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Springer and Van Bramer Block

301 West Cordova Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6B, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2003/01/14

Exterior view of the Springer and Van Bramer Block; City of Vancouver, 2004
Oblique view
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Other Name(s)

Springer and Van Bramer Block
301-311 West Cordova Street
Masonic Block

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)


Listed on the Canadian Register: 2005/03/08

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Springer and Van Bramer Block is a three storey plus lower level masonry Victorian Italianate building, situated at the corner of Cambie and West Cordova Streets in the historic district of Gastown. Together with the adjacent J.W. Horne Block, it forms a contiguous unit that fills a wedge-shaped lot where the city's early surveys meet at an acute angle.

Heritage Value

Gastown is the historic core of Vancouver, and is the city's earliest, most historic area of commercial buildings and warehouses. The Gastown historic district retains a consistent and distinctive built form that is a manifestation of successive economic waves that followed the devastation of the Great Fire in 1886, the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1887, the Klondike Gold Rush and the western Canadian boom that occurred prior to the First World War. The Springer and Van Bramer Block is representative of the importance of Gastown as the trans-shipment point between the terminus of the railway and Pacific shipping routes, and the consequent expansion of Vancouver into western Canada's predominant commercial centre in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As Vancouver prospered, substantial structures were developed on Cordova Street, and the high density and notable height of this structure are a clear indication of the extent and prosperity of commercial trade during the first period of Gastown's development.

The original owners, Ben Springer and James Van Bramer, were prominent local businessmen, and this prestigious building helped consolidate the commercial character of the area, attracting retail and business occupants, as well as social groups such as the Masons and Odd Fellows.

The Springer and Van Bramer Block is also significant as a surviving work by American-born architect Noble Stonestreet Hoffar (1843-1907). One of Vancouver's first architects, Hoffar made a considerable contribution to the evolution of the city in the period between 1886 and the mid 1890s with his design and construction of many of the city's largest and most substantial Victorian Italianate structures such as this block, the adjacent J.W. Horne Block and the Dunn Block on Cordova Street.

It is also significant as an excellent example of the Victorian Italianate Style that was popular in Canada in the late nineteenth century and is one of the earliest examples of this style in Gastown. Built in 1888, it is also significant as one of the earliest large-scale brick-clad buildings in Gastown.

Source: City of Vancouver, Heritage Planning Street Files

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements of the Springer and Van Bramer Block include:
- siting on the property lines, with no setbacks
- contiguous relationship of the building with the adjacent J.W. Horne Block
- form, scale and massing, as exemplified by its three storey plus lower level height, flat roof and trapezoidal floor plan resulting from the relationship of the streets and alley
- Victorian Italianate design elements and detailing such as vertical proportions, round arched window surrounds connected by stringcourses and decorative brackets
- masonry construction: red brick cladding with flush-struck mortar joints on the two main facades; continuous monolithic granite thresholds along the storefronts; rubble stone foundations; and common red brick rear facade
- intermediate cornice between each storey
- early prefabricated building elements such as round cast iron columns at storefront level and sheet metal brackets
- tall ground floor ceiling height, with large storefront openings
- wooden storefront profiles with segmental arched transoms
- original double-hung 1-over-1 wood-sash windows with round arched tops on the upper floors
- chamfered corner with corner entry
- side entrance to upper storeys
- one brick chimney at parapet level on Cordova Street facade



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

Architect / Designer

Noble Stonestreet Hoffar



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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