition Authority

Local Governments (BC)

Recognition Statute

Local Government Act, s.954

Recognition Type

Community Heritage Register

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1911/01/01 to 1913/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Developing Economies
Trade and Commerce

Function - Category and Type



Commerce / Commercial Services
Office or Office Building

Architect / Designer

Gardiner, Mercer and Gardiner


M.D. Van Der Voort

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Heritage Planning Files, City of New Westminster

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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