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Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) Roundhouse is a complex at the corner of Davie Street and Pacific Boulevard in Vancouver, British Columbia. The central point of focus is a semicircular brick and wood industrial building with a number of large bay doors facing onto a round plaza and a former railway turntable. The roundhouse building includes modern glass and brick additions to its north and east facades. A number of historic rail lines and railway switches are also found within the grounds of this complex.
Constructed in 1888 with additions dating from the 1950s and 1990s, the CPR Roundhouse in Vancouver is a monument to the influence and evolution of industry in British Columbia since the 1880s. It is valued for its role in the province's economic and political history, as a significant example of industrial architecture, and for its modern social values as a community arts and recreation centre.
Historically, the CPR Roundhouse is representative of the most important events and themes in the province's early economic and political history. As perhaps the most significant remaining testament to the 1885 decision to make Vancouver the western terminus of the transcontinental railway, it stands as a reminder of the power of the Canadian Pacific Railroad Company (CPR) to make or break Canadian cities in the nineteenth century. Once the largest facility of its kind in the province, it is a monument to the age of steam power and industrialization. Representing the most technical and functional aspects of the CPR's endeavours, this building was instrumental in the establishment of Vancouver as Canada's westernmost metropolis and one of the most important transshipment points between Europe and Asia.
Although much of the Roundhouse was demolished in the 1980s, the surviving historic portions of this historic place are perhaps the most significant examples of industrial architecture in British Columbia. The 1888 portion of the building, which is the oldest example of industrial architecture in Vancouver, speaks to functionality and practicality of use, and is the antithesis of the embellished architecture of the Victorian era in which it was constructed. The 1950s portion of the building has heritage value because it retains the functionality of the older portion of the building, communicated in a clearly modern, twentieth-century architectural language. Originally a diesel engine shop, its distinctive shape reflects the influence that new technology had on industrial design. Together, these two distinct parts of this historic place tell the story of seventy years of industrial progress in British Columbia.
The CPR Roundhouse also has value as a unique and evolving hybrid of modern and historic architecture, which relates its multi-layered and evolving history through form and function. Its composite design, seen in its many distinctive additions, reflects how early industrial trades inspired today's adaptive reuse of historic buildings. The late 1990s community-driven rehabilitation of the Roundhouse as an arts and recreation centre (officially opened in 1997) reveals a significant shift in values away from industrialization and towards active living and social sustainability. The pavilion which houses Locomotive 374, the first transcontinental passenger train to arrive in Vancouver, is also significant, as it reflects and honours the Roundhouse's original function, which was to house the symbol of its era, the magnificent steam engine.
Source: BC Heritage Branch files
The character-defining elements of the CPR Roundhouse in Vancouver include:
- Its location within the City of Vancouver.
- Technical and functional elements of the grounds which relate to its original purpose as a railway roundhouse, including the turntable, rail lines embedded in concrete and brick paving, and rail switches.
- The 1888 portion of the roundhouse, including key elements of its design such as its one story massing and clerestory level, its semi-circular shape, brick construction, post-and-beam structural elements, surviving wooden windows and doors, and its contiguous relationship to the 1950s portion of the building.
- Surviving interior spatial configurations of the 1888 portion of the building which relate to its function as a roundhouse.
- Surviving historic hardware, fixtures and fittings, including lights, door handles and tracks, and vents and pipes, which relate to its historic use as a roundhouse.
- The 1950s diesel shop and key elements of its original design, including its semi-circular shape, two-storey massing, brick construction, wooden doors and windows, and its contiguous relationship to the 1888 portion of the building and the pavilion.
- The ability to identify the building as a former roundhouse through its architectural composition.
- All of the elements of the building's organic and dynamic evolution over time, seen in its multi-partite composition and distinctive elements from all time periods.
Province of British Columbia
Heritage Conservation Act, s.9, s.13(1)(a)
Provincial Heritage Site (Designated)
1997/01/01 to 1997/01/01
Theme - Category and Type
- Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
- Architecture and Design
- Developing Economies
- Communications and Transportation
Function - Category and Type
- Recreation Centre
- Station or Other Rail Facility
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
BC Heritage Branch properties files
Cross-Reference to Collection