Demolition has begun on Vancouver's Pantages Theatre, a piece of the city's cultural history that has stood near Main and Hastings street since 1907.

But the building has been vacant since 1994 and has become potentially dangerous, said Will Johnston, a building engineer with the City of Vancouver.

"There has been significant deterioration in the building and some of the inside of the building has collapsed," said Johnston. "And when you consider the fact that there has also been break-ins into the building where people have got in, it's a serious or significant public safety concern for the city."

The building's current owner had been hoping to restore the theatre as part of a new social housing complex, but was unable to secure financing.

The theatre was one of 70 vaudeville palaces built across North America by impresario Alexander Pantages.      


Vancouver's Pantages Theatre has been virtually demolished by the owner, who has no known current plans for the property. (CBC)

In its heyday, the Pantages' stage was graced by vaudeville stars like Charlie Chaplin, Harry Houdini and Fatty Arbuckle before it became a movie theatre and eventually falling into disrepair.

Over the years, the theatre has changed hands several times and there have been several attempts to save it — usually tied to large developments proposals.

But none of the plans was ever financially viable, said Don Luxton of Heritage Vancouver.  

"It's very sad, because I think it's an area that is in transition, and in a few more years we might have seen a different solution," Luxton said.

There is no plan in place to redevelop the site.

With files from the CBC's Steve Lus