5 things you didn’t know about the first Hotel Vancouver


Each week we’ll uncover some unusual and (hopefully) interesting facts about the city. This week we take on the first Hotel Vancouver.

1. It was built for C.P.R. passengers

CPR Granville
C.P.R. Station Vancouver on Granville St, 1900. Photo: Vancouver Archives Item: S-3-2

The Canadian Pacific Railway (C.P.R.) opened the first Hotel Vancouver in 1888 as a compliment to the successful opening of the city’s new railway the year prior. It was meant for weary train passengers who would arrive just steps away at the Granville St station.

2. Vancouverites did NOT like the design

Hotel Vancouver CPR
Hotel Vancouver, 1900. Photo: Vancouver Archives Item: Hot P88

One year before completion, local newspaper The Ledge, suggested that the Hotel Vancouver’s architectural renderings resembled “a compound of a decayed grist-mill with bits of the bastile and the tower of London added”, and that the design was a “monument of external ugliness”.

When speaking to the designer, C.P.R. president William Cornelius Van Horne commented. “so you’re the damn fool who spoilt the building with all those little windows”. Not a great start for the city’s largest hotel…

3. Van Horne imagined a string of grand hotels across Canada

WC Van horne CPR
W.C. Van Horne, 1914. Photo: Vancouver Archives Item: Port P1726

The Hotel Vancouver opened on May 16, 1888, followed by a similar hotel in Banff, AB just two weeks later. The hotels were meant to tempt Canadians with the idea of riding the C.P.R. railway across the country.

4. Vancouverites also did not like the location

Dominion Photo Co. photo, Vancouver Public Library VPL 24322.

Despite being in what is now the centre of the city, the 60-room hotel was deemed “out of the way”, because of its distance from the city centre (present day Gastown). The hotel sat surrounded by forests and brush. It was located on Georgia and Granville St.

5. It was so successful that it had to be replaced

Hotel Vancouver 1916 CPR
Hotel Vancouver, 1917. Photo: Vancouver Archives Item: CVA 677-21

With Vancouver’s economy booming, the C.P.R. welcomed thousands of new tourists and workers to Vancouver. In 1916, the C.P.R. replaced the Hotel Vancouver with its second incarnation, which was much grander in both capacity and design. The Italian Renaissance style building was passed onto the Canadian Pacific Railway and eventually demolished in 1949.