Westminster Club property on the block, club may be dissolved

The Westminster Club has been based at the Westminster Building since 1912. This photo dates from 1926. - Courtesy New Westminster Public Library
The Westminster Club has been based at the Westminster Building since 1912. This photo dates from 1926.
— image credit: Courtesy New Westminster Public Library

The top-floor space occupied by the Westminster Club for nearly a century is to be sold, and the venerable club itself is on the brink of folding.

The financially strapped club, founded in 1889, has decided to sell its 7,400-square-foot top floor location atop the Westminster Building at 713 Columbia St. due to financial difficulties.

Club member Adam Goss, a realtor who will be working with a commercial realty company to handle the sale, said the asking price will be “just north of $2 million.” It’s a sale he says he’d rather not make, because of his attachment to the club, its members and its potential, and says it will be sad if the club dissolves.

Goss said membership has dwindled to about 50 from around 200 in its glory days, when it was a destination for power brokers in the city and beyond.

“It’s been unable to secure financing that is realistic to maintain services and move forward in a positive direction,” said Goss.

Club general manager Marc Lotzer said there are still many aspects of the situation to be determined, including the possibility the new owner might lease the property back to the club.

Although he’s just 25, Goss said he found value in the networking the club offers, being able to pick the brains of experienced people in a social setting. Goss believes that given another year, with the Downtown revitalization going in the right direction the club could begin to thrive.

“In this day of social media, and people communicating online, it’s still most important to have in-person conversation, belly-to-belly chats and face-to-face conversations that way,” said Goss.

“The club really fostered those kind of relationships. There’s no better education than through that experience.”

The Westminster Club was established in 1889 as a private gentlemen’s club. Originally it was in the Douglas-Elliott Block, destroyed in the Great Fire of 1898, then the club moved around for several years before finally settling into the top floor of the brand-new Westminster Block in late 1912, considered the tallest skyscraper west of Chicago at the time.

The club purchased the building in 1983 and turned it into strata ownership while retaining the top floor.

Throughout the decades it was known as being a place where the city’s—and even the province’s—movers and shakers would gather, according to local historian Archie Miller.

“Over the years it has been very important to the city. A lot of its life it wasn’t supposed to be a place of politics and that type of thing, but it was obviously, when you look at the list of the people who were there,” said Miller, who along with his wife compiled a commissioned history of the club published in 2003.

“It’s a pretty incredible list of people that have gone up there to sit and have a cup of coffee ... You realize they’ve got fingers in pies in the city, the province and elsewhere. This particular group has played quite a role in the world."

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