Description of Historic Place
The historic place is a six-storey, purpose-built, white enamelled brick, stone, and iron hotel and store, located in Vancouver's historic Gastown. The building is located on two parcels, both addressed as 42 East Cordova Street.
42 East Cordova Street is of value as an essay in Edwardian building construction, as a good example of a hotel whose design responded to the City's strict new lodging house building code, for its association with Vancouver's pre-World War I building boom, and for its continuing use as housing for low income persons.
Although this building appears today to be one structure, it was built in two parts, with two different architects involved. For many years, two hotels operated here, one at 42-44 East Cordova (Arno Rooms/Central Hotel) and the other at 48-48 1/2 East Cordova (Oliver Rooms). The eastern part of the building (48-48 1/2) was erected in 1911 by Hemphill and Company for owner W.C. Marshall. The architect was Hugh Braunton. The western part of the building (42-44 East Cordova) was erected in 1912 by William O'Dell for the Vancouver Realty Company and designed by A. Campbell Hope. There appears to have been considerable cooperation between the owners and perhaps between the architects and builders. The wall between the buildings included doorways joining the two structures and the two buildings share a large interior lightwell. On the front elevation it is difficult to discern any significant difference in design, and today the buildings read as a single edifice.
Taken together, these buildings represent an excellent example of cutting-edge Edwardian building technology and design. The two architects, A. Campbell Hope and Hugh Braunton, made substantial contributions to the city's architectural heritage during this period of rapid expansion. In particular, Braunton designed two similar adjacent buildings immediately to the east, at 50 and 54 East Cordova Street, and several other buildings in Gastown. The end result is a cohesive streetscape respresenting a particular designer and time. Whether this was planned or happenstance is not known.
This building demonstrates 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 bars and pool halls. The building, much of whose original arrangements survive, illustrates the impact of the City of Vancouver's 1910 Lodging House By-Law on this type of housing, combined with the realities of speculative real-estate investment. These bylaws were not unique, but rather formed the local response to a pattern of urban reform that swept across western Europe and North America in the early twentieth century. In the context of housing, these reforms emphasize the provision of fresh air, natural light, bathrooms, and fire escapes. Valuable features of the design that survive include the provision of fresh air and natural light in bedrooms from a long deep light well.
This was one of the first buildings in the area to be converted from market to non-market housing. The work was done in 1973-74 by the United Housing Foundation with Jonathan Yardley as architect. This was an important moment in the history of the area. It represented one of the initial efforts to conserve Gastown's architectural heritage within the context of social housing. Yardley's involvement is also significant as he worked on a number of similar projects during this first phase of Gastown's heritage conservation.
Source: City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program
The character-defining elements of 42 East Cordova Street include:
- Location in Vancouver's historic Gastown district
- Occupation of entire lot
- Similarity to neighbouring buildings, forming part of a streetscape
- Design features, including long corridors terminating in escape doors on every floor, arrangements of rooms, bathrooms and toilets, and the light well
- Materials of construction, including the white enamelled bricks on the front elevation, the stone pilaster bases, projecting strings and caps, the stone window sills, the metal cornice, and the metal components of the window frames
- The articulation of the East Cordova Street elevation, including the division of the facade into four bays by prominent pilasters, and the treatment of the ground floor as two shop fronts with side door to the upper floors
- The elaborate metal cornice, and its corbels
- The fenestration, including the surviving finished woodwork, glazing and paint remnants of the storefront and the shallow bay windows of the upper floors, including their sash assemblies and panelled transoms
- Enduring use of the upper floors for housing