Description of Historic Place
The Rainier Hotel at 309 Carrall Street is a three storey Classical Revival-style hotel building located on the corner of Carrall and West Cordova Streets in the historic Gastown district of Vancouver.
The heritage value of the Rainier Hotel lies in the historic relationship between this area and the economy of early Vancouver. It is associated with Gastown's history in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century as a mixed-use district and the centre for Vancouver's trade and manufacturing. When the City of Vancouver became the entrepot between the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) and trans-Pacific shipping in 1887, the hub of this international commercial activity was Gastown. In the late nineteenth century, this area of town was, for the most part, populated by unattached males of working age, largely employed in seasonal resource industries and often unemployed in the off season. This type of hotel was in high demand not only to provide central, inexpensive housing for workers, but also to accommodate travellers and businessmen. The accompanying saloons and restaurants served their culinary needs while facilities such as billiard rooms provided recreational opportunities.
As late as the 1940s, the corner of Carrall and Cordova was still considered the 'crossroads of Vancouver's loggers' district.' Within a radius of two to three blocks, almost every hotel, cafe, store and bar catered to the loggers. Also in this vicinity were the 'man catchers', the camp employment agencies where those out of work could find new jobs. In addition, Carrall Street ran south from the Union Steamship Company docks, which for fifty years were synonymous with travel to the work camps of the coast. The Rainier Hotel, like many other buildings in Gastown, served a combined function of providing lodging on the upper floors and commercial space on the ground floor, contributing to the bustling street-level retail businesses in the area. Early hotels did not have facilities for food preparation in the rooms, so even long term tenants had to obtain their meals elsewhere.
Built in 1907 by architect Emil Guenther for William and John H. Quann, the Rainier Hotel replaced the earlier Balmoral Hotel on this site (also owned by the Quann brothers), a wood plank structure noted as a gambling resort during the Klondike Gold Rush. The Rainier exemplifies the multiple uses of early buildings and the evolution of the neighbourhood. By 1913, the complex housed not only the hotel but also a taxicab office, cafe, barber shop and billiard room - all catering to the largely male population. Unlike many hotel complexes in the area, the Rainier continued to house the same types of businesses until the 1970s, when the main floor was turned into a night club.
There is also value in the architectural design, which reflects the change in public taste from the highly ornate facades of the high Victorian period to the more refined decoration of the Edwardian era. Classical buildings used columns as support features, while this revival of the style uses engaged columns or pilasters as decorative items. Although the building is located adjacent to an alley, the cornice with its brackets and dentils is present on only the front portion of the alley facade.
Source: City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program
The key elements which define the heritage character of the Rainier Hotel include its:
- prominent corner location on the intersection of Carrall and West Cordova Street, accentuated by the two formal facades and chamfered corner entrance with cast iron column supporting the outside facade of the brick facade above.
- red brick construction with three-storey irregular form expressed by the trapezoid-shaped plan.
- scale, configuration, and rhythm of the traditional components of the lower facade, including the ground floor height, minor cornice, access to upper floors, recessed entries, and high ceilings of the ground floor shopfront.
- configuration with transoms, proportion and clear glazing of the large display windows.
- architectural articulation of the upper facade including the stone lintels, sills, projecting sheet metal upper cornice with brackets aligned with the two-storey decorative pilasters, and openings in the masonry surface with a roughly equal solid to void ratio.
- wood double-hung windows in the west light-well with evidence of original paint color.