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Dawson Building

375 Main Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6A, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1994/11/21

Dawson Building; City of Vancouver 2004
Main Street and East Hastings Street facades
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Other Name(s)

Dawson Building
Ford Building
G.W. Dawson Building

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1911/01/01 to 1912/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2008/01/18

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Dawson Building is an eight-storey structure on the northwest corner of Main and Hastings Streets in Vancouver.

Heritage Value

The heritage value of the Dawson Building lies in the historic relationship between this area and the economy of early Vancouver. At the turn of the twentieth century, this area of town was developed as a shopping area as commercial activity spread outward from its early roots in Gastown. As the young city grew, so did its commercial district. While the retail district was expanding along Granville Street, the east end of Hastings Street was the home of a second retail and commercial strip. It was the home of several hotels, lodgings, office buildings, and small retail outlets which were established to serve the growing blue-collar population.

Designed and built in 1911-1912 by architect Bedford Davidson for George W. Dawson (a partner in Dawson and Buttimer, canners agents), the Dawson Building is a large example of Chicago-style commercial development of the early twentieth century. The gridded facade with two light wells on the Hastings Street facade to allow light into the interior offices, presents an imposing presence in this area of early commercial development. From its early days, the storefronts have been occupied by druggists, food outlets and clothing merchandisers, while the offices above have been the home of professionals including dentists, doctors, and barristers, as well as contractors and real estate agents. The east Vancouver outlet of the Owl Drug Company was housed at the 199 East Hastings Street storefront from 1912 until very recently.

In the 1930s, the professional offices were largely occupied by Japanese dentists and doctors who served the growing Japanese population in this area. In recent years, the upper storeys housed Chinese professionals - barristers, doctors dentists, and social activists, including lawyer Philip Rankin, the Native Brotherhood of BC, and the Communist Party of Canada. The evolution of the Dawson Building mirrors the ethnic content and economic changes in this neighbourhood of Vancouver.

In 1984, the building was converted to housing with 69 studio suites and six one-bedroom suites, developed by Adolf Ingre and Associates. The building continues to provide social housing for local residents.

Source: City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program

Character-Defining Elements

The heritage character of the Dawson Building is found in the following elements:
- a complex of tall rectangular masses on a podium level
- its functional relationship with other buildings within the Hastings Street strip and adjoining neighbourhoods
- corner location
- built right to the lot line with no set backs
- ground floor retail presence
- characteristics of the Edwardian commercial style including: light wells with sandstone balustrades, pattern of fenestration, grid-like facade, overhanging cornice with dentils, and corbelling over the window openings



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


Multiple Dwelling


Commerce / Commercial Services
Office or Office Building

Architect / Designer

Bedford Davidson



Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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