Then and now: Broadway & Heather in the early 1980s

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Photographer Raymond Parker has been shooting in BC for decades. In the 1980s he ran a commercial studio in the city and he sensed that “With Expo 86 looming, great changes were in store.” He took his camera and began shooting, resulting in some of Raymond’s best selling work, which we previously posted about HERE.

A few days ago, Raymond reached out and shared three photos that profile the life of the old Texaco at Broadway & Heather. Check them out below, along with a blog post written by Raymond.

Raymond Parker Heather Broadway
Plantation, Broadway & Heather, Vancouver, 1984 | Photo courtesy Raymond Parker Photo

The final exposure on the contact sheet illustrated in Monday’s Connaught Bridge post was made at the corner of Broadway and Heather, just after sunset, as the North Shore Mountains flattened against the twilit sky like cardboard cutouts, while Vancouver’s then-modest array of twinkling office towers vied for attention below. It’s worth revisiting and expanding the story to examine other photographs of the site, past and present.

The image I now produce as poster and limited edition print — Broadway & Heather, Vancouver, 1983 — (image 3) was the culmination of several visits to a location on the southeast side of the intersection, a multi-storey car park since replaced. I wrote about that summer foray from W. Broadway to the Dunsmuir Viaduct a couple of years ago.

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At the time, the main subject of the photograph, the fourth shop east on the north side of the intersection, housed Carpet Land (Dar Lebanon Restaurant, two shops west of the carpet store, was a popular lunch stop for nearby Mountain Equipment Co-op staff, myself included). The photo below, made on my first visit earlier in 1983, is seeing its first reproduction here, uncropped and without perspective correction (achieved in darkroom days by tilting the enlarging easel).

Raymond Parker Heather Broadway
Carpet Land, Broadway & Heather, Vancouver, 1983 | Photo courtesy Raymond Parker Photo

I felt it lacked contrast and texture at the time, hence my return on a sunnier day to capture the peeling paint in more detail, detail that revealed the original purpose of the building: a Texaco gas station. A sunbather on the roof of the apartment at left was a bonus I couldn’t have anticipated.

In particular, the daytime photos printed large reveal many fascinating details and preserve, if only two-dimensionally, historic buildings successive city planners deemed unworthy of protection.

The top image on this page, made not more than 18-months after my first visit, records the first modifications to the facade. The carpet shop had been supplanted by a plant store, the concave entrance with folding doors replaced with a wall of glass. Though some Western false front details remained, the tiled, faux Spanish eaves had disappeared. The sidewalk, patched with asphalt where gas pumps once stood, had been repaired.

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Raymond Parker Heather Broadway
Broadway & Heather, Vancouver, 1983 | Photo courtesy Raymond Parker Photo

In 2015, I visited Vancouver to promote my posters. One of the galleries I canvassed was situated in that 600 block of Broadway. Though the proprietor showed no interest in the Broadway & Heather shot (the walls of the gallery hung with super-saturated contemporary panoramas of the city, printed on canvas), the stop gave me an excuse to re-photograph the old building. Every remnant of its original architectural flourishes, humble as they may have been, were gone, leaving a squat box with uninviting, smoked-glass windows.

Raymond Parker
“Box” Store, 2015 | Photo courtesy Raymond Parker Photo

I’ve scoured the Internet for vintage views of the old Texaco station to no avail. I imagine it looked quite spiffy (if that’s an architectural term) in its heyday. I did discover that the engineers of Heather Street paved over a substantial water course — unsuccessfully at first — that must have been a fine salmon-bearing stream emptying into False Creek.

Thirty-four-years later, aside from technical merits, where the popular image I market wins hands down, I believe each of these vintage ‘80s photos has something to say for itself. Who knows, maybe the 2015 shot might reveal something about Vancouver in the 21st century.

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Written by Raymond Parker.

Check out more in Raymond’s store HERE.