Bowman 528 Beatty Street, Vancouver V6B 2L3
The Bowman Block was erected as a distribution warehouse in 1906, with additional storeys built in 1913. It and its neighbours along the east side of Beatty Street are set at the edge of an escarpment. Consequently the brick building is seven storeys high on Beatty Street, with two further floors below, facing the lane (and former railway tracks) to the east. The building forms part of a group of visually-related commercial buildings, anchored by the landmark Sun Tower (World Building), in the Victory Square area near the southern edge of Gastown.
The Bowman Block has heritage value for being representative of wholesaling activities in this part of downtown Vancouver, demonstrating Vancouver's role as a distribution centre for products manufactured elsewhere. The explosive growth that occurred during the years just prior to the First World War is illustrated by the early expansion of the building. Originally built in 1906 as a seven-storey structure (five facing Beatty Street), it was expanded through a two-storey addition just seven years later.
The Bowman Block is also valuable as evidence of the importance of railway access to early commerce in Vancouver. The location of this and the adjacent structures was determined by the adjacency of the diagonal spur line that ran between the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) main line on the Gastown waterfront and the rail marshalling yards (remembered by the Roundhouse) on False Creek. The buildings were sited to take advantage of the escarpment that runs along the east side of Beatty Street, allowing rail access at the lowest level and street access at the Beatty Street ground floor. A location adjacent to rail lines was a key aspect of wholesale warehousing during the city's early history, and remained important until the mid-twentieth-century change in distribution methods, with a consequent shift to truck delivery. This change made the original uses of the warehouses in Gastown, Yaletown, and the Victory Square area obsolete, causing a decline in their value and their ultimate conversion to other uses. This building, like many others in the area, came to be used for the garment industry.
The Bowman Block is important as a representative warehouse of the Edwardian era. Like most others, it is supported by a heavy timber frame structure, with exterior brick walls that provided a measure of fire protection. The utilitarian exterior and interior are a clear indication of its original use. The massive cubic form, dense site coverage, and large clear-span floor plate are also representative of this kind of structure.
The building also has value for its associations with local and regional businesses and manufacturers. It was originally built as the Vancouver outlet for two manufacturing companies owned by prominent Victoria, B.C. businessman W.J. Pendray: the British Columbia Soap Works and British America Paint Company Ltd. (BAPCO), both headquartered near Pendray's home in Victoria. The soap works was sold to American commercial giant Lever Brothers after Pendray's death in 1913. The building remained the local warehouse for BAPCO Paints for many decades. It was also associated at an early date with the Gutta Percha & Rubber Co. Ltd., demonstrating a continuing association with new technology and the warehousing of industrial products. The flammable nature of these industrial products was the cause of a fire that gutted the building in 1929.
BAPCO commissioned a modernistic reconstruction of the Beatty Street storefront in 1944 from architects Townley and Matheson, showing an updated image, unusual for its date of wartime construction. The building's later change in use to clothing manufacturing and offices, and the proposed change to residential use, represent the shifting nature of the local land-use context and economy.
Source: City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program
- The prominent location within an important streetscape of similar masonry-clad warehouse structures
- The 7-storey brick façade at the property line on Beatty Street and the 9-storey elevation on the lower lane to the east
- The straightforward cubic massing with no setbacks
- The treatment of the Beatty Street elevation, whose features include vertical piers, horizontal recessed spandrels, groups of three windows, and the cornice at the top
- The brick elevations with stone sills and window heads, and the metal structural ties that are visible on the upper storeys
- The single surviving original window on the top floor of the west elevation, and the early wood-sash windows on the east elevation
- The exposed heavy timber structure, including the wood columns with 2 x 12 planks bolted to them, the wood beams, the cast iron beam hangers, and the stone bearing clocks beneath the beam ends
- The common brick interior walls
- The exposed steel lintels over the windows