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5 things you (probably) don't know about Vancouver buildings

From schools that became a mall, to a roof from Japan, to some very old windows
Clockwise from top left: Lord Nelson Elementary School's slides, UBC's Asian Centre's roof, the Model School, and Hastings Mill Store.

Buildings are essential to a city.

Is there any city without buildings? It seems unlikely; after people they seem the next most important thing as far defining what a "city" is.

As a city, Vancouver has many. You may already know this.

Some are well known, like Science World, the Marine Building and Canada Place.

This, like the 5 things you (probably) don't know about Vancouver architecture, is not about the famous buildings in Vancouver.

1. A church has some very old windows. Like, really old:

The (likely) oldest functional piece of any building in Vancouver is not where one might expect it.

Windows at St. John's Anglican Church in Shaughnessy has some very old windows. While the building is relatively old, by Vancouver standards, it has some windows that are way, way older than the rest of it.

"The Sanctuary Memorial windows are made of 11th century glass fragments from Canterbury Cathedral that were shattered during the bombing raids of World War II," explains the church's website.

2. A roof at UBC came a long way

Speaking of building material coming from away, there's a roof at UBC that may be better travelled than some of the students there.

The Asian Centre at UBC was built in 1981, but the pyramid-like roof is a bit older. It was part of the 1970 Osaka World Expo in Japan, as the roof of the Sanyo exhibit. After the expo ended the roof was sent to Vancouver.

3. Kids can slide out of the second storey of a Vancouver school

This is a little more recent, so some may recall when slides were added to a Vancouver school.

Like something out of a 90s cartoon, the big orange slides go from the upper floor hallway at Lord Nelson Elementary School to the school yard outside; they were opened in 2022.

4. The oldest building in Vancouver is older than Canada

While Indigenous settlements have been around Vancouver for thousands of years, no structure built then still stands.

The first permanent settler site in what is now Vancouver was Hastings Mill (sometimes called Stamp's Mill). It was a large wooden sawmill built on the coastline near Gastown and the Port of Vancouver (back when all of that was essentially forest).

While the mill is gone, the store (which opened in 1865) that operated alongside the mill still exists, though not near the port at all.

It's now at the foot of Alma Street in Kitsilano.

Having been one of the few structures to survive the Great Vancouver Fire in 1886, it was moved to its new site in 1930, where it's been for more than 90 years.

5. Two schools became a mall

Anyone who goes to the City Square Mall likely notices the combination of old school and new school architecture. In point of fact, the old school parts are actually parts of old schools.

The Normal School and the Model School were both built in the early 1900s as places for teachers to train.

Over the years training teachers moved to the role of universities, and the two schools closed, though they were opened at times for other educational purposes and uses over the years. While there were several attempts to demolish them they were eventually declared heritage sites, though they were in disrepair.

In 1989 the City Square Mall opened up with the two old school buildings integrated into the design.