Remarkably, in a city that likes to reinvent itself (or at least its buildings) on a regular cycle, these single storey retail stores have sat on the corner of Robson and Burrard for over a century. They were built in 1911 by builders Allen & Jones at a cost of $9,500 for C N Davidson, and designed by Parr and Fee. A year later the same owner hired Braunton & Leibert to design a much more expensive proposition, the $132,000 stores and apartments called Irwinton Court, behind the stores. Those are still there today as well.
In 1890 jewellers Davidson Brothers had a store on Yates Street in Victoria, and another in Vancouver on Cordova, which had opened in 1888. We know the brothers were previously in business ‘in the east’ because Dr Guthrie managed to borrow money (with insufficient funds to cover the loan) on the basis of earlier acquaintance.
In 1891 C N Davidson is listed in the census record as a jeweller aged 32, and his family are living in Vancouver with 1-year-old daughter, Elaine, his wife’s mother, Frances Haskett and their domestic, Maggie Johnson. Mr Davidson’s father was shown as an American, although he was born in Ontario (apparently in Guelph). His wife’s family were from Quebec; (it looks as if she was born in Montreal but had moved to Ontario before she was 14). The street directory had his home on the corner of Seymour and Georgia
In 1894 the Provincial Building and Loan Association formed a local board in Vancouver, with C N Davidson as president. That year saw the family living at 731 Burrard, seen in this 1898 picture. In 1896 he was on the board of the Vancouver, Victoria and Eastern Railway along with William Templeton and other leading members of the Board of Trade. Unlike many of the proposed railways of the day, this one was actually built, and eventually became a subsidiary of the Great Northern.
As we have seen with a number of other pioneer developers, Mr Davidson did not limit his interests to his main profession. In 1897 he was involved in gold mine prospecting. He and his brother, A A Davidson (who ran the Victoria jewellery store) were two of the four owners of a $250,000 mining company, Winchester Gold Mines of Fairview, Victoria, formed to purchase the Winchester claim in Yale. The same year they were also partners in the $250,000 Shamrock Mining Co with the intent of taking over the Shamrock claim in Osoyoos. Cicero was also briefly a defendant in a case against the Orphan Boy Gold Mining Company on McCulloch Creek where the owners (including C N Davidson) were accused of defrauding shareholders. While his brother seems to have maintained active involvement in the region, there’s no mention of Cicero retaining an interest.
In 1899 Mr Davidson was severely hurt in a fall from a ladder at his home, but obviously recovered. In the 1901 census Cicero and Cecilia have a son Freeman, younger son Irwin N, her mother Fanny Haskell and their domestic Stella Struthers. In this census Cicero’s family background is Scotch, and his wife’s Irish.
In 1911 the family are living at 779 Burrard (a renumbering of 731), Cicero and Cecilia are both aged 52, their sons Freeman and Norman (aged 18 and 14), his wife’s mother, Frances Haskett and their domestic, Rachel Cullen. The development of their home into the Irwinton Apartments must have taken place in 1913 – by 1914 all but one of the 54 suites is occupied. The family have moved to 1609 Harwood. Freeman appears to have fought in the First World War, but after that we have not been able to identify him. Cicero was living in retirement on Dunbar Street in 1926 (when this picture of his developments was taken), and was still living there in 1940. At this point his wife was Rose E Davidson.
In 1981 Irwinton Court was restored by architects Lort and Lort and strata titled.
Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-1522
The East Hotel started life as the Hotel Reco in 1912. The architect was S B Birds, who it is fair to say is not known for his use of an abundance of decoration on the buildings he designed. The owner was Lee Kee, a Chinese merchant who headed the Lee Yuen (or Lee Yune) Company, one of the more affluent businesses in Chinatown, and the hotel was run by Mrs Margaret L Kennedy. Mrs Kennedy had previously run the Russell Rooms on East Pender and in 1911 was living there with her three sons and her sister, Lily Mathews who worked as a waitress in a hotel. The sisters were born in Ontario, as was her 18 year old son, Earle. Her middle son, John, was born in Alberta 15 years earlier, and her 12 year old, Cyril, was born in BC. The hotel was built almost exactly at the same time as the Hotel Stratford across the street.
In the years before the hotel was built Lee Yune operated an opium factory on Market Alley, and were one of the two opium companies compensated for damages in the 1908 riot. (Their letterhead described their company as ‘Manufacturers of the Celebrated “E Y” Brand Opium). The company also imported and exported goods, and were involved in labour contracting. They were one of the four most successful businesses in Chinatown. Once McKenzie King successfully closed the opium manufacturing operation Lee Kee continued in business, including developing this $65,000 building.
There were various businesses on the ground floor including the H Wong Agencies; the upper floors provided housing (as it still does today). Sing Sam ran a store in the building, hiring Braunton and Leibert to design the store in 1913, and in 1915 another permit for repairs said the owner was called O’Connor and Sam Sing was the tenant. In 1915 one of the building’s tenants was the Halibut Fisherman’s Union, and in the 1920s the same location was the home to the Chinese Methodist Kindergarten. In 1930 the Little Rose Confectionery store was run by Gow Gooey and Miss L Hong. In 1939 the name of the hotel changes to the Hotel East and Jack Matsui was manager. (Japanese businesses had been in the building for several years before this). In 1950 the name sequence had switched to East Hotel as it is today, and Chong N Low was in charge. Our 1972 picture shows the building is much as today – except today the street trees hide the building.
Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-452
This photograph was taken from the slope of Spruce Street (these days Choklit Park) looking across the yards of Vancouver Iron and Engineering Works some time in the 1960s. Through the 1920s and even earlier the Vancouver Machinery Depot Ltd were on this site; in 1928 the Vancouver Iron Works also appeared in the street Directory.
The company expanded on the shore of False Creek, becoming the biggest machine shop west of Toronto and north of San Francisco. Vancouver Iron and Engineering Works built equipment from propane tanks to logging equipment, and from stainless steel valves for the pulp & paper, chemical & petroleum industries to railcars for carrying woodchips.
In 1966 the company was bought by a US financier, and it looked as if it had a solid future – in 1968 an order was placed for six girders, each 190 feet long and weighing 110 tons for an Alaskan natural gas refinery worth $500,000. The company didn’t last much longer after that, and the entire South False Creek and Fairview area were transformed into a modest density neighbourhood (by Vancouver standards, and given the proximity to Downtown). The housing on the left is Fairview Place that was built in 1983 to Rhone and Iredale’s designs.
Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-490
The building on the left hand side of this picture is the end of the Templeton Block that we already featured here. Two doors to the east is the 5-storey Dodson Hotel. Unusually the building was indeed built by Mr Dodson and his name is still associated with it. Joseph Dodson arrived in Vancouver around 1889 and he was listed as a labourer in 1890, living on Powell Street. A year later he appears on the 1891 Census as a butcher, aged 47 with his wife, Jane and their four children including 18 year old Mary Jane, and Joseph who was 13. Joseph and Jane had lived in Barrow in Furness in Lancashire - that’s where Mary Jane was christened and where they were in the 1881 English Census. The 1911 Census suggests Mary Jane had arrived in 1891, so her father may have been getting established before the rest of the family arrived.
By 1894 Joseph had set up the Old England Bakery at 17-19 East Hastings – the same location that he later built the hotel and bakery we can see in this 1978 picture (and that’s still there today). In 1903 he had some work carried out to an earlier bakery on the site designed by T E Julian.
In the 1901 Census all four children were still living at home. The new bakery and rooming house was designed by Sharp & Thompson in 1909 costing $55,000. Dodson opened a new bakery in the new building and a couple of years later George Peters was running the Dodson Rooms upstairs. In 1909 August Kolle appears as a baker at the Dodson Bakery, joining both Joseph Dodson senior and junior – one a baker and the other a pastry chef at the bakery. It looks as if at least one of Joseph’s other sons, Robert, was a clerk in the business. In 1910 Joseph senior had retired and Joseph and August are joint proprietors in the business. August had American citizenship but was born in Germany, arriving in Canada in 1899 (according to the 1911 Census).
We don’t know exactly when – but August Kolle married Mary Jane Dodson some time before 1905. In 1911 they have three children, Robert, Mary and Wilhelm (August’s middle name). There’s no sign of them in the city before the 1909 Street Directory, and their two older children were born in the US in 1905 and 1906, so presumably that’s where Mary and August were living before returning to join her father.
Next door, the smaller two-storey building between the Templeton and the Dodson with the intact cornice was built in 1914. The permit refers to Mrs Cole Dawson, who had the Gray Brothers design the $11,000 project built by D G Gray. Mrs Cole Dawson had the Grey brothers repair a house in 1902, carried out repairs to the house that preceded the new Dodson Hotel in 1903 and Mrs C Dawson carried out repairs to a Main Street house in 1911.
We’re not at all sure who Mrs Cole Dawson is. There’s nobody of that name in the city directories or any census. Logically it’s a misprint for Kolle Dodson – and indeed, the family used the anglicised spelling of Cole for a while during the sensitive period leading up to World War One. Throughout 1913 there are newspaper references to a 6 storey building to be built by Mrs Cole Dawson on East Hastings, designed by J Dawson. John Dawson was an architect who seems to have had partnerships with two different partners, as Campbell and Dawson from 1910 to 1916 and with William Pentecost around 1911 and 1912. (Campbell and Dawson designed the Cobalt Hotel in 1913). We’re pretty certain that biographical references that suggest he’s John Wilding Dawson, who designed the City Market in 1891 are wrong. That’s because John Wilding Dawson left Canada for Mauritius and died there in 1914. We think he was more likely to be the same John Dawson who was a contractor in 1910. it’s likely that the plans for the 6 storey building never materialised as the economy went into a nosedive and the more modest Grey Brothers building was built instead.
We know Joseph Dodson died in his 80s in 1928, five years after his wife. August Kolle died in 1941, and Mary a year later. Today the Dodson is a privately owned Single Room Occupancy residence. Owned by The Dodson Foundation, the Community Builders Group operate the building. Dodson tenants, staff and volunteers have adopted a Whole Life Housing approach to wellness which features: affordable rent; assistance with addictions and medical issues; a breakfast and community kitchen program; housekeeping services; employment services; free laundry; and, an advanced pest control and room maintenance program.
From 1889 until the early 1980′s the company who occupied the site alongside the Cambie Bridge made barrels. Initially Michael Sweeney’s cooperage was in Victoria; in 1921 it moved to Vancouver on False Creek (or 1914 depending on which source you read – although there’s no sign of them in the street directories that early). Sweeney was a cooper from Newfoundland who ran the company until 1920 when his son Leo took over. At one point Canadian Western Cooperage was the largest barrel manufacturer in the British Empire producing 2000 barrels a day, selling them to customers in more than 40 countries with branches in Montreal, Portland and Seattle. Sweeney barrels were used to ship goods from strawberries to salted salmon around the world.
The sawmill which produced the wooden barrel parts (shown in this 1960s image) was built in 1945 and the cooperage closed in 1981 to make way for the construction of B.C. Place and the new Cambie Street Bridge. Some of the factory lives on – McGinnis Wood Products in Cuba, Missouri acquired some of the barrel making machines and now has the largest air dried inventory of bourbon barrels in the world.
Today Concord Pacific’s Cooper’s Mews has replaced the Expo activity with four condo buildings containing over 500 units designed by Walter Francl, Hotson Bakker and Hancock, Bruckner, Eng & Wright.
Image sources, VPL, City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-489
The pair of black and white painted buildings were constructed at the start of the city’s greatest building boom in the early 1900s. The owners were the Rogers family, long time Vancouver developer Jonathan Rogers, and his recently married wife, Elizabeth.
156 W Hastings (to the west, closer in the picture) was built first in 1901 for Jonathan Rogers , cost $10,000 and was designed by Parr and Fee. 152 West Hastings, next door, was built in 1904 and designed by William Blackmore and Son. It cost $8,000 and the developer was E Rogers – Elizabeth, Jonathan Rogers’ wife (who he married in 1902). Rogers built a number of other buildings in the city, and generally used either William Blackmore or Parr and Fee to design them. Initially the two buildings were different in appearance; this CVA image shows the Trocadero Grill in 1914 with a very shallow bay window on the Parr and Fee building. The first tenants were a bicycle dealer and Barr and Anderson, plumbers. A harness firm moved into the second stage when it was completed. The Vancouver Fancy Sausage Company was another long-term tenant of the building.
Our 1940 picture shows the buildings soon after they were remodelled to match the Blackmore design, with the Trocadero still in place. E. Chrystal & Co (a sash and door manufacturer) carried out the alterations in 1939. In September 1936, the café was the scene of a week-long strike after employees walked off the job to obtain higher wages. The management of the Trocadero Grill brought in strike breakers to staff the restaurant, but had to back down after customers refused to cross the picket line.
Tenants changed over the years, and once Woodwards closed the area went into decline. In the past few years a number of arts tenants occupied the building as the Red Gate, but the city eventually ordered the building closed until safety issues and code problems were addressed. After a comprehensive restoration by new owners, new tenants have occupied the building including a restaurant, a fitness centre and Appnovation Technologies, a fast-growing Information and Communication Technology company.
The biggest building on the unit block of Cordova was built by Thomas Dunn and Jonathan Miller in 1889 as a sort of loose alliance – one architect, (N S Hoffar) two owners and a variety of tenants. We’ve featured Wood, Vallance and Leggat who were in Thomas Dunn’s part of the building. There was also a hotel, a reading room, the headquarters of the Electric Railway and Light company and the Knights of Pythias Hall, located on the second floor of the building.
Today the facade says it’s the Lonsdale Block; North Vancouver property magnate Arthur Lonsdale acquired the building and had the facade plaques reworked with his name replacing the original. Despite Mr Lonsdale’s attempt to recast history, the building is still generally known as the Dunn-Miller Block. Arthur Pemberton Heywood-Lonsdale (as he became when he was allowed to change his name in order to inherit a fortune of a million and a quarter pounds under the will of his maternal uncle, John Pemberton Heywood, who died in 1877) used some of his funds to finance the Moodyville Mill in 1882 (several years after Sewell Moody’s untimely death at sea). He acquired property on the north shore and in the city, although he continued to live in Shropshire in England where he became High Sheriff in 1888.
The Army and Navy Store occupied their West Hastings premises from 1919 when San Francisco native Sam Cohen established the store, and the company purchased the Cordova buildings later. Through the 1940s there were a variety of restaurants, a barbers school and two tailors shops as well as the Skidrow Store grocers. Army and Navy restored elements of the Classical-style façade in 1973-74 in a remodelling of the entire store. What you can see here is the original building in the 1960s, before it became effectively a facade in front of a more modern (although now 40 year old) interior.
Image source; City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-768
The Empress Theatre was built on the corner of Gore Street in 1908. It was funded by a real estate and financial partnership known as G A Barrett & Company, and the first operator was the Del S. Lawrence Stock Company, who at various times also played the Avenue Theatre and the Opera House in the city. His company worked the west coast, from his native California to Vancouver, with stops in Seattle, Portland and Victoria. The house was managed by Walter Sandford, another American actor (whose wife was busy running the Hotel Stratford up the road). As far as we can tell the architect was E E Blackmore.
The theatre only lasted until 1940. Between the wars it saw a number of stock theatre companies tour through the city, and it was popular for the size of its stage – one of the largest in the west. It was demolished in 1940 (the year our photos were taken) and from other pictures that exist it appears to have remained a cleared site used for parking for over 40 years until the unremarkable 1983 retail building that stands today was built. The only slightly unusual thing about it is that it appears to have a second storey – a pretence that’s somewhat blown by the two ‘window’ openings where the infill panels have gone, revealing a view through to the sky.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Bu N134
By 1941 the Templeton Block was over 50 years old, but was still in a busy part of town, across from the BC Electric headquarters of the streetcar system. When we last saw it in 1926 it had a huge hoarding on the roof. By 1941 it was almost back to how it looked over forty years earlier. Dr Harry Dier had his offices here from the early 1930s – in 1935 his nurse was a relative (perhaps his daughter), Enid. That year there were five other doctors still here (as in the 1920s) but Dr Dier, a dentist, was the only one to advertise his presence.
The Seven Little Tailors and the Baltimore Cafe were in the building to the end of the 1930s, and the tailors were still there in 1941 right on the left edge of this picture. The cafe has become D Handel’s barber shop, and just as in 1926 the United Cigar Stores is still on the corner. Along East Hastings G A Govier is selling hats and the Howard Jewelry store had closed in 1940, replaced by H Frome’s OK Exchange Jewelry store. As well as doctor Dier there were two doctors and the ship’s chandler’s office of H T Nelson.
In 2001, much of the building was renovated by the Portland Hotel Society to provide a gallery space called The Interurban.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Bu P297
In 1926 this corner was buzzing. In the 25 years since 1901 (when our previous blog image was taken) the city’s population had risen from 29,000 to 200,000. The Seven Little Tailors had competition from the 3 Big Tailors in the next door building two doors down, while William Dick had paid for a huge billboard to try to get customers to his East Hastings store just to the east along the street on East Hastings where he had 4,000 suits ready-to-wear. The pull westwards from this earlier business district to the CPR’s Granville Street hub was still apparent – by the end of the year Dick’s clothing store had moved five blocks westwards.
The building on the corner was already 35 years old when this picture was taken. We last saw it when McTaggart and Moscrop’s hardware store and the Mint Saloon had moved in around 1901, Both operations were still there in 1906, and William D Wood was still running the Mint. By 1911 Knowlton’s Drugs had moved into the building, and on Carrall there was a branch of the Bank of Toronto. In 1916 it was the Olympic Confectionery store with a taxi office for the Big Five Auto and Taxi Service to the north, and Knowlton’s Drugs were at No 9 E Hastings – a location the we think the same company still occupy today, although the numbering has changed a little). Upstairs were doctor’s offices as well as the Shipmasters Association. By 1920 Albert Doane’s clothing store was next to the Blue Funnel Motor Line, the Confectionery store and Knowlton’s Drugs are still there, with six doctor’s offices on the upper floors. Beyond Knowlton’s was a shoe store and the Hastings Lunch.
Our 1926 image shows that between the Seven Little Tailors (who also offered cleaning and pressing) and the United Cigar Store (who had replaced the confectionery store) the Baltimore Oyster Saloon had opened. The Dairy Maid was next door on East Hastings, the Howard Jewelry Company were next door and then Knowlton’s Drugs. The doctor”s offices were still upstairs, although one was vacant. Beyond Knowlton’s was the Acme Clothing Co. While the Seven Little Tailors appear to be owned by Philip Pearlman, his height (or his six partners) was not disclosed in the Directory.
Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-2257