This building has proved a bit hard to track down. It’s by no means a notable building, although it is associated with an exciting moment in the city’s history. It almost certainly was built in 1915 as a warehouse, and there is a permit for J M Bond as owner and architect built by William Proust. The only confusing thing is that there is no J M Bond in any directory entry, or for that matter a W Proust. It may be William Prouse, who was a stonecutter in the city in 1914, but we can’t be certain. We do know that the occupant of the building from 1915 onwards was the News Advertiser, at that point published by J S H Matson. In 1917 the newspaper was bought out by the Daily Sun, and they took over the premises.
Initially we thought the building might date back to 1911 as there’s a building permit to A T Cox for a $5,000 frame building constructed by Passage & Tomlin on Pender Street for the News Advertiser. Just like Mr Bond and Mr Proust, there’s also no sign of a Mr Cox with the initials A T, although there is the well known architect A A Cox who designed the office and retail building for Francis Carter Cotton a bit further west on Pender around the same period. Equally confusing is that Passage and Tomlin weren’t builders; they were described as brokers and General Financial Agents. The only thing we’ve traced to them is an advertisement to sell land in Burnaby in a 1911 magazine. They operated from the Dominion Trust Building and offered plots on Burnaby Lake; “the coming fresh water summer resort”.
The Sun stayed at Pender Street until 1937, when a fire destroyed the printing plant (although not the offices seen here still standing in the early 1980s). The newspaper purchased the Bekins Building, rechristened it the Sun Tower which is how we still know it today, although the Sun moved out many years ago. The Sun Tower had originally been built by L D Taylor for his World newspaper, so the use as a storage warehouse by Bekins didn’t last too long.
In 1923 the building was the backdrop to Harry Houdini’s visit to the city. The escapologist successfully removed a chained straitjacket while suspended upside down in front of the building. It’s unclear if Houdini or the cameraman recording the scene were in greatest peril.
The building was finally removed in the 1980s, and in 1989 Pendera was completed, a 113 unit non-market housing building that was part of the Jim Green era Downtown Eastside Residents Association development program.