Archive for the ‘Somervell & Putnam’ Tag
The Union Bank of Canada was built at the corner of West Hastings and Seymour, next to the Innes Thompson Building, in 1920. The Union Bank was started in Quebec, but moved to Winnipeg and became the prairie bank, following the railway westwards as towns sprang up. Crossing into British Columbia took a little longer, and the first appearance of the bank here wasn’t until 1907 when they occupied the premises of a wine and spirits store at the corner of Seymour and Hastings.
The bank made some alterations in 1910, and commissioned a new building at 97 Cordova Street in the same year, but it wasn’t until 1919 that they made their grand move, commissioning Somervell and Putnam to design their last commission in the city, a seriously retro temple bank (in an era when far simpler buildings were starting to come into fashion). (We featured an earlier Somervell and Putnam temple bank at Pender and Granville).
Not long after their new branch was built the Union Bank, finding itself over-extended, was forced to merge with the Royal Bank (in 1925). The Royal Bank already had a significant Vancouver presence, so they passed the Seymour building on to the Bank of Toronto, who in turn merged in 1955 with the Dominion Bank, but maintained a presence in the building until 1984. Our image dates to 1939, when the Bank of Toronto was operating here.
Plans for the demolition of the building had actually been approved until protest from the Community Arts Council (before there was a Heritage Vancouver) saved it, and a revised redevelopment project (that saw the Innes-Thompson block demolished) preserve the building. The architects claimed it was impossible to save the Innes-Thompson facade as well. The Union Bank sat empty for several years, and it wasn’t until 2000 that the new use for the building was completed, with Architectura designing the award-winning Morris J Wosk Centre for Dialogue for Simon Fraser University. The building next door, the Delta Suites hotel by Aitken Wreglesworth, carefully picks up the scale and rhythm of the bank facade in the lower floors.
Here’s another view, taken a later than our last post (probably in 1911) of the south side of Hastings from Granville, looking east. Now you can see the facade of the Bank of Ottawa Building. The Bank of Nova Scotia absorbed the Bank of Ottawa in 1919 and continued to occupy the building. The Ottawa Citizen in 1909 reported the acquisition of the 52 foot wide corner property, and that the six storey building would cost the bank $250,000. In they end they seem to have got a bargain – although the initial design was attributed to W Marbury Somervell, the building permit was to Somervell and Putnam for $225,000 – and the building was eight storeys.
The new bank building replaced earlier structures that included a billiards hall and the Pill Box Drug Store. The Strand Hotel was also known as the Delbruck Block, and where the recently completed Canada Life Assurance Company building stood had been the site of the Leland House Hotel. The Canada Life Building had a branch of the Imperial Bank of Canada as well as lawyers, brokers and government offices. The Bank of Commerce on the corner also had tenants upstairs in ‘rooms’ including a number of land brokers and William M Dodd, architect. Mr Dodd, although not widely recognised, obtained some sizeable contracts including a $200,000 apartment building at Granville and 12th that is still standing today.
W J Cairns took the City of Vancouver Archives original CVA Str P411
Here’s the 600 block of West Hastings early in 1910. At the eastern end of the block, on the corner of Seymour Street the Bank of Ottawa is under construction to the design of W Marbury Somervell, one of only two buildings he designed before he teamed up with fellow American John Putnam (although a 1911 building permit has both names attached). Their design was quite similar to - but somewhat taller than – the Darling and Pearson designed bank on the other end of the block. This Bank of Commerce commission was completed by the Toronto-based architects in 1908. Today it is home to Birks jewelers, with a more recently recreated ‘heritage’ interior designed by Oberto Oberti. Next door was the Canada Life Building, completed in 1910, and next door to the east was the Strand Hotel, in this picture as it looked after it was remodeled in 1907 to J S Pearce’s design. There’s a permit issued to ‘Darling and Pearsen’ for a Canada Life office in 1910, but all the contemporary records of construction progress reference A A Cox as the architect – it’s probable that Cox was the local supervising architect of Darling and Pearson’s design (although Cox also designed buildings of a similar scale on his own – like the Carter Cotton Building)
Today both the Bank of Ottawa (which soon after became the Bank of Nova Scotia) and the Canada Life building are still standing. Or at least, the building frame is still standing; both buildings were increased in width and given a contemporary skin. The Canada Life Building was rebuilt in 1952 and the Bank of Ottawa four years later, to the designs of Sharp, Thompson, Berwick Pratt, in 1956.
Picture source City of Vancouver archives CVA 371-2426
We’re on the 500 block of Beatty Street in 1928, looking north to the World Building which is now covered in the advertising for the Bekins moving and storage company. There are a series of warehouses coming up the hill, ending with one designed by Parr and Fee for Robertson-Godson in 1909. That building was removed to make way for the SkyTrain station and public plaza and steps down to International Village, but the rest are still there, often with alterations.
These days the bottom of the hill has the Sun Tower (as it’s been known since the Sun newspaper moved in in 1937). The steel dome is painted to look like copper, and although W T Whiteway gets the architectural credit it was suggested by G L Sharp that he actually drew the initial design. Storey and Campbell’s 1911 warehouse also designed by Whiteway is next up the hill, converted to apartments in 1996. The Bowman Lofts were converted in 2006 and the Crane Building next door two years later. Both have extra new-build floors added on top as part of the residential conversion. The Bowman building was built in 1906, added to in 1913 and then rebuilt to Townley and Matheson’s designs in 1944, while the Crane building had Somervell & Putnam as architects and cost over $120,000 in 1911.
At 548 Beatty Bruno Freschi took a 1904 warehouse and radically reinterpreted it in 1983 by pushing the front wall back leaving a front windowless screen as balconies. 560 Beatty is a bit of a mystery, although it dates back to 1909. Next door at 564 Beatty the original architect is also a mystery up to the top of the first floor. It was also built in 1909, but in 1912 J P Matheson added two more floors. This view will change if an approved four storey addition by IBI/HB gets built, with new windows replacing the never-meant-to-be-seen side of the building, and a cafe added to the plaza.
Here’s another shot a few years later of the Granville and Pender junction in the early 1900s. The Post Office and Customs House is still there on Pender, and there’s a new building on the corner with Granville. It was home to F W Welsh, grocers, and P Burns, butchers. Just out of shot was a building shared by a dressmaker and tailor where Emil Guenther, an architect, had his office.
The building went up in 1899, and it could be by C O Wickenden who designed a building on Pender for a Mr Tomkins that year – although no Tomkins appear living on Pender in the street directory that year or in the following years. It didn’t last very long as Somervell and Putnam’s Merchants Bank (later a Bank of Montreal branch) was built in 1915, and later converted to the Segal School of Business by Simon Fraser University. Underwood, McKinley, Wilson & Smith’s Pender Place now occupy the Post Office spot. After the Post Office operations moved the original building became the Dominion of Canada Assay Office