Behind this facade at Bidwell and Davie, a 21 storey tower, the Alexandra, will soon be constructed.
The tower greatly exceeds the usual height and density allowed in the area, but the developer has been able to circumvent the zoning by-laws due to the City of Vancouver’s STIR program – designed “to develop new rental housing stock in the short-term to assist with housing affordability.”
What’s being developed in the tower are 49 rental units at current market prices along with 85 high-end condos.
The facade is in the Mission Revival-style, and will be the only part of the fabled Maxine’s two storey heritage site to be saved.
Maxine’s has hosted a boarding house, beauty school, brothel, restaurants and burlesque cabaret. For many years in its recent history it was popular as the restaurant and lounge, Balthazar.
Its last incarnation, Maxine’s Hideaway, hosted the Candy Girl Cabaret which puts us in mind of its rumoured early history.
Built in 1905, it was named after its original owner, Maxine McGilvary, known as Madam Maxine. She ran a beauty school and boarding house for young women, but when times were tough during the depression years, the lower floor was used as a brothel.
It’s been claimed there were two tunnels beneath the building – one connected to the Rogers Mansion on Davie, last known as the Macaroni Grill and the other to an exit on English Bay near the present bathhouse.
B.T. Rogers, the sugar magnate, is popularly rumoured to have used the first tunnel for a clandestine route to the brothel; however, having died in 1918 before the depression era leaves this rumor in grave doubt. The tunnel to English Bay was said to be used by rum runners during prohibition.
The last owner of Maxine’s has claimed that Errol Flynn used the brothel and that Maxine herself was murdered on the premises. Apparently, her ghost haunted the lower levels of the building.
The colourful history of Maxine’s and the mystery it conveys was embedded in its complete structure.
Incorporating original facades into ultra modern buildings like the Alexandra tower is generally used to maximize density in Vancouver, and seems a shallow nod to Vancouver’s disappearing historic buildings.