1181 Seymour has been a home to the arts for over 100 years. In 1908, a ramshackle clapboard hall was built on the corner of Seymour and Davie and housed the assembly of the First Baptist Church. They prayed, read, and created a community space for Vancouverites until 1944 when they moved to a larger, more modern space, leaving the assembly hall vacant for a number of years.
The next recorded use of 1181 Seymour Street was in the 1950s, when it was converted into an auto repair shop on one side and a social club on the other. In 1958, this club, nicknamed the “Arts Club” opened as a private social club for artists, musicians, and actors. In 1964 a theatre opened on the second floor and changed the face of the arts in Vancouver. The old clapboard theatre drew in the crowds and helped to launch the careers of some of Canada’s greatest talents including Brent Carver, Nicola Cavendish, and Michael J. Fox. But in 1991, after an astonishing 27-year run, the little theatre on Seymour was slated for demolition. The Arts Club moved to Granville Island and the wrecking balls pulled down what was left of the Seymour Street theatre.
Fourteen years later, 1181 Seymour re-opened its doors as the Vancouver International Film Centre. Housing the Vancity Theatre and home of the Vancouver International Film Festival (which opens today!), the Centre now lies at the heart of motion picture performance in Vancouver.
In 1908, 1181 Seymour started out as a place where people from disparate backgrounds could meet, learn, and create a community. Today, over a hundred years later, the technology may have changed, but the philosophy remains the same. 1181 Seymour is a community hearthstone and hopefully will remain so well into the future.