Enjoy Vancouver’s Landmarks Before They’re Torn Down

The Rio is an East Vancouver landmark, mainly functioning as a theatre/art house, built in 1938. (Kristen Frier)

I’m surrounded by a sea of stories at MacLeod’s bookstore on the corner of Richards and West Pender. Each book has been held tenderly in a previous owner’s hands. There are cracks along their spines, worn in and comfortable with frayed pages, happily overread and overused. A narrow path cuts through the store, wide enough for only one person to pass through it at a time. It fuels the desire to visit the worlds of science fiction, romance, gardening, and beyond.

In the 1980’s, my parents were reckless and in their twenties, listening to some rock band at the Vogue Theatre, the Orpheum, or the Commodore Ballroom. Your parents could have been in a similar crowd. Thirty years later, I find myself standing in one of those same buildings, awkwardly dancing to indie music. I’ll keep the concert ticket on my bedroom wall, amongst my stacks of books from MacLeod’s.

Sadly, Vancouver is becoming known for constantly tearing down locally adored buildings like these and replacing them with towering condos or office buildings.

It’s difficult to imagine what can be done for places like MacLeod’s and the Orpheum. Take, for instance, the Rio Theatre; last year the owners had to start a campaign to keep the landmark from being ripped away. The Rio offers a unique cultural escape for the people of this city by screening films you usually wouldn’t be able to see in theatres, and it cost $7.9 million to save that.

Unfortunately, not all of the places we hold dear will be saved. When looking at Vancouver’s landmarks, ask yourself: Which places are most sacred to me, and what can I do to keep them around?

The citizens of Vancouver need to stand against the evils of corporate capitalism by being careful about where they invest their funds. Instead of paying a quick visit to Chapters, lose yourself for hours inside MacLeod’s. Other local bookstores include Tanglewood, Pulp Fiction Books, or the Paper Hound Bookshop, which will offer you a bookmark of a dog with the corner bent at its ear upon making a purchase.

Perhaps, instead of wandering up and down Granville Street, hopping from one bar to another, go to a small venue. Check out a concert that’s not held at Rogers Arena. There’s something more intimate, almost mesmerizing, about sitting in the Orpheum or the Vogue and watching live bands play. For even smaller venues, try Static Jupiter, the Avant-Garden, or Red Gate.

If you’re already attending these venues, I applaud you. As for the others, try something different by visiting a historic landmark or the spot in the city that makes you the most sentimental. Entwine yourself in the world of people who try to maintain these old infrastructures. It can be costly, but you may not always have the chance to revel in these spaces.