The Spiro Tower, seen above in a period flyer via Emporis.com. I don’t normally feature photographs, but in this case, given the relative obscurity of this item, I’m including anything I can gather! Facts about the tower, built 1968, demolished 1979, from Emporis:
- Diameter of tower: 8 feet 2 inches.
- Capacity of gondola: 60 persons.
- Traveling speed: 295 feet per minute.
- Rotations of gondola per trip: 3.
- The tower was Swiss design and manufactured and imported from West Germany.
- Built by Mercedes-Benz who placed their logo on the top at installation (removed later for advertising space).
- Tower was located just inside the main Playland entrance gate on Hastings Street.
- The structure’s purpose during its 11 year existence was as an observation tower/amusement ride.
- Traveling height of the 2-level cabin: 216 feet.
- Tower was opened the same year Spiro Agnew was elected US Vice President (Richard Nixon’s running mate), so many people mispronounced its name as SPEAR-RO Tower instead of SPY-RO.
Also seen above is page 165 of 100 Years of Fun, the retrospective book on the PNE. The PNE sent me some additional images, including their 1968 Annual Report which featured the tower on the front cover. From this annual report, the footnote text on the back cover stated:
A spectacular 300-foot high elevator ride into space was the exciting high point for visitors to Playland during the 1968 Pacific National Exhibition. Gently rotating three times on the way up and down, the picture windows allowed each passenger an uninterrupted panoramic view of not only the 184 “Acres of Fun”, but of the most beautiful city in Canada—from atop the new, exciting and unique Spiro-Tower.
There’s got to be more great photos of this tower/from this tower in your parents and grandparents photo albums! Here’s a great panoramic shot from Harold H Johnston for instance. Keep an eye out for them, and post them soon!
I’ve posted these photos from 1969 previously, but I think it’s worth a repost. On the left, we have the photographs of Nicholas Russell from 1969, showing the demolition of the Lyric Theatre (the former Vancouver Opera House, among other names over the years). The demolition crew creatively used the historic theatre backdrops as demolition curtains, enough to make any heritage advocate cringe! On the right, I’ve photographed the former Sears building, with mesh netting just recently applied, during the demolition of the building’s facade. I missed my chance to shoot right through the building before the netting was installed, but then the idea struck me to feature a little ‘then and now’. It’s also hard to get the precise identical angles as the scale of the buildings are so dramatically different, but I’m happy with the result. I’m also extraordinarily grateful for folks like Nicholas Russell for documenting the evolving landscape of our city when it was still relatively uncommon to do so. The three 1969 photos are courtesy of the Vancouver Archives [one two three]; my photos are on flickr.
There’s still an opportunity for someone to photograph the building from the other side of the block!
An etching of the Spencer’s building, from a letter to the Windsor Hotel, New Westminster dated September 8, 1942. Here you can see the actual building very much as it appears today. By contrast, you may recall the proposed structure I featured twice before which would have overtaken the entire block. Changing Vancouver delves into this aspect of the story here.
And one final bit of Spencer’s lore, here are two of my favourite bits of vintage Vancouver motion picture. Part 1 and part 2 of the Spencer’s Christmas parade believed to be from 1927, from the Colonel Victor Spencer family fonds at the Vancouver Archives.
artists against artists - 2011 dtes woman’s housing march, a monochromatic painting mounted to the construction wall right in front of the former Pantages Theatre on Hastings Street. More photos from the walk here.
A few more closeups of the great Vancouver Paint-in from VanArchives. The last painting here is by prolific folk artist Gordon Kit Thorne; the other works appear to be unsigned. In Gordon’s painting, he has painted a garden scene with flowering cherry trees, with the words “Gone but not FORGOTTEN”. He appears to be lamenting the loss of some cherry trees located in front of the art gallery, before the fountain was installed (you can see the Hotel Georgia in the background). For further reading, see Carol DeFina’s fairly extensive history of Vancouver’s cherry trees for the Vancouver Park Board, posted on the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival website.
The Big Paint-In, Thursday 7 April 1966
Source: Photo by Ernie H Reksten, City of Vancouver Archives #2010-006.073
I always like seeing colour images of the Paint-in, and I didn’t realize there was such a big series at the VanArchives. I posted the cover of Vancouver Life magazine to Twitter a little over a year ago, but thought I’d put that on flickr as well.
Jes Odam reported that up to 100 artists were involved painting 130 panels, specifically mentioning Bernhard Thor, Joy Caros and student Linda Hately. In addition, I’ve compiled a list of the names that I can read from the signatures on the paintings themselves. As far as I can tell, they are:
- Bernhard Thor
- Joy Caros
- Linda Hately
- A Longcake
- H Halliday
- G E Brown
- Joan Foster
- K Smith
- Gordon Kit Thorne
- Frank Lewis
- Saunder Gee
- R Smith
- J Dives
- J Wilkinson
- J Burn and Timi S? Courtesy C-FUN
- Peter Hurvik?
- N Seidl & H J Seidl
- Lesley June?
- Mario Fanzone
- Weldors? (sculpture)
Feel free to comment if someone you know painted one of these murals!
The Stampeders Quadraconcert 75, a music poster from the PNE Gardens, via ebay. This poster has been digitally reassembled to produce a simulated facsimile of what the poster might have looked like, circa October 11, 1975. Joining the Stampeders were the Incredible Laughing Band and Thundermug to create a 3 group 12 man rock concert grand finale. Please note that tickets [were] available at the Coggery (130 Water Street in Gastown) or the Woodwards Concert Box Office (or were they the same thing?) This poster is listed on ebay for $49 or best offer. While it may not represent the highest achievement in illustrative art, it does sum up the 70s quite nicely.
Menus from days gone by, via the MoV. The Chilco Grill, the Lux Café, the Senator Grill, the Press Club, all circa 1948-1952, donated to the Museum of Vancouver by Mr. Sonny Farrington. About Sonny, from the items’ description:
Sonny Farrington b. 1923 in Flin Flon, Manitoba, moved to Vancouver in 1942 with his parents. The family lived at 11th Avenue and Yukon, and Sonny attended Edith Cavell Elementary School (where Pal’s Café was his favourite hang-out) and then King Edward High School. In 1945, Sonny’s mother got a job as a cook at Cunningham’s Grill in Union Market, and Sonny often stopped by there for a meal. Between ages 15 and 20, Sonny went to weekend Teen Town dances, and went out afterwards for something to eat. Many of these menus were obtained on such occasions. Many menus have thumbtack holes in them, where the donor displayed them on a wall or bulletin board…
As far as the Chilco Grill is concerned, Neil Whaley informs me that 710 Chilco Street (now a completely different residential tower built in the late 1950s) actually overlooked Lost Lagoon. The Lux Café, aka the House of Luxury at 616 Robson Street boasted “We Never Close”, proving Vancouver once knew how to party! The Senator Grill Soda Fountain was located at Cambie Street and 25th (King Edward Avenue). And the Press Club was situated at 548 Cambie Street Vancouver, not guaranteed to be politically correct! Thanks to Sonny for donating this remarkable collection to the Museum of Vancouver!
Ladies Parlor of the Castle Hotel, a vintage postcard-like image via Glen A Mofford’s outstanding collection of hotel and beer parlour ephemera on flickr. This photograph shows a series of large scale murals above each booth, which I presume to be paintings they but could also be tapestries? I do suspect these are original art and not merely reproductions or wallpaper. I have never seen this interior before and it looks to be phenomenal!
This hotel was once located at 750 Granville Street tucked in next to the Vancouver Block, and it operated at that location from 1915-1990. Previously it was known as the Windsor Hotel which operated from 1888-1914. This postcard image is circa 1930, and it appears to mix art deco styles with some very organic folk art, creating quite a contemporary visual feast. It must have been spectacular to see in colour! This would have been such a great place to hang out after a show across the street during any of these eras: the old Opera House (1891), the Orpheum [#3] (1913), Loew’s Vaudeville (1914), the Orpheum [again, this time owned by the Orpheum Circuit] (1915), Vancouver Theatre (1927), Lyric Theatre (1935), International Cinema (1948), and Lyric Theatre again (c.1965-1969).
If anyone ever finds any further documentation surrounding these murals or the artist responsible, please leave a comment! I stretched a few of the panels for a simulated view of the art, but it is very difficult to reconstruct at this dramatic angle. It also appears to me that there are at least 8 large scale panels on the right hand side, with at least 3 more on the left, possibly with room for 4 or 5 more on the left! Conceivably, there could be as many as 16 original panels in this room - astonishing.
For more ephemera related to Beer Parlours and the Castle Hotel, see Glen’s additional posts on flickr. Thanks to Tom Carter for assistance clarifying the complicated theatre chronology above! The years listed above roughly indicates the year the name changed. Furthermore, between the last name change, the theatre was actually turned into a bank for a while! Alas, if only I could find a time machine, this would be the first block I visit!
The 1919 Vancouver Millionaires [simulated] hockey cards, caricatures by Hal, via the VanArchives. Although I’d like to pretend that I found these pressed between the pages of an old encyclopedia, I admit they are pure Photoshop fabrications, mocked up with a free paper background courtesy of psdGraphics. The original artwork was photographed by Stuart Thomson, and I imagine they were intended to be published in some form, perhaps even as trading cards. Here’s Stuart’s bio, from the VanArchives:
Stuart Thomson was born in Hampstead, England, in 1881. Trained as a railway worker, he emigrated to Vancouver in 1910. He took up amateur photography but soon embarked upon a career as a commercial and press photographer. During the 1920s, he contributed to three daily Vancouver newspapers but relied more on commercial work by the 1930s. He died in 1960.
Stuart Thomson sold his negatives to the Vancouver Sun newspaper in 1954. The Vancouver Sun newspaper donated them to the archives in 1963.
Little else is known about the artist Hal; if you have any info about him, please feel free to add a comment! Thanks!
Five Trips of Scenic Wonder Around Vancouver, a Home Gas pamphlet recently sold on ebay via seller canadianpacific77. The cover appears to be signed by “RAM”, but given this is a very early brochure, I have no other knowledge of his work. A fine pamphlet of one of Vancouver’s early home grown industries.
TED2014 masthead, via TED.com. Coming next year.