Crown Building – West Pender Street

We have looked at the north-west corner of Seymour and Pender twice, seven years ago, and again in 2013. The building on the corner was the Delmonico Hotel, built in 1889 as the Windsor Hotel. It opened in September, described in the news as ‘a new and costly undertaking’. “On Monday next the Windsor Hotel will open for business under the management of Messrs. Brocklesby and Allen, both late of Hotel Vancouver. These gentlemen are thoroughly familiar with the business, and propose to run a first – class house. The table will be second to none in the city and the rooms, well furnished and comfortable, will he kept in the best style. The bar will be well stocked with wines, liquors and cigars, the finest that can be supplied, and no pains will be spared to make the Windsor the favorite resort of the permanent and transient public. Its close proximity to the railway station and the steamers is a great point in its favor, and one tired travellers will highly appreciate.” The partnership lasted all of two months; by November Mr. Brocklesby was in sole charge.

The building had been announced in 1888, and the Daily World identified the developer, the enterprising Dr. Whetham. He commissioned N S Hoffar to design another investment property in 1888, but we haven’t found an architect listed for the Windsor. He was a qualified doctor, but had abandoned medicine for real estate development before he arrived in Vancouver in 1887.

Next door to the west was the Crown building. It was six storeys of white glazed brick, with centre-pivoted windows, which was the signature design of Parr and Fee, who designed a series of almost identical buildings on Granville Street; most are still standing today. The Crown was built in 1907, and the Daily World reported the architects, and the cost of the building ($75,000), as well as the developers, Martin & Robertson. They were importers and suppliers of dried foodstuffs, and we looked at their history in connection with their Water Street warehouse, built a few years earlier than the Crown.

Robert Martin was born in 1851 in Ontario and in 1901 lived in Vancouver with his wife Lydia, who was English, with their four children, and their ‘lady’s help’, Caroline Watson, and Jin, the domestic. Arthur Robertson was a Scotsman who was seven years younger than his business partner, and looking after the company’s other warehouse, in Victoria. They had been in business from the city’s earliest days: in 1894 they were advertising in the Daily World as agents for JOHNSTON’S FLUID BEEF – which was claimed ‘Eclipses All Meat Extracts and Home-made Beef Tea’.

Their investment building was occupied in multiple small suites, with a wide range of professional services. Architect J H Bowman had his practice here in 1911. A year later the Canada Lumberman and Woodworker magazine was published from here, and contractor Walter Hepburn had his offices here in the same year. Robert Martin had a number of other commercial investments in the city, including one a block east of here.

When Ernie Reksten took this picture in 1968 the buildings were about to be demolished, to be replaced with a parkade (with retail units on the main floor). It was completed in 1969, and looks like it should pass it’s 50th birthday, although Downtown parkades are becoming valuable redevelopment opportunities, and it seems unlikely that it will last for many more years.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 2010-006.010.

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Posted December 13, 2018 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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1500 Main Street

The City has hundreds of locations that were once gas stations, although today the remaining service stations are becoming increasingly rare. Here’s one on the corner of Main Street and Terminal Avenue, seen in 1940s. It’s Al Deeming’s Union Oil gas and service station. The leasee was Albert W Deeming, and we wondered if he might be the son of Albert Deeming of North Vancouver, who ran a fruit ranch, but according to his marriage certificate Albert W was the son of Caleb James Deeming. However, the 1891 Census shows both Albert and James Deeming were brothers, and had arrived from England, living in Mountain District (Nanaimo) and working as miners for the New Vancouver Coal Co. In 1911 Albert W was aged six, and his father had become a farmer in Delta.

This gas station first appears in the street directory in 1924, as do the industrial buildings in the background which once housed Neon Products’, the BC Valve Company and Massey Harris’s agricultural implement showroom beyond the gas bar. The building further east dates from 1929. The buildings are still there today, although now they are wholesale and retail warehouse buildings for furniture and floors tiles.

In the 1950s the Terminal Service and gas station was run by L E and Mrs M S Love. There’s a 1980s image in the Archives showing that the gas station was still here when the Skytrain was under construction across the street. By then it was a Gulf gasoline station, with a new canopy. Today it’s the site of the city’s first Temporary Modular Housing, intended to help meet the current homelessness situation. Built in a matter of days, it has 40 modular apartment units that can be demounted and reassembled on another site when redevelopment plans come forward for this part of False Creek Flats, currently owned by the City of Vancouver.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1184-1734

Posted December 10, 2018 by ChangingCity in False Creek, Gone

Howard Hotel – East Hastings Street

We looked at this Downtown Eastside hotel in an early post that featured it when it was named the Empire Hotel. In this 1935 image it was called the Howard, with no indication in the street directory of who was running it. There were several retail units, with Gaining Tailors at the eastern end, then a cleaners – BC Hat Cleaners, and next door Dick Sun, who was a merchant tailor making suits to order. In the window of the hotel entrance was a poster for the Beacon Theatre.

It was built in 1913 and designed by H A Hodgson for Seabold and Roberts. The building permit suggests it was built as apartments for $60,000, although it appeared in the 1913 street directory as the Hotel Seward, and by 1914 had already had the name changed to the Howard Hotel, run by W P Roberts. In 1918 the Daily World reported the result of arbitration on the rent for the hotel, and illustrated how property values crashed from their peak in the early 1910s. “Judgment in the arbitration to determine the rental value of the Howard Hotel was handed down by the arbitrators, Mr. Justice Clement, F. G. T. Lucas and J. S. Gall, the rent being placed at $75 per month. The lease, which started In 1912 at $500 per month, provided for a readjustment at tho end of a five-year period.”

There turns out to have been far more to this story. In the early 1900s this was a house, owned by Dr Eady Stevenson, who had retired from Victoria. In 1901 Dr. Stevenson was shown aged 63, living alone, born in Ontario. He had practiced in the US for many years, having been the second doctor to offer Homeopathic remedies in Los Angeles. He had also lived in Oakland, and had arrived in California travelling overland with a party searching for gold.

Before moving to Vancouver he lived in Victoria; in 1885 he published ‘Religion or Rum: or, The Influence of Religion on the Use of Alcoholic Liquors as a Beverage’. The book was based on one of his lectures; he travelled around speaking on a variety of topics, and practiced temperance, although ‘not intemperantly’.  He died in 1909, leaving a will that had some unusual requirements. Although some of his bequest went to his brother and nephew in Toronto, he appointed trustees, headed by the mayor, who were responsible for finding developers willing to build on his two East Hastings properties, with at least a four storey commercial structure. The rent would be reset every five years, and the money was to support “Vancouver women of good character, who were not connected with any church.” His relatives argued (unsuccessfully) that this showed that he was of unsound mind and guided by spiritualism. “The Judge held that the evidence brought forward in no way established these allegations, and said that Dr. Stevenson’s sanity had been unjustly attacked.”

The hotel was built where Dr. Stevenson’s house was located, and initially brought in rent of $600, which in turn was distributed at the rate of $20 to 20 women in Vancouver and four or five outside the city. This helped the city’s relief department for six years, until the rent collected was dramatically reduced following the arbitration referenced above. Eventually the trustees sold the property that had been developed, the Howard Hotel, but the remaining site held by the Trustees had never been developed and tax arrears mounted, with no income to cover those costs. In 1923 the land was auctioned to cover the outstanding tax bill.

The Howard is still standing today as a privately owned SRO Hotel.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Hot P75

Posted December 6, 2018 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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Capitol Theatre – Granville Street (2)

We saw an earlier version of the Capitol on Granville Street in a post we wrote several years ago. Here it is in a different iteration with a later façade, with the Capitol Theatre still pulling in the patrons. They were watching ‘Wait until Dark’ starring Audrey Hepburn as a young blind woman, Alan Arkin as a violent criminal searching for some drugs, and Richard Crenna as another criminal, based on a play first performed a year earlier on Broadway (in 1966).

We’re not sure what ‘Prince Eugene’ sold, in the somewhat rundown 1940s looking building next door, with Basic Fashions as its neighbour, and we don’t know the name of the business to the south, although it looks to have been another clothing store. To the south of those was a building still standing today (and recently looking even better with new less prominent retail canopies). This is the Commodore Ballroom, originally developed by George Reifel and designed by architect H H Gillingham, opening in 1929. In the basement was, and still is, the Commodore Bowling Lanes. There were always retail stores underneath the ballroom facing Granville, and they have changed on a regular basis. In 1967 we can see Canada’s largest shoe retailers, Agnew-Surpass, a business that finally closed in 2000 (although gone from here earlier). The Meyers Studios were next door, a photo studio specializing in portraits, while Dean’s Roast Chix, under the red awning, was presumably a restaurant.

The Capitol was closed and redeveloped in 2006, and the link across the lane removed. A new series of double-height retail units were developed to replace the theatre entrance and adjacent buildings, designed by Studio One Architects.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-50

Posted December 3, 2018 by ChangingCity in Altered, Downtown

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Dunsmuir and Howe – ne corner (2)

We looked at the Hambro Building that was built here in 1920s. Like much of Downtown, today’s commercial district started life as a residential neighbourhood, and in this 1899 picture the Japanese Consulate was on the corner. Previously the consulate had been at 730 Burrard Street, With Tsugoro Nosse as Consul. (He moved on to run the Consulate in Chicago). From 1898 it was Hon. S Shimizu, and this new location had been the Consulate for a little before the change of consul, probably starting in 1897 A year earlier the Consulate had placed a wanted ad in the Daily world “WANTED – NEW LARGE HOUSE, suitable for office and residence, near Hotel Vancouver or Vancouver Club.” We think the Consul when the image was taken was called Seizaburō Shimizu, who had been Consul in Hawaii, and moved on to be Japanese Consul in Ottawa in the 1920s.

At the time the image was taken, the consul was kept busy writing to the Federal Government, objecting to the discrimination against the Japanese in British Columbia shown in Provincial legislation like the Alien Labour Bill to which assent has been given in 1898. In turn he was consulted by the government over a number of years about the Japanese voluntarily restricting migrants from moving to British Columbia, where hostility to Asiatic employees was building as the economy faltered. He had moved on by 1902, some years before the Japanese response to the anti-Asiatic riot that broke out in 1907, causing significant damage in Japantown (centred on Powell Street). At the time about 8% of the population of the city were Chinese, and several thousand Japanese from a population of around 100,000. The riots served their purpose: Japan agreed to restrict the number of passports issued to make labourers and domestic servants to an annual maximum of 400 under a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ enacted in Canada in early 1908, the year the consulate moved to the newly constructed ‘Imperial Block’ on West Pender.

Once the Japanese had moved, the new occupant of the former consulate was D’Auria Francesco D’Auria ‘vocal teacher’. He was, as his name suggests, an Italian, born in Naples, and a successful composer and orchestral conductor. He had founded the first, shortlived, Toronto Symphony Orchestra in 1890, moving on to Winnipeg in 1895, and then Minneapolis before arriving in Vancouver in 1904.

Today the final 1990 phase of the Pacific Centre Mall is here, with an office building designed by the Zeidler Roberts Partnership.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Bu N429

Posted November 29, 2018 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

33 East Hastings Street

We looked at the history of the Dodson Hotel (the five storey building) in an earlier post. It was built in 1909 for Joseph Dodson (from Barrow in Furness in Lancashire) and designed by Sharp & Thompson. Joseph arrived twenty years before it was built, starting out in Vancouver as a labourer, then becoming a butcher before he turned to baking, operating Dodson’s Bakery here with his sons, and retiring in 1910 at the age of 68.

Next door to the east was a more modest two-storey structure that was only very recently demolished. It was developed by C E Robertson, and built by the Vancouver Construction Co., Ltd at a cost of $12,000 in 1909. There were dozens of Robertsons in Vancouver in 1909, but only one C E Robertson; Charles E Robertson associated with G E French’s tugboat company in 1909, and lived on Beach Avenue near Stanley Park. He was still there in 1911, so we can find him in the census, identified as a lodger in George French’s Parr and Fee designed West End mansion, aged 46. Despite being younger than his landlord, who was aged 58 and listed as a master mariner, Charles was shown as retired, living off income (presumably in part from this investment property) and having been born in Ontario.

Charles Robertson and George French jointly owned some of the French towing business, but there was a greater connection. The Sea Lion was built at Charles Robertson’s shipyard on Burrard Inlet (at the foot of Cordova Street) in 1904, and she was launched in 1905. We wrote about the 120′ tugboat in greater detail when we looked at the home occupied by her captain.

Previously Charles had been employed at the electrical power house in the city, presumably as an engineer, although the census recorded him as a cabinet maker in 1901, already lodging with the French family at their home on Alexander Street. They all moved to the West End in 1908; the location of their previous home had become a little less attractive (although perhaps more valuable) after the ladies of Dupont Street moved en masse to Alexander Street in the early 1900s.

In 1921 Charles was still living with the French household, but he was no longer retired; he was working as a shipwright with B C Marine. Two decades later he was still at 2001 Beach Avenue, having retired again before 1931. George French had died in 1930, but his widow, Cynthia, still lived in the family home until her death in June 1941, aged 82, with Charles there too. Charles Robertson then moved to an apartment on West 10th Avenue, where he was living when he died in December 1943.

The building was replaced in the spring of 2018 by Olivia Skye, a 13-storey housing building designed by IBI Group for Atira. It has 198 units of rental housing, with a mix of market, subsidized and welfare rate apartments.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-3886

Posted November 26, 2018 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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Mah Society – 137 East Pender Street

This Chinatown society building is one of the best-preserved, and now   looking even better after a recent makeover. The work included restoring the elaborate pediment, and the top floor balcony that had been lost many years before 1985, when our ‘before’ picture was shot. The building was constructed in 1913, and while it was located in Chinatown, it was developed by William Dick, (possibly William Dick junior, who ran a successful clothing company, owned British Columbia Estates, a local real estate development company, and later was a Conservative Member of the BC Legislature for Vancouver City, elected in 1928). He hired H B Watson to design the $30,000 apartment rooms, with a commercial space on the main floor, built by R G Wilson & Son. When it was first built this was a four storey building, and if you ignore the top floor, it looks like many other buildings of the era, and had no discernible ‘Chinese’ character.

Because it was located in Chinatown, the first tenant was Chinese. Mr. Dick spent another $400 in ‘repairs’ (but probably really the fitting out of the commercial space) built by the Kwong Fong Co only six months after the initial building permit. Kwong Yee Lung Company, a grocer, occupied the main floor while the upper floors were the Ming Lee Rooms. with thirty nine rooms on the other three floors where tenants shared bathrooms and kitchens. There were various changes to the building, including a 1917 alteration designed and carried out by W H Chow.

In 1921 the Mah Family Society raised $45,000 to buy the building, and a further $5,650 was spent to add the fifth floor (although the permit was for $7,000). This was built by Chen Yi, but the Mah Gim Do Hung hired English born architect E J Boughen to design the addition. The Society, one of a number of branches across Canada and in the US, moved their offices out of the building before 1960, and today the Mah Benevolent Society Of Vancouver occupy premises on East Hastings. The upper floors still have 36 SRO rooms which in the image were the Ah Chew Rooms and more recently have been known as the Asia Hotel. The fifth floor still houses the society meeting hall. The main floor in the picture was the Kwangtung Restaurant, later becoming a Buddhist vegetarian restaurant, and today houses the Jade Dynasty, one of Chinatown’s remaining Cantonese dim sum restaurants.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 790-2382

Posted November 22, 2018 by ChangingCity in Chinatown, Still Standing

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