Vancouver Gas Company Warehouse
135 Keefer Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6A, Canada
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
Located at the southern edge of Vancouver’s historic Chinatown, near the former shoreline of False Creek, the Vancouver Gas Company Warehouse is a narrow, four-storey, brick block that occupies the entire lot at 135 Keefer Street.
The heritage value of the Vancouver Gas Company Warehouse is seen in its historical association with the Vancouver Gas Company and for its architectural value as a quality industrial building designed by leading architects Sharp and Thompson. It also has heritage value for contributing to our understanding of the evolving historical geography and demographics of Vancouver and more specifically of Chinatown.
Built in 1910 as a warehouse and meter repair shop for the Vancouver Gas Company (by then a part of the much larger British Columbia Electric Company, subsequently BC Hydro), 135 Keefer is of considerable heritage value because it is the only extant building remaining from the first coal gas manufacturing complex of this early Vancouver utility (established in 1886), and is one of a handful of buildings associated with the intense industrial use on the north shore of False Creek for nearly a century from the 1880s. The former relationship to the water is no longer visible because of extensive fill, yet it is the reason this gas complex was located here, to unload coal barged from Vancouver Island. It has additional value for reminding us of the technology of manufacturing coal gas, which became obsolete in Vancouver in 1957, when natural gas was piped in.
The construction of the building at this location reflects Vancouver Gas’s difficult business decision to respond to Vancouver’s tremendous growth by expanding the manufacturing capacity of its original plant, rather than relocating beyond the city limits. Once the decision was made to remain on False Creek, the company chose property on Keefer Street rather than Pender Street because of the lower land values here.
The architectural value of the building derives in part from it being an early work of Sharp and Thompson, which remained one of Vancouver’s leading architectural practices for nearly three-quarters of a century. Value is also seen in the architects’ ‘dressing up’ of the facade of an industrial building to make it look more like an office building, with glazed brick, small-paned windows, decorative spandrels, and a cornice. The large expanse of the facade windows and the unornamented red brick walls on the other elevations reveal the warehouse function, as does the architects’ response to the client’s request for a flexible building by providing what they described as ‘a mere shell.’
The Vancouver Gas Company Warehouse is also of value in demonstrating the integration of Vancouver’s two primary societies. After the BC Electric Company sold the building in 1961, it was used for commercial purposes by partnerships made up of both the European- and Chinese-Canadian communities, including the O’Grady Sheet Metal Co., which sold equipment to Chinese restaurants. The ground floor storefront may have been altered around the time the building changed use.
Source: City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program
The character-defining elements of the Vancouver Gas Company Warehouse include:
-Coverage of the entire site (other than by the light well on the east elevation)
-Ornamental features of the Keefer Street elevation, including the glazed brick, raised parapet, cornice, vertical window separations, and spandrels
-Six-over-six double-hung wood sash windows on the two upper floors of the facade, and one-over-one wood-sash windows on the second floor
-Brick lane elevation, opened by large windows on the upper three floors; and the few surviving wood sash windows on that elevation
-Window openings in the light well
-The use of steel beams in a portion of the structural support for the second floor
-The heavy timber structural beams on the upper floors, which are anchored into the east and west brick walls with iron brackets, and which enable column-free interior space
-The prism lights evident in the southeast corner of the basement ceiling
-Views towards False Creek
City of Vancouver
Vancouver Charter, s.582
Community Heritage Register
Theme - Category and Type
- Developing Economies
- Trade and Commerce
Function - Category and Type
- Petroleum and Coal Products Facility
- Commerce / Commercial Services
Architect / Designer
Sharp and Thompson
Location of Supporting Documentation
City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program
Cross-Reference to Collection