Hastings West

In a modern-day evolution, the historic commerce and banking area of Vancouver's West Hastings Street has become a centre for the most prestigious of Western Canadian retailing, including world-renowned brands, including Birks, Cartier, Roche Bobois, Leone and Montecristo, to name a few. It’s just steps from the cruise ship terminal and Waterfront Station.

Hastings Street, named after Admiral George Hastings of the Royal Navy, is Vancouver’s most historic east-west corridor. The closure of the British Columbia electric railway and the north shore ferry service caused a lack of pedestrian traffic and pushed the city’s retail centre west along Hastings. From the early 1900s, Vancouver’s retail heart was sandwiched between Spenser’s Department Store (now the Harbour Center) and Woodward’s (famous for its Christmas window displays). These two large department stores anchored blocks of small shops.  

West of Burrard, Hastings was called blue blood alley and was the residential address in the city with beautiful houses on large lots and featured the city’s two important men’s clubs, the Vancouver Club and the Terminal City Club. Blue blood alley slowly transformed from residential to retail. Due to the success of the grain port, Vancouver was forecasted to become the financial, business, and transportation hub of the North Vancouver felt like it needed an iconic building to reflect this success and during the glorious 1920s, the Marine Building began construction. The magnificent art deco building, dripping in sea creatures, ships and blimps, went 1 million dollars over budget (for a total of 2.5 million dollars) but the developers were unconcerned as they planned to recoup the money by allowing people to pay a quarter to ride the elevators, each elevator rumoured to have been donned with a beautiful lady, up to the 21st storey observation deck to view the city. Unfortunately, the building finished construction in October 1930, in the middle of the Great Depression, and the developers went bankrupt. The Marine Building was then acquired by Guinness Anglo-Irish investors for $900,000.

Between the 1930s and 1950s West Hastings was a thriving retail area, including department stores, and luxurious clothing and jewellery shops. Hastings Street was also the financial hub with 10 different “temple” banks, such as the Royal Bank Building. The federal government also built an Edwardian Baroque style post office which later became infamous for the 1938 Bloody Sunday Riots. Modern office development began in the 1960s and continued for the next 30 years. By the 1990s Hastings saw a decline in retail and Spenser’s Department Store, which has since transformed into Eaton’s and then Sears, closed and became the Harbour Centre Campus for Simon Fraser University. In 1993, Woodward’s went bankrupt and closed its doors.

The completion of the Jameson House in 2011, marks the return of luxurious residences to “blue blood alley” for the first time since the 1890s. Although Hastings Street is filled with important heritage buildings and is still the home of luxurious retail such as Leone and Birks, Hastings Street now seems focused on looking forward. Situated in Vancouver’s main businesses district, many of the heritage buildings on Hastings Street have been redeveloped with the future in mind, such as developing various university campuses and the Morris J. Wosk Center for Dialogue designed for conferences connecting the world.

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