1939: The New Hotel Vancouver

After breaking ground in December 1928, Hotel Vancouver finally opened its doors in May 1939, with a price tag of $12M. Today, that would be the equivalent of approximately $238M. The hotel was a modern marvel. Six thousand guests could be served in the dining rooms on any given day. Twenty-seven thousand feet of carpet had been laid in the guest rooms. One million tiles had been laid on the floors. One hundred and sixty-six tons of Canadian, US, and European marble was used. The interiors were outfitted with custom art by local artists, including three female graduates from the Vancouver School of Art, now known as Emily Carr University. 


The lobby was finished with walls lined in warm Montibello marble, columns trimmed with contrasting silvertone black marble, terrazzo floors, heavy brown rugs, and brown furnishings. The lobby floor of the hotel showcased an Art Moderne style of design, while the conference floor level was finished in the classic style of the Adam brothers, with elaborate plaster ornamentation and a colour scheme of soft rose and gold.


Contrasting the lobby level, the conference level of the hotel was designed in decorated in the classic style of Adam brothers. It was a dedicated social floor with a ballroom, reception room, banquet room, and private dining rooms. The ballroom had elaborate plaster ornamentation, grand chandeliers, and tall stately windows elaborately draped with peach-toned silk. At one end was a stage, and on the other a large painted mural by Valentin Shabaeff.


The hotel offered 600 guest rooms, 60% of which had twin beds. Each room carried a value of $14K, equivalent to approximately $284K today. With guest privacy and comfort in mind, rooms were constructed with an entryway area serving as a buffer between the guest floor corridor and bedroom. Off of the entryway are doors leading to the bathroom and clothes closet.  Most rooms featured ivory wallpaper with colour tints to bring in the carpet. The drapes and carpet were one of four colour selections, either blue, rust, brown, or green.


The Royal Floor (14th floor) was designed specifically for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, who officially opened the hotel on May 29, 1939. The entire floor served as one suite featuring eight bedrooms, a sitting room, a living room, a dining room, and enclosed loggias at either end of the corridor. Five of the bedrooms were to be considered modern, three of which featured bella rosa wood furniture, white leather upholstered beds, and peach-coloured mirrored walls. The other two modern bedrooms were finished in pale blue with dark blue carpet and rose-grey walls. The spacious “King’s Room” featured grey walls and green carpet with a wavy white design woven in.  The bed was covered in fawn plush spread and green silk valence, and the adjacent bedside tables were natural maple. The furniture included oyster-white leather chairs and a large room-dividing curved sofa in green with a white back. Directly across the corridor was a bedroom in red and cream with accents of deep green, replete with woven drapes, satin and leather and silk, and mirrors the full length of the walls.


The sitting room was finished in panels of English black walnut cut from a single tree, and so expertly matched that the tree’s heartlines can be traced symmetrically around the entire room. The entrance/elevator lobby of the Royal Floor was paneled in reddish-brown African sapele wood, which led to stunning and ornate doors of solid bronze embedded in inch-thick plate glass.


The hotel featured six dining outlets in 1939; The Dining Room, Cafe, Men’s Tavern, Women’s Tavern, Cafeteria, and The Panorama Roof. Each restaurant was completed in a unique style, and most featured original art created specifically for the spaces by local artists. The Panorama Roof (15th floor), was Vancouver’s “night spot” for dinner and dancing featuring ceiling-high mirrors built into the fabric-covered walls, state-of-the-art lighting, and floor-to-ceiling windows.

Information sourced from

  1. Alan Morley, “Continent’s Most Beautiful Suite for Use of the King and Queen Here,” The Vancouver Sun, April 29, 1939, p. 18
  2. “From The Old To The New Hotel Vancouver,” The Vancouver Daily Province, May 27, 1939, section four
  3. “The Hotel Vancouver,” The Vancouver Sun, May 27, 1939, section two
  4. Lillooet K. Davidson, “Society Has Magnificent New Entertainment Centre,” The Daily Province, April 29, 1939, p. 12
  5. “A  Cathedral of Hospitality,” Canadian National Magazine, June, 1939, p. 4, 38 – 41, 56 – 57, 64 – 65
  6. “Local Artists Unite Talents On Murals for New Vancouver,” The Daily Province, February 11, 1939, p. 39
  7. Hotel Vancouver Archives