The Vancouver Block stands on the highest point of land downtown and was constructed in 1912, during a pre-war building boom in the city. The 15-storey Edwardian commercial building helped establish the intersection of Georgia and Granville as downtown’s business core.
Red and blue neon tubing was installed to articulate the clock hands in 1927, marking the first arrival of neon in Vancouver.
The Vancouver Block’s bright new clock inspired other business owners to follow suit with neon. Twenty years later in the 1950s, Vancouver’s downtown streets were thick with all manner of neon signs.
“People really wanted neon on their buildings and so even the owner of the Vancouver Block – the big, white terracotta building with the big square clock on the top – took that clock face and decided to put those reds and blues up on the clock face.
So here you have, at the time, one of the tallest buildings on the city skyline, and it’s now lit with these bright reds and blues.
The beauty of that is red neon is actually one of the most visible light sources going, so this thing was seen just everywhere. It’s the type of light source that attracted [other] people to do that to their buildings: like, “I want that on my building.”
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— John Atkin, civic historian