Marine Building | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Marine Building

Vancouver, Canada

Luke Tomes

05 Mar 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Marine Building

The Marine Building is a skyscraper located in Downtown Vancouver, British Columbia. It is considered to be one of the world’s most exquisite examples of art deco architecture.

Marine Building history

When it opened in 1930, the Marine Building had the distinction of being the tallest building in the British Empire. The building was conceived by Lt. Commander J.W. Hobbs, an entrepreneur from Toronto. Hobbs recognized that the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914 would greatly increase Vancouver’s importance as a commercial port, and decided that the city needed a grand and iconic building.

It was originally intended for the building to cost $1.5 million, but construction ended up costing $2.3 million. The Great Depression also kicked in during construction, and the developer, a former rum runner, went bust. Desperate to fend off creditors, he offered it to the city for $1 million for a new city hall, but ended up selling it to the Guinness family (of beer fame) for a mere $900,000 in 1933.

Uniformed doormen stood by the massive brass doors opening onto the dazzling lobby and sailor-suited women waited to escort passengers in what were the fastest elevators in the city.

Since then the building has undergone a series of restorations to reverse deterioration. The building has been designated a historic resource by the City of Vancouver and restrictions placed on the alteration or demolition of any aspect of its exterior.

Marine Building today

Where once the iconic building dominated downtown Vancouver, today it is dwarfed and somewhat lost amidst the newer skyscrapers. But visitors to the Marine Building will be as awestruck by its beauty as they would have been when it opened its opulent doors over eighty years ago.

The terra cotta exterior is inlaid with reliefs of state of the art forms of transportation from the 1920s including zeppelins, steamship biplanes, and trains. The giant brass doors pick up the marine theme with intricately carved seaweed, turtles, crabs, and seahorses. The doors open onto a dazzling lobby, where the wall sconces take the form of plaster ships riding the crests of waves carved into the lobby walls. The lobby also contains antique telephone booths with functioning telephones.

Visitors will have plenty to marvel within this architectural gem.

Getting to the Marine Building

The Marine Building is located at 355 Burrard Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6C 2G8. If travelling by car, the Marine Building is a 29 minute drive from Vancouver Airport and a 2 minute drive from W George Street.

If travelling by Skytrain, take the Expo Line to Burrard Station which is a 4 minute walk away from the skyscraper, or take the Canada Line to Waterfront Station – a 5 minute walk away. You can also reach this station via Seabus.

There are multiple parking bays located within a short walk of the Marine Building.

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