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Lettering once lit by neon.


West Hotel

488 Carrall Street, Vancouver, British Columbia

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The historic place at 488 Carrall Street is an eight-storey, plus penthouse, brick hotel located at the northwestern edge of Vancouver's historic Chinatown.

Heritage Value

This large hotel, with its distinctive sign, was most likely constructioned between 1910-1912, during Vancouver's pre-World War One building boom. The heritage value of this building lies in its representative history and its architecture.

This building is of value for demonstrating a pattern of use that was common in parts of downtown Vancouver where both retail and residential spaces were geared to serving the itinerant population of male resource workers who came and went from the city at regular intervals. Especially in the winter, when the logging camps were shut down, men lounged on the street and passed their time in the bars. Like other hotels in the area, 488 Carrall Street (also known as the West Hotel) suffered numerous fires over the years as a result of residents falling asleep with a lit cigarette that then set the mattress on fire.

Of particular interest in this building is the endurance of the beer parlour, which likely catered to men recently returned from the bush. From the 1920s to the 1970s, provincial laws carefully regulated the consumption of beer and liquor. This reflected social attitudes which abhorred drunkenness and condemned the social ills, such as prostitution and gambling, associated with alcohol. Social reformers preferred total prohibition, but when this failed, they demanded that beer parlours be hidden from public view and that no food or entertainment be served to entice men to drink more. Inside, drinking was also carefully regulated. In such Vancouver establishments, men and women were segregated, with a separate area set aside for 'ladies and escorts.' Aspects of this history, including the continued existence of the beer parlour, contribute to the heritage value of the building.

Architecturally, the building, makes good use of the site, occupying the full lot. It was also relatively tall compared to its neighbours and compared to other hotels in the area. The building features elements, such as the window assemblies, external fire escapes and inte
rnal light wells, which are typical of hotels built at this time in Vancouver, reflecting housing reforms that required these features. The large signs on the building make it a local landmark. Overall, the building contributes to our understanding of working class male history in Vancouver.

Source: City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program

There was a large neon clock on the side of the West Hotel

VPL archives

Date: 1951
VPL 81558A
Photographer : Art Jones

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements of 488 Carrall Street include:
-location on Carrall Street, at the northwestern edge of Chinatown
-various features typical of hotels constructed at the time, such as window assemblies, external fire escapes and internal light wells, designed to maximize air ventilation, bring light into the rooms, and provide fire escapes
-arrangement of windows in rows and columns at the front elevation, with stone sills
-paired and single double-hung wood vertical sliding sash window assemblies and their glass
-large signs proclaiming the name of the business and the presence of a pub
-continued use of the ground floor for entertainment
-continued use of the upper floors for accommodation


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All photos copyright © Christian Dahlberg except where stated otherwise. All rights reserved.
Vancouver panorama photo © Vancouver Lookout. www.vancouverlookout.com