159 East Hastings Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6A, Canada
Links and documents
1911/01/01 to 1912/01/01
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Balmoral Hotel is a nine-storey, Chicago-syle early skyscraper, with Edwardian details, located on East Hastings Street in close proximity to the historic Gastown district.
Built in 1911-1912 at the peak of prosperity, the Balmoral Hotel is representative of the city's entrepreneurial optimism for the future. Vancouver had by that time become firmly established as the financial distribution, shopping and manufacturing centre of British Columbia.
In a September 1912 announcement of the official opening of the Balmoral Hotel, the journal Architect, Builder, and Engineer notes that construction of this first-class hotel 'will relieve some of the former congestion in hotel circles of the day'. This type of high-class establishment would have accommodated commercial businessmen and wealthy travellers to the area, rather than the seasonal workers who lived in less elaborate hotels and lodgings. The Balmoral Hotel, like many other buildings in and around Gastown, served a combined function of providing commercial space on the ground floor and accommodation and lodging on the upper floors, contributing to the bustling street-level retail activity in the area. It is interesting to note that the Balmoral Hotel has been in continuous use as a hotel since 1912.
The Chicago-style massive cornice and grid-like organization of the facade are typical of urban buildings erected between the 1890s to the 1920s within the main core of downtown Vancouver. The perfection of steel frame and reinforced concrete construction, as well as the development of the elevator, permitted these buildings to rise to four or more storeys. The Balmoral's height, juxtaposed with lower adjacent buildings, creates the distinctive 'sawtooth' appearance of this section of East Hastings Street, afforded by often-dramatic variations in building height. Designed by the architectural firm of Parr & Fee (John H. Parr, John MacKenzie, and John Charles Day) for J.K. Sutherland, the Balmoral Hotel was typical of many other commercial buildings in the area. Parr and Fee were responsible for the design of several prominent downtown Vancouver landmarks, including the fifteen-storey Vancouver Block on Granville Street, and the flatiron-inspired Hotel Europe in Gastown.
There is also value in the neon sign on the front of the building. Designed by Neon Products in the 1940s, it remains a visual reminder of the former predominance of neon lighting on the streets of Vancouver.
Source: City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program
The character-defining elements of the Balmoral Hotel include:
- its skyscraper form, scale and massing
- its siting on the property line with no set-backs
- Chicago-style commercial elements which define the character of the Balmoral Hotel include; the steel and buff brick construction, highly-regular organization of the facade, including the grid-like pattern of fenestration of five bays across the front facade, massive overhanging sheet-metal dentilated cornice, and painted sandstone sills
- neon sign
- continued use as a residential hotel
City of Vancouver
Vancouver Charter, s.582
Community Heritage Register
Theme - Category and Type
- Developing Economies
- Trade and Commerce
Function - Category and Type
- Commerce / Commercial Services
- Hotel, Motel or Inn
Architect / Designer
Parr and Fee
Location of Supporting Documentation
City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program
Cross-Reference to Collection