Hotel Vancouver

1887 - current

The Canadian Pacific Railway built their first Hotel Vancouver in 1887. It was a five-storey brick and stone structure. The railway later built a much larger hotel on the corner of Georgia and Granville in downtown Vancouver, designed by Francis Swales.This hotel was finally demolished in the late 1940s, about ten years after the current Hotel Vancouver was completed at Georgia and Burrard in time for the Royal visit in 1939.

Demolition of old Hotel Vancouver, 1949.

The hotel at Georgia and Granville hosted some of the earliest art exhibitions in Vancouver, as there were very few other places to exhibit in Vancouver at that time. Artists known to have exhibited in that hotel include John Innes in 1915 and John Vanderpant in 1925. In 1929 the hotel hosted the annual Beaux Arts Ball, sponsored and organized by the students of the Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts.

The CPR hired a number of Vancouver artists to provide sculptures, murals, panels, and paintings for the current hotel, completed in 1939. It was an excellent opportunity for local artists to complete major commissions. Artists known to have done work for this iteration of the hotel include Olea Marion Montgomery Davis, Lilias Farley, Beatrice Lennie, J.W.G. Macdonald, R.S. Alexander, and Valentin Shabaeff.

Detail, bas-relief in lobby of Hotel Vancouver, photo Stuart Thomson.

Unfortunately, later renovations to the hotel covered over many of the original artworks in the main floor lobby, particularly relief panels by Beatrice Lennie, which are considered by many to be one of Vancouver's most famous "lost" artworks. The panels may actually still be in place, hidden behind the new facade. Perhaps a future renovation will uncover them again.


BUILDING THE WEST - Early Architects of British Columbia
      2003; Edited by Donald Luxton, numerous contributing authors and researchers
      Talonbooks, ISBN 0-88922-474-9
      560 pages, extensively illustrated in black and white, some colour
      Biographies of over 400 architects and firms; extensive bibliography
      Numerous references to, and photographs of, the three Hotel Vancouvers


"Among several contributions of a high order H. Hood hangs an interior of the Hotel Vancouver rotunda that marks a new departure in theme among local artists. He has done it well - whether it was worth doing or not. A picture of wider scope and greater sympathy by the same artist is "A Backyard of Industry," where the kindly coloring of time has softened the timbers and buildings to a brotherhood with the twilight."
      From "B.C. Fine Arts Society Exhibition (First Notice)"
      Vancouver Province, May 15 1923

"Local Artists Unite Talents on Mural for New Vancouver Hotel"
      Vancouver Sun, February 11 1939

"Facts About New Hotel"
      Vancouver Province, May 27 1939

"Rare Craftsmanship Shown in Stonework"
      Vancouver Province, May 27 1939

"Three Vancouver women artists have contributed to the interior decorations of the new Hotel Vancouver. ... "
      From "Local Women Artists Helped Decorate Hotel"
      (unknown newspaper), date unknown

"Miss Farley's ability as a painter is also well known. Her large decoration in the Hotel Vancouver indicates the scope of her brush, and she has shown pictures here and elsewhere in important exhibitions. ... "
      From "Western Artists Capture Interest At Toronto Show" by Palette
      Vancouver Province, November 20 1941

"Sky-High City Zoo" by Allen Roy Evans
      Daily Province, December 8 1956

"Hotel Vancouver Has Played in Hard Luck" by Alan Morley
      Vancouver Sun, December 20 1963