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City Hotel

90 Alexander Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6A, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2003/01/14

Exterior view of the City Hotel, 2004; City of Vancouver, 2004
South facade
Exterior view of the City Hotel, 2004; City of Vancouver, 2004
Facade detail
Exterior view of City Hotel, 2004; City of Vancouver, 2004
South, corner and east facades

Other Name(s)

City Hotel
Anchor Hotel

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1905/01/01 to 1912/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2005/04/04

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The historic place at 90 Alexander Street is a four-storey brick hotel with frontages to Alexander, Columbia, and Powell Streets, in the historic Gastown district of Vancouver, close to the Port of Vancouver. The building was first known as the City Hotel and then as the Anchor Hotel. Its upper floors are now part of the adjacent building to the west: the Alexander Residence at 58 Alexander Street.

Heritage Value

Built in stages between 1905-1912, this rambling four-storey building was used for residential accommodation above and entertainment (saloon, bar, pool hall) on the ground floor. It has value for demonstrating a pattern of use that was common in this part of Gastown, where numerous similar hotels were geared to serving the itinerant population of male resource workers who came and went from the city at regular intervals. Especially in the winter, when the logging camps were shut down, men lounged on the street and passed their time in the bars and pool halls.

There has been a hotel on the western portion of this site since at least 1887, when the City Hotel was located here. A new three-storey City Hotel was built in 1905 (described in 1908 as being 'new and strictly first class') on the eastern part of the site, with its entry off of Columbia Street. The older western structure was removed in 1910, and it seems likely that the 'new and strictly first class' hotel that now occupies the whole site was completed shortly thereafter, with an addition to the west, and also the addition of a fourth floor.

The early hotel and entertainment uses of this property (a saloon was an integral part of the City Hotel) are typical of Gastown. Its various stages of construction between 1905-1912, and its combination of Victorian and Edwardian elements, suggest a pattern of rapid redevelopment of Vancouver's urban core in the early twentieth century.

For many years, the hotel, known first as the City Hotel and later as the Anchor Hotel, was associated with Bill Swanson. Swanson owned an interest in the hotel and, like many hotel men, was active in the liquor trade. Best known as a wrestler who tackled the best the Klondike could throw at him and won, Swanson was celebrated as an early pioneer. The colourful story of his rise from humble miner to hotel owner was celebrated as representing the greatness of its early settlers and their remarkable spirit.

The wide chamfered corner of the building at Powell and Columbia reflects the fact that for many years, the Canadian Pacific Railway's line to English Bay crossed the corner of the site. This serves to remind us of the central role of the railway in shaping Vancouver, and especially in creating and shaping Gastown.

Source: City of Vancouver, Heritage Planning Street Files

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements of the City Hotel include its:
- location in Gastown, occupying the full site with frontages on three streets (Columbia, Powell, and Alexander Streets)
- flattened corner at Powell and Columbia, reflecting the former railway right-of-way
- ground floor facade with its Victorian details, including the brick arcading and generous proportions given to windows and entries
- historic use of the building for residential (upper floors) and entertainment purposes (ground floor)
- relatively plain upper floors with some details, such as pilasters and cambered arches over the windows, reflecting Victorian architecture
- window assemblies, including traditional double-hung vertical sliding sashes
- evidence of adaptation, including discontinuous string courses, flashings, changes in brick colour, toothed and straight joints, and changes in mortar colour
- characteristics of plan form and detail reflecting date of construction and housing reform concerns, including means to bring fresh air and natural light into rooms



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


Multiple Dwelling


Commerce / Commercial Services
Hotel, Motel or Inn
Commerce / Commercial Services
Eating or Drinking Establishment

Architect / Designer




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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