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Vancouver City Hall: A History

Vancouver City Hall: A History

I bike past Vancouver’s City Hall all the time. Y’know, the totalitarian collection of grey blocks that sits on top of 12th ave? I started googling around and found a few cool things about it.

The First City Hall (1886-1886)

first city hall vancouver

This was the first city council in 1886. Prior to this the town was called Granville. (original in archives) This photo features the first mayor of Vancouver, Malcolm Alexander MacLean. MacLean was possibly elected with voter fraud, but people had more to care about with the Great Vancouver Fire later that year. The fire destroyed somewhere between 600 – 1,000 buildings in the new city. It’s worth noting that MacLean got re-electing on an anti-Chinese platform.

The First Permanent City Hall (1886 – 1898)

125 powell street

After the fire, the city began building with brick. This City Hall was built at 125 Powell Street and also served as the police department. The building wasn’t good enough and was moved in 1898 to the City Market building.

Main Street (1898 – 1929)

original vancouver city hall

The above photo is from 1928. (original in archives) It was known as the City Market building on Westminster Avenue (now Main Street). In 1929 it become an extension of the neighbouring Carnegie Library and city hall moved to the Holden Building. It was demolished in 1959.

The Holden Building (1924 – 1936)

holden building vancouver

You can still see the Holden Building today at 16 East Hastings Street. It’s a tall and somewhat anonymous structure that served as the City Hall from 1924 to 1936.

Current City Hall (1936 – today)

The current building is Art Deco. The designer was Fred Townley, who also designed the VGH. The building cost $1 million and was completely within a year.

The unveiling of the building came with the sculpture of Captain George Vancouver which is still there. The Lord Mayor of London, Sir Percy Vincent, did the unveiling. He brought a present for the city, a sprig from the tree that supposedly gave Isaac Netwon the idea for the theory of gravity.

Unveiling of the Captain Vancouver statue.
Sir Percy Vincent is above, front row, third from left.

The city hall building was worked on during the middle of the Depression, so it was partially a make-work project. It was also built to help symbolize the amalgamation of Point Grey and South Vancouver.

More Vancouver history at:

If any of this is incorrect, or something should be added please let me know!