The Prince George Heritage Commission is seeking to have eight historic downtown hotels named to the Prince George Heritage Registry.
Commission chairman Jo Graber said although many of the hotels are simple, utilitarian wooden buildings they represent the early history of the city.
“The social history is as, or more important, then the architectural history,” Graber said. “These are great little finds you have when you travel in (other parts) of Canada and Europe… but they have to be maintained to a relative standard. Having it on the Heritage Registry is step one for applying for funding.”
The National Hotel on First Avenue, Central and London hotels on Third Avenue, Croft Hotel on Fourth Avenue, Prince George Hotel and Spruce Capital Hotel on George Street, and Akron Hotel and Gee Duck Tong Society on Quebec Street are the suggested additions to the registry.
The hotels and Gee Duck Tong Society, a respite for transient Chinese workers were built largely between 1914 and 1929 and were often the first place transient workers and settlers stayed in Prince George before finding permanent housing.
Not all heritage buildings have to be architecturally beautiful, like the Victorian buildings found in many older Canadian cities, he said.
“We don’t have those kind of buildings left, and we didn’t have many to start with. But it’s still history,” Graber said. “There are a lot of nondescript buildings on the registry in Victoria near the harbour.”
The Prince George registry was created in 2007 and currently has five buildings or sites registered: the Cameron Street Bridge, Nechako crossing, first school house in Fort George Park, old post office on Third Avenue and old liquor store on Sixth Avenue.
The hotels comprise one of the largest concentrations of wood hotels in the province. In communities like Vancouver and Victoria replaced their wooden hotels with brick and stone following large fires in their downtown.
Naming the hotels to the registry wouldn’t cost the city or the owners anything, Graber said. Nor would heritage designation require the owners to maintain the buildings or prevent them from making alternations.
“It’s not about the preservation of the buildings exactly as they were,” he said. “It’s an awareness raising tool.”
Designating them heritage sites would allow the owners to apply for heritage grants to maintain the buildings, and could be a potential draw for investors, Graber said.
“In Victoria there is a developer who looks at the heritage registry. And whenever a building goes on sale they’ll buy it,” he said.
The developer than renovates the building and buys other property around it for development, he said. The heritage buildings serve as boutique stores, restaurants and galleries for the newly-developed area.
Graber presented the list to city council on Monday.
However, not all members of council were convinced of the heritage value of the buildings.
Coun. David Wilbur said he toured several of the buildings and they were heavily renovated and, in some cases, in poor condition.
“I saw the London Hotel is being renovated. The rooms are being turned into suites by cutting holes through the walls,” he said. “It’s this global approach I have a problem with.”
Coun. Shari Green said she has a problem with the seedy character of some of the buildings.
“I am struggling with adding a building that has fluorescent green cut outs of naked women on the front of it.”
Council voted to refer the matter to city administration for an opinion on the legal ramification of naming the hotels to the registry.