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Hotel Empress

235 East Hastings Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6A, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1994/11/21

Hotel Empress; City of Vancouver, 2004
front facade
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Other Name(s)


Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1912/01/01 to 1913/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2008/01/08

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Hotel Empress on East Hastings Street is an eight-storey Edwardian hotel, which commands a prominent place as the tallest building on the north side of the block. The building is also immediately recognizable from a distance by the painted sign on the corner of the west facade.

Heritage Value

The value of the Hotel Empress lies in its position in the streetscape of East Hastings Street. Although the seven buildings on the north side of this block - all built between 1901 and 1913 - range in height from one to eight storeys, were designed by seven different architects, and constructed of different materials, they share several features. Together they illustrate the changing use of this area of East Hastings Street from residential to business use and place the district as a shopping and commercial centre for the emerging city of Vancouver in the early twentieth century. The architectural styles speak to the changing public taste from the ornate decoration of the late Victorian era to the more refined ornamentation of the Edwardian age.

Built in 1912-1913 for owner L. L. Mills by architect F.N. Bender, the Hotel Empress is significant because of its considerable height and the narrowness of the East Hastings Street facade. It was purported to be the "world’s narrowest tallest hotel" when built, and is still the only building of significant height in the immediate area. The building, although new, was considered an addition to the older hotel next door at 237 Hastings Street, and was called the "New Empress Hotel" in the 1913 tax assessment. The still-visible fine interior finishes of the Hotel Empress suggest it catered to tourists and business travellers, who were expected after the completion of the Canadian Northern Railway and the Panama Canal.

There is also value in the architectural styling. The building is an oddity as it is very tall and narrow. The pairs of windows emphasize the symmetry of the original design, while the bands of rusticated stone over each pair of windows add refined ornamentation. The name of the building is noted on three forms of signage, including a 1940s neon sign.

Source: City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements of the Hotel Empress include:
- its considerable scale, and rectangular form and massing
- its functional and physical relationship with the Phoenix Hotel at 237 East Hastings Street
- its similarity in design with other buildings within the Hastings Street strip and adjoining neighbourhoods
- built on a narrow footprint right to the lot line with no setbacks
- characteristics of the Edwardian style including: alternating use of smooth and rusticated stone bands to the entire face of the building from the first floor to the parapet; stone parapet with undecorated spandrel panel and simple moulded coping; pattern of fenestration on the upper storeys; very wide overhanging metal cornice, which wraps around three sides of the building; exterior finishes including imported pressed brick and sandstone lintels and sills.
- interior characteristics, including mosaic tile entry in white, red and shades of green, which extends into the interior lobby, and two-toned Italian marble wainscoting which lines the foyer, stairwell and mezzanine stairs
- remaining three forms of signage



British Columbia

Recognition Authority

City of Vancouver

Recognition Statute

Vancouver Charter, s.582

Recognition Type

Community Heritage Register

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Developing Economies
Trade and Commerce

Function - Category and Type


Commerce / Commercial Services
Hotel, Motel or Inn


Architect / Designer

F.N. Bender



Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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