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A Place That Matters: The Railway Club

December 10, 2012

Eighty years on the second floor at Seymour and Dunsmuir: the longest surviving nightclub in Vancouver.  The Railway Club.

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Some things are best not seen in bright light.  But oh, if that carpet could talk …

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That’s Councillor Andrea Reimer on the left (above), talking with Jessica Quan of the Vancouver Heritage Foundation, and getting ready to acknowledge the cultural importance of the clubDSC03980 and its roster  of  distinguished  Canadian performers  (kd lang, Tragically Hip, Blue Rodeo, Barenaked Ladies) – not to mention the social tale it tells of class divisions and politics in Vancouver.

The club was established in 1931 by the railway workers who couldn’t have access to the railway engineers’ club.  First order of business: prohibit access to the club by railway engineers.

The Vancouver Heritage Foundation launched “Places That Matter” to celebrate Vancouver’s 125th anniversary of incorporation in 2011. The public nominated sites where people, places and events shaped Vancouver’s future (more info and a list of sites here).   With each accepted nomination, there’ll be ceremonies and plaques, to be presented over several years.

For The Railway Club:

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That’s Steve Sillman in the centre (above), the owner of the club for the last four years, with Andrea and Baila Lazarus of the VHF Board .  More on the story here.

UPDATE: Join Vancouver Heritage Foundation for some upcoming Places That Matter plaques:

#47 Saturday Dec 15: Bloedel Conservatory, 3pm presentation, Queen Elizabeth Park, Little Mountain. Free entry to attendees until 4pm. See the invite. All are welcome!

#48 Sunday Dec 16: Burrard View Park 4pm presentation. Meet in the dining room at 650 North Penticton St.Cottage Hospice followed by a community walk to the Trinity Street Christmas Light Festival (5-9pm), refreshments. See the invite. All are welcome!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Michael Gordon permalink
    December 11, 2012 2:23 pm

    Gordon, thanks for posting this. However, the Railway Club is not Vancouver’s oldest nightclub having opened in 1931.

    The Patricia Hotel (which continues to operate as Pats Pub and features live music) started featuring jazz music in 1914 and beginning with our brief period of prohibition, patrons would bring their own bottle of liquor and buy mix. Jelly Roll Morton led the house band until the late teens when he moved his band up Hastings Street to the Regent near the now demolished Pantages. Apparently, Jelly Roll frequently had to deal with difficult drunk loggers in the club.

    Most nightclubs operated as ‘bottle clubs’ and this was the case until the end of the 50′s with the exception of ‘clubs’ with members like the Railway Club which could serve alcohol. For example, pre-eminent nightclubs such as the Cave and the Hotel Vancouver Panorama Roof Lounge where Dal Richards led the house band were also ‘bottle clubs.’

    Beer parlours beginning in 1925 could serve beer (not wine or spirits) and were not permitted to have entertainment provided.

    The Commodore Ballroom opened in 1929 and has hosted live music since then.

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