Once the commercial heart of Vancouver, Hastings Street between Cambie and Main is the city’s best surviving turn-of-the-century streetscape. However, the buildings sit empty, with little or no maintenance.
Demolition has left ugly gaps along the street. Hastings needs help before all of it is lost to the wrecking ball.
Among its treasures, behind a modest brick facade at 152 East Hastings, is North America’s oldest remaining Pantages Theatre (No. 1) [demolished 2011]. Built in 1907 by Alexander Pantages as part of his emerging vaudeville and movie empire, this theatre is one of the oldest purpose-built vaudeville interiors in Canada. The theatre has been dark for over a decade and its future is still uncertain.
Farther west, in the 100-block West Hastings, is the rotting hulk of the Ralph Block [restored], an important cast iron facade designed by prominent architects Parr and Fee (1899) and a B on the Heritage Register.
The 100-block, anchored by the historic Woodward’s building and devastated by the store’s closure in 1993, is now in danger of demolition by neglect. The former department store has suffered from 10 years of failed schemes, both private and public, leading to calls for its demolition. The good news is that the current city council has purchased Woodward’s from the province. Council intends to use the building for public housing, and for the commercial and institutional activities needed to jump-start the area’s economic revitalization.
Update April 7, 2006: Plans are underway to fully restore the theatre, inside and out, for community groups use in the Arts.
Update October 26, 2008: The theatre is now seriously threatened, as restoration and financing plans have fallen through.
Update December 29, 2011: The final bricks are being palleted of what was the oldest surviving Pantages theatre from the once large chain of theatres, and Canada’s oldest surviving purpose-built vaudeville theatre – Vancouver’s Pantages Theatre is no more.