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Buildings that weren’t: Trail hotel, Rossland apartments, 1927

Updated: Jan 21, 2021

These Art Deco masterpieces, held by the City of Vancouver Archives, were drawn by the firm of Townley and Matheson, who designed Vancouver city hall, among many other buildings in that city. The first set is of a four-storey hotel intended for Trail, dated Dec. 30, 1927, followed by a three-storey version apparently intended for the same place.

City of Vancouver Archives AM1399-S3---: CVA 1399-573

City of Vancouver Archives AM1399-S3---: CVA 1399-575

City of Vancouver Archives AM1399-S3---: CVA 1399-583

City of Vancouver Archives AM1399-S3---: CVA 1399-581

City of Vancouver Archives AM1399-S3---: CVA 1399-582

City of Vancouver Archives AM1399-S3---: CVA 1399-574

Nelson architect Matthew Stanley says you can distinguish between the two options for the hotel by the style of the title block at the bottom of each drawing. (I have reorganized them so that they are now grouped together.)

“It looks to me like the four storey option was the first of the two options, but the architects got the streetscape incorrect (showing both adjacent buildings as being separated by a street),” Stanley says.

“The later, three storey, option shows one of the neighbouring buildings as touching the proposed building (you can see this in both the elevation and in the plan drawing). The only reason I think the three storey option was the later of the two is that it actually provides a bathroom for the women on the main floor, whereas the four storey option does not (which seems like something that would have been corrected in later drawings!).”

The other plan is a single sketch for a two-story Rossland apartment building, undated, but of similar vintage:

City of Vancouver Archives AM1399-S3---: CVA 1399-615

These are among a series of proposed buildings the firm drew up in 1927 (others were for Kamloops, Vernon, and Vancouver). Were they done on spec or did developers actually commission them? I can’t guess from the drawings what locations they might have had in mind. About the only thing in Rossland or Trail that remotely resembles these plans is the Columbia apartments in Trail (also known as the Tamarac Avenue apartments, pictured below). BC Assessment says it was built in 1928, but I don’t know who the architect was.

(Google Street View)

At first I wondered whether the Trail hotel plans were actually the Crown Point, which was rebuilt in 1929, although I don’t know who the architect was. But they were not; for one thing the proposed buildings were larger than Crown Point, which is seen below in a ca. 1960s postcard. The BC Archives also has an earlier view.

But speaking of the Crown Point, the late Randy Glover told me: “Back in the ‘90s there were plans for expansion. The late Mickey Pazurik showed me the plans which included archways over the alley and over the Esplanade, and there were plans for an elevator that would go down to the river where there was a dock. Grandiose plans that never got off the ground.” The Crown Point is now in the midst of a redevelopment into a boutique hotel, restaurant, and conference centre.

Townley and Matheson’s Trail hotel and Rossland apartments may not have been built, but they did design two other very noteworthy edifices in the West Kootenay that opened in 1927: Nelson’s Capitol Theatre and Trail’s Rialto Theatre, which became the Odeon in 1945, and the Royal in 1977, the name by which it is still known. On top of that, they designed the Terrace Apartments in Nelson, completed in 1928.

Updated on March 26, 2018 to add Matthew Stanley’s comments.

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