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Know your history - Metropole Pub
By Mike Usinger
The Georgia Straight
December 22, 2005

When Amman Rawji took over the Metropole Pub in 2003, the room wasn't exactly the jewel of the Downtown Eastside. "It was comparable to some of the bars on the main Hastings strip," says the general manager of what's now known to regulars as the Met. "Basically it was a shooting gallery." Determined to clean things up quickly, Rawji plunged right into a massive renovation, which yielded some pleasant surprises.

"We found things like an old safe-we had it cracked and found documents dating back to the 1940s. One of them was a deed to the place."

The Metropole name has remained the same since it first opened as a pub, likely around the middle of last century, but the look of the room changed over the years. During the recent reno, a hole was accidentally punched in a wall, revealing a brick façade that dates back to the early 1900s, when the hotel that houses the bar was built. A wood floor and seven layers of carpet were ripped up to reveal the room's original, deco-looking white floor tiles.

"We wanted to bring the original features of the room back to life," Rawji explains.

It's likely that the Metropole was at some point more than a drinking establishment. At the turn of the 20th century, many buildings in Vancouver had tunnels beneath them, some operating as escape routes for opium dens.

"I've heard stories from the engineering department that there were a lot of opium tunnels in the early 1900s," Rawji relates. "We still have those tunnels down here-from the look of them, they got a lot of wear and tear."

After years as a down-and-out bar, the Metropole has had a successful rebirth as the Met. It was tough going for the first year after the doors were reopened, with the former regulars discovering that they were no longer welcome. Today Rawji has successfully attracted the kind of college-age crowd that's made successes out of rooms like the Blarney Stone and the Cambie. He describes the Met as a pub by day and a club by night, but admits that could change in the future.

"We plan on running things as they are for another couple of years," Rawji reveals. "Then we may do another reno and turn it into an Irish-themed pub. With the Woodward's redevelopment, the clientele down here will change, and you have to keep up with that."




Hotel Metropole
320 Abbott Street, Vancouver, British Columbia

Other Name(s)
Travellers Hotel

Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Hotel Metropole is a five-storey masonry commercial building occupying part of the east side of the 300 block of Abbott Street, with a secondary frontage on the mid-block alley, in the historic Gastown district of downtown Vancouver. It is distinctive for its two formal facades, on Abbott Street and the alley, and a prominent projecting cornice.

Heritage Value
Gastown is the historic core of Vancouver, and is the city's earliest, most historic area of commercial buildings and warehouses. The Gastown historic district retains a consistent and distinctive built form that is a manifestation of successive economic waves that occurred prior to the First World War. The area is recognized as the birthplace of Vancouver, and was pivotal in the first twenty-five years of the city's history and represents a formative period in Canada's economic development. The Hotel Metropole is valued as an early Gastown hotel, representative of the area's seasonal population in the early twentieth century, as Vancouver emerged as western Canada's predominant commercial centre. Hotels such as this provided both short and long-term lodging, serving primarily those who worked in the seasonal resource trades such as fishing and logging. Many of these hotels served a combined function of providing lodging on the upper floors, while commercial space on the ground floor contributed to the lively street life in Gastown.

Built in 1910, The Hotel Metropole is valued as an example of the classically inspired architecture of the Edwardian era, illustrating how popular styles were used by the hotel business to market a progressive image. The exterior exhibits a classically-proportioned, tripartite articulation, as reflected in the granite plinth, brick pilasters at ground level, stone stringcourses, regular fenestration and projecting metal cornice.

Originally, this building was known as the Travellers Hotel; there was a Metropole Hotel located across the street. When the original Metropole was demolished in the mid-1920s to allow for the expansion of Woodward's Department Store, the Travellers appropriated this venerable name.

In the 1930s the original storefronts were altered with the insertion of a series of Gothic-inspired entry doors and sidelights, reflecting the traditional historicism that was again popular in the period between the two world wars. These alterations marked a change in attitude and liquor policy, when drinking establishments such as this one turned inwards and no longer were allowed to have open windows facing the street.

The Hotel Metropole is further valued for its association with its architect, W.T. Whiteway (1856-1940). Whiteway arrived in Vancouver at the time of the Great Fire of 1886 and worked in Vancouver from 1886 to 1887, then followed other building booms in the United States and Canada before returning to Vancouver, where he became one of the leading local architects. The contractor for the Hotel Metropole was J.M. McLuckie, a pioneer Vancouver contractor who became well-known for numerous commercial and residential commissions. The hotel was an investment property that was originally owned by Dr. Robert Clarke Boyle (1869-1926), a prominent physician and surgeon in Vancouver and president of the Vancouver Medical Association.

Image:Vancouver Public Library:70711
Photographer / Studio: King Studio

Source: City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program

Character-Defining Elements
Key elements that define the heritage character of the Hotel Metropole include its:
- commercial form, scale and massing, as expressed by its five-storey block form with no setbacks, a full basement and flat roof
- prominent corner location with two formal facades, with the primary facade facing Abbott Street and a secondary facade facing the service alley
- the historic mixed use of street level commercial space with lodging on the upper floors
- original Edwardian era architectural elements, including: large projecting sheet metal cornice on two facades; masonry construction such as granite foundation, brick facade and stone string-courses at each storey; and regular fenestration, with wooden sash windows resembling the original double-hung sash
- elements relating to the 1930s alterations, including Gothic pointed-arches and stained glass windows
- surviving interior details, such as the mosaic floor in the interior ground floor
- basement-level areaway with glass prisms in the Abbott Street sidewalk

Architect: W.T. Whiteway
Builder: J.M. McLuckie

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