Elegant West End Apartment Building is a Gem in Heritage House Tour

Joannah Connolly
June 4, 2015

Four light-filled West End apartments in the 1928 Queen Charlotte apartment building, at Nicola Street at Pendrell, will be on display at this year’s annual Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s Heritage House tour Sunday June 7.

One of finest examples was recently opened up for a media preview ahead of the event. It is a gorgeous 1,069-square-foot condo owned by Kate Swatek, who has been in the building since 1991.

Swatek’s large, high-celiinged, two-bedroom unit is filled with vintage gems such as: original wood flooring; parrot-painted glass or wrought-iron ceiling lights; charmingly cracked glazing on wooden doors; huge sash windows; a vintage electric fireplace; cast-iron wall radiators and more besides.

Just as elegant, and even grander, are the details to be found in the building’s entrance and common areas. These include: weave-patterned parquet flooring that would have been extremely expensive at the time; Art Deco-style columns against the lobby walls; original tiling at the entrance; a grand staircase with wooden balustrade; and one of only two remaining gated elevators in BC.

The lobby was originally around 20 feet wider and served as a hotel-style reception lounge, but it was reduced in size to give extra space to the caretaker’s suite.

The original advertisement for the Queen Charlotte apartments – “Vancouver’s finest furnished or unfurnished apartments” – is framed and hangs on the lobby wall. Rents started at $65 a month for unfurnished apartments and went up from there, which would have been very expensive for 1928.

When it was built, the 25-unit building would have been “one of the first wave of ‘high-density’ buildings in the West End,” said long-time resident Daryl Nelson, who sits on the Vancouver Heritage Foundation board and whose condo will also be on show in the tour.

“But some of the other buildings at the time, like the Strathmore on Bute and Pendrell, built really small units for people just starting out in Vancouver. So the philosophy behind the Queen Charlotte was very different – they wanted to build much more gracious apartments and they wanted to make it as high end as possible.”

Historian Michael Kluckner added, “This was the home of HH Stevens, a Conservative cabinet minister, who was the first owner of the Queen Charlotte apartment building too.”

The process to start converting the units from rental apartments into condominiums started in 1979, and by the mid-1980s all the units were owned, said Nelson.

Judith Mosley, executive director of the Vancouver Heritage Foundation, said that this year’s tour is embracing the West End, with four units at the Queen Charlotte on show as well as a detached heritage home on Nelson and Bute.

“Our theme this year is very much the diversity of different kinds of heritage homes that are out there,” she added. “We’ve not often had an apartment building on the tour but we’re really excited to be able to do that. We also have another apartment building, but it’s a converted industrial building, so it’s a contrast to this. The others are more traditional homes of various sizes and ages.”

This year’s tour is on Sunday, June 7, 10am to 5pm. For details, go to vancouverheritagefoundation.org.

Joannah Connolly
Joannah Connolly is editorial director of Glacier Real Estate, Glacier Media's real estate division. Joannah writes and curates real estate news for Glacier Media's local newspaper websites, including the Vancouver Courier, North Shore News, Burnaby Now, Tri-City News and others. She also oversees editorial content in Real Estate Weekly Homes, West Coast Condo, Western Investor and Glacier's special real estate publications. A dual Canadian-British citizen, Joannah has 22 years of journalism and editing experience in Vancouver and London, with a background in construction, architecture, healthcare and business media. Joannah has appeared on major local TV outlets as a real estate commentator, has moderated and spoken on various industry panels, and spent two years hosting the Real Estate Therapist radio show on Roundhouse Radio.