Intersections: Robson and Thurlow

We examine an iconic intersection in Vancouver, from way back when until now

April 11, 2016

By D.B Thompson / Photo: Vancouver Archives

Conjure up Vancouver circa 1995. Pavel Bure is screaming down the right wing. Every street is an exterior shot from the X-Files. And on Robson and Thurlow, there’s the famed kitty-corner Starbucks. The duelling locations, commercialism personified in a city that encapsulated Gen-X irony, became a part of Vancouver’s identity. Today, only one remains. But this intersection has long been a place where Vancouver’s past, present, and future have collided.

Northeast
In the early days, the West End was home to the palatial mansions of the city’s ruling class. But as the rich migrated, apartments were built,and none was grander than the Manhattan. Built in 1907, it fell into disrepair after the Second World War but was converted to a co-op in 1979. It’s now a heritage building—and a Starbucks.

1917ManhattanBuildingVancouverArchives

Southeast
Banana Republic, a signifier of Robson’s destination status for fast fashion, has long occupied this building.

BananaRepublic

Southwest
From 1988 to 2012, the Robson Landmark was home to Starbucks, which closed due to, among other things, rising rent. After years languishing, the space finally found a shiny new tenant. Aritzia announced in 2015 it would move in and is scheduled to open sometime this year.
Aritzia

Northwest
Joe Forte’s Seafood and Chop House, named after Vancouver’s first lifeguard, has been an institution here for over 30 years. Of course, back when it opened in 1985, you could get a New York steak for $11.95 (not adjusted for inflation).

JoeFortes

Robson: Named for John Robson, publisher, politician, and future premier (1889–1892) of B.C.

Thurlow: Named for the Thurlow Islands between Vancouver Island and Bute Inlet, which themselves were named for a former British chancellor.

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