While being a fairly young city, Vancouver has a good deal of rich, interesting history. The city is filled with heritage homes and old, historic buildings, many of which are registered and protected in order to preserve their character and history. Visitors who come to Vancouver will see many old buildings, sometimes even cobblestone streets, while exploring the various old neighborhoods, such as Gastown and Chinatown. For those who enjoy feeling this connection to the past, staying in one of Vancouver’s oldest and most historic hotels can be an unforgettable experience.
Built in 1898, during the Gold Rush, the Victorian Hotel is one of Vancouver’s oldest hotels. Prospectors and explorers once stayed within the old brick walls of the Victorian, one of which being the vaudeville singer and dancer, Klondike-Kate Rockwell. The hotel has been newly renovated and now features 47 beautiful rooms. Every room has hardwood floors and those who opt to stay in the Legacy King and Legacy Queen rooms will be treated to exposed brick walls, high windows and ceilings, and stone tiled washrooms.
The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver
Known as the Castle in the City, the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver opened its doors in 1939. Construction on this hotel actually began in 1928, but due to the Great Depression it was not completed until 11 years later. During the grand opening, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth stayed during their Royal Visit, an event which has been commemorated within the design of the Fairmont’s recent renovations and creation of their 14th floor heritage suites. These $75 million renovations have also restored the timeless luxury and history of this property with work to the new lobby, restaurant, and 557 new guest rooms.
The Sylvia Hotel was constructed in 1912 and since then it has lived through an incredibly eventful past. Originally built as a 70 unit apartment building, some of the rooms were used for lodging the Merchant Marine crews during World War II. It began supplying rooms for short term accommodations throughout the 1950s and in the 1960s it became a full service hotel. Until 1956 the Sylvia was the tallest building in the West End and in 1975 it was designated as a heritage building by the City of Vancouver. The Virginia creeper ivy that covers the building’s walls is almost as much of an iconic landmark as the building itself.
Rosewood Hotel Georgia
Opened in 1927, the Hotel Georgia was one of the most luxurious and elegant places to stay in the city. In its opening year, HRH Edward, Prince of Wales and George, the Duke of Kent stayed at the hotel for the Seaforth Highlander’s Ball. Katharine Hepburn once stayed and, as she preferred to take her dinner in the privacy of her own room, she established late-night room service for the first time within the hotel. The Hotel Georgia has also seen guests such as John Wayne, Gary Cooper, and Errol Flynn. The hotel was fully restored and reopened in 2011 as the Rosewood Hotel Georgia with all of its previous grandeur intact and additional luxuries added.
St. Regis Hotel
Construction of the St. Regis Hotel started in 1911 and was completed in March of 1913. It thrived for a time, then like many other businesses of that era, it struggled immensely during the Great Depression. It bounced back as a “Sportsman’s” hotel in the 1940’s and 1950’s, so much so that the owner at that time, Coley Hall, sponsored the “Vancouver St. Regis” hockey team for two seasons from 1942-1943. After an $11 million dollar renovation in 2009, the hotel rebranded as a heritage boutique hotel and is now one of the top hotels to stay in for business travelers.
Opened in 1908, the Moda Hotel was originally named the Dufferin Hotel, named after Lord Dufferin, a former Governor General of Canada. Since then, it has seen many changes and renovations as it has evolved over the years. Its original crown moldings and building façade were covered and the building eventually lost its once brilliant shine. Recently renovated and renamed, the hotel now exists in a balance of old and new, with century old mosaic tile floors amidst bold and colorful decor.
The Kingston Hotel was built in 1910 and has been passed down through the family for generations. Once a rooming house for travelers, the building was transformed into a European style hotel in the 1970s and 1980s. The Kingston now serves Vancouver as a heritage bed and breakfast boutique hotel with a rich history and a welcoming atmosphere.
When construction began in 1910, the design for the Patricia Hotel originally intended it to be used as a doctor’s office, but the building owner passed away before the building’s completion and the new owner re-purposed the building into a hotel. Rates were once $1 per day for a room at this hotel and in current times, the Patricia Hotel still operates as a “no frills” budget hotel. For a glance into the past, visit Pat’s Pub and check out the original wood flooring and exposed brick walls.
The Cambie Hotel
The Cambie Hotel was built in 1899-1900 on the site where Gross and McNeil Express and Draymen once sat, before being destroyed in 1899 from a fire. The building acted as affordable lodging for the men who worked in the neighborhood, as well as travellers and businessmen who passed through the area. The upper floors acted as residential space while the lower floors were open to commercial businesses. In 1914 the hotel became the Hotel Carlton and a cafe was opened on the ground floor. In current times, the Cambie is a hostel welcoming travellers from all around the world, with Vancouver’s iconic Cambie Bar to be found on the lower level.
West End Guest House
Built in 1906, the West End Guest House was once a residential home to the Edwards family who relocated to Vancouver from Ontario. The family lived there for the greater part of the 1900s and in 1984 the home was transformed into Vancouver’s first large bed and breakfast, the Pink Victorian. Now named the West End Guest House, travellers staying in this historic property can peer into Vancouver’s past by taking a walk down the house’s second floor hallway which features some of the old photos taken by the original occupants, Edgar and George Edwards.
These old hotels each come with their own long and storied pasts. They’ve been converted, changed, remodeled, revamped, and restored. They’ve upgraded to suit modern needs, while at the same time preserved to keep their histories in tact. They’ve seen celebrities come and go, have endured hardships, and have changed hands from owner to owner. Through all the years, their bricks, bones, and foundations have remained, holding on to the remnants of a time long past.