Perhaps the greatest undersold development proposal in the history of Vancouver, here we have uncovered the plans that may have been pitched to the CNR suggesting what they could do with block 52 and the former CPR Hotel Vancouver. I’m reblogging this via pasttensevancouver, with additional images showing a detail of both the old Hotel Vancouver and this proposed perspective drawing from the Library and Archives Canada:
Perspective sketch of remodelling of the old Hotel Vancouver, Wednesday 12 July 1939
Nineteen thirty-nine was the year the current Hotel Vancouver opened and the fate of the much cooler old one would be undecided until after the war when Eaton’s ripped it down for a parking lot where they built their flag ship store a couple of decades later. Had it gone ahead, I believe this building would have consisted of retail stores below a parking garage.
UPDATE: This and other proposed structures that never materialized in Vancouver are part of a show opening today at the Museum of Vancouver called Vancouver Imagined: The Way We Weren’t, curated by Jason Vanderhill of Illustrated Vancouver fame.
Source: Watercolor by P Henderson for the Canadian National Railway, Library and Archives Canada #2963055
I was very interested to include this particular drawing for a number of reasons. It highlighted some key themes in my show; it delves into the question of attribution, it adds detail to the story of the unbuilt city where documentation is often scarce, and it tells the tale of a single drawing which found its way into the National Library and Archives.
First and foremost, I had been searching for any and all information regarding P. Henderson who sketched another one of the presentation drawings in my show. This drew me to the collectionscanada.gc.ca URL which described the drawing, but it had not yet been scanned. I commissioned a scan of the drawing through the Archives website, and was quite surprised to see the result. I’m not sure if the city has ever seen such an uninspiring proposition. The drawing may have been forgotten as quickly as it was drawn, but I’m glad it found its way into our National Archives through a donation from the Canadian National Railways collection.
Though I encountered very little additional information regarding P. Henderson, I was able to determine his first name. Peter Henderson is listed as an architect in both the 1939 Montreal directory and in the book Dear Nan: Letters of Emily Carr, Nan Cheney, and Humphrey Toms by Doreen Walker. I can’t provide extensive biographical details regarding his career (beyond the fact that he was working for the CNR’s architect at the time, John Schofield), but I did learn he was also in charge of art commissions and purchases for the CNR hotel. It seems he had some good taste, as he intended to purchase at least one of Emily Carr’s paintings!
My biggest regret with respect to these drawings is the fate of the original H.C. Wilkinson watercolour retouched by architect Francis S. Swales, which I have featured here before. Where has this original drawing gone? I don’t know if it has been seen since it appeared in the September 1930 issue of Pencil Points, but I hope one day it is rediscovered and properly preserved. Special thanks to the Library and Archives Canada and the Canadian Architecture Collection at McGill University for their contributions to this post.
And so, you now have the back story to one of the featured drawings in my new show at the Museum of Vancouver. There are lots more stories to uncover with respect to Vancouver Imagined; I hope you get to see the show in person!
Cross-posted to Vancouverisawesome.com with alternate text.