Ashnola Apartments – 2152 Main Street


When this building was constructed Main Street had just changed its name from Westminster Avenue. Located close to one of the city’s breweries, while today we think of it as a pub when it was built it was a retail building. Braunton and Leibert designed it, completed in 1913 for Dr. Israel Powell, one of the province’s important pioneers. He was born in 1837 in Port Colborne in Simcoe, Ontario, and drawn by the Cariboo Gold Rush reached Victoria in 1862 via the Panama Canal and San Francisco. He never went to look for gold, but like his father, Dr. Powell became involved in politics. He was elected to the House of Assembly of Vancouver Island in 1863, but failed to be re-elected in 1866 and 1868. He supported the merger of Vancouver Island and British Columbia, and later Confederation. Sir John A Macdonald was a family friend, and offered him the position of lieutenant governor of B C, or as a Senator. He declined both, but agreed to become Superintendent of Indian Affairs for British Columbia, a position he held for 18 years from 1872. He was surgeon for the Victoria fire department and also served in the militia, while building his medical practice. He was also instrumental in establishing the first Scottish Rite Masonic Lodge in British Columbia. From 1871 to 1875 he was the first grand master of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia, which brought together the lodges under English and Scottish jurisdictions, although later, in 1877, he severed his connections with the masons.

Although he lived in Victoria, he owned property in Vancouver from its inception, and was on the initial voter’s list. He was part of an early consortium with David Oppenheimer and others who bought land in 1886, and was also a shareholder in the Vancouver Improvement Company (a larger group with many of the same owners) who eventually owned 330 acres of Downtown land and helped ensure their increased value with the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway into the city. At his death in 1915 he had investments in farms in the Fraser Valley, on Vancouver Island including the Hotel Wilson of Victoria, as well as in buildings and lots in Vancouver and North Vancouver. The names of several places in British Columbia, commemorate Dr. Powell, including Powell Street in Vancouver and Powell River.

2152-main-st-1This building was completed only two years before his death when he was in his mid seventies, and cost $47,000 to build. As far as we can tell it represents Dr. Powell’s only investment in bricks and mortar in the area, but according to the Heritage Statement for the local plan, he had acquired and named the streets of most of the area we associate as Mount Pleasant (with Henry Edmonds). It states that it was Dr. Powell’s idea to name the streets after the Canadian Provinces, although Mount Pleasant was a name chosen by Edmonds.

Our 1940s image show the retail unit occupied by a Fur company, while in 1976 it was Royal City Antiques. Over the years the retail uses have changed many times – today it’s a bike store and a dounut shop.

Image sources CVA 1184-2758 and CVA 780-234

Capitola Apartments – Davie and Thurlow


The upper floors of building haven’t really changed much since it was built in 1909. According to the building permit it cost $20,000 and was designed by A J Bird for J Seabold. (The Contract Record said Seabold and Roberts were the developers. We haven’t successfully identified who John Seabold’s development partner was.) In 1991 four dwelling units were converted to retail use, so there are now just 10 apartments in the building, but there were more in this 1924 image. The Daily World, in announcing the development, said “the design will be of classic character”.

John A Seabold developed a number of other apartment buildings around the city, including the Empire Hotel on East Hastings, our first post on this blog. He started out building houses, then apartments, and eventually was in partnership as Seabold and Roberts, building significant buildings for the day including Blenheim Court two blocks further along Davie Street.

seabold-1909seabold-1917Seabold was an American, and the source of his success was explained in a story published in an Indiana newspaper in November 1909; the Jasper Weekly Courier, published in Jasper, Dubois County. He was quoted saying that Western real estate “is better than a gold mine”. In 1913 he acquired the Clarence Hotel on West Pender Street. However, Mr. Seabold’s perspective changed quite quickly. Vancouver changed significantly from the city that only a few years earlier had elected a Jewish German mayor with a noticeable accent, David Oppenheimer.

A 1917 article in another Indiana newspaper, the Bluffton Chronicle, clarifies a point we’ve noted about several other Vancouver residents during the First World War. If there was any suggestion of German family origins it was wise to change your name or move south. The 1911 Census said that John was from a German family, but had been born in the USA. He was married to Louise, also born in the USA into a German family and they had a son, Ralph aged nine. John and Louise Schwartz were married in Michigan in 1900. They were shown having arrived in Canada in the same year, and appeared as John and Louisa Seabold in the 1901 census, lodging with Minnie Matthias. At that time John was a waiter, while in 1911 he was shown as a builder.

The 1917 news story explains that Mr. Seabold had tried to sell his property, but ‘found this impossible’. That wasn’t necessarily anything to do with Mr. Seabold’s origins – the economy of the city hit the skids around 1913, and the war didn’t improve things.

The main reason for heading to the USA was being drafted into the Canadian forces, which would have potentially have seen Mr. Seabold (who was aged 40 when the war broke out), expected to fight in Europe. The newspaper reported that some of Mr. Seabold’s property had been confiscated, presumably as a result of his decision to leave the country.

In 1944 Ralph Seabold was married in Los Angeles,  and John and Louise were living there in both the 1930 and in 1940 US Census records. They moved south to California in the 1930s; in 1920 they were living in Seattle where John was working as a contractor.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Bu N324.

Posted October 17, 2016 by ChangingCity in Still Standing, West End

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Main Street – 500 block east side


This part of Main Street has changed a little since Walter E Frost shot the 1972 original. According to BC Assessment records the building on the corner was built in 1954, and its still there today. laying-tracks-main-st-1912Several other buildings have been redeveloped to the north over the past 40 or so years. The only apparently significant old buildings on the block are on the far left of the picture at the north end; dating back to just after the turn of the 20th century. However, this 1912 image of track laying along the street suggests the building on the corner is actually much older – presumably getting a significant re-build in 1954.

The 1903 Building permits show James Main & Co. Hardware, building a $10,000 stone and brick store here, built and designed by J W Balmain, with the design submitted by John Walker. J W Balmain advertised as a civil engineer and architect based in North Vancouver (where he became City Engineer). In 1901 he was apparently lodging in Victoria, where he was described as Scottish, aged 61, and having arrived in Canada in 1889, and he was shown living in Vancouver in the 1891 census, also lodging. John Walker Balmain had been married in Bombay, India in November 1869 to Marion Watson, but there’s no mention of his wife in Canada. They had a son, Marion Watson Chalmers Balmain in 1870, and a daughter, Janet King Smith Balmain two years later, but they seem not to have moved to Canada. John died in 1910.

James Main was also Scottish, and confusingly for us there are two people called James Main in the city (fortunately both were Scottish, so that’s accurate). We think its likely to be the one identified as a merchant, aged 40 in 1911 and living in the West End at 1823 Comox Street with his brother, Alexander, (a grocer in 1911, but working with his brother the following year). There were also three sisters in the household, Janet, Anne (who was a nurse) and Margaret. James had arrived in 1890, while Alexander was most recently arrived in 1906 with Margaret, and the other sisters in 1902. James looks to have learned his trade with Thomas Dunn, working as a clerk in Dunn’s hardware store in the 1890s. (There’s another Alexander Main who was also a grocer on Commercial Drive).

renardIn 1909 James was a director of a Vancouver-based company planning to introduce the Renard Road Train to Canada. Invented by a Frenchman and developed by Daimler in Britain, the system was sold to Australia, India and Egypt but we’re not sure that it was ever actually introduced into Canada. The carriages were linked and steered through interconnecting rods, and powered with a Daimler 16L engine that powered the middle wheel of each carriage.

The last time James Main was in the city was 1914, although Alexander and Janet were both still shown living on Comox Street for several more years. In 1915 the R L Brown Hardware Co replaced Mark Drummond Hardware, who had taken over the James Main business around 1910. That was the year that Westminster Avenue became Main Street – so there never was a Main on Main.

Image sources: City of Vancouver CVA 447-309 and part of SGN 1068.11

Posted October 13, 2016 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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Main Street and 2nd Avenue


It’s not often that we feature our own image for both the ‘before’ and ‘after’ images, and even less often that the ‘before’ is less than a decade ago, but the dramatic transformation of South East False Creek warrants a look. We took the initial image in 2007, long before the BC Place stadium got its new roof. We calculate that there are over 1,100 new apartments in the contemporary image, including 129 in ‘First Place’ the non-market housing building across the lane from the gas station.

The picture will change a little more as Concert Properties are developing around 600 apartments beyond the sites that have already been built – one tower crane is just showing on the left. One detail that you can’t make out at the resolution we post these images: in 2007 gas was 108.9c per litre; when we took the current shot (back in April) it was 111.9c.

Posted October 10, 2016 by ChangingCity in False Creek, Gone

1014 Granville Street


Arthur Griffith and his son Malcolm were carpenters. Arthur arrived in the city before 1894, and lived on Richards Street. His son Malcolm shows up in the street directory at the same address in 1898. Arthur was still shown as a carpenter in the 1901 census, aged 64, and Malcolm was a contractor. There were two lodgers living in the household as well in 1901, Annie Montgomery and Mary Neil. The family also had a live-in servant.

In 1902 Malcolm Griffith married Annie Jeannie McKenzie Montgomery, who was born in Peebles, Scotland. Malcolm was born in South Durham, Quebec. His father, Arthur, was also from Quebec and still head of the household in 1911, aged 74, and living on his investments. Malcolm was shown as a contractor, aged 40, married to Annie, and living with his two-year-old son, John and his sister, also called Annie, who was born in Prince Edward Island.

The year before Malcolm had built this hotel; the Glenaird Hotel for himself at a cost of $55,000. An experienced contractor, he also built one of the other hotels on the same block, but this one was for himself, as were twenty houses, most in the West End. Altogether we’ve tracked over $350,000 of work he was responsible for building, including several Shaughnessy mansions, including one for his family in 1911. He hired Parr and Fee who gave him a version of their standard white glazed brick product with centre-pivoting windows – one of three on this block.

In 1906 the family were involved in the tragic wreck of the Valencia; a liner involved in the Seattle to San Francisco route that struck a reef off Vancouver Island with the loss of over 100 passengers and crew. “M.C. Griffith of Vancouver enquired as to his brother-in-law, John Montgomery. Mr. Griffith described him as 5 feet 10 inches in height and 175 lbs. in weight, smooth-shaven, with heavy shoulders, and having tattooed arms and scars on his chest and temple. 

Victoria’s Daily Colonist for February 6, 1906, reported that the tug Lorne had returned from the search the previous day with the bodies of 9 men and 3 women. Four bodies had been definitely identified and two tentatively. One of the latter was likely that of quartermaster John Montgomery. The description was similar to that given by Mr. Griffith: ‘Male – 5 feet 8 inches, long hair, features unrecognizable: no clothing. On left arm a British and Danish shield tattooed in blue and red, also a star with blue border tattooed on same arm. On right arm, three cross fishes tattooed in blue.’ Montgomery’s naval record showed his actual height to be 5 feet 7 inches which is very close to the description of the recovered body. The most distinguishing feature, however, is that of the tattoo showing three crossed fish. This unusual feature is actually the coat of arms for the Town of Peebles, Scotland where John was born and raised. This evidence strongly implies that the body was indeed that of John Montgomery”.

mcarthurs-window-1910sOur 1926 image by Stuart Thomson  shows the main floor occupied by William Thomas McArthur’s hardware store. He was born in New Brunswick, and sold an eclectic mix of ranges, furnaces and children’s cycles and tricycles (seen in the upper windows of this more detailed image). The company occupied this space in 1920, replacing Cunningham’s hardware store, who had occupied the space since the building had been completed. W T McArthur came to Vancouver in 1907 as the representative for Fisher Bros. Foundry (makers of Enterprise stoves and furnaces) in Sackville, New Brunswick. He had a warehouse on Homer street as well as this retail store. In addition to business interests in Vancouver, He purchased land in Pitt Meadows and established a large herd of Ayrshire dairy cattle which became the basis of a commercial dairy business in Vancouver, Meadowvale Creameries Ltd. He was the chairman of the Dairy Products Marketing Board, and a prominent member of the Liberal Party.

In 1921 he was identified as part of a group of Liberal Party members controlling liquor licences, and the public accounts committee heard from a failed licence seeker “I went to see McArthur, and he asked, ‘What pull do you think you have to get a licence over me?’ I replied that I had the promises of four Cabinet Ministers. McArthur replied, ‘I don’t give a _____ for all the Cabinet Ministers in Victoria. I’m running Vancouver and will see who gets licences.’ McArthur denied everything and the Conservatives couldn’t prove anything, but a few years later Henry Reifel gave evidence to a commission into smuggling. In December 1926 he stated that over the previous eighteen months he had made nearly $100,000 in political contributions, including $40,000 to Liberal bagman William McArthur in Vancouver; some of the payments were “in the nature of loans and donations to fight prohibition.” The Liberals lost the 1928 election, in part because of the scandals over liquor. McArthur died of pneumonia in 1940 after crashing into a water-filled ditch in Pitt Meadows.

Today the Glenaird Rooms have become the Samesun Backpacker’s Hostel, converted in 1999. In the conversion rooms were converted to bathrooms, which were necessary because there are an advertised 220 beds available in the property.

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-1434 and CVA 99-5415

Posted October 6, 2016 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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Englesea Lodge – Beach Avenue


We’re looking along Beach Avenue in the 1960s in an Archives image that was shot by Leslie Sheraton. On the right is the Sylvia Hotel, and on the extreme left is the last remaining building on the water side of the street; Englesea Lodge. Like the Sylvia Hotel, Englesea Lodge was designed by W P White, a Seattle architect. In some ways it had a similar design, with brick cladding although it’s the base rather than the upper story that has a white finish. It was smaller than the Sylvia, two storeys shorter, and cost less to build – the Permit was issued in 1911 and E Cook built it for $115,000.

The developer listed on the permit was Annie Davidson, although the Province newspaper said it was built for A A Davidson. The Davidsons arrived in Vancouver from Victoria, where Augustus Alexander Davidson ran the jewelery store that traded as Davidson Brothers. His brother, Cicero Davidson, ran the Vancouver store, and also invested in real estate, building an apartment building and a retail building, both still standing today.

It looks as if Augustus (although he seemed to have been known by both of his names at different times) and Annie arrived in the city around the turn of the century. They were first shown in the 1900 Street Directory when A A Davidson was a partner with his brother in the jewelery business, and also had a real estate office. The family briefly lived on Melville Street, but then moved a block away from Cicero on Burrard Street. The 1901 Census shows Alexander aged 38, born in New York and coming to Canada in 1864. That birth date is at odds with his marriage and death certificates, which are more likely to be accurate, which show him born in 1864. He married Annie McKeil Adams, aged 21 who had been born in Victoria in 1893 when he was shown to be born in Lockport, New York. According to the 1901 census his brother Cicero was born in Ontario 1859, but the 1871 and 1881 census records only show Augustus living with a brother called Freman, born in 1862 in the US. Augustus was shown living with his mother, Mary Jane (34) and older brother Freman Davidson in Guelph in 1871, and both boys were shown born in the US. Augustus and Freman were still in Guelph in 1881, but living with John Davidson aged 49 and his wife Elsie, who was aged 39. That makes us think that Cisero may have changed his name (from Freman, or Freeman) when he moved west, abandoning the even more unusual father’s mother’s family name.

 In 1897 both Augustus and his brother, Cicero were two of the four owners of a $250,000 mining company, Winchester Gold Mines of Fairview, Victoria, formed to purchase the Winchester claim in Yale. The same year they were also partners in the $250,000 Shamrock Mining Co with the intent of taking over the Shamrock claim in Osoyoos. Cicero was also briefly a defendant in a case against the Orphan Boy Gold Mining Company on McCulloch Creek where the owners (including C N Davidson) were accused of defrauding shareholders. Augustus seems to have maintained active involvement in the region’s mining activity, but there’s no mention of Cicero retaining an interest.

In 1911 Augustus and his family were living at 2030 Beach Avenue, which is where the lodge was built a year later. The notoriously unreliable 1911 census shows A A Davidson was aged 44, born in 1867 (five years older than the previous census held ten years earlier had suggested). Annie was shown as aged 40, (so she had added eleven years in a decade). While in 1901 they had a son, Randolf aged 7 and another, Douglas aged 4, ten years later there was John, aged 18, Douglas aged 14 and a daughter, Elsie, who was 7. (We assume John and Randolf are the same child, following the family preference for name switching to try to confuse future historians).

Augustus died in 1950 aged 85; Annie was 88 when she died in 1960. Eve Lazarus chronicled the end of the Lodge in 1981. The City of Vancouver had acquired all the property along the waterfront, and while the houses had been cleared away and the park extended to the street, the Lodge was too big to treat in quite the same way. It cost the City $375,000 in 1967, and although rents covered the cost of purchase, by 1975 it was decided to demolish it anyway to complete the undeveloped park. Then that decision was reversed and in 1980 29 of the 45 apartments remained occupied, and there was talk from the city of investing $1.3 million to turn the building into senior’s housing. In February 1981 a suspicious fire was set, the fire brigade were said to have been instructed to let it burn, and with the lucky outcome of no injuries or deaths the Park Board had a contiguous park along the foreshore.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 2009-001.106

Posted October 3, 2016 by ChangingCity in Gone, West End

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Sylvia Hotel – Beach Avenue


The published accounts will tell you that the much-loved Sylvia was built by Abraham Goldstein, and named for his daughter, Sylvia. The hotel started life as the Sylvia Apartments, and was named for Mr. Goldstein’s eldest daughter. However, according to his marriage certificate Mr Goldstein’s name was Adolf, and he was born in Russia, and the 1901 census has him as Adolph, born in Germany, while in the 1911 census he was shown as A D Goldstein and being born in Poland. Eastern European borders were often changing and confused, but it’s almost certain that Mr. Goldstein came from the Pale of Settlement, the area of Russia created by Catherine the Great in 1791 that Jewish settlers were allowed to move to. His wife, Sarah Jonas, came from Timaru, New Zealand, and they married in Vancouver in October 1899, and first show up in the Street Directory in 1900. Sarah’s father was known as Moss, but he had been born Moses Jonas, in Brighton, England, became a seaman and having moved to Timaru was an auctioneer, built a theatre, the town’s synagogue, and was elected mayor.

In 1903 A D Goldstein was a manufacturer’s agent living on Pender Street (the same occupation as in the 1901 census), but by 1906 he was shown as a financial broker. The family are identified on the 1911 census with 11-year-old Sylvia, Cyril, aged eight and Aileen who was two. Sarah’s sister, Clara Gossage was living with them, and so was J M Goldstein, Adolph’s brother, and a four year old nephew. There was also a domestic servant, K F Pearson.

In 1913 when his $250,000 investment, designed by Seattle architect W P White and built by Booker, Campbell & Whipple was completed, Mr. Goldstein was still listed as Adolph, still a financial broker, living on Pendrell St. (He had G H Moon design alterations to his home and added a garage, also in 1913). Isaac Goldstein was working with him, living on Nelson Street. In 1914 Mr. Goldstein’s name appears for the first time as Abe, no doubt in part because having a German name wasn’t necessarily a comfortable experience at that time. Isaac Goldstein appears to have left the city around 1916.

In 1923 Abe D Goldstein is shown as the proprietor of the Sylvia Apartments, and Cyril is shown living at home on Pendrell, working as a law student at Tupper and Bull. Sylvia was at home as well. The family moved to the US that year. In 1930 Abraham and Sarah were living in Los Angeles with their son, Cyril. Sylvia went with them, having obtained a degree from UBC. However, she returned to Vancouver, and while taking a boat trip with a group of Jewish singles caught the attention of her future husband, Harry Ablowitz, by diving off the boat into False Creek. (She was a strong swimmer, having been taught by Joe Fortes).  The couple were married in 1928 and settled in North Vancouver, later founding a realty company.

Both Sylvia and Harry Ablowitz were active in the Vancouver business community and in numerous Jewish organizations. Sylvia sat on the board of many Jewish community groups and helped to establish the Jewish Community Centre, the Louis Brier Home, a hospital at Oak and 41st Avenue and a golf course. She was a member of the National Council of Jewish Women and, until her mid-90s, was still volunteering her services with the Jewish Family Service Agency, doing telephone checks for isolated seniors. She died at UBC hospital aged 102.

Our image shows the hotel in 1932 when it was still surrounded by houses and dominated the newly-planted street. In 1936, the Sylvia Hotel, then in receivership, was transformed into an apartment hotel and by the beginning of the Second World War, many of the suites had been converted into single rooms. While many hotels in Vancouver ended up as apartments or SRO hotels, the Sylvia went the opposite way. By the 1960s it had become a full-service hotel. Prior to the building boom in the West End during the 1960s, The Sylvia’s dining room was on the eighth floor with a slogan of “first-class dining in the sky,” Today it has been relocated to ground floor level, and offers one of the best views out over English Bay, past the trees that in summer now obscure the view from the upper floors.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-2632



Posted September 29, 2016 by ChangingCity in Still Standing, West End

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