303 E 8th Ave, Vancouver BC
Heritage Conservation Grant 2020
The Western Front Lodge was built in 1922 as a lodge hall and social club for the Knights of Pythias, a fraternal organization. This 3-storey building, designed by William Campbell, included two assembly halls, a dining hall, a kitchen, and a caretaker apartment.
The most striking exterior features of this otherwise simple Edwardian building is its distinctive Boomtown* front and ornate tin roof vents. Originally, there had been a cast-iron canopy over the entrance but it fell and was replaced in 2012.
In 1972, a group of artists purchased the building to create a centre that provided studio, equipment and residences for interdisciplinary artists. They named their centre, “The Western Front” to reflect the building’s pioneer-like façade, their geographic location and their ventures into avant garde art. The assembly halls became a dance studio and performance space. The dining hall became gallery space. The building includes offices, archives, a sound studio and two artists residences. Western Front is now one of Canada’s oldest artist-run centres.
Many of the building‘s features have been preserved including wood wainscoting; some original gurney radiators; a private wood-paneled telephone booth; built-in folding cottonwood chairs, and doors with peepholes (likely used for the Knights of Pythias’s secret ceremonies ).
*a false front concealing the roof line
COV Heritage Inventory Files, Whispered Art History: Twenty Years at the Western Front by K. Wallace, K. Knights, W. Wood, P. Culley, A. Varty, and J. Radul.
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