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The Sun Tower, 128 West Pender St. I took this photograph from the vantage point of Victory Square.

For my latest venture beyond the garden gate, I travelled downtown via transit, in search of vintage buildings.

Much as I sometimes lament the rapid growth and “development” in the city of Vancouver, I need to remember that everything changes! With citizen input and the ongoing work of city planners (some of whom actually listen to our ideas), these changes thankfully include the preservation of some wonderful buildings from bygone eras.

Today’s quotation:

Let us then understand at once that change or variety is as much a necessity to the human heart and brain in buildings as in books; that there is no merit, though there is some occasional use in monotony; and that we must no more expect to derive either pleasure or profit from an architecture whose ornaments are of one pattern, and whose pillars are of one proportion, than we should out of a universe in which the clouds were all of one shape, and the trees all of one size.

–John Ruskin, (1819-1900), from: “The Nature of Gothic” first published in The Stones of Venice, Vol. 2, 1853

Ever since Vancouver was incorporated as a city in 1886, thousands of buildings have come and gone, many of them understandably so. However, I feel gratitude whenever a beautiful piece of architecture is preserved rather than being torn down. Although I agree with Ruskin’s ideas in the above quotation, that architecture and design evolve over the years, I still appreciate being able to enjoy Vancouver’s older buildings. Tucked in between the modern towers, our vintage structures remind us of the passage of time, and of the inevitability of change!

Here are a few of my favourites:

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Vancouver Art Gallery, 750 Hornby St.

The above photograph shows the former entrance of the Provincial Court House building on West Georgia St., between Howe and Hornby Streets. Now housing the Vancouver Art Gallery, it was built in 1906, and is a Neo-Classical structure. It was designed by Victoria architect Sir Francis Mawson Rattenbury (1867-1935), who also designed Victoria’s Legislative Assembly buildings and that city’s Empress Hotel.

A land exchange took place in 1974 between the province of B.C. and the city of Vancouver, in which the City acquired a 99 year lease on the courthouse building. Construction began in 1981 on the $20 million re-design of the building, with Vancouver-based Arthur Erickson Architects at the helm. This was part of the three block development called Robson Square.

In October 1983, the new Vancouver Art Gallery opened to the public. Now, in 2019, the City is planning to move our beloved VAG to a new location, in a new building.

For me, the present VAG is a treasure, both in design and accessibility. Robson Square and the gallery represent the heart of our city. I do hope this precious gathering place can be retained, even if and when the gallery itself is moved.

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Hotel Vancouver, 900 West Georgia St.

It’s huge, imposing, and is a central focal point in the city’s downtown. I love the Hotel Vancouver. It’s such an elegant old building. There are even sculpted griffins on the corners, watching over the downtown bustle! I took this photo from across the street, while standing on the steps of Christ Church Cathedral, at the corner of Burrard and Georgia Streets. Years ago, that magnificent old church was almost demolished, but thankfully thousands of people protested, and it’s been saved. Notice its slate roof, (far left on the photo, above the cross).

Opened in 1939, this is actually the third “Hotel Vancouver”, and is currently called Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. It took eleven years to build, because construction was halted for five years during the Great Depression. Begun by the CNR (Canadian National Railway), and completed jointly with the CPR (Canadian Pacific Railway), the hotel was considered a miracle of construction and engineering. It is seventeen stories tall, and was designed by architects Archibald and Schofield.

https://www.fairmont.com/hotel-vancouver/hotel-history/

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The Sun Tower, 128 West Pender St.

At 82 meters tall, the Sun Tower was at one time the tallest building in the British Empire. Designed by architect William Tuff Whiteway, it was completed in 1912, and was originally the home of the Vancouver World newspaper. It was first called the World Building, then renamed the Bekins Building, and finally The Sun Tower, and was HQ of the Vancouver Sun newspaper for many years. From 1968 to 1996 it was occupied by the Geological Society of Canada. The dome stands out even today, due to its distinctive faux aged copper colour of pale turquoise. Because it is currently encased in scaffolding due to conservation work, I decided to let this unique building peek out from behind trees in Victory Square.

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Hudson’s Bay department store, 674 Granville St.

The Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) has a very long history here in Canada. But that’s a story for another blog post!

Here in Vancouver, the first store opened in 1887, on Cordova St., following the arrival of the CPR (Canadian Pacific Railway) here on the west coast of Canada.  The present store, situated at the corner of West Georgia and Granville Streets, is actually the fourth HBC store in town. Designed by architects Burke, Horwood & White in the Edwardian style, it was opened in 1914, and has been through various phases of expansion and structural changes over the years. Stretching from Granville St. eastward to Seymour St., this handsome building is another of Vancouver’s treasures.

As far back as I can remember, I’ve been going to The Bay, as it’s called by locals, and it really hasn’t changed inside all that much! Beginning in the late 1940’s, I went shopping there with my mom, and am pretty sure that this is where my old photos with Santa Claus were taken!  And of course, the HBC store has always provided cafeterias for customers. They used to be more elaborate, but everything changes!

Here’s a link to the Hudson’s Bay Company store’s history in Vancouver:

http://www.hbcheritage.ca/places/places-other-institutions/vancouver

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The Vancouver Block, 736 Granville St.

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Trusty old clock, atop the Vancouver Block, as pictured from the Art Gallery courtyard.

Opened in 1912, The Vancouver Block is a 15 storey Edwardian commercial building designed by the Parr & Fee architectural firm. Near the corner of Granville & Georgia, and situated on the highest point of land in downtown Vancouver, the Vancouver Block sat at the commercial core of early Vancouver. The beautiful clock on top of the building is visible for miles around. At least it used to be, before the days of high rise towers.

Here’s a link:

https://www.historicplaces.ca/en/rep-reg/place-lieu.aspx?id=10821&pid=0

As a teenager back in the early 1960’s, I had one of my first part time jobs in this building. It was a brief stint during the summer holidays, answering the office phone and making appointments for a holidaying dentist. I babysat for his kids regularly. I vividly remember going up to his office in the elevator, past the shiny brass and polished wood of the building’s lobby. The elevator had a real live person as the operator, naturally!

Another of my part time jobs as a teen was in a pharmacy just around the corner from the Vancouver Block, next to the Strand Theatre on West Georgia St. A school friend of mine (thanks, Mary!) got me that job, which entailed writing out invoices, addressing envelopes, and mailing them. An intriguing detail in the pharmacy was a water-filled jar containing live leeches, hearkening back to the days when leeches were used as a medical treatment! Those were the good old days, when life was simpler!;)

***Thanks for reading this blog post, which turned out longer than I had planned. I’ll keep them shorter from now on;). Your interest is much appreciated!***

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Locarno Beach, a good place to slow down and enjoy gazing at the clouds…

It’s OK to “go slow”.

When I was a “youngster”, back in the 1950’s, I spent some time each summer with a friend’s family on the Sunshine Coast here in B.C. It was such a delightful place to visit, where everything seemed magical. Driving along the dusty dirt road to my friend’s grandpa’s place, we would pass a sign on the roadside which always made us laugh. The sign said:

CAMP

GO SLOW

Of course, we called the place “Camp Go Slow”.

Remembering that sign has made me think about the speed at which most of us seem to live today. Not only traffic has speeded up, but the very way in which our minds work is in overdrive. It appears that  moving slowly is not acceptable in 2018, nor is thinking slowly.

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Stopping to notice the sweet scent of a rose, or to look up at the soft white clouds in a pale blue sky would appear to be eccentric behaviour nowadays. What a shame! Our access to myriads of online information at the touch of a finger is filling our brains at breakneck speed. It’s no wonder we can’t remember all of what we’re stuffing into our heads! It doesn’t surprise me that so many people are suffering from anxiety and depression.

We’re even encouraged to walk quickly, cycle, jog, swim, lift weights, anything to get our heart rates up. This is all well and good, but to my mind, not at the expense of our emotional well-being. Finding a balance is key.

Pausing to just breathe, slowing down to notice the beauty that remains in this world can be very healing. Even if I can’t get to the beach, or into the woods, I sometimes just stop and really look at a flower, or a leaf, or a bird or an insect. Nature is amazing!

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White-crowned Sparrow

Getting away from our “screens”, whether it be smart phone, computer or tablet, is such a healthy way to get back into more natural rhythms of living. My own overuse of the computer has led to a gradual decline of noticing what is going on in the real world. By “real world”, I mean whatever bits of “Mother Earth” are left for us to experience in a slow, noticing manner.

Mindfulness meditation is one simple way to slow down and become aware of what’s going on around us. It doesn’t have to be complicated, this type of meditation, nor does it have to be practiced in a rigid way. Simply sitting still, being aware of each out-breath for a short period of time helps to settle our minds. Any activity which absorbs our attention positively can help to centre us, to relieve the need to rush and be “busy”. Raking leaves, painting a picture, knitting something simple, are all examples of ways we can practice “mindfulness”, and achieve a more steady pace of living.

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Crocheting can be a type of meditation:)

Practicing tai chi or yoga can help us to focus, to slow down and just breathe! I’m talking about traditional yoga practice, not one of the speeded up varieties, of course. Although tai chi is a martial art form, the way I practice it is in a slow and mindful manner. This is very calming.

On the cooking front, I may be considered old-fashioned, but rather than using a microwave or any other gadget which speeds up food preparation, I prefer the slow cooking method! Food just tastes better when it’s prepared mindfully, and is probably healthier for us as well.

With climate change forcing us to re-think the way we live on this beautiful earth, I believe it’s time to slow down and actually consider how to do that. How can we learn to (as Graham Saul asks):

“Restore the life support systems of the planet.”

—Graham Saul, environmentalist & Executive Director of Nature Canada

Well, I don’t think that we can help the earth to heal by racing around, “business as usual”, frantically and unthinkingly. It will take time and a great effort from everyone, but I believe positive changes can be made.

Slowing down will help us to once again realize that we humans are a part of the biosphere, part of the web of life!

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Columbine, a self-seeded beauty!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Acer rubrum (Red Maple)

Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower.


—Albert Camus (French novelist, essayist & playwright, 1913-1960)

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Beach Asters

These bright little yellow blooms surprised me one day at the beach. I don’t know how they managed to settle in beside a log, in the sandy soil, far from any garden. Perhaps the wind or a bird carried a seed head to this unlikely spot. I wish I knew the name of this delightful plant! For now, I call them “Beach Asters”. They’re most likely a plant native to our area.

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As seen from the beach, the ever-growing Vancouver city skyline. The shift in seasons could be felt in the air on this September day.

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Ceratostigma plumbaginoides (Chinese Plumbago or Leadwort)

An all-time favourite of mine. Who could ask for more? Green leaves change to burgundy, and blue flowers appear in September.

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Violas…I love them, and plant them every fall. They bloom all through winter, and well into spring, which is a treat! Cheerful little flowers!

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This year’s leaf colours were magnificent! Here are some from Acer rubrum (Red Maple), Acer palmatum (Japanese Maple), and Acer macrophyllum (Broad Leaf Maple). So Canadian!

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Hallowe’en 2018 was a quiet one in our neighbourhood, but it’s always fun!

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Woven twig star in a neighbour’s garden. Can Christmas be far off?

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Acer macrophyllum (Broadleaf Maple, Broad Leaf Maple, Bigleaf Maple, Big-Leaf Maple)

This is a venerable old tree, managing to survive so far on a boulevard. It’s a tree which is native to this part of the world, which makes it an especially important one to protect as part of the inter-connected biosphere (what’s left of it!) Licorice ferns grow from the mossy crevices of its branches, and mosses cling to its trunk.

https://www.for.gov.bc.ca/hfd/library/documents/treebook/bigleafmaple.htm

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Betula (Birch)

A Birch tree at dusk, already ‘bereft’ of all its leaves. This is looking west, towards Pacific Spirit Park and the UBC golf course, where the Pacific Tree Frogs will be chorusing, come April. If you’d like to, you can see my previous post on Pacific Tree Frogs, also known as Pacific Chorus Frogs: https://joiedusoleil.wordpress.com/2015/06/02/urban-trekking-2-frog-songs/

A snippet of the frogs’ chorusing is included in the above link. It’s rare, these days, to hear frog songs in the city!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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At 6:54 p.m., Pacific Daylight Time (PDT) on September 22nd, 2018, Autumnal Equinox will occur here in Vancouver. That’s today! So, I’d like to share a few last photos from the summer of 2018, mostly flowers, of course.

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Michaelmas Daisies (Aster x frikartii “Monch”… possibly)… & Sedum “Autumn Joy”

This intriguing combination created itself in the boulevard garden which I’ve been working on, (“The Verge”, as I’ve taken to calling it) at our daughter’s place. The Aster appeared out of nowhere, and I’m happy with the serendipitous partnership.

Verge: The verge of a road is the narrow strip of grassy ground at the side.

In this case, of course, the grass by the sidewalk has been removed, to be replaced by a variety of perennials and herbs.

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Where the front lawn used to be. Veggies galore! Organic all the way.

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An urban vegetable garden is preferable to a boring lawn, and this one has turned into a real family affair, with everyone pitching in to help. Passersby stop to talk, and the garden helps to create a greater connection to others in the community.

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Phlox paniculata. The fragrance is lovely, bringing back memories of my earliest years of gardening. This perennial has lived through moves from three previous gardens. It’s a survivor!

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On the Great Lawn at VanDusen Botanical Garden. Pure relaxation! (It was a hot day during Vancouver’s summer heat wave.)

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The smoke from wildfires in B.C. was thick for weeks on end this summer. This was the view from Spanish Banks, looking towards Stanley Park. The mountains and the city skyline were invisible, and the air was filled with “particulates”. Climate change is going to force us all to change our ways.

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Hazelnuts in our back garden, on a self-seeded hazel (Corylus) tree. Food for the squirrels. I’ve noticed that they also eat seeds from maple trees, and acorns from oaks, naturally.  Animals are so self-sufficient!

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Our granddaughter picking apples from a neighbourhood tree on the boulevard. Free for the taking! They made great applesauce. (Here’s a hint for making sugar-free applesauce: use the juice from one large, organic orange and a tiny bit of water with your cut up apples. No sugar needed. Simmer gently just until you get the desired consistency. Simply delicious!)

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Organically grown tomatoes and peppers from the back yard greenhouse our son-in-law built. Aren’t they gorgeous?

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Here’s the greenhouse in early summer. The tomato plants eventually grew very tall, and were supported by an ingenious method using thin ropes attached neatly to the ceiling. Cucumbers and green bell peppers shared the space.

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The last roses of summer, just before the rains began. These roses have such a beautiful perfume. They may be Rugosas. I lost the tag during the latest garden move. All six rose bushes came through the move with flying colours, I’m happy to say:)

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Sunset over Bowen Island, looking towards Howe Sound. Photograph taken at my favourite place on the planet: Spanish Banks beach!

Looking forward to Autumn of 2018, here is a haiku by Basho, a Japanese poet who lived from 1644 to 1694:

On a leafless bough

In the gathering autumn dusk:

A solitary crow!

—Basho

And remember:

Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.

—F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Senecio “Sunshine” (aka Brachyglottis)

The above perennial plant is one of my favourites, and I’m thankful that it seems to accept growing in a large container near our front door. I first saw one thriving in a seaside garden at our local beach, Spanish Banks, and fell in love with it. Even the leaves are lovely, being a grey-green shade, with a soft and downy texture.

What a summer we’ve had, with the most wildfires ever recorded in our province of British Columbia. For most of August the entire province was covered in a thick, smoky haze. Even here in Vancouver, for weeks at a time we couldn’t see the mountains clearly. Things are improving now that September has arrived. There are still fires burning, though, and the smell of smoke lingers in the air.

But back to more pleasant memories, which often involve flowers, for me!

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The bees absolutely loved this self-seeded Himalayan blackberry bush, (Rubus), which is growing around a laneway power pole. Even though the experts say that the Himalayan is an invasive species, it does provide food for the bees and other pollinators, then later on masses of berries for anyone passing by.

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Campanula poscharskyana, sharing a space with Red Valerian, Cranesbills, & Bamboo roots (!) in our front garden. Every year, this reliable, “rampant, spreading perennial” returns, with its jaunty mauve-blue flowers. It’s a good ground cover for a wild garden, like mine! The proper name is quite a mouthful. I just call it “Canterbury Bells”.

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Lychnis “Coronaria”, a shameless self-seeder, is spreading itself happily amongst the English Lavender on the boulevard. I admire these hardy volunteers, which take care of themselves so well. This Lychnis is drought-tolerant, and is just wonderfully flamboyant! The flowers were originally pale pink and white, but have reverted to pure white, which I quite like.

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Feverfew (Chrysanthemum parthenium) is such a hardy, cheerful little perennial, but is short-lived, and is usually grown as an annual. It’s a great plant for attracting pesky aphids away from the vegetable patch.

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Masterwort (Astrantia major)…perfection! I love the green-tipped petals.

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A hoverfly busily working with pollen grains on a Lily petal. I wish there was a way to include the heady fragrance of these gorgeous blooms in a blog post!

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And overlooking it all, a Bald Eagle perched on an evergreen tree a few doors up the street. The crows were very perturbed about this!

These photographs were taken with my trusty old Olympus digital camera.

To be continued, with photos from my cell phone…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Birks Building, at West Hastings & Granville Street, built in 1908, was originally a Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

Vancouver, a modern and growing city, is home to an increasing number of stark-looking concrete and glass structures which, it seems to me, are lacking in beauty. With this in mind, I decided to embark on yet another “Urban Trekking” mission, in order to discover some of our oldest, most imposing buildings in the downtown core.

At the south east corner of West Hastings & Granville Street, I spotted what is now called The Birks Building, housing Vancouver’s venerable jewellery store, which we’ve always called simply “Birks”. This store was formerly at the corner of Granville and Georgia Street, in a lovely old building which has since been demolished.

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The Birks Clock, on Granville Street at West Hastings.

The famous “Birks Clock” was moved to its present location in front of the store when Birks  moved north a few blocks. Many Vancouverites, (myself included!) were relieved that this iconic clock was saved. For years, it had been a special place for friends to meet each other downtown. “I’ll meet you under the Birks clock”, we’d say, when planning a get-together.

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The Sinclair Centre, on West Hastings, at the North West corner of  Granville & Hastings.

The Sinclair Centre is actually four historical buildings which were joined and renovated in 1986. One of them is the Winch Building, built from 1908 to 1911. There is a bright and welcoming atrium in the middle of the complex.

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Sinclair Centre (please note: Canadian spelling of “Centre”. Merci beaucoup!)

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The Permanent Building, 330 West Pender Street. Gorgeous doorway. They don’t make doors like this any more!

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This was a delightful find! Especially on the grey, worn streets of downtown, it’s always a treat to discover something beautiful. Someone cared enough to use their imagination in creating this small but lovely “tableau” of living plants and a wrought iron gate. I think this is on the south side of West Pender Street, near Granville. (Note the padlocks!)

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The Dominion Building, (terracotta colour), at 207 West Hastings Street, as seen from the corner of Hastings & Homer. Built in 1910, this was Vancouver’s first steel-framed high-rise.

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Ceiling lights and decoration on the outside entrance of the Dominion Building.

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Pink Alleyway!! between Granville & Seymour Streets, just to the south of Hastings.

On the day I took this photo, there was a lively “Public Disco” event taking place.

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Inside the amazing Paper Hound Bookshop, on West Pender Street. Not just any old second hand bookstore, this one has a great selection of carefully chosen and  nicely displayed books. Notice the original brick wall, which was uncovered during restoration.

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Vintage sign discovered underneath the plaster on the wall of the present-day Lola & Miguel store on Pender St., in Gastown, during renovations. The Daily World was a newspaper published in Vancouver in the early 1900’s.

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Another original brick wall in Gastown, in The Old Faithful Shop, on West Cordova Street, decorated with a vintage Canadian canoe!

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Waterfront Station on West Cordova Street, in Gastown. Northern terminus of the Canada Line, dock and station of the Sea Bus to North Vancouver, and as you can see, a cruise ship is in port! Also the terminus for The Expo Line and the West Coast Express train.

Originally built by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) as the Pacific terminus for their transcontinental passenger trains from Toronto and Montreal, the station was opened in 1914.

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Angel of Victory”, statue of a fallen soldier and angel, at Waterfront Station in Gastown.

Created by Montreal sculptor Coeur deLion McCarthy, this bronze copy of the original dates from 1921.

Just to the right of the building in this photograph, you’ll see two lovely trees. Yes, we have Palm trees in Vancouver. This is the mild and temperate Pacific Coast, after all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Marine Building in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Canada.
My favourite heritage building in our home town. Re-blogging!

Joie du Soleil

The Marine Building The Marine Building

Located at 355 Burrard St. in downtown Vancouver, the Marine Building was designed by McCarter, Nairne and Partners in the late 1920’s. An elegant old “skyscraper”, its distinctive “Art Deco” styling depicts maritime themes as well as B.C.’s nautical flora and fauna.

As a child, I thought the creamy-coloured Art Deco details resembled icing on a cake, when viewed from a distance. Opened in October, 1930, this was the tallest building in Vancouver until 1939.

I am so thankful that the beautiful Marine Building remains standing in the downtown core. Being a young city, Vancouver does not have the historical old structures that European cities do. Many of our older buildings, which dated back just over half a century or even less, have been demolished already. With the constant threat of a major earthquake in this region, city planners are advocating replacing existing old buildings with quake-proof…

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