While our Spacing Vancouver contributors continue their well-deserved break, we would like to take the opportunity highlight some of our most popular posts from 2012. Each day this week, we will be posting some of our favourite posts from last year.
A City that Runs on Itself
Originally posted by Eve Lazarus on April 3, 2012
A few weeks ago I was standing on the 11th floor of the Dominion Building looking down its spiral staircase and thinking about architect John Shaw Helyer.
Helyer designed the 1910 building and then supposedly committed suicide by throwing himself down those same stairs at the building’s grand opening.
It’s quite a story, it’s just not true. Helyer died from a stroke in 1919.
But just because that’s an urban myth, it doesn’t mean the building hasn’t its own great story. For starters this overdressed red brick and yellow terra cotta structure with its oddly shaped beaux-arts roof comes from a time when architectural sculpture helped shape Vancouver. One writer called it a 19th century Parisian townhouse that should be one storey high, stretched up into an eccentric skyscraper.
It’s this eccentricity that I love about the building, that and the way it dominates the corner of Hastings and Cambie. It’s a reminder that this part of the city was once the heart of Vancouver with the Woodward’s building to the east, a couple of newspapers and department stores within walking distance, and the original law courts across the road where Victory Square now sits. We know Victory Square for the Remembrance Day ceremony, but when Mayor Gerry McGeer read the riot act to 4,000 unemployed workers in 1935; it was here where they gathered to protest.