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Balmoral Hotel

Wheezing its last breaths in a shamble as it crumbles into ruin, this modern day slumlord Palace of Purgatory is a perfect historical tomb of Vancouver's early Hastings Street. Built to open in 1912, it is a Chicago-style skyscraper. A centrepiece specimen of the freewheeling, preprohibition boom era that sprang up following the arrival of the transcontinental railway on the West Coast. Large, intricate, flashing-in-sequence, coloured lightbulb signs known as mega-flashers sail bright on big totem vaudeville and movie cinema palaces, on roof-tops, and one-of-a-kind creation cafes along Main and along Hastings Street, then known as the first 'Great White Way' viewed from Grouse Mountain. By 1923 the City license registry shows there are 69 stand-up saloons, 880 tobacco dealers (often fronts for gambling dens), 120 tailors, 25 pool halls, 100 barbers. Penny arcades, rifle-range shooting galleries, boot-blacks, boxing gyms, news-stands and brothels. Twenty-six bathhouses, mostly Japanese, on Powell and Main, and a few Turkish. By the early 40's the sign is converted to a large scroll-tailed sensation that curl-e-ques into a clock-center. It is a classic neon fixture that still reigns supreme on the strip with it's ghostlike spirit, cast-iron can and tangled hand-blown neon unlit, crippled, and fractured with erosion. There is a slim whim of thought that speaks to the survival of the Hotel Balmoral in a Vancouver as a city of Renaissance that grasps it's past as a worthy catalogue of preservation.