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Oh, if only this barrel-vaulted lobby could talk. There would be fables of fortunes won and lost. Stories of scams and scoundrels. Fantastic tales of golden opportunities and whispered secrets of unmissable adventures.
From 1929 to 1947, this lobby saw the comings and goings of the city’s business elite as the entrance to the Vancouver Stock Exchange building at 475 Howe Street. The building opened in the summer of 1929, just a few months before Black Monday and the stock market crash, and was designed by Fred Townley and Robert T. Matheson, architects who half a decade later would create their masterpiece, the Vancouver art deco city hall. . According to This Week in History reporter John Mackie, who wrote about the building in 2020, the stock exchange building was described as ‘gothic’ at the time of its opening, but is considered Deco today.
The Vancouver Stock Exchange is no more, having ceased operations in 1999, but the glorious building that served as its home during the Depression and World War II lives on as the EXchange Hotel, a 4-star hotel with 201 rooms and suites, penthouses, and an executive floor and club lounge. And while few gems remain from the old financial center, that glorious lobby does, welcoming guests entering the hotel from Howe Street. The medieval English heraldry and symbols that decorate the ceiling are as fresh today as they were nearly a century ago thanks to the painstaking work of a volunteer who spent hundreds of hours recreating the original. His work was not in vain, as guest after guest entering the lobby looked up as they waited for the elevator to take them to the check-in floor. Some even waited for the next elevator while taking in the incredible detail of the vaulted ceiling.
I don’t know how many times I walked past this building with no idea that such a historic piece of Vancouver was only a few feet away, so I too took a little longer when I arrived for a vacation at the EXchange Hotel. As it turned out, it was not the only surprise encountered during my stay.
Boutique hotel hidden in plain sight
I’m not sure if it’s the historic facade of this building on the corner of Howe and Pender, or the glass tower that now sits on top, but just like that artsy lobby, I had no idea there was a hipster boutique hotel in this intersection. But make no mistake, from the moment you check in to the moment you first open your room door and take in your surroundings, this is an elegant and sophisticated experience, with an art deco vibe mixed with the classic and the modern. modern.St. century room decorations There are L’Occitane amenities, Egyptian cotton bedding, 24-hour in-room dining, and a 50-inch HD LCD TV with Crave Interactive and free high-speed wireless. Outside of the regular rooms, there is a club floor of suites and the private Dividend Club Lounge offering a light breakfast and evening hors d’oeuvres with bar service. And yes, it is pet friendly.
Downtown is a thing again
As it was when it opened as a stock exchange in 1929, this location is right in the heart of Vancouver’s business and financial district, the latter a great selling point for vacationers who live in the suburbs or further afield. and they don’t get the center very often. But there is also, at least for me, an unexpected buzz in the city center on weekends. Part of that is the result of the return of cruise ships. Restaurants are hot, Coal Harbor’s boardwalk is packed with tourists, and special events are back on the calendar. One I hadn’t heard of caught me off guard when on a pre-dinner walk I came across a large transparent cube in Jack Poole Plaza surrounded by makeshift lookouts. Turns out the Canadian Squash Championships were in town and this venue was similar to Center Court at Wimbledon. It certainly added to the energy on the streets.
A taste of the Mediterranean
As with shopping and entertainment, dining is a big draw during a stay-at-home vacation, and in downtown Vancouver the biggest problem is deciding which fantastic restaurant to spend the night at. The good news for EXchange guests who love Greek food is that the elevator is all the transportation they’ll ever need. And again, with its second-floor location, you don’t need to be forgiven if you don’t know much about Hydra Vancouver Estiatorio Mediterranean. I certainly didn’t, but now when someone asks me where they should eat downtown, it’s my first answer. It’s all about haute cuisine Greek food in a bustling environment with Greek servers, an excellent and extensive Greek wine list, and an atmosphere reminiscent of an Athens tavern. My well-traveled dining companion proclaimed the calamari among the best he had ever tasted, and the lamb main course was also on the short list. The restaurant also serves as a breakfast spot for hotel guests, offering traditional breakfast.
Special, and something else
The final surprise for me was discovered while researching for this story. Typically, a hotel will have a handful of package deals, some of them seasonal, others more standard. Visit the EXchange Hotel website (exchangehotelvan.com) and there are almost 20, ranging from the classic Romantic, Bubbly Breakfast and Ben & Breakfast to the more eclectic gas card package, Cruise into Comfort and Wine, Dine and Room is Fine.
After this stay, I’ll never cross the intersection of Howe and Pender without speaking at the EXchange Hotel building, and if I’m not in a hurry, I might stop by to see the EXchange Hotel Heritage Lobby.