The Sun Tower Chronicles
Since 1999, Gossamer Threads has been a tenant in an early 20th century building called The Sun Tower, a structure that enjoys special historical status in the young city (incorporated in 1886) of Vancouver. Built in 1912 for local newspaper The Vancouver World, the tower was the tallest building in the British Empire at the time of its completion, succeeding the previous record-holder, The Dominion building, located just two blocks away.
The Vancouver World’s objective in constructing to this height was to “tower” over the city and be visible to all of its subscribers. This grandiose ambition is rather comical in today’s context, as we are now all but dwarfed by numerous condo towers surrounding us. However, there is still an excellent view of the city to be had from the tiny viewing area at the top of the dome.
The building belongs to the Beaux-Arts architecture style, a form that the French writer Émile Zola called “the opulent bastard of all styles”. Nine naked female forms, the “nine maidens,” support a cornice line halfway up the building, predictably scandalizing Vancouver’s upper-crust society in the early 1900s due to the statues’ “…bare breasts and sensuous poses,” according to one historian.
Personally, I think the maidens are more scary than sexy – I wouldn’t want to meet up with the owner of those bulging biceps in a dark alley. Another interesting tidbit is that our floor is the only one with a patio – a patio that used to be a small restaurant called The Nine Maidens.
A few of the 9 Sun Tower Maidens
The green dome is actually green paint, a technique commonly used at the time to imitate oxidized copper cladding.
In 1918 a man named Harry Gardiner, nick-named The Human Fly, scaled the Sun Tower wearing regular clothing and without climbing aids, much to the delight of thousands of city spectators. Gardiner is credited with being the first ever ‘builderer’ (a word derived from the term ‘bouldering’), as someone who climbs the outside of buildings. As most building owners do not wish to bear the potential liability of an accident, most of Gardiner’s climbs were unauthorized, and police would generally meet him at the top of buildings to escort him off the premises.
The Sun Tower – circa 1946
Since the 1980s, Vancouver has been the site of numerous movies and TV shows, with our neighbourhood and the Sun Tower often figuring prominently in scenes. It’s always fun (and a bit jarring!) to be watching a random show, and to see a familiar street or neighbourhood being passed off as Chicago, Seattle or New York.
This guy was nice enough to pose for the camera!
Some local productions include:
The Crow: Stairway to Heaven
The Outer Limits
Rumble in the Bronx
Of course, the Sun Tower’s biggest claim to fame is being home to the ever so illustrious Gossamer family