Backing into the future

The demolition of the Farmer Building (foreground of picture) at the corner of Robson and Granville has uncovered the past while making way for the future. Exposed on the Power Block Building beside it is a rare painted movie sign advertising the 1922 Harold Lloyd comedy Grandma’s Boy. We can see a finger in a red circle pointing to the movie’s location across the street where the original Capitol Theatre was located from 1921 until the mid-1970s. This 90 year old sign, only recently uncovered, was hidden away after the Farmer Building was constructed in 1922, the same year as the film. It will have another brief exposure until the Power Block Building is completely demolished except for its facade.

As we can read on the building’s heritage plaque, the Power Block was originally constructed as a saloon in 1888 for Captain William Power, “the mayor” of North Vancouver’s Moodyville (the oldest settlement on Burrard Inlet). It was first expanded and renovated in 1911. In 1929, the same architects of Vancouver City Hall, Townley & Matheson, added the rare art deco facade which features colourful terra cotta with Egyptian overtones.

Next to the Power Block is the home of the Source Newspaper, the art deco/art moderne Medical Arts Building (1922–23) by Maurice Helyer. He also built the historic Dominion Trust Building (1908-10) located on Victory Square with his father J.S. Helyer. The Medical Arts Building features one of the few remaining brass and copper panelled elevators in Canada. It also has the area’s first geothermal heating system with 72 underground wells funnelling water into the building.

For now, the home of the Source Newspaper is safe but it will be sad to see the loss of another historic building like the Power Block, except for its wonderful façade. Both the Power Block and Farmer Building will be replaced by a 5-storey retail and office building.

Originally published in Vol. 12, No. 25,  March 6 to 20, 2012

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