The Second Hotel Vancouver

Comments 2 by Rebecca Bollwitt

It’s one of Vancouver’s lost landmarks and all that remains are pieces of its opulent interior, which can be found in antique shops or repurposed home decor, occasionally unbeknownst to the homeowner. From 1916 to 1949, the Second Hotel Vancouver stood on West Georgia Street between Howe and Granville. Built in a grand Italianate revival style, it was considered one of the great hotels of the British Empire.


1917. Second Hotel Vancouver. Georgia and Granville. Photographer: Philip Timms. Archives# CVA 677-21.

The First Hotel Vancouver

The first Hotel Vancouver, that opened in 1888, was rather utilitarian at first. It was also on the corner of Granville and Georgia. According to Fairmont, it was “a five-story, brick structure that looked and functioned much like a farmhouse.” In 1893, new Van Horne Wing on Granville was built, and another wing was added in 1904.

1890s. Georgia and Granville. First Hotel Vancouver. Archives# M-3-8.3.

In 1910 the CPR excavated on Howe Street and in early 1911 built Honeyman and Curtis’s Annex. Meanwhile, at the end of 1910 the new CPR architect W S Painter obtained a building permit for $2,000,000 for an ‘Addition to hotel’. In January 1912 it was reported that a $1,000,000 14-storey replacement hotel would be built for the CPR. It wouldn’t just fill the Granville and Georgia corner, it filled the block all the way back to Robson and Howe. [Source: Changing Vancouver]

The Second Hotel Vancouver

The Canadian Pacific Railway built the hotel, with tiers that stepped up to a central section, from 7 to 10 and finally 16 storeys, with architect Francis S. Swales between 1912 and 1916. It was the most remarkable and expensive building that the city had seen, according to Changing Vancouver. “When completed the hotel, it is said, will have the largest ground floor corridors of any hotel in existence.”

Features included arched windows, castle-like turrets and a 14th floor that was adorned with eight-foot tall terra cotta moose and buffalo head sculptures. Gargoyles, Canadian-style. The hotel was big, with 700 rooms, several dining rooms, two ballrooms, a billiard room, shops and offices. And it was a study in elegance, from its three-storey entrance portico to its renowned rooftop garden. [Source: Vancouver Sun]

1914. Upper floors under construction. Archives# Hot P55.3.


1923. Photographer: Philip Timms. Archives# CVA 677-951.

1929. Photographer: Leonard Frank. Archives# Van Sc P63.5.

1910s. Driveway of the Second Hotel Vancouver. Archives# CVA 677-534.

1927. Georgia and Hornby. Archives# Str N202. Click to see 2016 view.

It was where dignitaries and stars of the silver screen stayed in Vancouver, and where locals enjoyed rooftop dining and dancing.

1920. Corner of Georgie and Hornby. Archives# CVA 371-884.

Just imagine Georgia and Granville back then: The Hudson’s Bay Building, Birks Building, Vancouver Block, and the Hotel Vancouver. Attached to the hotel was the Vancouver Opera House, later the Lyric Theatre, and the Orpheum down the block.


(Left) 1917 Photographer: F. Gowen. Archives# CVA 677-170. (Right) 2014 Photographer Steve Vanderwoerd. View from Robson Street. Click to view large.

“It was beautiful and grand,” Dal Richards, Vancouver’s late, great, King of Swing, once told the Vancouver Sun: “They had a Crystal Ballroom, adjoined by what they called Peacock Alley, which was a broad entrance hall that went down the full length of the ballroom. It had antique furniture, oriental rugs and all that sort of thing, brass railings. Below that, in the lower level, dancing all year was done in what was called the Spanish Grill. That was the nightclub of the hotel, that’s where the orchestras played.”

If it had survived, this Hotel Vancouver would now be the place to stay in town, a heritage hotel to rank with The Empress in Victoria or The Palace in San Francisco. But it was killed by the falling fortunes of its owner, the Canadian Pacific Railway. [Source: Vancouver Sun]

On May 24th, 1939 the second Hotel Vancouver closed, when the third was opened.

1949 second hotel vancouver demolition
1949 – Demolition of the Second Hotel Vancouver. VPL # 42396

Architectural historian Harold Kalman says in the The History of Metropolitan Vancouver: “Delayed by the Depression, it [the third Hotel Vancouver] was rushed to completion in 1939 for the Royal Visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. The rival CPR co-operatively closed its own, earlier, Hotel Vancouver (two blocks east), lent the name, and entered into a joint management contract.”

1939. View of the Second from the Third (current) Hotel Vancouver along Georgia. Archives# CVA 1376-154.


1916. The Second Hotel Vancouver’s rooftop garden. Photographer:Canadian Photo Co. Archives #PAN N120A.

1939. View down Georgia of Birks Building, Second Hotel Vancouver, Third Hotel Vancouver. Photographer: Leonard Frank. Archives #LP 159.

1949. View of the demolition of the Second Hotel Vancouver from what is now the art gallery. Hudsons’s Bay Building, Birks Building, and Vancouver Block in the background. Photographer: Walter E. Frost. Archives #CVA 447-60.

With no one willing to buy and rehabilitate the 1916 hotel, it was demolished in 1949. “In its last years,” writes Chuck Davis, “it served as army barracks during WWII,and then housed veterans, who squatted during a housing crunch.”

1969. Looking at a vacant Georgia and Howe from the Hotel Georgia. Click to see 2016 view. Photographer: Ernie H. Reksten. Archives# 2010-006.091.

Nothing, except for a parking lot, would occupy that valuable piece of prime Vancouver real estate until the TD Tower and Eaton’s Centre were built in the 1972.

Related Posts: Third Hotel Vancouver, Hudson’s Bay Building, Birks Building, VancouverBlock, Georgia Medical-Dental Building, Construction GIFs.

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2 Comments  —  Comments Are Closed

  1. Dana DunhamSaturday, January 30th, 2016 — 7:45am PST


    I have a desk and chair, art-deco 1937-39, number #52. I’m looking for photo’s of art-deco desks that may have been in Hotel Vancouver.

    Thank you,
    Dana Dunham

  2. Alan CumberlidgeTuesday, February 2nd, 2016 — 12:01pm PST

    I have noticed the narrow building at the SW corner with the tall smoke stack. I wander if that was one of the local power station and central heat. Alan C.

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