Vancouver Observer's historic new home

From our new office, we find inspiration everywhere we look. The Dominion Building ushered in Vancouver's skyscraper age, and it's probably not as haunted as some may think.

l-r: Peter Morelli, Janel Johnson, Sindhu Dharmarajah, Claire Hume, Jenny Uechi, Linda Solomon (photos by Jordan Yerman)

Vancouver's original skyscraper

The Vancouver Observer has a new home. Our headquarters is now in Vancouver's historic Dominion Building, in the geographical, historical, and topical centre of the city. From our new vantage point we can watch the streets, the mountains, the water, and the sky.

Dominion Building, Vancouver

Built in 1910, the Dominion Building was designed by J.S. Helyer and Son; and, no, architect John Helyer did not die in the stairwell of his creation. That's a myth: he died in his West End home after years of deteriorating health. What's true, however, is that the Dominion Building was Vancouver's first steel-framed tower, as well as the tallest building in the British Empire at the time: Vancouver's skyscraper era had begun: the Sun Tower (then called The World Building) and the Marine Building would soon eclipse it. A century later, "Vancouverism" is synonymous with massive towers as the city struggles to build a sustainable future in the face of rampant development.

Looking north, we can see Victory Square, were we are reminded of the ultimate sacrifice made by thousands of Canadians in pursuit of a safer world that is not yet here.

Looking past the streets and out into the mountains and the water, we can remind ourselves of British Columbia's natural majesty. The health of the land itself is threatened by an energy industry that spends ever more money on controlling the flow of information. The health of the news media depends on independent outlets resisting that kind of control.

In the gaps between towers, we can look eastward, to Burnaby's skyline and beyond. This helps motivate us toward our next goal: the formation of the National Observer.

We're close to every form of transit Vancouver has to offer, so nobody has to drive. All this natural light means we don't have to burn lots of lights. The beautiful and iconic staircase provides a welcome respite from elevators.

Dominion Building stairway

Also, the building has those amazing radiators that rattle as they heat up.

Even if you've never been to Vancouver, you've probably seen the Dominion Building. From shows like Arrow, Fringe and Human Target to films like The Neverending Story; this structure has shown its face over and over again... while selling Vancouver as somewhere else.

Aside from its iconic nautiloid staircase, the Dominion Building has those old-world features that are so quickly vanishing from Vancouver. Wooden doors, frosted glass, hand-lettering.

These are the sorts of doors behind which stories unfold, and we've got a lot of work to do as we expand our coverage. The desks we've brought in are modern and minimalist, though: no heavy drawers in which to place a bottle of whiskey, and no coat-rack on which to throw a battered fedora. Not that this is a fedora kind of operation.

You know what they say about all work and no play, though. Right around the corner, one can stop in at Revolver: never before has making coffee so slowly been taken so seriously. Some of the city's best tacos can be found kitty-corner to the Dominion Building at La Taqueria, providing one beats the daily queue. We're also close to so many of Vancouver's food trucks and new eateries.

All in all, a historic building suits us: we're just not cubicle people.

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