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washington hotel vancouver

Washington Hotel
177 E. Hastings St

This sign was completely
restored in 2004.

Managed by PHS Community Services Society, a nonprofit society manages buildings that provide social housing and support sevices, focusing on people with chronic substance abuse issues or dual diagnosis.


Garden helps community pride grow
Downtown Eastside plot sprouts spinach, radishes and strawberries

Cheryl Rossi
Vancouver Courier

Friday, May 30, 2008

Washington Hotel resident Robbie P. helps maintain the area around Hastings Folk Garden.
Photo-Dan Toulgoet

Between scabbed walls and barbed wire an unexpected sight emerges on East Hastings: a garden with curving pathways where plants sprout from dark soil.

Concord Pacific owns the land and the PHS Community Services Society, formerly the Portland Hotel Society, acts as its custodian. The society has developed the garden and dubbed it the Hastings Folk Garden.

Phelippe Clemend, who works at the Columbia Hotel, stopped at the open gate Wednesday afternoon to marvel at the fledgling Eden.

"It's gorgeous. It's perfect. It's great to see life here," he said of the green patches he noticed only a few nights before.

Another man paused on the sidewalk, pointed and said: "There's rhubarb over there!"

Robbie Panteluk, who lives in the PHS-run Washington Hotel, cleans the sidewalk outside the garden, waters the hanging baskets PHS installed along this stretch of Hastings and helps out however he can.

"Everybody that has a vision can come down and do it, no problem," he said. "A lot of people just look at it and say, 'Right on!'"

The PHS Community Services Society brings work groups to the garden one Saturday a month, which is about to increase to two. The Vancouver chapter of the Christian network Servants to Asia's Urban Poor tend to the garden on Mondays and a group from the Salvation Army works on Wednesdays. Sometimes they bring children along.

"What you don't usually see down here is children," said Bryan Alleyne, who has lived within four blocks of the site for 16 years and works for the PHS at Insite, the supervised injection site. "It's so nice to see kids on Hastings next to an injection site doing gardening, not being harmed. People on the street really respect them. They don't do all the things that they usually do, they don't do it in front of children. That's the number one rule. So it's really, really nice to see."

When Alleyne's wandered by, those tending the garden have invited the former drug addict who speaks with a raspy voice to have a seat and enjoy the sun.

Spinach, radishes, kale, leeks, carrots, beans, lettuces, potatoes, strawberries, raspberries and fruit trees comprise the lot's first crop. Shandelle Billows, a project manager with PHS, says the bounty will be distributed as part of its Downtown Eastside Lunch Program.

Residents of Onsite, the detox centre above Insite that PHS runs, have worked in the garden Saturdays and Billows said PHS plans to get them working there on a weekly basis.

"They just say how good it feels to work their body that way," she said.

The site previously served as a campsite and garbage dump, and Concord Pacific asked PHS to take care of it.

Her PHS colleague Peter LaGrand was inspired to create a community garden like the one developed by the Christian non-profit Jacob's Well at East Pender and Jackson.

"Lots of folks never leave the neighbourhood to go towards any park or greenspace and so why don't we bring that to them," Billows said of LaGrand's idea.

On Wednesday, one passerby who was disgruntled about losing his job at a PHS hotel complained about the garden being behind a fence.

The Vancouver Community Agriculture Network, a project of the Environmental Youth Alliance, quickly came on as a sponsor to the garden, providing soil, seeds, wheelbarrows and know-how.

Billows doesn't know how long they'll be able to keep the garden growing. There's no formal agreement with Concord Pacific.

"If there was a developer that wanted to put housing in here, that would be phenomenal," she said. "I just think, also, greenspace is so important to people's mental health to their personal well-being. Living in this neighbourhood, there isn't a lot of greenspace. It's a hard place to be."

Billows added PHS has formed a Hastings Folk Garden Society, under which it hopes to broaden its beautification and street cleaning work, if it can get funding.

Photo by Fred Herzog Circa 1950s




Washington Hotel

177 East Hastings Street, Vancouver, British Columbia

Other Name(s)
Hotel Maple, Hastings Hotel

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Washington Hotel, located at 177 East Hastings Street in Vancouver, is a masonry eight-storey Edwardian commercial structure adjacent to an alley.

Heritage Value

The heritage value of the Washington Hotel lies in the historic relationship between this area and the economy of early Vancouver. At the turn of the twentieth century, this area of town was developed as a shopping area as commercial activity spread outward from its early roots in Gastown. As the young city grew, so did its commercial district. It was the home of several hotels, lodgings, and small retail outlets which were established to serve the growing blue-collar population.

Built in 1912 for James Borland by architects Parr and Fee, who designed many early Vancouver buildings, this building was first known as the Hotel Maple until 1935. The hotel's name changed to the Hastings Hotel in the 1930s and finally the Washington Hotel in the 1940s. Borland was a pioneer who arrived in Vancouver in 1888 and later became a well-known building agent. The hotel's fine finishes would indicate that it catered to tourists and business travellers who were expected after the completion of the Canadian Northern Railway and the Panama Canal. In addition to providing accommodation, the Hotel Maple also offered services including a pool room, a gentleman's clothing outlet, and a restaurant, all catering to the largely male travelling public. The real estate agency on the main floor was well-placed to deal with the boom which mirrored the city's economic prosperity.

There is also value in the architectural design, which reflects the changing public taste from the ornate decoration of the late Victorian period to the more refined ornament of the Edwardian era. The symmetrical front facade and the overhanging cornice on two facades are similar to other hotels and office buildings in the area. This tall building overshadows its neighbour, illustrating the 'sawtooth' skyline prevalent in the Hastings Street strip.

Source: City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program

Character-Defining Elements
The character-defining elements of the historic place include:
- rectangular form and massing and impressive scale
- built on a narrow footprint right to the lot line with no setbacks
- its functional relationship with other buildings within the Hastings Street strip and adjoining neighbourhoods
- its location on an alley
- characteristics of the Edwardian commercial style including: buff brick cladding, terra cotta lintels, marble and copper covering on ground floor, sheet metal cornice with dentils
- mosaic tile floor in entry
- continued ground floor use as retail space
- continued use of upper storeys as transient accommodation

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