Greenshields 345 Water Street, Vancouver V6B 1B8
The Greenshields Building is a four-storey Romanesque Revival style building located on the north side of Water Street in the historic district of Gastown. The building was built in two halves simultaneously in 1901-02, which were designed to appear as one. The building has never been legally consolidated and each half is under different ownership, thus the two primary addresses of 341 and 345 Water. The site slopes to the north; Water Street marked the edge of the original waterfront, and the lot was filled to allow construction.
Gastown is the historic core of Vancouver, and is the city's earliest, most historic area of commercial buildings and warehouses. The Greenshields Building is representative of the importance of Gastown as the trans-shipment point between the terminus of the railway and Pacific shipping routes, and the consequent expansion of Vancouver into western Canada's predominant commercial centre in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As Vancouver prospered, substantial warehouses were built on piles on filled water lots between Water Street and the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) trestle. Loading bays at the lower level faced the railway tracks, which allowed goods to be off-loaded directly from trains. The massive cubic form, high density, large clear-span floor plate and notable height of this structure are a clear indication of the extent and prosperity of commercial trade during this period.
This structure represents the western expansion of large corporations into new western markets after the construction of the transcontinental railway. S. Greenshields, Son and Company, a prominent dry goods firm, was first established in Montreal. The company opened their western headquarters in Winnipeg, and then established an outlet in Vancouver in 1888, demonstrating confidence that the new city would flourish. J.M. McLuckie, prominent local contractor, was retained to build this large structure. It is likely that James H. Cadham, a prominent Winnipeg architect who designed the Greenshields Warehouse in Winnipeg in 1903, and who designed many similar warehouses, provided the plans for both halves of this building. The Greenshields Building was constructed in two halves; the eastern half of the building at 341 Water, originally called the Prentice Block, but now considered as the second half of the Greenshields Building, was operated separately and was originally occupied by Kelly, Douglas and Company, a rapidly-growing wholesale grocery firm that would build their own enormous warehouse just a few years later.
The building is also valued for its architecture and its sculptural elaboration. This sophisticated example of the Romanesque Revival style has a powerful rhythm and unity, conveying the strength and security of the company, and establishing the character of Gastown as a successful and progressive commercial district. The carved sandstone capitals are notable examples of deep relief figural carving.
Source: City of Vancouver, Heritage Planning Street Files
Key elements that define the heritage character of the Greenshields Building include its:
- location on the north side of Water Street, in close proximity to the waterfront of Burrard Inlet and the CPR yard, with an alley to the east side
- siting on the property lines, with no setbacks
- flat-roofed four-storey plus lower level form, scale and massing, and large floor plate
- side-by-side construction in two separate halves, visually joined by the use of a common architectural vocabulary
- Romanesque Revival architectural characteristics, including the arch-and-spandrel windows, vertical brick pilasters, patterned brickwork, corbelled cornice with repeating arch motif, and carved sandstone capitals at the ground and second floors on the front facade
- masonry construction, including red brick walls, rough-dressed ground floor sandstone columns, and sandstone sills and lintels
- varied front facade fenestration, such as: double-hung 1-over-1 wood-sash windows on the second and fourth floors; arched triple-assembly double-hung 1-over-1 wood-sash windows on the third floor; and smaller windows on the top floor
- rectangular storefront openings with iron I-beam lintels with repeating lion head rosettes
- segmental arched window openings on the east side and the east half of the rear facade, with double-hung 1-over-1 wood-sash windows; single-assembly windows on the side facade and double-assembly at the rear
- loading bays at the lower level of the rear facade on the east side
- superior workmanship, as exemplified by the deep relief figural carving of the front facade capitals
- heavy timber frame construction
- surviving interior details including pressed tin ceilings