VANCOUVER DETAIL #279: The Sculpture At The Top Of Century House On Richards

January 22, 2013 

Even in the fog it’s easy to make out the sculpture on the top of the old Beaux-Arts building at 432 Richards Street. From a distance it might look like two beavers spraying clouds of musk on your second to least favourite chess piece (the feeble rook), but the reality of it is far less exciting. It’s really just the emblem of the building’s original owner, the Canada Permanent Mortgage Corporation; two beavers flanking a lighthouse being the early Canadian equivalent of Helvetica in lower case. Not exactly riveting, but a facet of our city’s history nonetheless.

We know it not only as Century House, but also as the Canada Permanent Building, an old pile that has hosted many an unsuitable thing since the suits vacated it in 1951 (everything from a bank to a book store). Its most recent incarnation was as a club/restaurant called Century. If you’ve never heard of it, you didn’t miss much except for a mural-sized portrait of Che Guevara and seven shades of Tuscan regret colouring the splendour of a shell that had been shucked 50 years previous.

The Class “A” heritage building’s glory days may have been on pause for a while, but its granite bones still project a sense of power and permanence, and the interior, with all its gleaming marble and vaulted ceilings, remains one of the most dramatic in the city. Good luck to whoever hopes to resurrect it next.

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Vancouver Detail is an offshoot of Scout’s regular Seen In Vancouver column. With it, we aim to share the less macro scenes of our city’s awesomeness, the things that some of our more hurried readers might miss, from hidden works of art to all manner of unlikely but cool things lying in plain sight.

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