Derelict 110-year-old Downtown Eastside resort, quickly to be demolished, leaves behind a sophisticated legacy

Derelict 110-year-old Downtown Eastside resort, quickly to be demolished, leaves behind a sophisticated legacy

Regardless of its 110-year-old historical past, the Balmoral Lodge in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is slated to be demolished as early as subsequent week, in keeping with the Metropolis of Vancouver, prompting group members to replicate on the legacy it leaves behind.

Town issued an evacuation discover to residents in 2017 after expropriating the resort from the Sahota household, a household of landlords in Vancouver recognized for mismanaging various single room occupancy (SRO) buildings within the Downtown Eastside, together with the Balmoral.

In February, the town’s chief constructing official issued an order requiring its fast demolition, citing quite a few life-threatening and fireplace security considerations.

However earlier than it grew to become an emblem of housing insecurity, poverty and drug use, the Balmoral Lodge on 159 East Hastings St. was as soon as an emblem of financial prosperity. 

Relying on who you ask, the constructing is both a storied architectural gem — or a website of displacement and trauma. 

“Heritage tends to be talked about when it comes to saving buildings or not saving buildings,” stated Invoice Yuen, govt director of Heritage Vancouver.

“However there is a greater query I believe, which is what does it imply to who? Who will get to determine what it means?”

A heritage constructing — however for whom?

The Balmoral is listed on the heritage register, which incorporates buildings, constructions and different websites which have architectural or historic heritage worth within the Metropolis of Vancouver.

Designed by Vancouver architects Parr and Payment — who had been additionally behind the Europe Lodge on Powell Road, also called Gastown’s Flatiron constructing — the Balmoral was inbuilt 1911 to 1912 as an upscale resort catering to rich guests and businessmen.

Balmoral hotel
The bar and lounge on the Balmoral Lodge, pictured within the Forties. Inbuilt 1911-1912, the resort first catered to rich travellers and businessmen. (Metropolis of Vancouver Archives)

Towering over adjoining buildings, the Balmoral featured what’s been described as Chicago-style industrial components, together with the buff brick development and the grid-like fenestration — or placement of home windows — on the facade, the place a neon signal additionally held on show.

balmoral hotel
The Balmoral Lodge on East Hasting Road, circa 1926. The constructing was designed by Vancouver architects Parr and Payment, who had been additionally behind the Flatiron constructing within the Gastown neighbourhood. (Metropolis of Vancouver Archives)

An ensuing financial downturn, adopted by the Nice Despair of the Nineteen Thirties, nonetheless, would start the Balmoral’s decline.

By the Forties, the constructing served as a rooming home for useful resource trade staff together with longshoremen, sailors, seasonal loggers and fishermen, earlier than it will definitely grew to become an SRO.

An old neon sign is hung on display on the facade of a derelict hotel building in downtown Vancouver.
The Balmoral Lodge pictured in September 2019. A neon signal hangs on show on the constructing’s facade. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

It’s unclear when the Sahota household bought the Balmoral, though the town recognized it in 1981 as one of many SROs that wanted rehabilitation.

In an open letter following the town’s demolition announcement, Yuen urged there may be extra than a technique to think about the Balmoral as a bit of heritage, citing the constructing’s historic worth whereas acknowledging its relationship with residents of the Downtown Eastside.

balmoral hotel
The Balmoral’s foyer and registration desk, pictured within the Forties. By the Eighties, when it had grow to be an SRO, the Balmoral had been recognized by the town as one which wanted rehabilitation. (Metropolis of Vancouver Archives)

“Typically in heritage that works nicely when there is a single story,” Yuen informed Stephen Quinn, host of the CBC’s The Early Version

“However I believe on this context, it’s totally clear that there is not one single story, one single perspective. That one body of structure won’t be one of the simplest ways to take a look at it.”

‘The Balmoral … simply symbolizes trauma’

Inadvertently, it was a housing advocate that contributed to the town’s determination to demolish the Balmoral.

In 2016, Wendy Pedersen — director of the advocacy group, the Downtown Eastside SRO Collaborative Society — led former Balmoral tenants in launching a category motion lawsuit in opposition to the Sahotas and the town for failing to make vital repairs on the constructing.

That compelled the town to examine the resort — and ultimately order its fast demolition.

The facade of a hotel, with windows lined up like in a grid, is pictured against the sky.
Following an inspection of the constructing, the Metropolis of Vancouver ordered the demolition of the Balmoral Lodge, pictured right here in February 2022, citing quite a few life-threatening and fireplace security considerations. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

“We did the fitting factor on the finish of the day, however we brought on a displacement disaster,” Pedersen stated on The Early Version. 

Balmoral residents had been transferred to the Winters Lodge in Gastown, which burned down in April 2022.

They had been then relocated blocks away to the Columbia Lodge, the place Pedersen says 5 individuals have since died from trauma-related points.

“The Balmoral to me and to many individuals in the neighborhood simply symbolizes trauma,” Pedersen stated.

She notes that kin of girls who died or have gone lacking consider their family members are linked to the resort.

“Individuals discuss how the bones of their relations had been within the partitions.”

Utilizing Tradition to Heal

Thelma Stogan, an elder with the Musqueam Nation and a religious employee, recommends performing a burning ceremony to clear the location of lingering unfavourable power as soon as the constructing is dismantled.

There may be a couple of method to take into account the Balmoral Lodge’s heritage, suggests Heritage Vancouver Government Director Invoice Yuen — there’s the constructing’s historic and architectural worth, in addition to its relationship with residents of the Downtown Eastside. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

“We’re caring for spirits. Not asking them to maneuver on, however placing them in a greater place,” stated Stogan, who can also be a residential faculty survivor. 

Stogan says she understands how trauma can result in the cycles of habit and abuse which might be pervasive on the Downtown Eastside.

“Lots of people are down there as a result of they’re survivors.”

Now, as the town removes waste and different hazardous supplies in preparation, Yuen says the demolition is about greater than the constructing.

“[The process is] about individuals, it is about individuals’s connections to a spot; it is about individuals’s relationship,” he stated.

“It is very emotional.”

The Early Version10:00Regardless of its 110 12 months historical past, the Balmoral Lodge is about to be demolished this month

Preservationists wish to ‘save’ the Balmoral Lodge. Former SRO tenants recount its horrific historical past. So, who has the ability to determine its which means?

Leave a Reply