Over the forty plus years since the earlier view of this building, relatively little changed on the building. In 1935 they were the Tung Ah Rooms; they were still called that two decades later. Just as in 1929 W Santien and Co were occupying the store: but instead of dry goods they sold men’s furnishings – they were still there ten years later as well. Next door was Tom’s Taxis and the Sen Sen barber’s store; in 1955 it had become the Joyland Arcade. At 107 in 1945 was Way Lee’s confectionary store; ten years later the Dai Yew Club operated. By 1972 when this picture was taken Con’s Appliances occupied the main floor and the rooms upstairs hadn’t changed their name – they were still the Tung Ah Rooms, although the building had been tidied up and named the Columbia Block. A VPL shot from 1961 show’s Con;s was already established in the building then.
In 1974 the rooms were closed as a result of new City by-laws. It was closed down for seven years, and reopened in 1981 with an additional floor. It had fewer, quite a bit larger rooms, but they were still small. The developers were the Dart Coon Club – an organisation loosely associated with the Chinese Freemasons. The Club still exists, but have their club premises on the other side of the street, but they administer the rooms here. The Chinese Freemasons included Harry Con, who ran Con’s Appliances and was also active in the Strathcona Property Owners and Tenants Association who eventually stopped the redevelopment of the entire Strathcona area. In 1967 he had published the first history of Canada written in Chinese, and in 1982 was awarded the Order of Canada. They hired Joe Wai to design the renovated store fronts and third floor addition.
Today the Chinese Tea Shop have their store here, and along Columbia are three newly opened ‘pop-up’ stores. Three murals, added in 2010, show the Wah Chong Laundry (which was on Water Street), Chinese men in 1936, and a 1905 merchant called Lee Chong. The artist is Arthur Shu Ren Cheng and the work was initiated by the Vancouver Chinatown Business Improvement Association.
Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-451
Here’s the three storey building on the north-east corner of East Pender and Columbia. It didn’t start life like this – it was a two storey building originally, and it was on the corner of Dupont Street (the previous name for this stretch of East Pender).
We’re not totally sure who designed it, or who developed it. It first shows up as the Avenue Hotel in 1896, and W S Cook was the proprietor in 1898. It was located in an interesting part of town that was partly Chinese (so the Hope Sun Co, tailors, were in a retail unit at 107 Dupont in 1898). However, the rest of the block was houses - housing the other main business activity that this part of Dupont was known for. Next door Mrs Laura Scott was resident, while at 115 Dupont Dora Reno was landlady, an American who a few years earlier had run a facility in Fairhaven, south of the border. They were by no means alone – the rest of this side of the block was occupied by young ladies including Pansy Moore, Frankie Preston and Florence Hastings.
In 1889 there had been a Chinese tenement, with Sam Lung’s laundry next door. By 1895 the site appears to be empty, and there were houses next door, occupied by Miss Mackenzie and Miss Jones. Miss Dora Reno was on the block then too, but at 131 Dupont. A year later this building, the Avenue Hotel was open, but the stores were still vacant. The ladies – or a number of ladies – were here (although only Frankie Preston and Dora Reno seem to be the long-term occupants of the block).
In 1901 Mr Cook was still proprietor of the hotel, and next door Laura Scott was landlady, with Dora Reno next door to her, then Miss Hill, Frankie Preston, Minnie Robertson, Hattie Stewart, Lottie Mansfield, Frankie Reid and Jennie Manning on the corner of Westminster Avenue (today’s Main Street). The 1901 Insurance map shows the Avenue as a Chinese Hotel. The 1901 census confirms an observation from the 1891 census – while Miss Reno, Miss Preston and the other ladies on the street were usually listed as having the profession of lodging house keepers, there were generally three, four or five other ‘lodgers’ – all female, often listed as seamstresses, milliners or dressmakers. Most, but by no means all were from the USA, with others from a variety of European countries including England, Ireland, Germany, and France.
It’s possible that this version of the hotel was built by Sam Kee. He hired R T Perry to design a brick hotel costing $15,900 to build on Columbia Street in 1911, although the clerk recorded a street block on Pender. The Sam Kee business was on the opposite side of Dupont as early as 1889, and we know Sam Kee owned the hotel in 1915; he hired W H Chow to design alterations to 107 East Pender and he also carried out repairs to a club in the building in 1917. By that time it was no longer the Avenue Hotel – it was the Great Northern Hotel (it changed it’s name between 1906 and 1907). It was associated with the great Northern Railway who had their railway station across the street, with the tracks running in north on a trestle over False Creek.
Even up to 1911 W S Cook was still proprietor, an amazingly long tenure in a city that generally saw a revolving door of hotel operators. William Cook hailed from Nova Scotia, and had been in the city in 1892 when he bought a lime-burning business based on Dupont street from Donald Menzies. While his family seems to have missed the 1901 census, in 1911 he’s head of a big household with a housekeeper, two married daughters (and their husbands), two sons aged 19 and 15 and a 10 year old daughter.
The club that Sam Kee repaired was the Oceanic Club, and by 1917 the Sam Kee store was next door to the hotel in a 1903 building designed by W T Whiteway for Chu Lai, a Victoria-based merchant. Technically there was no Sam Kee – that was a company run by Chang Toy, but the company name is almost always referred to as if there was a real person. By 1917 there were no ladies on the block – they’d been run off (mostly to Alexander Street) and all the businesses had Chinese names.
By 1929 when this image was shot, the hotel and the area was still almost completely Chinese. The hotel was no longer a hotel, and no names are associated with some of the business – just ‘Chinese’ and ‘Chinese Rooms’, although W Santien & Co were identified as being at 103 E Pender, Chinese dry goods merchants.
Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-2465
Here’s the south-west corner of Robson and Burrard, (and not the north-east as we mistakenly posted) diagonally across the street from the Vancouver Public Library building location and across the street from Cicero Davidson’s single storey retail building – still standing a century later. The building won’t last many years after this picture; in 1939 architects Palmer and Bow were hired to design a larger Toronto bank here – two storeys instead of the single storey it replaced. The only image we can find of the bank is this detail from a 1980s or early 90s picture. The current building was completed in 1998 and was designed by W T Leung.
We can tell from building permits that the building in our main picture was probably developed by A F Perry, although what got built is a bit confusing – there are a number of permits and it’s possible some weren’t pursued. It wasn’t the first building on the site; initially there was a house that was addressed to Burrard – as that was the direction it faced. It was a big building, and in 1891 it was recorded as being occupied by John Rounsefell, although Mrs Mary Dempster was also living here in 1892. We assume Mr Rounsefell was a relative of Frank, the accountant who soon after partnered with Ceperley to build a real estate empire in the city. (In 1890 Frank was a bookkeeper with Ross & Ceperley). In 1890 John was with the family real estate company, Rounsfell & Co. Both George and Frank Rounsfell were shown lodging at Burrard and Robson in 1891. The entire family were either missed by the 1891 census, or had their name spelled in a way we can’t find in the records.
By 1895 the Rounsfells had left the house; John wasn’t listed, and Frank had moved down the street to 1126 Robson. 800 Burrard had Walter Taylor living there, the manager of the Vancouver Fruit Canning Co, and he stayed for several years. In 1901 Mrs Munsey, a widow, lived here, and in 1904 Daniel Healey. In 1905 A F Perry (retired) is shown living (and presumably owning) the property. The 1911 census shows Alfred Perry, aged 58, was a retired contractor, born in Quebec, and with his wife Annie (an American) they ran a lodging house at 800 Burrard – they had 12 lodgers living with them.
The 1912 insurance map shows that the house was behind a row of shops, with two more to the east on Robson. There’s a 1909 permit for a brick dwelling house and shops, designed, built and owned by A F Perry. That may well be these stores, although it’s unclear if the dwelling house was built; there are two 1911 permits that relate better to what the 1912 insurance map shows. There’s an $8,000 rooming house, owned and designed by A F Perry and built by A F Heide, and also a Townsend & Townsend designed $1,500 brick store built by J P Foreshore, but that’s on the eastern half of the lot, so not likely to be the building in the picture. The Townsends also designed a brick addition to 936 Robson at the same time.
When this 1935 picture was taken The Bank of Toronto was on the corner, and next door was Stuart Thomson’s photographic studio. Thomson was born in Hampstead, England, and came to Vancouver from Australia in 1910. He became a well-known professional photographer in Vancouver and was noted for his aerial photography. Thomson sold his negatives to the Vancouver Sun newspaper in 1954, and the Sun newspaper donated them to the archives in 1963. The street numbering had changed by 1935 – the corner was 1000 Burrard, Thomson’s studio was 1002 and at 1004 was the Chesterfield Shop.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-4836 and CVA 772-284 (extract).
Obviously the new Library, built in 1957, wasn’t the first building on this corner. It appears it was probably the third; here’s a picture of the second. It looks (from the Building Permits) as if it might have been designed and built by Bedford Davidson for McIntyre Bros in 1918. There were two earlier permit, for C E Turner, in 1916 and 1917, but they were for lower cost buildings, and this looks more like a $4,500 single storey retail project. It’s possible they partnered (or replaced) Mr Turner, as he operated the business in the corner unit in 1918.
The new stores replaced an earlier structure that almost certainly was a house. It appears in 1899, and was initially occupied by the Reverend L Norman Tucker. A year later Mrs E Wilkinson was running a private hospital here, which continued until 1903. For two years after that the house is vacant. In 1906 Andrew Haslam, described as a millman, has moved in. Mr Haslam who came to Canada from Northern Ireland as a boy, had owned a mill and been mayor of Nanaimo in 1893, and represented Vancouver for the Conservatives in the House of Commons from 1893 to 1896. His Nanaimo mill operations had gone bankrupt in 1905 after a fire destroyed the mill and his home. He moved to Vancouver to be the province’s first log-scale inspector, but he was soon logging on the Sunshine Coast (although that operation failed in 1908 as the narrow gauge railway Haslam brought in wasn’t able to handle the terrain). In 1911 William Thompson lived at this address; in 1914 Mrs Isabella Coulson was living there, and in 1917 Mr Charles E Turner, who would redevelop it.
McIntyre Bros would seem to be Charles and Edward McIntyre, and they ran a pool room on East Hastings Street. Charles McIntyre was in the city, running the pool room at 44 East Hastings from 1911. There were two Charles McIntyres before this – the most likely person to take on the pool room was a carpenter, but there’s no way of confirming it’s the same Charles McIntyre – the home addresses are different. Ed McIntyre appeared in 1912, and the pool facility moved over the next few years up the street to 66 East Hastings. The pool room had gone by 1919, and so had Charles McIntyre. There was still an Edward McIntyre in the city in 1919, but not in 1920. The East Hastings block they operated on was a popular location for cues; there was another pool room run by Con Jones at 26 East Hastings – that became the Brunswick Pool Room. The former McIntyre Bros pool room at 44 became a billiards parlour.
The Robson and Burrard stores, just like Robson Street today, saw tenants come and go over the years. In 1918 they were the Barker Bread Co, Charles E Turner, a grocer, was listed next door, but he was also the owner of the Prince Albert Market on the corner. Just a year later the Bread Company was still there, with a library run by John R Davidson, then a paint store, Ruby Duncan (a milliner, who had moved from the next block), Sophia Perosino (a dressmaker) and the Okanagan Fruit Company on the corner. By 1925, when this picture was shot, the Sincere Grocery store occupied the corner, with a vacant unit next door, then an optical store and W Edmund’s Music Store.
Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 371-1108
In 1957 Vancouver got a beautiful new library. It took two years to build, and it was designed by the city’s foremost contemporary architectural practice of the day, Semmens and Simpson. In a relatively short period the Canadian-born partners designed a series of simple but effective residential and commercial buildings across the city starting in 1949. Many, but sadly not all of their buildings are still standing, and some have been altered, few as much as the Public Library. This was almost their last work – the practice effectively split in 1956, and while Harold Semmens stayed in the city until 1962, Douglas Simpson moved initially to Hawaii in 1957, and later to Australia and Fiji.
Initially commissioned in 1954, the new library was a simple modernist structure that attempted to allow the public to see inside the building as much as possible. On the Robson facade there were vertical louvres designed to rotate automatically, controlled by photoelectric cells. The heating was from spare steam provided by the Hotel Vancouver. The building cost just under the $2 million budget, and the building structure was designed for a possible two additional floors. Our 1960 VPL image shows the building a few years after it was completed.
By the early 1990s the city had embarked on an architectural competition to replace the Burrard Street building with an even larger building. The new Library Square complex opened in 1995, combining the Library’s Central Branch, a Federal Office Tower, and retail space in a curved glazed atrium. Once decommissioned the former library was altered and re-used as TV studios and a three-storey retail space. Occupied by both Virgin Megastore and HMV, with the demise of CD and dvd sales the store’s most recent reinvention is as a branch of Victoria’s Secret, with pink fabric window display panels.
We’ve viewed this block – or at least a few of the buildings – from the other end. We’ve identified the Selkirk Block, (about halfway down the block) and the former YMCA that became the Hotel Astor. At the eastern end of the street we’re looking at the first building in Woodward’s new departmental store – the company having originally set up further east at Main and Georgia in 1892. This image (although dated in the Archives as c.1900) shows the street as it looked in around 1904. The foundation for the new store was laid in June 1903, and it was completed as fast as possible. W T Whiteway was the architect, E Cook the builder, at the cost was $60,000. It was a four storey ‘brick and stick’ construction – a heavy wooden frame with a brick facade. A few years later Smith and Goodfellow designed the $35,000 vertical addition (in 1910) that can still be seen above the initial cornice line. Three years later the store got a huge further addition, a $100,000 westwards extension designed by George Wenyon with a steel and concrete frame.
We’ve been unable to identify the two-storey building that was demolished to make way for the 1913 addition. It was built after 1903 – that year the site is clear. The first name of a business appears in 1905 when John A Flett was running a hardware store, presumably in the new building. A year later they’re joined by White & Bindon, stationers, J W Gilmer selling carpets and Richard Mills, boots and shoes. In 1908 the hardware and stationers are still there, but the other tenants are the American Type Founders Co, Fraser and Pride clothing and H E Munday had the boot and shoe store. In 1909 the building was apparently owned by Mahon, McFarland & Mahon who paid for alterations to the storefront.
Today just the 1903 store still stands – looking more like the 1903 photo today than it has for a century. The Woodwards redevelopment (designed by Henriquez Partners for Westbank) retained the wood-frame building but added a concrete reinforcement on the western facade to give the old frame seismic stability, while the brick facade was tied back and the original lettering was faithfully restored after being covered in layers of paint for decades. New retail uses including a TD Bank now sit underneath office space, while further west the new part of the project here included non-market housing and Simon Fraser Universities Arts campus, as well as a London Drugs store.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 371-2102
When the Hudson’s Bay Company built a new store in the new city of Vancouver in 1887, they hedged their bets on the location. It wasn’t in the rapidly establishing replacement for Granville – ‘Old Granville Township’ around Carrall and Water Street, where the 1870s fledgling city had grown, only to be destroyed by fire in 1886. But it also wasn’t on the rival centre being developed by the Canadian Pacific Railway on Granville Street, running from the CPR Terminal to the new hotel, way off in the recently cleared bush. The Bay executives split the difference and put their new store roughly halfway between the two rivals, on Cordova Street. If there’s any indication of which side they might favour in the tug of war between the two developing centres it might be indicated by their choice of designer – T C Sorby, also responsible for the design of the Hotel Vancouver.
The building he gave them wouldn’t have looked out of place on any prosperous English High Street. That shouldn’t be surprising; Yorkshire-born Sorby arrived in Canada in the early 1880s and by the time he reached Vancouver in 1886 he was already 50, with a long career already behind him in England. Here’s how the new store looked in 1888 in a VPL photo.
The Bay didn’t stay in this location for very long. In 1892 C O Wickenden was hired to build a new store on Granville Street – confirming the company commitment to the CPR’s part of town. They still ran the Cordova store until 1894, and in 1895 Beaty and Hall had replaced them, greengrocer and produce merchants. In 1901 there was a druggist here, with a cigar store in the other half of the building. Eventually the building was swallowed up in the ever-expanding Woodward’s store, replaced recently with the 43 storey tower of the Woodwards redevelopment.