8 West Cordova Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6B, Canada
Army & Navy Department Store
8-28 West Cordova Street
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Dunn-Miller Block is a three-storey late Victorian Italianate commercial building situated in an important commercial streetscape in the Gastown historic district in Vancouver.
The value of the Dunn-Miller Block lies in the historic relationship between this area and the economy of early Vancouver. It is equally important in its relationship to adjacent buildings. Together they represent a cohesive streetscape of storefront retail. The early uses of this building illustrate the development of the area.
The Dunn-Miller Block is noteworthy for the imposing 180 foot (55 m) long facade of this building, which takes up almost half a block and was considered to be at the time of construction in 1888, 'the largest, most pretentious and important' structure in the city. It was designed by architect Noble S. Hoffar, who played a significant role in the early growth of the city and is credited with a number of other prominent Vancouver buildings including the Court House, the Arlington Hotel and the Horne Block. As one of the first buildings to be constructed of permanent materials after the great fire of 1886, the Dunn-Miller Block was seen as a sign of renewed prosperity and confidence in the city’s future. The long, unified facade recalls the terraced buildings of Georgian England, boasting twin roof pediments and pedimented windows. Neighbours to the west erected buildings of similar height and setback, thereby creating a unity of facades not unlike a European terrace, a rarity for Vancouver.
The building was bought during the Klondike years by North Vancouver property owner A. H. Lonsdale and renamed the Lonsdale Block. City files list the building type as 'commercial/residential', as rooms were available for rent the upper floors of the building. This type of mixed use was typical for commercial buildings in this period of peak growth in Vancouver’s early downtown core, and reflects the continual evolution of the neighbourhood at the time. In its prime, it housed offices for the Vancouver Electric Railway and Light Company, the store of pioneer drygoods merchant Thomas Dunn - 'headquarters for Klondike supplies' - drug, clothing, shoe and millinery retail outlets and a grocery, and provided accommodation for itinerant resource industry workers and travelers, and a meeting hall for such groups as the Knights of Pythias, the Caledonian Society, and the Bricklayer’s Union. In 1891 the first public Jewish services were conducted here and by 1893 it housed the city’s first Jewish synagogue. Of special interest is the early tenancy of H. McDowell & Company, druggists, a leading Vancouver drug establishment and first of its kind to open after the great fire of 1886. Since 1948, it has been part of the Army and Navy discount department store chain.
Source: City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program
The character-defining elements of the Dunn-Miller Block include:
- the physical relationship to adjacent buildings as part of the historic streetscape and to the neighbourhood
- built right to the lot line with no setbacks
- its imposing form and massing; 180 foot (55 m) facade, constructed of brick with stone and cast iron supports divided into five bays, and surmounted by projecting sheet metal classical cornice and two imposing rooftop pediments
- elaborate classical detailing including the two large, prominent pediments crowning the facade, as well as a series of vertical sash windows capped with alternating segmental and triangular pediments, and bracketed stone cornices above second-storey window openings
- arrangement of portal-like openings below rooftop pediments
- rusticated stone piers intersecting and flanking the building at each major bay division on the ground level
- ground floor storefronts for commercial use with large plate glass windows
City of Vancouver
Vancouver Charter, s.593
Theme - Category and Type
- Developing Economies
- Trade and Commerce
Function - Category and Type
- Commerce / Commercial Services
- Shop or Wholesale Establishment
Architect / Designer
Noble S. Hoffar
Location of Supporting Documentation
City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program
Cross-Reference to Collection