Vancouver Centennial Plaque #13 – The Vancouver Opera House


Southwest corner of Granville and Georgia (south of the first Hotel Vancouver)


Pacific Centre shopping mall





On this site in 1891, the C.P.R. built Vancouver's most historic theatre, adjoining their first Hotel Vancouver. The Opera House was later known as the Orpheum, the Vancouver Theatre, the Lyric and the International Cinema. It was demolished in 1969.”

Credit: Vancouver Centennial Commission, Historic Plaque Program – list and documentation plaques 1-49 (June 18, 1986). Courtesy of Vancouver Archives

The Canadian Pacific Railway built the Opera House beside its Hotel Vancouver as a way to engineer a new city centre, away from the seedy Gastown core, but more importantly, into the area where the CPR owned lots of land.

The Opera House held its first performance in 1891 and both the show and the theatre itself were highly praised by all who attended. The theatre was refurbished and extended in 1907 (and this is the design I’ve drawn). By 1912, tastes had changed and vaudeville was the popular entertainment choice, so the CPR sold the Opera House and it reopened as the Orpheum.

The building remained open under different names – the Vancouver Theatre in 1928, the Lyric in 1935, the International Cinema in 1947 (when it became a Famous Players movie house), then back to the Vancouver Theatre in 1960, before being demolished in 1969 and replaced with Eaton’s Department Store.

A huge number of famous names performed at the Opera House in one of its many forms, including Sarah Bernhardt, Nellie Melba, Anna Pavlova, Harry Houdini, the Marx Brothers, Fred Astaire, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, and Katherine Hepburn.

The files at the Vancouver Archives suggest that this plaque (and a couple of others) may have been intended for the Pacific Centre shopping mall, but they may never have been actually installed.

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