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A new light in the Downtown Eastside

January 2nd, 2009 · 6 Comments

To start the new year on a (somewhat) cheery note, I saw in my travels through the Downtown Eastside around Christmas Day that the beautiful new neon sign for the Pennsylvania Hotel — a replica of the sign that used to be on the building in the 20s — has gone up at Carrall and East Hastings.

To see what the Pennsylvania and its sign used to look like in their heyday, there’s a picture on this blog devoted to Carrall Street. I’m trying to get a picture of the new sign, which I’ll post when I receive. (And someone has kindly sent me a link here.)

Anyway, the sign looks gorgeous, as does the building, which is slowly being renovated for use as social housing. The hotel is where the Portland Hotel Society and psychiatric nurse Liz Evans started the first housing project aimed at people with mental illnesses, back in 1993.

The Portland’s Tom Laviolette says the sign, done by Knight Signs, cost $50,000, with $45,000 of the money coming from the city’s Great Beginnings, Great Streets project and $5,000 from the Vancouver Heritage Foundation.

As Vancouver history fans know, those few blocks of Hastings used to be lit up with neon. There are still some remnants left, notably the Balmoral Hotel and the Ovaltine Cafe signs.

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  • Sungsu
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  • Bill Lee

    And the copper turret was restored. It has no function
    other than looking important, but a nice gesture.

    But how would you like a bright neon outside your windows?

    *Vacancy* [blink] *Vacancy* [blink] …

    This is for the continuation of the Brian Holmes’ Gastown/Skid Road
    “artists’ loft” legacy in the neighbourhood. Yuppies will be

    Though I keep on thinking about sea water coming into the
    Old Woodwards basement and fishing boats docked where the
    Chinese garden is now. This is the lowest point of the city
    and when climate change and high tides raise the water level
    this area will be in danger.

  • The building looks great! And it is still social housing? that’s the part that counts.

  • fbula


    Yes, still social housing.


  • Stephanie

    Still social housing, at a renovation cost per square foot that is enough to make even the most dedicated social housing advocate blush. A lot of this can be contributed to rising construction costs generally, but the constant project delays because of incomplete funding at different stages had a good deal to do with it, too. Not dissing the Portland here – somebody should have shoved the money in and gotten it done a long time ago.

    All that said, it’ll be great to see the building completed and open.