Description of Historic Place
The Hudson's Bay Company Warehouse, constructed in the Romanesque Revival style, is characterized by round-arched windows, brick facades, and rough-dressed stone trim. Built in 1894 as a three storey structure with a lower level, it was expanded with two additional stories in 1903. It is located on the north side of Water Street in the historic district of Gastown.
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 (CPR) in 1887, the Klondike Gold Rush and the western Canadian boom that occurred prior to the First World War. The Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) Warehouse 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 warehouses were built on piles on infilled water lots between Water Street and the CPR trestle. The massive cubic form, high density, large clear-span floor-plate and notable height of this structure, built to support the HBC's commercial activities including the warehousing of furs and liquor, are a clear indication of the extent and prosperity of commercial trade during this period. Demonstrating the ongoing growth of the HBC's retail business, two stories were added to the top of the structure in 1903 to accommodate its expanding business.
This building is valued for its associations with the HBC. Starting in 1670 with their involvement in the fur trade, the company expanded and diversified with the growth of the country. The HBC played a pivotal role in the settlement of western Canada, and as the transcontinental railway moved west, consolidated its retail activities in a series of large warehouses and stores throughout the Prairies and British Columbia. In 1893, the HBC opened a new Vancouver retail outlet at the corner of Georgia and Granville Streets and then constructed this large warehouse on Water Street in 1894 to replace a smaller warehouse and store located on Cordova Street. The HBC occupied this warehouse for more than sixty years, making it one of the longest occupants of a single Gastown building, and reflecting the continued viability of the area's warehousing functions long after their time of primary significance.
The Hudson's Bay Company Warehouse is also significant for its architectural expression. The architect of the original part of the structure, C.O. Wickenden (1851-1934), had established a solid relationship with the HBC starting at the time of his practice in Winnipeg, and designed many of the company's structures throughout western Canada, including HBC stores in Calgary, Winnipeg and Vancouver. Wickenden is credited with bringing the Romanesque Revival style to the West Coast, and his trademark style helped to establish the early character of Gastown. The Romanesque Revival style had a powerful rhythm and unity of materials that conveyed corporate strength and security appropriate to Late Victorian sensibilities. This building is significant as one of Wickenden's earliest surviving commercial projects in Vancouver. The two storey addition was designed by local architects Dalton and Eveleigh.
The top floors were gutted by fire in the early 1970s, and this warehouse structure was rebuilt and adapted for use as commercial and retail space, one of the first adaptive rehabilitation projects in the newly-designated historic area of Gastown. It contributes to the ambiance of the Gastown historic district as an illustration of the area's importance as a centre of trade and commerce for the city and the province. Its early adaptive reuse within the context of the redevelopment of Gastown as a heritage area represents the changing nature of the local context and economy from warehousing and manufacturing to commercial, retail and residential uses.
Source: City of Vancouver, Heritage Planning Street Files
The character-defining elements of the Hudson's Bay Company Warehouse include:
- location on the north side of Water Street, in close proximity to the waterfront of Burrard Inlet and the CPR yard, with a granite-cobbled alley at west side, and the rear facade built at an angle to Water Street
- siting on the front and side property lines, with no setbacks; original loading bay area at rear
- five-storey plus lower level symmetrical flat-roofed form, massive scale, cubic massing, and large open-plan floor-plate
- Romanesque Revival style, as expressed in the powerful rhythm of the design and the unity of materials and details such as the twin pediments, arch-and-spandrel windows, corbelled cornice and rough-dressed stone trim
- substantial masonry construction: structural exterior red brick walls; patterned red face brick on the front facade with flush-struck mortar joints; rubbed brick voussoirs; and the use of rough-dressed sandstone for keystones, sills, lintels, stringcourses, roundels, massive foundation blocks at the front and rubble foundations
- two symmetrical entries at the front, mirrored by the pediments above
- round-arched display windows at ground level, with massive sandstone sills
- arched third-floor and fifth-floor window openings
- segmental arched window openings on side and rear facades, with sandstone sills
- original heavy timber frame construction, with round iron columns, extant on the lower floors and visible throughout the interior