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Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Pennsylvania Hotel is a five-storey plus basement, masonry commercial structure with a distinctive polygonal corner bay and tiers of metal-clad cantilevered bay windows above the ground floor. It is located at the intersection of West Hastings and Carrall Streets in the historic district of Gastown in Vancouver.
The Pennsylvania Hotel is historically important for its contribution to the development of the Hastings Street corridor as Vancouver's primary commercial thoroughfare during the early twentieth century. Gastown had developed as the earliest centre of Vancouver's commercial activities, and the subsequent construction of commercial buildings and hotels along Hastings Street during the western Canadian boom lasted until the First World War. This led to a southward shift of the commercial district, and the Pennsylvania Hotel - built in 1906 as the Woods Hotel for J.S. and Eliza Woods - was one of the first major hotels to be built on Hastings Street. One of the city's better establishments, this hotel accommodated wealthy travellers and commercial businessmen, rather than the seasonal workers who lived in less elaborate hotels and lodgings in the area. It served a combined function, providing commercial space on the ground floor and lodging rooms on the upper floors, contributing to the lively street life in downtown Vancouver. Over time, as the business district shifted further west, the east side of downtown went into economic decline, and for many years the Pennsylvania Hotel provided low cost housing for the area's residents.
The location of the Pennsylvania Hotel represents the nexus of the transportation network that served Edwardian-era Vancouver and the surrounding region. Situated near commuter rail and streetcar lines, and within walking distance of the harbour, the ferry to North Vancouver, and the Union Steamship Docks at the south foot of Carrall Street, this hotel's strategic location was further enhanced when the terminus of the British Columbia Electric Railway was built across the street, connecting downtown with the people and goods of the Fraser Valley.
The Pennsylvania Hotel is also significant for its sophisticated architecture, strongly influenced by contemporary styles in the United States. The highly-articulated facade, composed in a rippling sequence of four-storey bay windows and originally capped by a prominent corner turret, was specifically reminiscent of the design of many buildings in San Francisco prior to the 1906 earthquake. Other original features reflected the influence of the Romanesque Revival style, demonstrating the transitional nature of architecture during the mid-Edwardian era, before the pervasive influence of classicism. Typical of downtown Vancouver, the Pennsylvania Hotel had functional basement areaways that extended under the street, with sidewalk prisms to bring light into the underground space.
The Pennsylvania Hotel is additionally significant as a surviving mid-career design by prolific architect, William T. Whiteway (1856-1940). Whiteway arrived in Vancouver at the time of the Great Fire and worked in Vancouver from 1886-1887, then followed other building booms in the United States and Canada before returning to Vancouver where he became one of the leading local architects. His designs in the area include the original part of the Woodward's Department Store at Hastings and Abbott Streets (1903), the Kelly, Douglas warehouse on Water Street (begun 1905) and the World (Sun) Tower at Beatty and Pender Streets, once the tallest commercial building in the British Empire (1911-12).
Source: City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation
Key elements that define the heritage character of the Pennsylvania Hotel include its:
- corner location, built to the property lines with no setbacks, within the Gastown historic district
- commercial form, scale and massing as expressed by its five-storey height (with basement), narrow rectangular plan, flat roof, and tiered bay windows
- masonry construction with heavy timber-frame internal structure; tan, high-fire, iron-spot facing brick, with narrow, red mortar joints; sandstone window sills; and common red brick on side and rear elevations
- exterior features such as: sheet metal cornice; sheet metal cladding of bay windows; continuous sills; sign-plate atop the principal Carrall Street bay; and remnants of the continuous secondary cornices
- asymmetrical fenestration; double-hung 1-over-1 wooden sash windows; small, rectangular wooden sash windows on the Hastings Street façade with sandstone sills; paired, segmental arch openings with double-hung 1-over-1 wooden sash windows on the east elevation; and single and paired fire escape doorways with sandstone thresholds on the Carrall Street facade
- interior architectural details, such as: wooden mouldings and trim; coffered ceiling with wooden beams in the ground floor commercial space; mosaic tile floors; cast iron radiators; open cage elevator with elaborate metalwork; elevator electrical machinery and original basement areaways
City of Vancouver
Vancouver Charter, s.593
Theme - Category and Type
- Developing Economies
- Trade and Commerce
Function - Category and Type
- Commerce / Commercial Services
- Hotel, Motel or Inn
Architect / Designer
William Tuff Whiteway
Location of Supporting Documentation
City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program
Cross-Reference to Collection