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2008 Top Ten Endangered Sites

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6. York (Alcazar) Theatre (1913) (Updated - saved)

York Theatre639 Commercial Drive

The York Theatre holds a significant place in the history of Vancouver theatre.

It is the only purpose-built theatre with a fly tower and proscenium stage on the east side of the city and one of only two or three such early theatres left in Vancouver.

Built in 1913 as “the Alcazar” the theatre is an early design of budding architect John McCarter who, with his later partner George Nairne, designed the iconic Marine Building.

As home of the Vancouver Little Theatre Association for 54 years, the York has great historical and cultural significance. Over the years, up-and-coming actors such as Dave Broadfoot, Don Gerrard, Joy Coghill and Bruno Gerussi graced its stage.

According to a survey conducted by the Coal Harbour Arts Complex Society, there are 915 potential uses annually for a theatre in the size range of the 500-seat York. At a time when the City of Vancouver has a serious lack of performance space, the York was purchased by a developer who plans to demolish it and build a rowhouse complex. Realizing that Vancouver cannot afford to lose yet another of its historic theatres, a group of community members met to come up with a solution.

The group, led by Tom Durrie of “Save the York Society”, and other stakeholders including Heritage Vancouver, recognized that a community-based solution for saving and restoring the York Theatre is the only way to go. The group has put out a request for someone in the community to buy the York and create a theatre that will contribute to the cultural development of the city.

The future of the York is still uncertain.


Updated February 2011: Good news – plans are still being developed for the complete rehabilitation of the historic York Theatre, originally the Alcazar which opened in 1913.

Updated December 5, 2013: After a century, the fully restored $14.8 million rebirth of the York Theatre reopens tonight. From once slated for demolition to now fully repurposed, it's a heritage success! The City of Vancouver contributed $13 million, and Canadian Heritage provided the additional $1.8 million.


Alcazar/York theatre
Facade changes since 1913: Left, November 1913, "Alcazar Theatre", only known image of the original facade; Middle, 1940s streamlined update, renamed "York Theatre""; Right, 2008 "Raja Theatre" (closed). Photo credits: (L) The Daily News Advertiser, 1913; (M) Vancouver Archives; (L) Heritage Vancouver
Alcazar logo
1913 ; Early logo from the Alcazar Theatre  

Alcazar plans
1913 Alcazar floor plans; Commercial Drive runs along the top of the image (East side). Architect: John Y. McCarter; General Con: The Dominion Construction Company
York Theatre
2008; View from Commerical Drive. Note the fly tower on the left, enabling for sets to be raised and/or lowered for productions. Heritage Vancouver Photo  


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