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Lovell Block

131 Water Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6B, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2003/01/14

Lovell Building, exterior view, 2004; City of Vancouver 2004
front elevation
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Other Name(s)

117 Water Street
Lovell Block

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1888/01/01 to 1889/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2005/03/08

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Lovell Block is a two storey, late Victorian brick-clad commercial structure, located on the north side of Water Street in the historic district of Gastown.

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. Built in 1888-89 for pioneer Vancouver businessman John Badcock Lovell (1831-1915), the Lovell Block is one of the oldest buildings in Gastown and 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.

In addition to its original warehousing function, the Lovell Block is significant for its street level retail, characteristic of Gastown, with a commercial shop front with a clear span between vertical brick piers creating large display windows. The Lovell Block is further valued as one of the earliest examples in the city of fireproof brick construction. Its sheet metal cornice brackets are identical to those of the Jones Block at 407 West Cordova Street/348 Water Street, built at the same time, indicating the limited availability of prefabricated building elements at this early stage in the city's history.

This building is further valued for its association with the area's provincial heritage designation in 1971, and the consequent area-wide street beautification, the first of its kind in Canada. Marathon Realty, the real estate division of the Canadian Pacific Railway, preserved most of the warehouses on the north side of this block, adding the new infill project Gaslight Square in 1974-75 designed by architects Henriquez and Todd. This building was retained as part of this mixed use development.

Source: City of Vancouver, Heritage Planning Files

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements of the Lovell Block include:
- location on the north side of Water Street, in close proximity to the waterfront of Burrard Inlet and the Canadian Pacific Railway yard
- siting on the property lines, with no setbacks at the front or sides
- spatial relationship to other late Victorian and Edwardian era commercial buildings
- form, scale and massing as expressed in its two-storey height, flat roof and rectangular plan
- front facade articulation typical of the late Victorian era, displaying symmetry, rectangular structural openings and sheet metal embellishments with acanthus leaf and plumed details
- early example of masonry construction, with red brick front and side walls, and granite threshold sills at the storefront
- double-hung 1-over-1 wood-sash windows on the front facade second floor
- commercial shop front with large retail display windows and recessed door
- prefabricated sheet metal cornice brackets identical to those at 407 West Cordova Street/348 Water Street
- heavy timber frame internal structure



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




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

City of Vancouver, Heritage Planning Files

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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