Our 1965 image shows just how much this area of Downtown has grown in under 50 years. There were plenty of surface parking lots in those days, and the greenery consisted of untended sidewalks rather than proliferating street trees. In winter the view is a little less lush, and it’s possible to see a little of the Hotel Vancouver and the Art Gallery (still the court building) in the 700 block to the north.
Today the rather brutal 1960s 13-storey tower on the left is lost in the streetwall of buildings, but it stood out in 1965 when it was a recently completed Peter Kaffka designed hotel. As far as we can tell it started life as the “the Johann Strauss hotel, restaurant and cabaret – modern and Viennese music nightly”. By 1974 it was the Mayfair Hotel, $15 a night and $3 for each additional guest ‘with complementary coffee and tea service for your added enjoyment”.
In 1984 it was dramatically transformed into the Wedgewood Hotel, one of the city’s classiest boutique hotels. The Law Courts complex on the east side of the street was eventually completed in 1980, as we saw in an earlier post.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 2010-006.063
Tudor James Alexander Tiedemann was almost certainly born in British Columbia in 1866 and was living in the James Bay ward of Victoria in 1881. He was living at home with his German father, Herman, Herman’s Quebec-born wife, Mary and two younger brothers, and was working as a clerk in real estate. By 1889 he was married to Josephine Suffern and had a son, also called Tudor. Confusingly there seems to be another branch of the family where both father and son were also called Tudor Tiedemann, where the son was born in Washington, to a mother called Alice.
Mr Tiedemann seems to have never lived in Vancouver, (he’s not in any street directory), but was probably based in San Francisco where he was an underwriter representing Scottish Union. He visited Victoria more often, for certain in 1897, and again in 1902 when he nearly lost his life on a hunting expedition.
He was President of the Fire Underwriters ‘ Association of the Pacific in 1911. Being based in the US could explain his choice of architects; Bebb and Mendel, who were at the time the most prominent architects in Seattle. The building cost $10,000, and there was an additional expense of $3,000 to add a basement. There’s a third $3,000 permit for a warehouse, which may well have been at the back of the building as there was definitely a workshop back there for many years.
The Statement of Significance for the Historic Building says the first occupant of the building was the office of the Tiedemann Insurance Company, but there’s no sign that this was the case; rather in 1911 it was the home to Percy W Charleson, a stock and investment broker, and the Travelers Insurance Co of Hartford Connecticut, (which doesn’t seem to have any connection to Mr Tiedemann directly, although there does seem to be a branch of the family in that state).
In 1920 there was an insurance adjuster, Al Hampton, and a stock broker, A M Roberts in the building, while at the back the Economy Garage was operating. By our 1932 image the Paris Cafe and Grill was downstairs, with the workshop of North Western messengers at the back and the Paris Rooms upstairs.
The Paris Cafe closed; in 1946 there was a realty company downstairs, Hutchins and Briggs, although the Paris Rooms were still upstairs. By the mid 1950s there was a new Paris Cafe on East Hastings (where Fred Herzog captured one of his memorable images in 1959) that replaced the Rex Cafe. At 438 there was a different realty company, a coin collector and an accountant.
Today the building still stands, with a hair salon downstairs and offices upstairs, although the space seems to be used for a wider range of activities including as a recording studio.
This is the Princeton Hotel in 1932. It was built 20 years earlier by the Provincial Construction Company for William Ingram. It cost a very modest $17,000 to build and was designed by J H Bowman, and was described as having hot and cold water in each of the 33 rooms, and a billiards room in the basement. Mr Ingram was in real estate, living in the Woods Hotel from 1908 to 1911 and the Hotel Barron on Granville Street in 1912 and 1913. There’s no sign of him in the city after this date, and he seems to have been missed by the 1911 census, so we know very little about him. His development history in the city wasn’t great; he built some frame houses in 1909 and 1910, the hotel in 1912 and an $8,000 apartment building on Victoria Drive a couple of months later.
When the hotel opened there was a bank on the main floor, a branch of the Canadian Bank of Commerce, with P M Cochrane’s drug store next door and the Princeton Rooms upstairs managed by Mary Killeen. The bank closed in the early 1920s, and in 1925 the corner unit was vacant. The Cedar Cove Drug Store (with a sub post office) was next door. J J Murphy was running the Princeton Apartments upstairs. A year later the Princeton Hotel Beer Parlour (managed by J E Green) had taken over all of the main floor and the Princeton Hotel operated upstairs as a rooming house - and that’s the way things are today.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-4190
The Orpheum, like the Capitol down the street, relied on Granville Street for the entrance but Seymour Street for the big theatre box. While this leaves a huge expanse of bare brickwork on Seymour, it allowed a dramatic illuminated box office and entrance with a huge vertical fin sign on Granville. This was the third theatre to get the Orpheum name – we saw the first in an earlier post, and the second further north on Granville, when it became the New Orpheum. Technically this 1927 version should have been the new, New Orpheum, but the sign didn’t go that far. It was the biggest theatre in Canada when it was built with 3,000 seats, and cost $1.25 million.
Designed by Scottish-born theatre designer B Marcus Priteca, the Orpheum ran for only a very short time - until the early 1930s - as a theatre, before becoming a Famous Players movie house, although there were occasional theatrical events and shows. Our picture shows the facade in 1946. Priteca was based in Seattle where he met Alexander Pantages, for whom he designed many theatres. He is estimated tom have designed over 150 theatres across North America over the years, although there were other Seatlle buildings that he designed as well.
A 1973 proposal to transform the theatre to a multiplex led to an outcry, and eventually the City of Vancouver paid just over seven million dollars to buy the theatre. The theatre’s sign has switched a few times since the one in the picture; for a while it was the RKO Orpheum. When the refurbishment was complete there was a move to drop the theatre’s name, but public opposition to that ensured the name – and the sign – remained as the Orpheum. A recent replacement uses low energy lighting to announce the theatre’s presence on the street, but retains the look of the 1948 version. The theatre is now the city’s biggest, and most important venue for classical music; home to the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the Vancouver Bach Choir and the Vancouver Chamber Choir.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1184-2290
Here’s a news story from an August 1922 Contract Record and Engineering Review. Vancouver had been through a tough decade – after 1913 very few new commercial buildings were added to the city. There had been a massive amount of building from 1909 to 1912, then the bottom fell out of the real estate market, and World War One intervened. So in 1922 even a 3-storey building warranted the description ‘Large Business Block’. (The typos are original – we left them in to show that we are not alone in typing errors – and we’re not charging a subscription!)
Large Business Block in Vancouver, B. C.
First Building of the Knid of Any Considerable Size to be Erected for Some Time —Work Already Under Way
A contract has been let to Messrs Adkinson & Dill, contractors of Vancouver, for the construction of a store and office block on the corner of Granville and Robson Sts., Vancouver, B. C. The contract price is about $112,000, and work was commenced at once, excavation for the basement and foundation walls being already practically complete.
The building will be of three storeys, the ground floor being of steel construction and the two upper floors in mill construction. The ground floor will be devoted to stores. The first floor will be fitted up for use as doctors’ or dentists’ offices, or as general business offices, and the top floor will probably be arranged as an assembly or dance hall, with anterooms suitable to the purpose.
The architects for the building are Messrs. Maclure and Mort, of Vancouver, and the owner is V. D. Farmer, of Fort Worth, Texas, U.S.A., represented by Messrs. Sharples and Sharples, agents, of Vancouver, B. C. This is the first business block of any considerable size to be erected in Vancouver for some time, but several other buildings of this nature are in contemplation or in the plan stage at present, and a revival of activity in this line of contracting is quite likely to ensue.
We haven’t been able to confirm who Mr Farmer was – or why someone from Fort Worth would be building in Vancouver after a long post-war recovery. One candidate is Vernon Farmer, an American miner living in the Slocan Valley in 1911 with his wife Cora. The architects were actually Maclure and Lort; Samuel Maclure was a long-established architect, and Ross Lort had worked for him from the day after he arrived in British Columbia (in Victoria). After the war Lort became a full partner and ran the Vancouver office of the firm. We’ve come across Sharples and Sharples before; they were associated with the construction of another building immediately opposite this one, in the same year.
The building seems to have found tenants quickly. The Vancouver Drug Co had the corner store, next door was a confectioners store run by Henrietta Owen, and beyond that along Robson the London Grill which became the London Cafeteria, as can be seen in the 1923 VPL image. Upstairs were Mae Dugdale who ran a beauty palour and chiropodists, Alphonse Errica, a tailor, Fred Anderson, a dentist and Edward Gallant, a chiropractic. The top floor was home to the Central Athletic Club.
Over the years the tenants changed a lot. By the 1950s the office tenants included two chiropractics and a couple of Union offices. As this 1967 image shows the Western School of Commerce occupied the top floor, as they had from the 1940s. The building lasted until 2011. It’s just been replaced with an office and retail building incorporating the heritage facade of the former Bank of Commerce next door on Granville. Designed by Musson Cattell Mackey it will be home to Old Navy, the clothing store which will be on two floors, with 3 floors of office space above (apparently already leased).
These days this building is called Columbia House, and it was converted to housing in 1986, run by Affordable Housing Societies with 85 rental units. Back in 1910, when it was built at the corner of Powell and Columbia it was a warehouse. Usually the Heritage Description on historic properties helps identify the building’s history – but that isn’t really the case here. There it’s called The Fleck Brothers Building – but they were the last company to be associated with the building, not the first. The statement says it was built for Boyd and Fordham, a hardware and chandlery supplier. Those are the names on the 1910 Building Permit but there seems never to have been a company of that name.
Boyd Burns & Co were John Boyd (living at 411 Hastings in 1911 and 1020 Georgia from 1902) and Frederick Fowle Burns, from Glasgow (in 1901 he lived at 1260 Barclay Street). The company was founded in 1894, dealing in plumbing and engineering supplies, including Portland Cement. (They started as John Boyd & Co, with Burns as an employee, but he was a partner by 1900 along with Arthur A Burns, his brother, who had already left the firm by 1902). In 1900 the Yukon Plumbing Heating and Engineering Supplies Company was formed to be based in Dawson City with $24,000 in capital by John Boyd, both Burns brothers and three other partners.
We can find the Burns family in the 1901 Census; John, his new wife Mae from New Brunswick, ten years younger at 22 and his father, John along with brother Arthur. John Boyd appears to have avoided censuses – or was recorded inaccurately. In 1902 the company expanded by opening a ship chandlery department. In 1907 Boyds Burns had a new warehouse on Alexander Street designed by Parr and Fee. They sold their company to Crane Co, a Chicago based company in 1908. Crane retained the plumbing interests, but sold the ship’s chandlery part of the business to a newly formed company, Simson-Balkwill Co. Ltd. Ship Chandlery and Engineering Supplies.
Calvert Simson, born in Penrith, England, in 1862, left London in 1883 and sailed to Victoria, arriving in 1884. From Victoria he went to New Westminster, where he worked as a night watchman for the Dominion Sawmill. He worked as a shopkeeper on the beach in Granville and later as a storekeeper at Hastings Sawmill until 1891. He was also Granville’s last postmaster, from 1884 to 1886. Simson managed the Chandlery Department of T. Dunn and Co. from 1893 to 1902. In 1902 he moved to the Ship Chandlery Department of Boyd Burns Co. (Dunn sold his hardware business to Boyd Burns, so that was probably when he moved over). In 1908, Simson and Arthur Balkwill opened up their own company, and that was the year they took over the Boyd Burns chandlery business.
The warehouse seems to have been built in two phases, in 1910 and 1911. The 1910 half of the building cost $50,000 and Boyd and Fordham are recorded on the Building Permit as owners and architects, with J M McLuckie as builder. The owner and builder of the 1911 building was J G Fordham; the architect was listed as J M McLuckie and it cost $37,000 to build.
The first occupants in 1912 were Simson, Balkwill & Co, mill suppliers, (where John Fordham worked) and they were there until 1929 when they sold their interest to Gordon and Belyea Ltd – our photograph shows the building in that year painted with the new owner’s name. The new owners abandoned the CPR branch line and built a 3 storey building alongside the warehouse designed by Townley and Matheson in 1933. That has since been demolished. In 1951 Gordon & Balyea had 190 employees in the city.
John Gurney Fordham had arrived from England in 1904, and in 1911 when the building went up was aged 34. His wife, Corisande, had been born in BC, and they married in Victoria in 1904. He married well – his wife was the daughter of Dr Israel Wood Powell, an early and enthusiastic investor in Vancouver. Dr Powell was another of the many former Simcoe, Ontario residents (in Port Colborne). He was a politician, and Superintendent of Indian Affairs as well as the first President of the Medical Council of BC. Corisande was his sixth child, and her wedding was important enough to receive extensive coverage in the British Colonist. Her husband was born in Kensington but his well-connected family also lived in Cambridgeshire. His parents were ignored in the wedding story – rather he was described as the nephew of Sir Wilfred Lawson, Bart, Member of the House of Commons, although his father was a barrister. The list of wedding gifts ran to two columns, and the people giving the gifts was a who’s who of British Columbia society.
The newlyweds apparently headed to Vancouver; in 1908 John was working for Boyd Burns & Co. By 1911 they were living at 1325 Cardero, with their five year old daughter and their nurse. They had a house designed for them in 1909 by McLure and Fox on Harwood Street, but it isn’t clear if they lived there – their home address remained on Cardero until at least 1920. In 1913 the directory shows that John continued with the new occupants of his building as he’s described as Manager of Simson Balkwill Ltd.
It’s clear that John Fordham’s financial interests were not confined to Simson Balkwill. In 1914 he applied to wind up the controversial Alvo von Alvensleben Limited company as he had loaned them $31,000. The company had debts of $3,500,000 and assets of around $1,000,000, so he probably didn’t get his money back. He enlisted during the First World War, and was a Lieutenant by 1916, and later promoted to Major. The Fordham’s stayed in the city for many years. John Fordhams’s sudden death was recorded in 1940, when he was considered to be a prominent member of the province’s banking community. His wife died in England in 1965.
Fleck Brothers were in the city from early in the city’s history as well. J Gordon Fleck and Bryce W Fleck were running their company in 1908, operating as manufacturers agents for Roofing, Lumber, Paper etc. from an office on Seymour Street. They operated on Alexander Street for many years, and took over from Gordon and Balyea in the 1960s
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Bu N275, W J Moore
The Capitol Theatre was one of Granville Street’s purpose-built movie theatres, developed by the Famous Players Corporation. It was designed by Thomas W Lamb, an American architect (born in Dundee) responsible for well over 100 movie palaces, including several in New York’s Times Square. In Vancouver Townley and Matheson were given the job of supervising architects for the project. A 1922 Contract Record described the newly completed building.
“Special Entrance Features in Vancouver Theatre
While the Entrance Fronts on a Main Street, the Auditorium is Located on Cheaper Property on a Parallel Street and is Reached by a Passage Elevated over Lane
Ingenious use has been made of a very narrow main street Frontage by the builders of the new Capitol Theatre at Vancouver, B. C, in which, a motion picture house of the first class has been added to the number of the city’s theatres. A piece of property of sufficient size for the proposed building was available on Seymour Street, which lies next parallel to Granville Street, where it was desired to have the main entrance. While Seymour Street is so close to Granville, which is the principal high-class shopping street, it is very quiet and no doubt the property mentioned as available was to be had at a price very much lower per front foot than it could have been obtained on Granville Street itself.
As finally arranged the theatre, which is a very large one, was built on the moderate priced property on the back street, but a narrow frontage was secured on Granville Street, and a very handsome approach was built to the theatre at the back, opportunity being afforded by this means for a lavish display of the decorator’s art in the architectural features of the interior of the passage, which presents a very impressive appearance.
A complication of the problem was the existence of a lane through the middle of the block, which could not be closed. This difficulty was overcome by a combination of ramps and stairways in the approach passage, which by the time the lane is reached has by this means attained a sufficient elevation to allow plenty of head-room for traffic in the lane.”
The interiors of Lamb’s theatres were almost all in the Adam style, featuring urns, swags and musical instruments, with heavy use of gilding to create a sense of luxury. The entrances were often quite unassuming – as was true of the Capitol.
The building lasted just over 50 years. The image above shows the Seymour Street facade and dates from the early 1970s not too long before it was replaced. A new Capitol was built, as a multiplex, opened in 1976. That building lasted forty years, closing in 2006 and being replaced with a small retail unit on Granville Street and the 43-storey residential Capitol Residences designed by Howard, Bingham Hill on Seymour. The lower floors include rehearsal space and a small auditorium used by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra with new back-of-house space for the adjacent Orpheum Theatre – another building using Seymour for the auditorium and Granville for the entrance.