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Vancouver Icons: Vancouver City Hall History


Thursday, March 10th, 2016 — 9:43am PDT
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Vancouver has had a few city hall buildings; the first was a draped tent at the old Granville Townsite (1886) at the foot of Carrall St after the Great Fire. The first real structure was a building on Powell St, followed by a building on Main St just south of the Carnegie Library. The Holden Building at 16 E Hastings was home to city council until 1936. Our current art deco tower, adorned with an iconic neon clock, was first occupied by Mayor George Clark Miller in 1937.

Vancouver City Hall


1886: City Hall and 1st Council. Photograph taken in September, after the City of Vancouver was incorporated on April 6, 1886. Archives# LGN 1045.


1893. City Hall on Powell St. Archives# City P54.

VancouverCityHal-OldMarketHall
1928. Vancouver City Hall (old market hall) on Main St. Archives# CVA 1376-88.


1910s. City Hall and the Carnegie Library on Main at Hastings. Archives# CVA 677-655. Photographer: Philip T. Timms.

In 1934, Mayor Gerry McGeer appointed a three-man committee to select the location for a new city hall. There were two locations being considered: The former Central School site at Victory Square and Strathcona Park at the corner of Cambie and West 12th. A three-man committee decided on Strathcona Park in 1935, making Vancouver the first Canadian city to locate their city hall outside of its downtown core.

This move proved to be rather strategic, since at the time Vancouver and South Vancouver had just recently become one city. It was just a few years earlier, in 1929, that Point Grey (another stand-alone community) and South Vancouver amalgamated with Vancouver.


1946. Archives# CVA 586-4387.

City Hall was built between 1935 and 1936 for a total cost of $1 million, designed by architect Fred Townley and Matheson, built by Carter, Halls, Aldinger and Company. At its highest point, 12 storeys up, it is 323 feet tall.


1945. Aerial photo of Vancouver City Hall. Archives# City P45.


1970s. Aerial photo of Vancouver City Hall by Gordon Sayle. Archives# CVA 515-19.

The 4 storey east wing was built in 1968, and there’s talk of it being demolished in the near future — staff moved out of the east wing in 2015.

Vancouver, BC

Vancouver City Hall

George Vancouver at City Hall

Vancouver City Hall

Vancouver City Hall ~ Vancouver, BC

Other Vancouver Icons posts: BC Sugar, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, Museum of Anthropology, Fort Langley Community Hall, Christ Church Cathedral, Waterfront Station, Pacific Central Station, Randall Building Mural, East Van Cross, Robert Burns Statue in Stanley Park, Vancouver Maritime Museum, Flack Block, The Drop, Prospect Point Lighthouse, Engagement, Ovaltine Cafe, The English Bay Slide, Freezing Water #7, Cleveland Dam, Heritage Hall, School of Theology Building at UBC, Gate to the Northwest Passage, St Paul’s Hospital, Capilano Lake, Stawamus Chief, Nine O’Clock Gun, Malkin Bowl, Search, Vancouver Rowing Club, Echoes, Point Atkinson Lighthouse, English Bay Inukshuk, Hollow Tree, Hotel Europe, Lions Gate Bridge Lions, LightShed, Granville Bridge, 217.5 Arc x 13′, Canoe Bridge, Vancouver Block, Bloedel Conservatory, Centennial Rocket, Canada Place, Old Courthouse/Vancouver Art Gallery, Dominion Building, Science World, Gastown Steam Clock, SFU Burnaby, Commodore Lanes, Siwash Rock, Kitsilano Pool, White Rock Pier, Main Post Office, Planetarium Building, Lord Stanley Statue, Vancouver Library Central Branch, Victory Square, Digital Orca, The Crab Sculpture, Girl in Wetsuit, The Sun Tower, The Hotel Vancouver, The Gassy Jack Statue, The Marine Building, and The Angel of Victory. Should you have a suggestion for the Vancouver Icons series please feel free to leave a note in the comments. It should be a thing, statue, or place that is very visible and recognizable to the public.

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