The contact sheet at the end of this post represents an afternoon of bicycle-supported photographic exploration, from West Broadway in Vancouver’s Fairview neighbourhood to the Downtown core and the edge of Gastown. As you can see, it was a beautiful, sunny day — the beginning of summer.
I’d visited the Broadway and Heather location, blocks from my basement suite in South Cambie, on a couple of occasions. The resulting contact sheets were disappointing. On this day — June 7, 1983, to be exact — I returned with my Mamiyaflex medium-format camera (used to create the archive now dubbed “Eighties Vancouver“) loaded with a roll of Ilford FP4 film.
The vantage point overlooking Broadway — a parkade — was either converted or demolished and replaced with the office tower now dominating the southeast corner. The view today, across Fairview to False Creek and the city skyline backed by the North Shore Mountains, has, of course, been transformed by the rise of countless glass towers along the shores of False Creek and in the downtown core.
Meanwhile, the open W. Broadway storefront (occupied in 1983 by a carpet business) has, over the years, been stripped of its false front decoration, until it now resembles nothing more than a box, fronted with tinted windows.
I only recognized the building’s original purpose — as a Texaco gas station — when I made the first print from this shoot . The peeling white paint, sidelit by the sun under the centre arc, reveals the lettering and distinctive “star” logo. Look at the sidewalk in front of the doors: there’s the patched pavement where the gas pumps once stood.
Over the course of my attempts to get the perfect shot of this scene, I recorded muscle cars and pickup trucks parked at the front doors, strolling pedestrians, and storm clouds rolling over Grouse Mountain. But it was exposure #5 of this shoot that finally became my favourite, with the young cyclists breezing by on their ten-speeds (mine sat next to my tripod). Printed large enough, another detail reveals itself: a man sunbathing on the roof of the apartment building, behind and to the left of our old Texaco station.
From Broadway, I headed downtown, perhaps via the old Cambie Bridge. But the next location on the contact is the north end of the Dunsmuir Viaduct, overlooking the rear aspect of the 500 block of Beatty Street, the cleared site of today’s Keefer Place, and the grand old Sun Tower, built in 1912 to house The Vancouver World newspaper (later The Vancouver Sun and The Province).
Designed by W.T. Whiteway, architect for the Woodwards building, the completed 17-storey tower was the tallest building in the British Empire. On the far right, the old Woodwards revolving “W,” relocated after the demolition of the department store, though buried among new development, dominates the edge of Gastown.
The view from the viaduct is now obscured by glass condo towers. Soon, the viewpoint will be gone altogether. A recent decision by Vancouver council will see the Dunsmuir and Georgia Viaducts demolished to make way for housing and a six-lane road into the Expo lands and Pacific Boulevard, along False Creek. Much of the 700 block Main Street is facing demolition.
The final location made use of another parkade at the corner of West Pender and Cambie Streets, overlooking Victory Square, north to the Dominion Building. Today, a provincially designated Class “A” heritage structure, the Dominion Trust Building, as it was known on completion in 1910, was Vancouver’s first steel-framed high-rise, rising 53 m (175 ft) above the intersection of W. Hastings and Cambie Streets.
The foreground building, at right, completed in the same year, is most often associated with greengrocer and furniture dealer H.A. Edgett, but it also housed printers for the Province, starting in 1924. In 1983, tenants included The National Datacentre Corporation, as seen below.
An award-winning rehabilitation project in 1998 readied the building for its new tenants, the Architectural Institute of British Columbia.
This view today would also be obscured — not by Vancouver’s love affair with glass towers but by trees, which have grown considerably since I set up my tripod and camera on top of that parkade, 32-years-ago.