Here’s another warehouse on the city’s first street – Water Street. This was probably the third building to be built on this site in 1906, a warehouse and factory for Edward Lipsett, sail maker, costing $10,000 and designed by Dalton and Eveleigh. Before it was built there was a smaller wooden building, completed soon after the fire and before the fire it was also a developed site.
After 1906 there’s some confusion about what was added when. There’s a $20,000 permit in 1912 for a 2-storey brick addition at the same address, built and designed by Baynes and Horie for Edward Lipsett. The Statement of Significance for the heritage building suggests that’s another building alongside is the 1912 development, but we’re not completely sure that’s correct. This building’s construction was heavy timbers with brick infill, as was the case with all the warehouses on Water Street at this time.
The Vancouver Public Library image details for this photograph say it was photographed in 1920, but that would be inaccurate if the new 4-storey addition was built alongside in 1912. There’s another permit for 176 Water Street for Mr Lipsett in 1918 for a single storey building, also designed by Dalton & Eveleigh. If the accurate address was 76 Water Street, then that would be the building just showing to the right of the four storey building. It appears to have the name ‘Edward’ on the window – so it could well be Mr Lipsett’s extended premises. That would imply the additional 4-storey building standing today to the west would have been built some time after 1920, and not in 1912, and the VPL date is correct. It would also mean this building was built in stages: the main floor first in 1906 (with the Gold House next door), then the upper floors in 1912.
In 1891, Edward Lipsett started a small sail making business at 69 Water Street (across the street from here) and gradually included fishing, boating and hunting supplies before finally becoming a large retailer of industrial supplies, marine hardware, sporting goods and boats. Edward was born in the US – his family had Irish ancestry, and he was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His wife, Mary, is less clear – one census has her from the US, of Scottish ancestry, and another apparently from Nova Scotia of English origin. They arrived in Canada in 1890 from Boston and became Canadian citizens in 1898. In 1901 they were aged 34, and had three children, Roy, Harry and Evelyn, aged from nine to five. The family were still together in 1911, living at the house Edward had built at 1166 West Pender Street. Roy was a salesman, and his father (who in 1891 was recorded as a sail maker) is now shown as a marine goods supplier. In 1914 the company were described as manufacturers of canvas goods – sails, tents, tarpaulins, aprons, coats and overalls.
Today the building has office space upstairs and a nightclub with an entrance on Water Street.
Louis Gold re-built his hotel very soon after the fire destroyed the newly named Vancouver in 1886. He is unlikely to have hired an architect – it was a simple but surprisingly large property. Louis was one of the earliest residents, having been in Granville since 1872. His wife (who was German) and son, Edward, joined him a year later, and Gold ran a store mostly supplying visiting ships and loggers and the local native population (which was pretty much the entire population of the area at the time). His son recalled he had arrived via Victoria from San Francisco. Previously he was in Kentucky (where his son was born), and Louis had been born in Poland. He was the first Jewish resident in the area, and initially leased a store from Jack Deighton, later paying $550 to buy three lots from the Clarkson estate. An invoice from 1877 describes Louis Gold as an ‘importer of, and Dealer in, Groceries and Provisions, Clothing, Boots and Shoes, Caps and Hats’. He dealt in ‘Crockery, Cutlery, Kerosene Oil, Lamps, Fancy Goods, Laces, Embroideries, Kid Gloves and a General assortment of Merchandise’.
Various city pioneers recalled different aspects of Louis Gold’s history to Major Matthews. He pre-empted land near the North Arm Road, and had several cottages that he leased out on Water Street, as well as his store. Gold’s wife, Emma, apparently had a life independent of her husband and ran both a grocery and shoe store – The Royal City Boot and Shoe Store – in New Westminster in the early 1880s. After the fire Gold switched from selling groceries and general merchandise to building the 100 room hotel, The Gold House. A 1940 newspaper report explained his method of dealing with difficult patrons. Gold was a short man, but he reportedly earned the nickname “Leaping” Louis by springing into the air in the course of some fracas, “swinging his fist mightily and landing with his full weight on his opponent’s chin. This seldom failed to yield a knockout”. Louis backed Malcolm McLean as the new city’s first mayor, and it was the Gold’s carriage that was used to celebrate the disputed win. A few weeks later, when the fire started Louis is said to have escaped by jumping into Burrard Inlet (across the street from his store).
In 1888 the provincial Government considered a request to purchase the pre-empted land. Louis was in England – in Liverpool – at the time, but his lawyers and son received a favourable response to their land claim. Exactly what Louis was up to in England has never been established, but a Mrs Agnes Brown contacted Major Matthews to insist that one thing he had done was marry her (bigamously) and father four children. As he was illiterate, she had written letters to his wife for him (believing she was writing to his mother).
The Gold House appears in street directories until 1911, although Louis died in 1907. Emma, his wife, was running the Gold House in 1888, then appears to have moved, reappearing in Vancouver from 1892, recorded somewhat prematurely for many years as his widow. Louis wasn’t associated with the hotel that bore his name after 1888 (and doesn’t seem to be in Vancouver in the 1890s or early 1900s, although there are several men in England with the same name during this period) which might support Mrs Brown’s claims. Mrs Anderson had the hotel in 1889, Roland Lambert and Nathaniel Darling were proprietors in 1890, when the Vancouver Public Library picture was taken. Colin Dawson was running it in 1892, W Holmes in 1896, Frederick Clem ran it for several years in the early 1900s and J B Dorfman in 1905. In 1910 it was H M Marriott in charge, as he was a year later – the last time the Gold House was listed.
The 1892 Street Directory lists everybody living in the hotel – nearly a third of the rooms were occupied by permanent guests (some associated with the establishment, like Colin Dawson, but others with jobs in the city like Moses Cole, a CPR brakeman and Lewis Hollingsworth, a barber.
In 1912 Edward Lipsett, a sailmaker and canvas merchant added a second warehouse next to his 1906 building on the site of the Gold House, designed by Dalton and Eveleigh. Emma Gold died in 1927, and was buried in Mountain View cemetery with her husband.
More of Water Street’s commercial buildings survive relatively unchanged than most other streets in the city. This is the Pither and Leiser warehouse, built in 1905 and completed in 1906 by E Cook for a Victoria-based import company. It cost $10,000 to build, and was described as “three full storeys, deep basement; large plate glass front windows and wide entrance; Fensom electric freight elevator; first storey bonded warehouse, top storey for sundry duty-paid goods”.
There were three Leiser brothers in Victoria: like the Oppenheimers in Vancouver they were born in Germany (in Kerpen near Cologne) into a Jewish family, and like the Oppeheimers they succeeded in trade, operating grocery import companies and making their fortune supplying the gold miners, initially in the Cassiar, in Yale, and later the Klondike. All three were Freemasons, as well. One of the brothers, Simon, had the largest wholesale grocery in British Columbia in 1890, and his daughter married an Oppenheimer in Vancouver. Another brother, Gustav, was a partner in the wholesale dry goods firm of Lenz and Leiser in Victoria. The third, Max Leiser imported and wholesaled wine and liquor, and also cigars. The company warehouse in Victoria was on Wharf Street and Max later developed other property in Victoria including the Kaiserhof Hotel on Blanchard Street designed by Thomas Hooper.
Pither and Leiser’s business dated back to 1858, when an alcohol and cigar import firm was established by A Casamayou. By 1888 it was known as Boucherat & Co, owned by John Coigdarripe (a Frenchman) and Luke Pither (from New York). Max Leiser bought his partnership in 1893, when the name was changed. They were importers of Mumm champagne, Gordon’s gin and Johnnie Walker and Whyte & McKay whiskies.
In 1912 George Joy was manager of the Vancouver branch, originally designed in 1905 by Hooper and Watkins. (The company had initially set up shop in the city in 1900). However, if the directories are to believed the business had just moved next door, to the west, into a newly completed building. Oscar Brown, a fruit wholesaler moved into this building and made some changes. It looks as if the design used the centre pivoted windows generally associated with Parr and Fee buildings, so they might be the designers. Pither and Leiser stayed in business through to 1921, despite prohibition in British Columbia from 1917 to 1921. (In Victoria it’s suggested that the company’s alcohol ‘sales’ rose significantly during the period of US prohibition).
The next occupants of the building were Oscar Brown, effectively switching places with Pither and Leiser. They were followed in 1922 by Clarks’ Fruit and Produce – seen here in 1924, and still occupying the building in 1940. They had been on the block since 1918, initially next door, then two doors down. In 1950 there was a dry goods wholesalers and a clothing manufacturing company in the building. For more than 30 years, with the transformation of Gastown into a more vibrant retail street, it is the Vancouver store of Hill’s Native Art.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Bu N54
This Water Street warehouse was commissioned by hardware merchants the McLennan and McFeely Company. It was completed in 1905, although they never occupied it as by then they had already started building larger premises on Cordova Street. The architect of both warehouses was E E Blackmore, who worked with the more experienced W T Whiteway on this building. This was an unusual arrangement as up to this point Blackmore usually worked with his father, William, who had designed many of the city’s early buildings, but William had died in 1904.
McLennan & McFeely leased the Water Street building to the Canadian Fairbanks Company; at the time the largest machinery and mill supply company in Canada. They didn’t only use the building as a warehouse, they had a wonderful machine shop – there’s a beautiful picture of it in the City Archives, dating from 1905 like the picture above.
By 1930 the building was occupied by Thompson Elliott Limited, wholesale grocers, as this VPL image shows. They moved into the building in the early 1920s, replacing David Spencer Ltd who used the warehouse in conjunction with their rapidly expanding retail emporium.
Like many of the buildings on the north side of Water Street, (the water side), the Canadian Fairbanks building was built on piles driven into infilled water lots. By the 1980s the foundations had decayed to the point where collapse seemed imminent. Fortunately, extensive renovations in 1987 reclaimed the building for office and retail use.
Image Sources: City of Vancouver Archives Bu P504.4 and Vancouver Public Library
This warehouse was built on the north side of Water Street in 1909. Built for Leeson, Dickie, Gross and Co, the building was one of the earlier in the city to use reinforced concrete for its construction. Inside you can see the octagonal concrete columns that support the floors. The brick infill and strip windows are set on the concrete floors extended to the edge of the building between the floors.
Curiously, there’s very little written about the company. In 1908 all three names associated with the company lived in the West End: Clarence H Gross was manager for wholesale grocers E W Leeson and Co and was living at 1203 Thurlow. Mr Leeson himself was living at 1139 Barclay, company clerk Lavell Leeson also lived there and Francis Leeson, also with the company, lived across the street at 1118 Barclay. Edwin Dickie, was secretary-treasurer of the Leeson company and lived at 1641 Davie.
E W Leeson had interests in the city longer than his partners; in 1894 he was in partnership with E A Baker as Baker & Leeson, corn merchants, at 123 Water Street. However, it doesn’t look as if he actually lived in the city in those days; in 1891 E W Leeson was 31 and his wife Maggie 29; both born in Ontario, were living in Manitoba with their two very young children. In 1901 Ernest W Leeson and his family were still living in Brandon, Manitoba. He appears for the first time as a resident of Vancouver in 1903, still associated with Baker and Leeson – as was the case in 1906. In 1908 the new partners joined Mr Leeson, and a year later they built their new warehouse, designed by Parr and Fee who had also recently designed the Europe Hotel nearby. Parr and Fee also designed the 2-storey warehouse that was built on Leeson’s original location at 131 Water St, in 1910.
In 1910 Mr Leeson was president of the grocery company and was also President of the Portland Wonder Mining Co. A year later he was secretary of the mining company, and Francis Leeson was also with the mining firm. A year later Francis Leeson is a broker, and there’s no mention of the mining company – although it continued in business with silver ore identified in the assay on Glacier Creek, near Stewart. C H Dickie was general manager in 1910.
In 1911 39-year-old Clarence Gross was living with his wife Margaret and his children, Alice and George, and it appears that they had moved to the city from New Brunswick. They had moved from the West End to W 12th Avenue. Edwin Dickie was 44, and lived with his wife (recorded, probably inaccurately, as Francis) and four daughters, all aged under 9. The Dickies had also moved from New Brunswick. Somehow the Leesons appear to have been missed – or misnamed – in the 1911 census.
In 1918 A Macdonald Grocers announced that the grocery company, including the British Columbia arm of Leeson Dickie & Gross, would be known as Western Grocers. W P Riley created Western Grocers in 1912 in Winnipeg, and twenty years later they absorbed the rival Malkin grocery company.
By 1938 when our Vancouver Public Library image was shot, the Terminal Cartage Co were using the warehouse. Today the building is still standing, almost unchanged, and is used for offices.
This picture dates back to 1981, and the view has remained remarkably unchanged for over 30 years. Back then it was a car lot – and it still is today. That will probably change soon as a pair of residential towers have been recently approved, one over 50 storeys high. The biggest change in the background is the Altadena tower on Burrard Street, completed in 2003. It started life as an office tower in 1995, was switched to a residential project in 1998 and then stopped, with a part-completed frame. A complete redesign saw the tower finally start up again with a new project by Lawrence Doyle Architects.
On the far right of the image was the brand new London Place office and condo building, built by the First Canadian Land Corporation and designed by A Debicki. The upper three floors of the red brick-clad stumpy tower had residential units with balconies, the lower floors were office space. The office was never very successful, and in 1995 the entire building was allowed to become residential.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-W08.34
Here’s the Toronto Dominion Bank that used to stand on the corner of Robson and Burrard as it appeared in 1974. We’ve recently added a little more information on our previous look at this corner when it had retail stores built for Alfred Perry. In 1939 architects Palmer and Bow were hired to design the bank here – apparently two storeys instead of the single storey it replaced. In practice it was William Bow who was hired; his partner Bernard Palmer had died in 1936, but Bow kept the practice name unchanged. Bow was trained in Glasgow and headed to British Columbia in 1913 after he had come second in the design competition for the University of British Columbia. (Technically it was his brother who came second; William drew up the design, but it was entered in the name of his brother Douglas, who was already in Vancouver).
The single storey retail store is almost certainly the Townsend & Townsend designed $1,500 brick store built by J P Foreshore for Mr Perry in 1911. There was another permit for an $800 addition issued only a week later than the first to the same architect and owner, so perhaps the building became a little more ambitious.
The single storey retail stores across Burrard also date back to 1911, designed by Parr and Fee for Cicero Davidson. While that store lives on (with a contemporary façade), the bank was replaced in 1998 with a retail building designed by W T Leung.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 778-34