The Horse Show Building / Stanley Park Armouries
Many longtime West Enders remember the southwest corner of Georgia and Gilford as a verdant vacant lot, which it was until 2007 when the elegant Laguna Parkside apartment tower was erected on the site, with its entrance on Alberni. But real old-timers can recall the terrible fire of March, 1960, which razed the nearly fifty-year-old structure that had occupied that block since its construction in 1908 / 1909 — originally known as The Horse Show Building.
For high society in old Vancouver, the annual Horse Show was a major event on the annual social calendar. The first show was held in the Beatty Street Armoury in 1908, but the 1,400 seat venue wasn’t quite up to handling the crowds that wanted to attend. And so it was that the Horse Show Association, comprised of members of the Vancouver Hunt Club (those were the days!) purchased four lots at the southwest corner of Georgia and Gilford and built a huge auditorium designed by Seattle architect Warren H. Milner.
The new venue had a horse show audience capacity of 3,500. With chairs arranged on the floor for concerts the capacity increased to between six and seven thousand.
By the end of World War I the building had been adapted for military use and became known as The Stanley Park Armouries, later the home of the home of the Vancouver Regiment of the Irish Fusiliers of Canada.
The Armouries remained in use as a regimental headquarters and mixed-use venue through the Second World War and the 1950s — until March 18, 1960 when disaster struck.
March 17 was, of course, St. Patrick’s Day, and the officers and men of the Irish Fusiliers held their weekly parade in the building and lingered into the evening to celebrate Ireland’s great holiday. Sometime early in the morning of March 18 a fire broke out, destroying the wooden structure within an hour. Firefighters were able to prevent the fire from spreading to surrounding buildings, but the regimental museum’s entire collection of badges, swords, headgear, trophies, flags, and band instruments was lost.
The lot remained empty, owned for many years by a branch of the noted Sir Run Run Shaw’s family, until 2007, when the Laguna Parkside was built.
With notes and leads from Robert Moen, Janet Leduc, and The West End Business Improvement Association. Further history and many photos can be found at Mr. Moen's blog, WestEndVancouver.