Once the commercial heart of Vancouver, East Hastings Street between Cambie and Main is the city’s best surviving turn-of-the-century streetscape.
However, he buildings are empty, upkeep and maintenance is minimal or non-existent and demolition has left ugly gaps along the street. Hastings Street needs help before all of it is lost to the wrecking ball.
Among the treasures of this stretch, behind a modest brick facade at 152 East Hastings Street, is the oldest remaining Pantages Theatre in North America. 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 theatre interiors in Canada. The building has been empty and dark for over a decade and the future of this important building is still uncertain.
Farther west, in the 100 block of West Hastings, is the rotting hulk of the Ralph Block, an important cast iron facade and a ‘B’ on the City’s Heritage Register. This block, devastated by the closure of Woodward’s in 1992, is now in danger of demolition by neglect. Schemes have come and gone for this site, but time is not on this building’s side.
To understand the threat, one has only to look at the William Astley House at 3638 Osler St., a first-rate Craftsman bracketed by bloated, historically inaccurate McMansions.
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.
Update April 7, 2006: Plans are underway to fully restore the Pantages 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. See our main Pantages Theatre page for further updates.