555 Howe Street

This three storey building dates from 1929 and the permit was granted to McLennan & White and designed by S M Eveleigh, costing $25,000 to build. McLennan & White were barristers and solicitors from the 1910s, (when they were McLennan, Savage & White) although by 1929 only Leander B McLennan (known as Lea) was involved in the business.

However, the lawyers were acting as agents for ‘English clients’ and although initially they intended to occupy it themselves, the building when completed was known as the Banfield, Black & Banfield Building; (John J. Banfield, President; A. C. Black, Vice-Pres.; W. Orson Banfield, Sec. Insurance, Loans and Real Estate).

They’d been in business with that name since the mid-1920s, but J J Banfield had a much longer involvement in the city, having been an alderman in 1896, a year before the birth of his son, William Orson Banfield. In 1909 he developed The Stadacona Apartments on Bute, which we saw in an earlier post where we looked at the family’s origins. Archibald (Archie) C Black, the third partner, was born in Winnipeg, and as well as his real estate career was a rower. He competed in the 1924 Olympics, winning a silver medal.

Boultbee Sweet and Co, another property and insurance brokerage replaced Banfield Black & Banfield in 1934, and remained here until the late 1960s. In 1968 Hemsworth Turton and Co. stockbrokers moved in, and in 1972 Peter Brown’s Canarim Investment Corp took them over. By 1982 Deak-Perera were here – offering investment in South African gold. “you own as many Krugerrands as you choose. But instead of taking possession, you receive the Deak-Perera Krugerrand Certificate, which states how many Krugerrands you own. Your coins are stored in the vaults of a major Canadian bank”.

The Manhattan-based company were facing multiple scandals involving money laundering and criminal connections, and suffered a tragic event in 1984 when “A homeless woman entered the offices of Deak-Perera, the worldwide currency exchange and precious-metals dealer, today and fatally shot the firm’s 80-year-old founder-chairman and his receptionist“. The company declared bankrupcy.

The tenant on the main floor here, Grassie Jewellers, also went bankrupt in 1989 after accusations of ‘deceptive acts’.

For some years the home of an art gallery, the International Arts Gallery, more recently the building has become home to The Pen Shop, a specialist retailer that has operated in the city for many years.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archines CVA 1095-01022



Posted 5 June 2023 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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249 East Pender Street

This Chinatown building was rebuilt in 1970. It started life in 1919, when Olaf Olson hired W T Whiteway to design a single storey and basement store that G Kilgren built for $8,000. (There was a house on the site in the early 1900s, towards the back of the lot; Edward Stowe was living there in 1911).

We’re not sure who Olaf Olson was. Most likely he was Swedish, but there’s no way to be certain as there were several Ole and Olaf Olsens and Olsons, and we don’t trust the clerk to have spelled the name correctly.

The tax authority says it was originally built in 1928, but we’re not sure why, as there don’t appear to be any permits to rebuild it. Despite the developer’s origins it was always in the heart of Chinatown, with Toy Kit making alterations later in 1919. Siu Lee Co occupied the building in the 1920s and Wah Shuen, a confectioner in 1930.

While downstairs Wah Chong Co had a poultry business, in 1947 The Province reported a raid on a gambling game on the upper floor here: “The 17 accused, all Chinese, were assesed $10 or ten days for being inmates of a gaming house at 249 East Pender. Detective A. R. Stewart said officers broke up ” a pretty good game” of Um Gow and seized a table and a basket of Chinese dominoes, markers and matches.”

A month later a Chinese lottery book was confiscated after a raid on the premises, and another game was broken up a year later, when 13 players were arrested, along with Jan Ping who was running the game.

In 1952 Shing Chong Poultry were in business here, and remained here for at least the next 14 years – This Vancouver Public Library image shows Olaf Olson’s single-storey investment in 1966.

After the premises were rebuilt in 1970 the businesses in the image, Oriental Florists and a restaurant (located upstairs) were trading. In 1974 (the year our main picture was taken) “A hungry thief broke into the Kwangchow Restaurant, 251 East Pender, early Wednesday and stole $50 in change and two chicken legs. Manager Howard Yan told police that the thief cut up a chicken and cooked two drumsticks”. The restaurant was still here in 1986, noting that Expo 86 had reduced business rather than boosting it. A year later the Garden Bakery replaced the restaurant. The current tenants are Kam Wai Dim Sum, run by William Lui. His family have run the business for over 30 years, but William had a career as an opera-singing in New York. When his father fell ill and decided to close the business, William returned to Vancouver and carried on in renovated premises. With an ageing local population, the majority of the business is now wholesale, selling dumplings and steamed buns to supermarkets. One of the Chinese family associations, The Kong Chow Benevolent Association now occupy the upper floor of the building.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1095 02642


Posted 1 June 2023 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

F W Hart – Cordova Street

We saw Frank Hart’s home on Cambie Street in an earlier post, when we looked at his history. Born in Illinois, he walked from his brother’s home in Semiahmoo to New Westminster in 1885, and then came to the township of Granville. A former bronco buster, he had learned to make furniture (and the undertaking business) in Walla Walla, in Washington, and that was the business he established here, on a piece of land he squatted on the water side of Alexander Street. He built a shack, which he extended twice to a 100 foot wide 2-storey building before he sold out for $800 to the CPR to allow them to lay their track into the new terminus. Within a short time he had new premises, but they burned down in the 1886 fire, and he started over again.

This was Frank’s furniture store at 29 Cordova Street in one of the earliest pictures of the city – taken some time in 1886. Five weeks after the fire in June this building, and many like it, had sprung up.

Mr. Hart was one of the city’s most active early entrepreneurs. As well as the furniture business he was the city’s undertaker, and the owner of the first ‘theatre’. It was known as Hart’s Opera House, (which was a bit of a stretch for a converted rollerskating rink with a canvas roof relocated from Port Moody). Initially run by Jack Levy, Frank bought the structure in 1887 (the year this portrait was taken), and it got its new name in 1888. The audience of up to 500 sat on wooden chairs (provided by Frank’s Pioneer Furniture company) in the front rows, or on wooden benches behind in the cheap seats, initially with coal oil lamps for lighting. Despite charging $1 for a chair, or 50c for the benches, this business probably didn’t generate much profit, as he had to pay the visiting troupes of actors that he hired to perform melodramas and musical comedies. Once the Imperial Opera House opened on Pender in 1889, the theatre business closed.

The undertaking business made some sense – nobody else was doing the job in the new city, and loggers lived a precarious existance, so even with a young population, there were funerals, and Frank could build the coffins in his Pioneer Furniture Factory. He bought the $1,500 horse-drawn hearse from an exhibition in Toronto, and stabled the horses at the Stanley Park Stables on Georgia Street.

Frank wasn’t alone here, although he never mentioned his sister, Anna, who came with him in 1885 and helped run the furniture business. She married H H Spicer in 1893. He ran a shingle mill on False Creek, and they then moved to Chilliwack and ran a farm, before moving again, to Alberta, where Anna died in 1925. 

Frank estimated that up to 1889 seventy-five percent of the furniture sold in the city was through his business, the Pioneer Furniture Store. He told the City Archivist “We used to have a car load of furniture a week arrive, and, including stablemen, drivers and others, had as many as one hundred men on my staff at one time or another.” He estimated he was making $1,000 a week, but times turned harder in the 1890s, and in 1895 Frank and his wife, Josephine, (who he married in 1889), left for Rossland, (where he built another Opera House) Phoenix and then Greenwood. After that he built the goldrush boomtown of Dyea in 1898, where he once again ran a furniture store and undertaking business. He made a fortune of $250,000, and promptly lost it, relocating again to Dawson. Eventually he settled in Prince Rupert, (from 1908) selling furniture, running an undertakers business and later buying, selling and developing property. His wife died in 1913

He returned to Vancouver every so often through to the 1930s, including in 1917 when aged 60 he married Amelia Ferguson, a widow eight years younger, and his late wife’s cousin. Frank died in Prince Rupert in 1935.

The early wooden buildings were mostly replaced soon after with more substantial, brick faced and more fireproof structures. This was developed as The Iroquois Hotel in 1907, although later it became known as The Stanley Hotel. It was developed by Evans, Coleman and Evans and designed by G W Grant, and in the past two years the facade has been retained and a new 10-storey rental building developed by Westbank built behind and above it.

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Bu P325 and CVA Port P99.1


Posted 29 May 2023 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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132 Cordova Street

This tobacconist and shoeshine was on Cordova Street in 1895. It was identified as the business of Fred Ackers, and his partner on the shoeshine stand wasn’t named. He lived in Dougall House, less than a block from his store.

There aren’t too many records for Fred, who died in 1929. The notice in the Province said “Fred Ackers, Former C.P.R. Stationmaster, Is Dead. A well known figure to Vancouver residents, Fred Ackers, 1084 Howe street, C.P.R. stationmaster, died this morning at St. Paul’s Hospital. Mr. Ackers, was born In Ontario In July, 1861, came to Vancouver about 1880. In 1903 he became night C.P.R. stationmaster and held that position until May, 1927, when he was pensioned. He was a single man.”

It looks like Fred knocked a few years off his age, as the only Frederick Ackers born in Ontario was born in Stirling, Stirling-Rawdon, Hastings, Ontario, in 1855. He was aged 6 in the 1861 census, and 16 a decade later, when he was living with his widowed mother, Mary, and working as a clerk. If his obituary got Fred’s age wrong, they may have mistaken other details. It looks as if he may have arrived not long before this image was taken. In 1894 he isn’t in the street directory in BC, (or for any earlier years), and W A Clark and Co occupied these premises.

He disappears again a year later, when a tailor was working here, but in 1897 Frederick Ackers was in Van Winkle, a mining post 14 miles from Barkerville, and in 1898 Fred Hugh Ackers was listed as a miner on the voting register in Lardeau, another mining community in the Cariboo. As was true for so many men hoping to make their fortune, it doesn’t appear Fred was particularly lucky as he reappeared in Vancouver in 1901 as a cook at the Atlantic Restaurant on Cordova, a job he held for three years. In 1904 he was listed as a policeman, and two years later the directory clarified that he was a policeman for the CPR, a listing that was still true in 1913. A year later he had the designation of Assistant Depot Master, and as assistant Station Master in the year that he died.

The building the business occupied didn’t last long as it was replaced by Woodward’s expansion that saw this spot as the hardware department. In turn, Woodwards was redeveloped in 2009 and this is now a Dental Wellness Centre at the base of a 41 storey residential tower.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Bu P264


Posted 25 May 2023 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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Georgia Medical Dental Building

It would be hard to choose whether this, the Birks Building, or the second Hotel Vancouver were the greatest losses of architecturally significant buildings in the city. This office building was a landmark, and while we’ve seen glimpses of it in other posts, this Leslie Sheraton image shows its design more clearly.

We’re not sure of the date of the image, but the car strongly suggests it was the 1950s – as far as we can tell it’s a 1955 Cadillac 60 Special. Built in 1927-29, the building was the first art deco skyscraper built in Vancouver and was designed by the same architects (McCarter and Nairne) who designed the even more elaborate Marine Building as this was completing.

“Like the Marine Building it rose in tiers, topped by pale terra cotta that dripped off the brick facade like ice cream,” reported the Vancouver Sun. The sculptures of nurses on the corners of the building were designed by Joseph Francis Watson. Made of terra cotta, they were removed before the structure was imploded in 1989. The Vancouver Sun said they were “Affectionately known as the Rhea sisters – Diarrhea, Pyorrhea and Gonorrhea.” One was retained by the Museum of Vancouver, one is on a building at UBC, and one was auctioned off for the Vancouver Heritage Conservation Foundation which was created after heritage supporters had fought and failed to save the building.

There were 150 doctors and dentists in offices here, as well as an x-ray unit and a clinical lab. Sixty years later a California company placed 600 sticks of dynamite slotted into holes drilled into the walls, and brought the building down in under 12 seconds, watched by a crowd estimated at 30,000 (and viewable on YouTube).

The new office building named Cathedral Place was completed in 1991. A review by Robin Ward in the Sun said “The old building may have been worth remembering but I don’t think it was necessary (other than to placate the heritage lobby) to stick bits of it on to the new building. The imitation terra-cotta lions, nurses (which are not the originals, by the way) and fussy railings detract from the building’s robust composition.”

Not every Councillor was in favour of the new building, designed by Paul Merrick, including elements of the older one. In 1989 The Sun reported “Ald. Jonathan Baker slammed his fellow aldermen’s comments, saying the argument has “an element of architectural necrophilia. “The fact is, this is an old, ugly building,” he said. “I don’t know that all this stuff (artwork) should be a curse that now has to be stuck on the (new) building. Do we have to glue all this plastered, plastic crap of architectural junk from an old building on to a new building?”

Alderman Gordon Price said of the replacement “the new design was of such quality that it will override any reason for saving the medical building”, and the developer, The Shon Group, had reports showing the old building was beyond repair (although those arguing for its retention disputed them). They had owned the building for 16 years when they proposed its replacement in 1987.

One outcome of the replacement of the building was a new policy in 1991, that hasn’t totally changed heritage preservation in the city, but has had an impact. “Council has instructed that prior to consideration of a proposal that includes demolition of an “A” listed building, a formal independent consultant’s report on the physical condition and economic viability of retaining the building be reviewed by the Director of Planning. The report is at the expense of the applicant.

Today the replica nurses are on a building with no medical connections at all. The tenants are a typical Downtown Vancouver mix of lawyers, mining companies, financial advisers and real estate businesses.


Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 2008-022.040

Posted 22 May 2023 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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960 Richards Street

This part of Yaletown was once full of low commercial buildings, many of them associated with motoring. Here is another in a 1928 Vancouver Public Library image. There was nothing built on these lots as late as 1920. In 1928 Pioneer Carriage Works hired Bedford Davidson to build an $8,500 Workshop/Factory/Warehouse, which we think is the 2-storey building on the right, but the single storey building’s permit has escaped us.

There were minor alterations to a garage here in 1927 by Pioneer Carriage Works. There was another Bedford Davidson $10,000 building shown developed by Pioneer on the next two lots to the north in 1920. Leyland Motors were occupying those premises in 1924, (with Vancouver Auto Painting), and the Pioneer Auto and Carriage Works occupied these three buildings.

The Pioneer business had been established before 1910, further down the block to the north. They were a firm of auto body builders run my William Alexander, Michael McLean and William Benson, and seem to have developed from the Pioneer Carriage and Shoeing Co, shifting from horses to horseless carriages.

In 1926 The Province reported “John H. Robbins, of Carriage Building Firm died Monday. After an Illness of nearly a year, John Henry Robbins, 25 Sixth avenue west, passed away Monday In his 72nd year, He was a native of N. S, where be carried on a carriage plant for thirty years. Coming to Vancouver nineteen years ago, the deceased located in the grocery business. Later he and Mr. K. Schuldl started the Pioneer Carriage Factory, which firm they carried on for a number of years. Mr. Robbins will be mourned by many friends not only In Vancouver, but In Honolulu, where he spent many winters.”

By 1933 this was a tyre business; “Thieves and Prowlers Rob Tire Company. Breaking Into premises of Pioneer Carriage & Tire Co., 960 Richards street, thieves carried off eight automobile tires and hid them in a nearby shed. Police found the stolen goods
and waited in vain for the thieves to return for their plunder.”

By the 1950s the premises were occupied by Union Bus Sales, in the 1970s Dun and Bradstreet had an office here, and in the 1990s Monarch Beauty Supply were based here.

In 2000 a new 30 storey condo tower project with a townhouse base was developed by De Cotiis Management, designed by Howard Bingham Hill and called The Savoy.


Main Rooms – 117 Main Street

To our surprise, there aren’t good older Archives images of this three story building called the Main Rooms, originally developed in 1908 by Frank G Lewis at a cost of $18,000. It was off in the distance on our earlier post, and there’s another picture from 1931 that shows it once had a stone face, (possibly still there behind the stucco – shown on the right).

So this is how it was when we photographed it 18 years ago, looking much the same as today. In 1912 it was the Foreign Sailor’s Home, but in 1916 the contents of 30 rooms was auctioned off, and by 1920 it had come into the ownership of Stephen’s Estate, who had a permit to add a machine shop. The insurance map says it was the Strathcona Institute, with a restaurant in front, and rooms over. The Logger’s Institute was shown on the upper floor. In the early 1920s E. B. Morgan & Co. carried out repairs, but so did B. C. Land & Investment Co. who were probably owners by then.

Today it’s a privately owned SRO Hotel, with a typical chequered (and long) history. In 1921 “C. Kelly, 117 Main street, woke to find a strange man in his room, he at once expostulated, with the result that he was taken to the General Hospital, suffering from a cut on the nose and wounds on the head. His assailant, who is alleged to have used a beer bottle for the purpose of assaulting Kelly, was arrested and landed in jail, his name being given as Fred Houston, of Squamlsh.

In 1927 “Police Officer’s Fishing on Main Street Handsomely Rewarded. Constable J. Horton indulged in some profitable fishing Saturday afternoon. Instead of the regulation anglers’ tackle the officer used a pike pole and his catch consisted of eleven watches and seven rings. The catch was made at 117 Main street, the Jewelry being discovered by the officer reposing between the wall of that place and an adjoining building. The space was so narrow that the articles could only be reached with the pole. Ths Jewelry is alleged to have part of the $250 loot taken from the Jewelry store of C. W. Chamberlain. 614 Columbia avenue, New Westminster, Friday night. Following the finding of the stolen goods Constable Horton and Detective G Sunstrom arrested a man for investigation in connection with the robbery.

By the 1930s it had become part of Japantown. In 1932 N Fujoshita, who lived here, reported $40 of clothes stolen. In 1938 Teruko Inouye, aged 6, who lived here, had head injuries and a broken collar bone after he and a friend hit a car while riding a tricycle down the ramp from the CN docks at Main and Powell. His friend, Yutaka Motumichi was killed in the same incident. The Japanese connection was severed when the community was forcibly removed from the coast in 1942.

In 1947 a 37-year old woman was beaten in a room here, taken to hospital, and died 11 days later, but of unrelated natural causes. In 1949 Billy Williamson, 36, identified as coming from the Katz Reserve, and a resident here, died in St Pauls of a heart condition, a year after another resident, logger William Holman, was sentenced to a $300 fine or 3 months in jail for selling liquor to an Indian, (an offence at the time, and his third conviction). In the 1950s and 60s residents regularly showed up in the press, both as vicitims, and perpetrators of armed robberies. In 1962 a young woman identified only as ‘Rita’ fell to her death from a third storey window.

In 1966 an arsonist set fire to the back of the building, a month after the landlord of the Stanley Hotel, George Cruikshank, was acquitted of killing one of the residents here, Arnold Hazell, having walked him out through the doors of the hotel bar without opening them, causing a head injury that would prove fatal.

Two years later Fred Hertzog photographed the side of the building from the ramp to the docks.

In 1977 it had a hole punched in the side when a construction crane building the new Policemen’s Union building on the site in the 1968 image, (at Main and Alexander), collapsed.

In 1985 a report to City Council noted the owners had failed to carry out required repairs and meet fire safety requirements, but the Rooms remained open. In 1987 Allan Whitebird, who lived at the Main Rooms, died in the city’s detoxification centre on East 2nd Avenue, having been taken there by the police. None of the staff on duty carried out CPR when they found him passed out, and the centre had no equipment to measure his level of blood alcohol when he was admitted.

In September 2007 Marily WhiskeyJack was killed by Terry Herman during an argument. It was the city’s 15th homicide, and Herman’s 68th conviction.

Image source (part of) City of Vancouver Archives CVA 447-207


Posted 15 May 2023 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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Main Street – 100 block, west side

We had this shot lined up about six years ago, but knew there was a new building planned, so waited for a while to reshoot it. This is the 100 block of Main Street looking north from Powell, photographed some time between 1980 and 1997. We know it’s the early 1980s rather than the 1990s. That’s because off in the distance, in line with the eastern sidewalk is the Pier built by the Canadian National Railway in 1931 for their steamships. It was demolished in 1984, having been abandoned as a pier in the 1950s. The building lived on for a while as the Oompapa Restaurant and Happy Bavarian Inn in the 1970s, then The Dock, and finally O’Hara’s, which failed as a music venue, but not before Trooper had Raised a Little Hell there. Today the land it stood on is part of the road loop that heads down to the waterfront and CRAB Park.

Closest to us on the left is Firehall #2, built in 1974. There had been a single storey store built here by P Walsh in 1912. The three modest buildings to the north have been replaced with a new rental building. Of the three 2-storey buildings that it replaced, the building closest to us (147 Main) wasn’t especially old, having been built in 1946, and rebuilt in 1977. The middle building (123 Main) was developed by the Marks Brothers in 1928, and cost only $4,500 to build. They both appear to be the first structures erected on their sites. The Marks Brothers were Heuston and Percy Marks, electrical installers, and their business was still at 123 Main up the the 1970s, although for 50 years it was run by Ray and Bernard Gallie.

The third, 121 Main, was the oldest of the three, and had the most interesting history. Some distance outside what we now consider Chinatown, it was developed by Kwong, Sang & Co. in 1911, hiring F H Strain as architect, and R A McCulloch to build the $7,000 building. Yuen Chang carried out repairs in 1915, and Shue Yuen & Co (who were tenants, and produce dealers) two years later. The 1920 insurance map shows a second hand store in the building, but the street directory didn’t pick that up.

Kwong, Sang & Co were Japanese and Chinese importers, and this location made some sense as it’s almost in Japantown, but they never operated their business here. Their company address was always on Hastings Street. (There was a tailor in Victoria called Kwong Sang, but we doubt that there’s a connection to this building, and also a grocer in Barkerville). They imported silk and Chinese goods, tea, including Ceylon, matting and cane chairs. They advertised in English in the main newspapers. A 1911 Province advertisment shows they also dealt in property, offering three lots for sale, on Seymour, Pender and Powell. In 1911 they moved to a new address on East Pender. In 1913 they advertised a site on Powell Street where they were willing to erect a building, warehouse or store. By the end of 1914 they had added another store, at 50 E Hastings. In time this became the Style Cafe and then the Stadacona Cafe.

In 2019 FDG Property Management developed a new 9-storey rental building with 56 units, nine of them built for non-market rental.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 772-1085


Posted 11 May 2023 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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Main Street and East 12th Avenue – nw corner

Scout magazine recently featured a number of Vancouver grocery stores that show up in the 1978 inventory of old buildings – not necessarily on the heritage register. They correctly identify the developer; J J Hanna, and that (like a building up the street), it is built with hollow concrete blocks moulded to look like stones. Although there’s a 1908 permit, and tenants from 1909 at 2747 and 2751 Westminster (the store addresses), Mr. Hanna hired Purdy & Lonergan to build the ‘lower floors’ (according to the permit) at the end of 1910. We’re wondering if the clerk misunderstood, and the second permit was in fact for the upper floor (as the press noted the East 12th address for the work). Construction of the original $7,000 block was noted in early 1908, with a brief delay while street grades were agreed.

John James Hanna was born in Ontario in 1857, married Sarah Sailes in ‘Little Britain, Victoria, Canada West’ in 1885 and was in New Westminster by 1891, with a daughter, Leila, and a son Otto. He had a brother, William, who moved to Victoria where he became an alderman. J J Hanna was president of Center and Hanna, the city’s best-known funeral director. His funeral was somewhat delayed, as he died in January 1934 while on the S S Santa Rosa, a steamer heading for Los Angeles where he and Sarah were planning a two month vacation. We have a longer biography in relation to his West End house – also built with concrete blocks.

In 1909 Mrs. Helen Sims ran a confectioners on the right, and J Perry Herbert & C0, grocers, on the corner. That was corrected to J Barry Herbert in 1910, and Barnard & Shaw (grocers) took the space in 1911, with McGovern & Salter shown next door – actually McGowen & Salter, confectioners. By 1914 they had closed down, and the store was vacant, but the grocers were still here. In 1918 the main floor of the building was completely vacant. Upstairs the Hanna Block was addressed to East 12th, had several apartments, but a number were combined into bigger units. Unit 1, and 3-4 were vacant in 1914, but Frederick B Taylor was in suite 2, Mrs Mary Treleaven had 5-7 and 8-10 was Mrs Sadie McCarthy.

In 1925  S Nishiyama was a grocer on East Hastings, but he took over here that year, replacing S Tsumura. In 1930 The Sun reported “Two armed bandits held up the proprietor and customers in the S. Nishiyama Grocery store, 2751 Main Street, at 11:30 Saturday night, and escaped with $570” That year he named the business Fairmont Grocery, remaining until 1934. A year later the Fairmont Grocery was run by T Watte. It was still called that in our 1978 image (when there was a ‘for lease’ sign on the window, and into the early 1990s.

Next door in 1978 was Abbies Sports Shop, got its start at this location. Albert Bevilacqua opened here in 1948 and ran the business for 50 years, but moving farther south on Main later in the year the picture was taken.

Today there’s a florists and a smoke shop, and there are still nine rental apartments in the Hanna Block upstairs.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 786-61.12


Posted 8 May 2023 by ChangingCity in Mount Pleasant, Still Standing

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536 Hornby Street

This is Hornby Mansions (the name it had when it was developed) seen here in 1974, when it had become the Hornby Rooms. We haven’t been able to identify a permit, so we don’t know who built, or owned the property. It was already complete by April 1909, when someone in Room 37 was selling a Boston terrier. In November there was a terse classified for sale ad: ‘For Sale – Rooming House, apply Hornby Mansions’, and a year later rooms were ‘under new management’. A tenant in Room 12 was hiring Agents and street hucksters that year.

By 1923 it was owned by J H Roaf who carried out repairs and alterations. The first mention we can find for him in the city was in 1903, when he was on the steamer from Victoria. He was initially a traveller for Wood, Vallance & Legatt, and in 1905 a sales clerk. Given the modest income this would suggest he enjoyed, we’re intrigued that in 1905 he commissioned Grant and Henderson to design a commercial block on Richards Street. We assume that might have been on behalf of somebody else, possibly his father, but he also built a substantial house in the West End in 1906 that cost him $5,500. At the end of March 1907 his father, William Roaf died at John’s home on Davie Street. In April he married Helen Macfarlane, who was seven years younger, in Toronto. John was listed as the retail manager for Wood, Vallance & Legatt in 1908, and in December Mrs. Macfarlane was visiting her daughter, and returning to Toronto with her to spend the remainder of the winter there. That was presumably related to the birth of Helen and John’s son, William who was born in October.

In April 1910 there was an announcement of the birth of another son (John) at their home at 1285 Harwood Street. In August Mrs Roaf was planning a trip to the east with here mother-in-law, and then spending winter in California. “Mr. and Mrs. Gordon Fleck moved Into the residence of Mr. J H Roaf on Harwood street” in September. In 1911 Mr. Roaf was back in the city when he required ‘a very serious operation’ in St Paul’s hospital. That year he owned a Packard automobile, that had a new garage at his home. In 1912 a daughter, Marjorie, was born, and that year J H Roaf was listed as a wholesale agent.

John Hamilton Roaf was born in Toronto on the last day of 1877. During World War One he was an officer based in BC; in 1916 he was promoted from Lieutenant in February, to Captain when he hired Wiles and Fisher to carry out repairs to an apartment building at 500 Hornby, to Major by June, when he was in Nanaimo recruiting a tunnelling company of sappers to head overseas. He was still looking after affairs in Vancouver, adding a new shopfront to a building he owned on Granville Street.

In 1922 he was director, and by 1929 managing director of the Clayburn Co, manufacturers of bricks and sewer pipes from a clay deposit at Sumas Mountain. He carried out expensive remodelling of his Richards Street block in 1922, and owned this building by 1923, and still held it three years later when, at short notice, the contents of the 44-room building were auctioned off. In 1927 he had a magnificent new $25,000 house built on Marine Drive in Point Grey, designed by McCarter & Nairn. In 1930 ‘Major J H Roaf’ was selected as Chairman of the newly formed Vancouver Olympic Association. He died in 1946, aged 68, and his wife in 1971, aged 86.

In 1985 the City inspectors required the SRO hotel to be repaired or closed, and the owner, Morris Hazen, evicted the 30 residents with no notice. The operator of the Rooms and holder of the business licence, Andrew Gabor, said the repairs were the owner’s responsibility. The owner said the lease shifted the resposibility to the operator, but the City said it was the owner’s responsibility, and he had avoided carrying out repairs for four years. The owner may have done himself few favours when The Sun reported that he ‘angrily accused (Councillor Bruce) Eriksen of being autocratic and called city staff  “lunatics” and “jackasses.” Hazen said he is not the owner of the building, but executor of his mother’s estate, which owns the building.’

The building never reopened. Instead, in 1986, Joshua Chan of Zion Investment Group submitted an application for a five-storey office and food fair, designed by Burton-Brown Architects. Completed in 1989, it’s still there today, but with an adjacent parkade seems a likely site for a future redevelopment.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1095-01025


Posted 4 May 2023 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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