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On The Historic Buildings Artfully Stashed Away Inside A Local Shopping Mall

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When it comes to adaptive re-use in historic architecture, it just doesn’t get much better than The City Square Shopping Centre at Cambie & 12th across from City Hall. Designed in 1989 by Paul Merrick Architects, it’s truly a unique blend of history and modern design, with two of its core structures designated as separate municipal heritage sites.

On the western side sits the former Model School, a Romanesque Revival Style building established in 1905 as an elementary training school for teachers. In addition to its large original fenestration and institutional-style sandstone design (the work of famed Vancouver architect E. E. Blackmore), its ornate arched entrances on its north side are still visible and accessible.

To the east of the mall is the 1909 Normal School, a Gothic-style building designed by Pearce & Hope Architects that also served as a training centre for Vancouver teachers. The two sections feature stained glass windows and (renovated) slate roofs to complement the original architecture.

The Model School continued to operate as an elementary school before it was closed briefly in 1963; it reopened the following year as an annex of the King Edward Continuing Education Centre. Over a decade later in 1979, after a few years of being boarded up, the Heritage Advisory Committee recommended the site for heritage designation. In 1986, both were designated as municipal heritage sites.

The newer section of the mall is a classic example of 1980’s postmodern architecture, with an interesting use of glass creating a courtyard-style promenade and showcasing the copper cupola perched atop the roof. In 2005, several of the original stained glass windows were unveiled to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Model School. The following year, the City awarded the mall a Heritage Award of Recognition.

So take a closer look next time you’re picking up a few groceries or dollar store gems. You’ll be amazed at what you find!

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  • Teacher Dorothy Alison and students in classroom of Model School copy
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  • Normal School
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  • Normal School, Vancouver copy
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  • Normal School students and teachers in front of entrance of building copy
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  • Normal School, 1912 copy
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  • Model School 1908 copy
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You Should Know About Sarah Cassell and ‘Sarah’s Café’

Like any good research rabbit hole, it all started with a single photograph depicting the window sign for Sarah’s Cafe. Local history buff, Christine Hagemoen, set out to learn more. Here is what she found.

Vancouver’s History of Independent Grocery Stores, Vol. 11

In her latest instalment, Christine Hagemoen briefly retails the 114-plus-year-long history of Ernie's Grocery, on Commercial Street.

Vancouver’s History of Independent Grocery Stores, Vol. 10

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Groundbreaking Eleanor Collins, The City’s ‘First Lady Of Jazz’

Eleanor Collins, celebrated as "Vancouver's first lady of jazz" and recipient of the Order of Canada, passed away on March 3, 2024, at the age of 104. In tribute to her legacy and to extend our condolences to her family, we are republishing Christine Hagemoen's 2017 article that explores Collins' profound impact on Vancouver's music scene.