From The Archives: The Holland Block

One of the many exciting things about working at Pourhouse is spending much of my time in a neighborhood rich with both burgeoning culture and exciting history.

Vancouver was born right here on Water Street as simply a centre for lumber business.

It grew up on the back of the saloon, hotel, and prostitution.

It burned to the ground here (literally).

It rose from the ashes built anew in (non-flammable) brick.

Soon the downtown east-side became again the nexus of Vancouver’s early evolution: nightlife, crime, economy, and alcohol.

That’s some pretty exciting company to keep during a day’s work. The Leckie building itself is over 100 years old, originally a shoe factory, and while it’s been told to me time and again that the wooden beams and brick walls are original, it’s another experience altogether to see actual photos from eras past where you can clearly see this fact is truth.

I recently found myself hunting through the public domain photo archives at the Vancouver Public Library and found a series of very interesting photos of our beloved Gastown from as early as the 1870’s, and plan to share some of them on this blog for those of you as excited by this as I am.

If you’re like me and you walk from the skytrain station into Gastown, you pass the Holland Block at the corner of Water, Cordova, and Richards. If you had done the same thing in 1886, when downtown Vancouver was nothing but mud, lumber, and building frameworks, it looked something like this:


If you had made that same walk just ten years later, the neighborhood had developed drastically. The Holland Block at this point had just been built, serving as a commercial space on the ground floor and a hotel upstairs. The flatiron design allowed street presence for businesses on both Water and Cordova, and at the time would have actually faced the water to the North (before this area was filled in and developed). It is a good representation of the flourishing juxtaposition of business life and social life in the new city. Here is the Holland Block sometime in the 1890’s facing the same direction as above, at Richards with Cordova on the right and Water on the left.