736 Granville Street
Vancouver, BC V6Z 1G3
- Building Permit: January 23, 1911
- Year of Completion: 1912
- Architect: Parr & Fee
- Vancouver Heritage Register Status: A (Municipally Designated)
Completed in 1912, the Vancouver Block is one of Vancouver’s most distinctive landmarks. Characterized by the large illuminated clock tower set atop its fifteen-storey height, the Vancouver Block was one of the most impressive structures designed by the prolific architectural firm of Parr & Fee.
Occupying a prominent position on Granville Street in downtown Vancouver, the Vancouver Block features white terra cotta cladding and a detailed projected cornice. The building permit for the Vancouver Block was issued on January 23, 1911 with a listed building value of $400,000.
The following is an excerpt from Building the West:
By 1910, planning was underway for the grandest of [Parr & Fee’s] skyscrapers. Dominic Burns, wealthy landowner and brother of meat-packing magnate, Peter Burns, chose Parr & Fee to design his fifteen-storey Vancouver Block on Granville Street; included at the top of the building was a grand penthouse for Burns.
This prominent structure, which slightly predated the adjacent Birks Building by Somervell & Putnam, helped establish Georgia and Granville as the commercial core of early Vancouver. The Vancouver Block, still a landmark on the skyline, is clad both on the main façade and on the alley side with pure white terra cotta.
This confection of a structure is capped by an illuminated clock tower, topped on each side by ornate datestones; Burns had his own penthouse apartment in the top of the tower. Six caryatids support a heavy projecting cornice. The terra cotta was supplied by Gladding, McBean & Co., and was shipped from their Lincoln, California plant between June 1 and August 1, 1911.
The following is an excerpt from The Daily Province, March 2, 1912, Some Interesting Facts About Vancouver’s Fine Building:
This office building is for Mr. Dominic Burns, and is located on Granville street near Georgia street. Messrs. Parr & Fee, which firm has been lately changed to Messrs. Parr, McKenzie & Day, are the architects for this building. The size of the lot is 75 feet by 120 feet. There are 17 storeys, three of which are in the tower.
The height from the sidewalk to the top of the flag pole is 265 feet. One thousand tons of structural steel have been used. The foundations for this building are 80 feet below the sidewalk level and are on rock. Thirteen thousand cubic feet of ornamental terra cotta were used on the rear and front elevation. This terra cotta is of the most expensive kind, being mat. glazed. The floors in the building are Terrazzo, with Belgian and Tennessee marble border.
The walls in the corridors are being fitted with Italian marble to a height of four feet, and the interior trim will be quartered oak. The hardware is the very best that money can buy – Corbin unit lock pattern. Each floor is mastered-keyed. There is a grand master key for the whole building. Mr. Dominic Burns personally selected all the plumbing fixtures, after a long investigation in the leading cities of Canada and the United States, and it is believed that he has the most modern plumbing installation in the Dominion of Canada. This applies to the heating and electrical work also.
There is a complete vacuum cleaning installation, allowing for six vacuum machines on each floor. The clock face is 21 feet in diameter and is made up of sand blasted plate-glass one-fourth inch thick. The glass alone on the four faces of the clock cost over $1,000, and weighs approximately two tons. Mr. Burns has arranged for an observation space on the top of the tower and will have a long distance telescope so that visitors can see the ships that come through the Straits of Juan de Fuca.
The two top floors of this building will be occupied by the Commercial club. The Canadian Northern Railway has arranged one complete floor. A handmade bronze marquise will be placed on the building, over the entire sidewalk area. There will be one freight elevator with a capacity of five tons and a speed of 250 feet per minute. There will be four passenger elevators, to be speeded at 530 feet per minute.
All the windows are of plate glass. The windows on the sides have metal frames that have been passed by the board of fire underwriters. The glass in these windows will be polished plate with wire inside so that in case of fire in adjoining buildings it will not crack and fall out. The floors are all reinforced concrete. The partitions are made of terra cotta and gypsumite blocks, which is absolutely fireproof. Norton Griffiths Steel Construction, Ltd. are the contractors.