Local History Advent Calendar 2019 – Day 18 – Triangle Building

Last year I took on the challenge of the first-ever Local History Advent Calendar! For 24 days in a row, I presented random historical tidbits I’d collected over the previous year and presented them in the form of “treats” for my 2018 Local History Advent Calendar. This year, the “Heart of Mount Pleasant” was number 1 on Heritage Vancouver’s Top 10 Watch List for 2019.  So I decided to choose Mount Pleasant as the theme for the Vanalogue Local History Advent Calendar for 2019.  Each day you can “open” a new historical treat. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder – 24 facts about Mount Pleasant history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Triangle Building in the 1950s with neon signs. The large one at the point was a large clock face with a swinging pendulum. The text reads: “Wosks for Ranges”. Photo: (cropped) Alvin Armstrong, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection

The Triangle Building, the cornerstone of Mount Pleasant, sits at the intersection of Main and Kingsway. It’s part of the ‘Triangle Block’, which is recognized and celebrated as the “historic heart” of the neighbourhood.

Furniture retailer, developer, and philanthropist Ben Wosk built this landmark structure, initially known as the “Wosk Block”, in 1947. During its 70-year history, it’s been home to numerous street-level shops and cafes, including two of Vancouver’s iconic businesses: Wosk’s Furniture and Bain’s Candies & Fine Chocolates. The second-floor offices (2414 Main) have hosted a variety of trade unions, community groups, professionals, writers, artists, and not-for-profit organizations that have been an integral part of the city’s cultural fabric.

Triangle Building looking all streamline and moderne. Photo: C. Hagemoen

The Wosk Block/Triangle Building is a rare Vancouver example of the Streamlined Moderne architectural style. A later variation of the Art Deco style construction, Streamline Moderne buildings display the influence of the technological marvels of the day and developments in materials science, characterized by aerodynamic curves and smooth planar surfaces. The Triangle Building’s stainless steel window and door frames are also representative of the period’s affection for slick, shiny surfaces.

Currently hidden under a skin of painted mural on grey stucco, the triangle-shaped building once featured the mid-century palette of jade green and black Vitrolite exterior finish. A product of the machine age, Vitrolite is a pigmented structural glass that was used in interior and exterior applications. Recently exposed areas of the building on both the Kingsway and Main sides reveal glimpses of the original exterior finish (take a look for the next time you pass by).

Jade Vitrolite revealed around the door frame of Dig It Select Vintage on Kingsway side. Photo: C.Hagemoen

The Triangle Building is not only notable for its architectural significance. It might even be more significant in the continuing history of the social and cultural identity of Mount Pleasant and the city as a whole.

The types of businesses that have called it home have always been a reflection of the evolving community. The graphic design businesses and skateboard shops of the 1980s and 90s replaced the dress shops and shoe stores of the 1950s and 60s. In the 1990s, several independent theatre and arts groups like the Public Dreams Society, Ruby Slippers Theatrical Society, and the Fringe Festival eventually replaced the high concentration of trade workers’ associations and credit unions that occupied its offices during the industrial 1950s and 60s. In addition, many popular-priced eateries like Palm’s Grill (in business from the 1950s to the 1970s) and Budgies Burritos (2005 to today) have occupied the Triangle Building’s street-level restaurant spaces. And of course, we can’t forget that the Triangle Building was where MP for Vancouver East, Libby Davies had her official office.

Budgies Burritos along Kingsway. Photo: C. Hagemoen

The community-based Mount Pleasant Heritage Group (MPHG)* believes that the Triangle Building’s continuing “popularity as a social gathering place, both inside its shops, café’s and eateries and outside along the sidewalk, reflects how much the building and its tenants are held dear by the residents of Mount Pleasant and the citizens of Vancouver”. The ultimate goal of the MPHG, and of heritage supporters all over the city, is to identify buildings like the Triangle Building that not only have “architectural significance” but also have a “history of contributing to the social & cultural identity of the community”.

The Triangle Building is not included on Vancouver’s Heritage Register. This is an oversight that should be remedied. In my opinion, it could easily be included on the Heritage Register under the “Recent Landmarks Program”, an initiative that recognizes the historical and cultural importance of structures built during Vancouver’s post-war period.

Today’s post was an abridged version of the article I wrote for Scout Magazine, March 12, 2018.

*I am an active member of the Mount Pleasant Heritage Group.

The Pro-Rec Program (1934-1953)

Group of women doing a Pro-Rec fitness display in Stanley PArk
Group of women doing a Pro-Rec fitness display in Stanley Park, 1940.   Photo City of Vancouver Archives – CVA 1184-2355
Pro-Rec dance demonstration. CVA 586-237
Pro-Rec dance demonstration in Stanley Park, 1940. Photo: City of Vancouver Archives – CVA 586-237

These intriguing photos are from a series of images that depict a ‘Pro-Rec’ mass demonstration held at Brockton Oval in Stanley Park in 1940. “Pro Rec”, short for Provincial Recreation, was a community sport and recreation initiative offered through the Physical Education Branch of the BC Department of Education. It was developed by Jan Eisenhardt (program administrator) with the support of BC Minister of Education, George Weir. Continue reading “The Pro-Rec Program (1934-1953)”

Rose Marie the Riveter

Two images of women (1943 & 1945) on the back cover of Wallace Shipbuilder.
Two images of women (1943 & 1945) on the back cover of Wallace Shipbuilder.

I found these great photographic images of these women serendipitously while doing another task at the City of Vancouver Archives. [Isn’t that the best way to discover interesting new things?] Though both images essentially depict the same thing – an attractive woman – despite being taken only two years apart, I was intrigued by how differently these women were portrayed. Especially since these images appeared on back covers of the same publication, Wallace Shipbuilder. The side by side juxtaposition of the two images piqued my interest. Continue reading “Rose Marie the Riveter”

Georgia Auditorium

Happy 2014! After a bit of a break over the holidays from Vanalogue, I’m ready to get back into the swing of things. I am looking forward to celebrating all things analogue in 2014. The first post of 2014, features a little known performance venue from Vancouver’s recent past – The Georgia Auditorium.

Neon sign from the Georgia Auditorium. Still taken from moving image CBUT news footage (1959).
Neon sign from the Georgia Auditorium. Still taken from CBUT news footage (1959). Photo: C. Hagemoen.

Working as a volunteer for the City of Vancouver Archives affords me the opportunity to be constantly surprised by new facets of Vancouver History. One recent example of this happened while I was working on a card catalogue/database project for the Archives’ pamphlet collection. As I was making my way through my assigned drawer, I came across a series of references to a Georgia Auditorium under the subject heading: Famous Artists Ltd. [a live entertainment production company]. I had never heard of this venue before. The following reference in particular intrigued me…

Continue reading “Georgia Auditorium”

Newsie Jack

Newspaper vendor near the corner of Granville and Robson Street. Photo: James Crookall, City of Vancouver Archives CVA-260-1372
Newspaper vendor near the corner of Granville and Robson Street, May 24, 1940. This photo shows ‘Newsie Jack’ in his early days as a news vendor.  Copy of Photo: James Crookall, City of Vancouver Archives CVA-260-1372

In an era where the daily newspapers would print two editions a day, the street news vendor was a common sight on busy downtown street corners. The vendors would stand all day beside their small display kiosks, hawking the papers and shouting the headlines out loud. Newspaper vendors, like street photographers, were active participants in the daily buzz of the city.

I spent several years working as a media librarian in the CBC Vancouver Media Archives on a film preservation project. During that time, I was introduced to much of Vancouver’s engaging moving image history. Every now and then, a slug, or title would pique my interest and I would be lured to take a closer look. Such was the case when I came across a film item titled “Newsie Jack” in the log book.

Continue reading “Newsie Jack”

Historical Walking Tours

Historical walking tours are a great way to learn more about local history in a fun, immersive and engaging way – and the lazy, hazy days of summer are the perfect time to partake.

Shipyard Sal and Sam
Shipyard Sal and Sam from the NVMA historical walking tour of the Burrard Dry Dock Shipyard in North Vancouver. Photo: C. Hagemoen

Last Friday, I did exactly that. I joined 7 others for an engaging historical walking tour of the Burrard Dry Dock Shipyard site beside the Lonsdale Quay Market. Led by our tour guides, Shipyard Sal and Sam, we were transported back in time to the 1940s when North Vancouver’s Burrard Dry Dock and Shipyards was hopping with war-time shipbuilding action.

Continue reading “Historical Walking Tours”

Vintage recipe pamphlets

The history and culture of food fascinates me – especially when it is represented visually. This is probably why I started collecting vintage cook books and pamphlets. I am especially drawn to the delightfully illustrated recipe and entertaining pamphlets, or booklets, published by companies for homemakers in the 1930s, 40s, 50s, and 60s.

In the 20th century advancements in the way people stored and cooked food at home changed dramatically. Food and appliance manufacturers published recipe pamphlets to encourage homemakers to use their products in their own home kitchens. Through the use of these materials, companies achieved brand name exposure while providing consumers with new and exciting ways to use their products. These beautifully illustrated recipe pamphlets were selling more than just products, they were selling a lifestyle – a lifestyle to which homemakers could aspire.

Reading and using vintage cooking pamphlets is a great way to discover unknown recipes and a variety of foods and dishes that were at one time commonplace – gelatin salads, jelly braid, floating islands, noodle oyster loaf and boiled tongue.

Composite of cook book covers
Composite of covers and photography from various cooking pamphlets and books, 1938 – 1957.

Continue reading “Vintage recipe pamphlets”