Portion of a rendering of the Hotel Vancouver (1916) by Francis S. Swales, architect. Preliminary perspective drawing by H.C. Wilkinson, retouched by Francis S. Swales. From an article in Pencil Points magazine (September, 1930) dedicated to Francis S. Swales, the work is further described…
…as being the earliest modern set back building, designed in 1911. The drawing was done in pencil on mounted Steinbach paper and rendered with water color. The portion reproduced measured 8¾” x 11 on the original while the whole drawing measured 34” x 26”. It is seldom that we see today such care expended in drawing the detail on a building.
Alas, if we could only see this entire rendering in colour—spectacular! It was truly the grandest hotel we ever had in this town. Speaking of Grand Hotels, you have one more full week of the Grand Hotel exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery, which closes on September 15th, 2013.
You can see the full rendering of the hotel in this previous post, printed in the August 1916 issue of The Architect. Sadly, this magazine was only produced in black and white. It is unknown if the original presentation drawing survived, though it did last until at least 1930 when this colour detail was printed. The third image above does show a postcard with the same perspective, but it has been completely recoloured and lacks the subtlety of the original. I did discover that the Library and Archives Canada has a negative of this image, which I thought may have been acquired via the CN Archives, but instead it appeared in the Albertype Company fonds:
Albertype Company, a postcard factory in New York, New York, was established in 1938 on the site of what was originally the 1846 First Free Congregational Church, and later the African Wesleyan Methodist Episcopal Church, a major stop on the Underground Railroad in the 1860’s…Material was acquired in 1968 from Miss Edith G. Firth of the Toronto Public Library, Baldwin Room, College and George St., Toronto, Ontario.
I’m thankful for all the archival materials relating to the hotel that have been preserved to date, but I’m surprised there isn’t more available on such a prominent building and architect. The CPR Archives seem to have very little material on this hotel. To rectify this, I’d like to start with an excerpt from the above mentioned Pencil Points article, providing some insight into the life of the architect Francis Swales:
Francis S. Swales, born in Canada of American parents, was reared and educated in the United States. Heredity and environment formed a uniquely favorable background for the rapid development of his natural talents in the field of architecture. His father, a building contractor of the old school, kept a joinery shop in the rear of the Swales home in Buffalo. Here old white-bearded English craftsmen and artists executed fine interior woodwork from architects’ drawings and details. Constant contact with these activities from infancy made the keen young Swales so familiar with the various phases of the craft that at the age of eight years, he was quite capable of reading and interpreting all types of drawings of carpentry, joinery, and building construction. Steel was just the beginning to supplant wrought iron structurally and Mr. Swales can still recall how the various members had to be colored for identification—red for wrought iron and blue for steel. As far back as he can remember, architectural magazines came to his home and he followed the usual bent of children by copying their illustrations. Probably by reason of environment his interest did not wane; his efforts were continuous and his ability to draw grew apace…
The entire article is rich with details and anecdotes, It’s one of those great little hidden gems that deserves to be shared and rediscovered. That’s why I plan on donating a copy of this magazine to the Vancouver Archives in the near future. Update! I also scanned the whole article! Stay tuned VanArchives; I’m saving it for you! Cross-posted with alternate text to VancouverIsAwesome.com