This modest building dates back over 80 years. Our image shows it occupied by the Surrey Produce Co. As we’ve noted in other posts, Chinatown has seen a mix of Chinese and western businesses in the past. The Surrey Produce Co were an egg wholesaling business who occupied the building in 1946. It was run in the 1940s and 50s by Alfred W Cook, and still operating here in our 1978 image.
International Produce Company, a wholesale business run by Wong L Chew were in the building before Surrey Produce. The company were located in 1935 at 550 Union Street and run by C S Guy. Mr Chew’s involvement with the company coincided with the relocation to this new building, in 1936. The business appears to have closed in 1942, although Mr. Chew was still living in Chinatown. The building was vacant until 1945 when the Street Directory says Traders Service briefly occupied it that year before Surrey Produce moved in. They were a cartage, storage, distribution and trucking company based on Railway Street.
The building permit shows the building cost $5,000 to build; well-known contractors Baynes & Horie were the contractors, and Alfred Horie was the owner. Alfred was the son of the building company’s co-founder, William Horie, and in 1935 was superintendent of the company’s construction activity, although his father was still involved in the business as well. Alfred had built himself a house in 1925, but this is the first investment property we’ve identified for him. He managed the company until 1956 when it was known as Alfred Horie Construction. Although there are no family members involved, the company is still in business today as the AHC Group.
Today Nam Bak Enterprises operate here, one of many Chinatown stores offering a variety of dried Chinese foods and herbal products.
This house stood here for at least 35 years. This image dates from around 1900 and the Vancouver Public Library notes: “Japanese man and horse and buggy on boulevard”. We had no idea who the Japanese man might be, but the house was built by, and for Dr John A Mills five years earlier. He arrived from Ontario, and practiced in the city from 1890 until he died in 1920. The Vancouver Daily World published the news on the front page under the headline “Well-known Doctor is Called by Death”.
In 1901 the household consisted of Dr. Mills, his wife, their four-year-old son, Lennox, and a 21-year-old domestic, George Kanaka. That’s who we’re guessing is in the picture. Curiously, the 1901 census identifies his wife as Marguarite, from Nova Scotia, ten years younger at aged 30, while the 1911 census says she’s called Maud and a year older than the doctor (but still born in Nova Scotia). We’re pretty certain this was an error – as is often the case with 1911 records. There’s no mention of the doctor having remarried in a biography published in 1913, or in his death notice in 1920. Margarite Merchie from Nova Scotia was a boarder aged 22 in the 1891 census, and many members of her family were still in New Westminster, where her father, David, was an undertaker.
Dr. Mills was born in Woodstock, Ontario, and came from a family of high achievers – one brother was a barrister, and another Bishop of Ontario. He qualified in Toronto, but in the year he qualified as a doctor he moved to Vancouver. He was married in 1894 to Marguerite Murchie, which might explain the decision to build a new house, The couple had two sons; the older, Lennox Mills, was admitted to McGill at the age of 14 in 1911, the youngest student ever to be admitted up to that time. He joined the 1916 class of the University of British Columbia – the first year it admitted students – and finished the year top of the class. Lennox was a Rhodes Scholar, moving to the United States in 1928 and becoming a professor of political science at the University of Minnesota and a Guggenheim Fellow. As with many of the city’s professional men, Dr. Mills was a Freemason.
The house remained Dr. Mills surgery until he gave up practicing a short time before his death, but the family moved out in 1912, and for a year or two Dr. Mills practice moved to Granville Street, and his former house was described as being a ‘Private Home for Children’ for a year or two before it was once more a private home and then the Vancouver home of the Canadian Conservatory of Music.
The 1988 two-storey replacement probably won’t remain for too many more years: it’s one of the remaining obvious assemblies for redevelopment Downtown, and as our image shows, was recently sold. When it was first rebuilt, John Casablanca’s Fashion Career Institute occupied the upper floor. It’s very likely that there’s an earlier 1930s building frame underneath here: the Bible Society occupied a similarly scaled building on this corner in the early 1980s.
Until very recently, the context for the Kingston Hotel on Richards Street was two parkades – one on either side. Remarkably, the Kingston Hotel is not only still a hotel 105 years after it was built, it’s still owned by the same family who built it. Lawrence O’Hagan developed the hotel late in 1912 at a cost of $40,000, with the architects identified as James and Davidson. Somehow, as is often the case, Lawrence O’Hagan seems to be missing from both the 1911 and 1921 Census records. Lawrence’s death record shows he was aged 66 when he died in 1929, that he was a hotel keeper who had been in Vancouver since 1894, in British Columbia since 1889, and in Canada since 1884. He was buried in Mountain View cemetery.
Fortunately, because he had arrived in Canada before the turn of the century he appears in the 1901 Census. He was living with his wife Helen, his one-year-old daughter, also called Helen, and his sister-in-law, Agnes Legg. All three adults had been born in Ireland, but baby Helen had been born in British Columbia. Lawrence was a cannery man, who in this record arrived in Canada in 1889, and his wife had arrived in 1895. Helen died in 1947, when her name was recorded as Ellen. Lawrence and Helen had married in British Columbia in 1892 and the marriage record shows Lawrence was from Ometh, and Helen from Lagan. They had a son, James, born in 1901, (whose marriage in 1927 recorded his mother as Ellen, rather than Helen).
The architects, James and Davidson, were a short-lived partnership between English architect Charles James and established builder (and sometime designer) Bedford Davidson. James arrived in 1910, just before a recession saw very little development completed after 1912.
Our picture is from the mid 2000s before the two parkades were redeveloped. To the south the Telus parking garage has been replaced with a 46 storey condo building (with the lower four floors as office) and to the north a 22 storey office tower, both called Telus Garden, and both designed by Henriquez Partners architects.
Here’s what looks like a companion image to our previous post. We think the taxi in the distance on the left was parked in the same spot, so the two shots were probably taken a few minutes apart. If we were correct in that identification, it dates from around 1980, when the Lee building (behind the circular red sign) had been rebuilt after a 1972 fire, and the Vancouver Centre (perfectly aligned behind the Sun Tower) in 1976. The building in the centre of the picture with the much larger top floor balcony was built for Chinese owners in 1923, designed by A E Henderson and originally called the ‘Business Building’. It replaced an earlier 1914 building designed by W H Chow.
The building with the red canopy was altered in 1921 to add a fifth floor, but it was originally built in 1913 by clothing mogul William Dick, designed by H B Watson and cost $30,000. Today it’s the home of the Mah Society (who carried out the 1920 alterations) and it’s currently receiving a comprehensive restoration. On the extreme right is the former International Chop Suey House, later Ming’s restaurant. We looked in greater detail at its history in an earlier post. This postcard gives a sense of what the restaurant was like in the late 1950s or early 60s.
There’s a Fred Herzog photograph of this block from 1968 that shows the street was still lined with telegraph poles that blocked some of the flamboyant neon that shouted for patrons to visit the restaurants that lined the street. This block has seen little apparent change to the buildings since the 1920s, and while other less historic parts of Chinatown are being redeveloped, little change is contemplated here.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 800-4779
This is another unidentified Archives shot, which we’ve pinned down (with no difficulty) to the 100 block of East Pender Street. Initially we suggested it dated from around 1974, when many of the undated images seem to have been shot. However, the Sun Tower stands alone in the distance but the Scotiatower (completed in 1976) sits right behind it. There are relatively newly planted trees, but the design of the ‘heritage’ lights is different from today, and the dragons haven’t yet been added to the lamp posts. On the right is the Lee building, rebuilt after a fire in 1972, and alongside is the Wong family association building built in 1921. Eagle-eyed reader Dave notes that the cars have white letters on a blue background, and the back plates have a red sticker along the bottom, This would date the photo between January 1980 to December 1981.
At the end of the block was the former Great Northern hotel which we think was built originally by the Sam Kee Company in 1911. We looked at that building (which had an extra floor added in the 1980s) in a several posts, most recently here, when we also noted the history we were able to find for the other structures on this block. Across Columbia Street there was a 1904 building developed by Loo Gee Wing, substantially remodeled in the 1930s and then rebuilt comprehensively in the 1970s.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 800-2380
This is another Mount Pleasant industrial building, built in 1942 as the Cemco Electrical Manufacturing Company Factory. According to the recently published heritage statement for the building “Cemco commissioned the factory to house its expanding electronics business which supplied equipment for ships being constructed in local shipyards. Not much is known about the company, as is the case with many industries during the War which were subject to a certain amount of secrecy and security. Cemco remained at the site for a couple of years after the War ended, and then ceased to exist. Until recently, the building was occupied by N. Jefferson Ltd., a family owned textile supplier which has been operating since 1926 and continues to do so at a new location”
Cemco weren’t as mysterious as this suggests, and they didn’t disappear after the war. They had been in operation since 1934, in the Mount Pleasant area, with S Darnborough as Managing Director. Before this new factory was built they were at 165 W 4th Ave. S Darnborough was Sidney, (although he was really T S Darnborough), and before Cemco he was president of Canadian Electrical Manufacturing Co (which would be CEMCO’s precursor), with a home on Osler in Shaughnessy. Before CEMCO, in the 1920s, Sid Darnborough was an electrical contractor, living on West 8th Avenue.
The company were still operating from this E 5th address in 1949, with Sid still running the company, having moved to University Boulevard. They were here in the mid 1950s but by then Sid had retired and B W Ball had taken over as President of the company. A year earlier they had expanded eastwards by adding a new factory in Granby, Ontario. At the time they were described as specializing in switchgear for industrial uses. They also made electrical instruments, street light fixtures “and many other products of a similar nature for industrial and commercial use”. The 1943 image of the factory floor shows what looks a lot like light fittings being assembled by a workforce with a high proportion of female workers.
A little more insight about the company is contained in a 1946 court case where the company’s salesman, Peter Van Snellenberg, sued for wrongful dismissal after discovery that he had added commission on the sales tax payable on a few of the orders he had obtained. He was dismissed in 1943 (the year our images were shot), so although the company has been described as ‘building radar and radio equipment for ships being built for the war’ (which they may have been doing), they were also selling their products on the open market. In 1958 the Federal Pacific Electric Company of Newark New Jersey acquired Cemco, where it was described as “engaged in manufacture and sale of electrical switchgear, air circuit breakers, air switches, load break switches, fusible breakers, cable terminal potheads and related apparatus for the distribution and control of electricity”.
The Cemco Factory was designed by Australian-born architect H.H. Simmonds, and used pour-in-place construction that retained the marks of the formwork. It supposed heritage value earned it a reprieve from redevelopment, but also permitted a larger office project (yet to commence) to be built behind the retained walls.
CVA 586-1783 and CVA 586-1784
This 1927 warehouse and office was the second location for Wilkinson Steel. The company was founded by Frank Wilkinson in 1910 on Beach Avenue as the sole distributor for U.S. Steel in British Columbia. Frank Wilkinson was born in England, and arrived in Canada in 1891. His wife Alice was also English, but had arrived a year earlier. They must have spent quite a bit of time in Quebec as all their children, (they had at least six), were born there, the youngest in 1909. In 1911 Alice’s sister, Hilda Baker was living with the family; in 1921 they had a domestic servant.
There were two houses built on this corner in 1904; they only survived a little over 20 years. In the 1920s the neighbourhood was changing from a residential area to an industrial and commercial area, although there are still a few residential pockets even today. This image was shot in 1946, and shows a couple of houses still located on Columbia Street, behind the warehouse.
In 1958 the company moved to SW Marine Drive, where they still operate today. In 1973 the existing two storey office and production space was built; which we’re pretty certain incorporated some of the original warehouse building. It’s now home to City TV’s studios.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 586-4769