October 01, 2018 3 min read
Our current installation greets customers as they enter Secret Location.
Three “greenhorn Englishmen” were mocked for purchasing 550 acres of densely forested and swampy land in the middle of nowhere, far west of New Westminster, the main town at the time. Development would take time and begin in an area known as Granville, later known as Gastown.
The original development of Gastown was surrounded by thick forest and water. The tide of Burrard Inlet crept twice daily up to the aptly named Water Street, and most buildings were built half on land, half on piles. Originally built in 1875, one of the first buildings in Gastown was the Sunnyside Hotel. The hotel had a trap door that lowered goods into boats.
Unfortunately, all but two of 400 buildings perished in the Great Fire of 1886, two months after the birth of the City of Vancouver. The Sunnyside Hotel was quickly rebuilt then prospered for years. Canadian Pacific Railway arrived in 1887 and over two decades changed this area profoundly. Gastown became the centre for wholesale distribution and the core of Vancouver moved to the area around Georgia and Granville Street.
The Sunnyside Hotel became “The” upscale destination in a rough and tumble area that hosted a wonderful list of famous names including his Excellency the Governor Marquis of Lorne and Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Louise.
After a long and storied run, Sunnyside Hotel was knocked down and rebuilt as Hotel Alexandra in 1907. However, by this time the hub of our young city had already moved, leaving the Alexandra to early demise.
The Swift Canadian Packing House and Office Building was built and stands to this day. The building you stand in showcases Edwardian Commercial architecture featuring irregular form, octagonal columns, parallelogram massing, stepped parapets and decorative precast concrete sills. Unfortunately The Great Depression of the 1930’s pushed all of Gastown into decline and disrepair. The area flourished with cheap beer parlours, flophouse hotels, and loggers’ hiring halls.
After learning of a scheduled demolishing of Gastown for a major freeway, concerned citizens rallied and convinced provincial and federal governments to declare Gastown a historical site, protecting its buildings to this day, and into the future. Over the years this space has housed numerous businesses including The Purple Onion night club and Koolhaus Design wearhouse. Always a destination, always exciting.
Secret Location opens in a bustling Gastown now voted one of the most stylish neighbourhoods in the world (by Vogue Paris). The first concept store in Canada, we are a perspective on luxury that embraces diverse styles, supports quality craftsmanship and responsible production, presented in a friendly high-service manner. Welcome!
Bailey Bros. photo, Vancouver Public Library 13240
Author unknown, Vancouver Public Library 802
City of Vancouver Archives, AM1562-: 75-54, creator Major James Skitt Matthews.
City of Vancouver Archives, AM54-S4-: Bu P371, creator Major James Skitt Matthews.
Philip Timms photo, Vancouver Public Library 7216
Dominion Photo Co., Vancouver Public Library 26331
City of Vancouver Archives, COV-S511---: CVA 780-770, creator Vancouver (B.C.). Planning Department.