Vancouver History: Francis Rattenbury

Comments 3 by Rebecca Bollwitt

If you live in Vancouver, chances are that you’ve passed a building designed by architect Francis Rattenbury. From Victoria and Nanaimo to Revelstoke and Jasper, several of Rattenbury’s houses, commercial buildings, and CPR-commissioned hotels still stand today.

1893 The Roedde House at 1415 Barclay Street
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1892: Roedde House
This is arguably the first structure that Rattenbury built in Canada. It was for Vancouver’s first bookbinder, Gustav Roedde, and his family. Today, the restored heritage home is a museum in the heart of the West End. It hosts school programs, teas, and tours. Read my post about Roedde House & Barclay Heritage Square.

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1893-1898: BC Legislature
An icon in Victoria’s Inner Harbour, our capitol building is home to BC’s legislative assembly. Rattenbury won the contract for the building when he was 25 years old. Adorned with white marble and Baroque decadence, it was originally budgeted at $500,000 but the final cost was $923,000. It is open for free tours, both self-guided and guided.

Vancouver Archives item# M-3-8.

1888-1900: 1st Hotel Vancouver
The current Hotel Vancouver that we know on West Georgia between Burrard and Hornby is the third iteration of the building. The first was located at Georgia and Granville and I found sources that say Rattenbury added a wing onto it. However, I have also found that he helped with the second Hotel Vancouver. Given the timeline, I believe it was the first since the second was built between 1913 and 1916.

Empress1904-1908: Empress Hotel Victoria
The Fairmont Empress is another icon of Victoria’s Inner Harbour famous for its Royal visits, celebrity guests, high tea, craft cocktails, and some say — ghostly presences. The hotel underwent $45 million in renovations in 1989 to update the guest rooms, adda health club, indoor swimming, and more. In Victoria Rattenbury was also responsible for the CPR steamship terminus and Crystal Garden.

Vancouver Art Gallery
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1906-1911: Vancouver Courthouse
The courthouse was understandably a huge part of the local political and justice system. Rattenbury also won this contract in a contest. The building’s design features columns, a central dome, porticos, and ornate stonework. The marble was imported from Alaska, Tennessee and Vermont. The Vancouver Art Gallery didn’t move into this space until 1983.

View Rattenbury’s full resume online including several banks, and train stations throughout BC. Born in Leeds, England in 1867, Rattenbury came to British Columbia in 1892. He met an untimely death back in England in 1935 when he was murdered by the family’s 17 year old chauffeur [source].

3 Comments  —  Comments Are Closed

  1. Terry ReaTuesday, March 27th, 2012 — 9:13am PDT

    I always enjoy the old buildings in the lower mainland. It is too bad that real estate greed has led to the demolition of many fine old buildings and home. Two in my neighbourhood across the alley and two doors down from me. My history is disappearing. TR

  2. Steve Zussino – Grocery AlertsTuesday, March 27th, 2012 — 3:56pm PDT

    Living in Victoria, I am lucky to see his great work. I didn’t know the history he had in Vancouver.

  3. Andy CouplandFriday, April 6th, 2012 — 2:36pm PDT

    T C Sorby designed the main hotel in your picture, which opened in 1888. Rattenbury designed the addition to the south down Granville Street (you can just see it behind the main building). He then designed another addition to the west, in an Italienate style. It was only partly built, and when the second hotel was completed in 1913-16 it was incorporated into the final building.

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