We’re looking east on West Georgia Street: the Archives at this point have an undated image (and unidentified location). The cars, and the changes in the buildings suggest some time in the 1970s. The Royal Centre is complete, so we’re past 1973, Cathedral place hasn’t replace the Medical-Dental Building, so we’re before 1992, and the Burrard Building has it’s original skin, so it’s before 1988. The Ritz Hotel is still standing on the right of the picture, so it’s probably before 1980. By 1985 the Grosvenor Building was completed here. In the distance, behind the TD Tower is the Vancouver Centre – completed in 1976, so that puts us squarely into the mid 1970s.
The Ritz International may have had the prestigious name, but it wasn’t as classy as the Hotel Georgia or the Hotel Vancouver down the street. The hotel was a conversion of the St Julien Apartments, and that was itself a conversion of the new YMCA which received its building permit in 1913. The permit shows that it was designed by H S Griffith as a 7-storey, reinforced concrete structure, to be constructed at a cost of an extremely ambitious cost of $375,000.
The 1912 insurance map shows the Y began building that year. The start of World War One, and an economic depression meant that by 1919 the structure was still not complete and it was decided that it should be sold. In 1924 the building was completed as the St. Julien Apartments (seen here around 1925) but those didn’t last very long, and in 1929 was turned into the Ritz Hotel. Not all the apartments were turned into hotel rooms – the property offered both hotel rooms and ‘fully serviced apartments’.
The Ritz stayed as a hotel – it didn’t become a low-income rental property as many further east, and was finally demolished in 1983 to be replaced by the Grosvenor Building, a multi-faceted gold coloured tower that allowed tenants to offer the prestigious ‘corner office’ to more of its employees.
Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 800-312 and Vancouver Public Library
Today it’s a condo building called Exchange, but when it was built in 1913 it was the B. C. Telephone Co., Ltd’s new warehouse and office – and not, as some sources (and the name) would suggest, a telephone exchange. It cost $35,000 to build, and the company claimed to be both architect and builder of the four storey ‘brick and stick’ structure built in the same style as warehouses found in Yaletown. It’s possible the design was completed in-house; it’s equally possible that an architect was hired but the company then submitted the plans themselves. If so it’s quite likely to have been Thomas Hooper, who designed other buildings for the company around this period, and who had plenty of experience designing straightforward industrial boxes.
In 1913 1st Avenue was called Front street, and the permit here was for 366 to 376 Front Street. Once it was operating the building often had a Wylie Street address, although initially this was addressed as Yukon Street. It was essentially a warehouse for spools of cables and wires, telephone and related equipment, and the Archives have a 1915 image that shows BC Telephone vehicles and crew ready to service their customers, parked in front of the Wylie Street façade. There’s another 1922 image showing a row of service vans lined up.
Around 1927 an addition was built to the east of the 1913 building, in a different style without the large lintels of the earlier building. There was also a low, single storey wing extending further to the east. At a later date some of the small Wylie Street windows were replaced to match the larger windows.
In 1982 Best Facilities Services moved into the building and operated from here for over 20 years. Our 2003 image shows the building when they were still located here. They offered a range of property management and related services. As the Southeast False Creek development evolved, the buildings were sold for development, but the developers, PCL, chose to carry out a heritage conversion rather than demolish and replace the warehouse. They were given a Heritage Bank allowance worth over $2 million to retain and repurpose the building. A new six storey block was built to the east, with the whole project designed by Burrowes Huggins Architects. the elevator core that serves both halves of the project helps provide seismic stability to the older buildings.
Today the building is surrounded by other SEFC housing projects, with the final part of the block across the lane to the south expected to be built very soon. To the west the Maynards Block has been developed, and further development can be anticipated across the street to the north in the near future.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives AM339-S7 CVA 17-19
This 1970 Archives image shows how little this part of Yaletown has changed in nearly 50 years – at least physically. There are far fewer added street trees on this side of Homer Street, so you can still see the buildings. That’s not true of the west side or many other nearby streets, especially to the west of here in Downtown South; (the area realtors like to call Yaletown, or sometimes New Yaletown).
We looked at the history of 1138 Homer, the Frank Darling Block, in the previous post. That’s the three storey building to the left of the telegraph pole in the centre of the picture. Next door is a 2 storey building that also dates from 1913 and like its neighbor cost $40,000 according to the Building Permit. It was built by R & F Watson for Adamson & Main, who claimed to be the architects. The same developers, Adamson & Main, were also responsible for the adjacent five storey white brick building at 1180 Homer developed in 1910 and designed by architects Campbell & Bennett, costing $35,000. (Only four storeys are visible in the picture, and there is also an additional storey on all of these buildings on Mainland Street where the other façade of this block is a full storey lower).
Adamson & Main are a mystery. The only reference to any partnership under this name in contemporary sources is for the permit for this building. There are only a few possible people called Adamson in the city between 1910 and 1914; one possibility is Robert Adamson who was the accountant for the BC Sugar Refinery; the only other well paid Adamson was J Adamson who was Chief Engineer on the Empress of Russia (and in the 1900s on the Empress of India). He seems more likely to be the developer partner, as James Adamson hired the same R & F Watson to design and build a $15,000 apartment building on Oak Street in 1914. James Adamson had been first chief engineer since the Empress service was started in 1891, and he would have been well paid. His appearance in the street directories (but with no home address) suggests Vancouver was his home base. J Adamson had Parr and Fee design a $2,000 house on Burrard Street in 1903, although nobody called Adamson appears to have lived there. J Adamson appears in the 1901 census, but apparently aboard ship (as most of the members of the recorded ‘household’ are ship’s crew, including the Head of Household who was the First Mate). Apart from identifying his job as Chief Engineer, and that he was of English origin, all other details are missing. The ship would have been The Empress of India. Adamson was Chief Engineer on the Empress of Russia from her maiden voyage in 1913 when she broke the record for crossing the Pacific in an easterly direction by 28 hours. He ended his career in 1919 as Chief Engineer on the Empress of Asia.
Main could have been James Main, a hardware merchant, but David Main, is a much more likely candidate. A 1914 biography said: “for many years he has been engaged in the building trade but now practically spends his time in looking after his valuable realty holdings.” He was from Nairn, in Scotland. His father was a sea captain who “at the age of seventy-three years died suddenly of apoplexy, passing away after four hours of illness.” David Main trained as a carpenter, arriving in Philadelphia in 1887 where he worked as head carpenter on a training ship before moving to Vancouver in 1891. For a few years around 1900 he worked in Atlin in Northern BC, where he shipped lumber to White Horse and built the hospital and the Presbyterian church. On his return to Vancouver in 1902 he briefly worked as a carpenter before running a building materials company with T G McBride before retiring to manage his property interests in 1911.
The taller, narrower white brick building is known as the McMaster Building these days, and was turned into condos ten years ago. The original plan was to renovate the building, but it was in such poor shape that it had to be completely rebuilt with the façade retained and tied into the new structure. The original tenants in the building were William J McMaster and Sons. William was from Northern Ireland as was his wife Elizabeth and they had at least five sons, four of whom were shown in the census living at home in Toronto in 1901. It appears that for a while William also lived in Vancouver: he was shown on Georgia Street in 1901 and Haro Street in 1904. James was shown living in the city as early as 1899, and W J appeared in 1897, living at the Mountain View Hotel and a year later in the Leland Hotel. In using Census records we quite often note that someone resident in the city according to the street directories was missed by the census. In this unique example, William, James and Edward McMaster are shown living at home in Toronto and also lodging in Vancouver in the 1901 Census.
The Vancouver directors were James and Edward McMaster. Edward had been born in Montreal and attended Trinity University; a 1914 biography says he worked as a travelling salesman for the family company before taking on the sales manager’s role in the newly established Vancouver location in 1906. Actually he was already resident in Vancouver in 1901, and married here in 1904 to Mary Stewart, from Glasgow. He was elected an alderman in 1911 and was a Director of the Vancouver Exhibition Association. His brother James was also in Vancouver in 1901, marrying Lena who was from Ontario.
The company was a clothing wholesaler, and street directories show that their earlier premises were on Cordova, operating as Manufacturer’s Agents, specializing in Gloves and ready-to-wear. They lasted a very short time as W J McMaster & Sons – but they continued to operate from the property. In 1916 the BC Shirt and Overall Manufacturing Co were here: James McMaster was the foreman and Edward the manager. A January 1916 edition of ‘Industrial Canada’ noted that “McMasters Ltd., manufacturers of shirts and overalls, Vancouver, have sold their undertaking to the B. C. Shirt and Overall Manufacturing Co., Ltd.” The Manufacturing Co was a new operation, incorporated that year and capitalized at $25,000. There had been a severe depression of the economy before the war, and in many cases businesses already in existence carried out a re-arrangement of business to avoid bankruptcy. This doesn’t seem to have helped the McMaster operations: both 1176 and 1180 Homer were vacant in 1917. By 1919 the Ives Modern Bedstead Co were in 1176 Homer and Torry-Lee storage in 1180. James McMaster had a job as an accountant with Fleck Brothers, a job he retained for several years. Edward’s employment isn’t noted in 1919, but in the early 1920s he was a manufacturer’s agent.
James L Torry was an importer, and the Homer Street facility was his warehouse with the storage and distribution business offered as an adjunct. By the mid 1920s another firm moved in, Pioneer Envelopes Ltd. Envelopes were obviously the thing on Homer Street. Pioneer were here right through to World War Two, and the company still exists in Richmond and Langley. They were replaced in the 1950s by the Norfolk Paper Co. The McMaster name was still used for the building.
The shorter building to the north also saw variation in tenants and change over the years, with, among others, an upholsterer, an outdoor advertiser and De Laval Co Ltd, dairy supplies (who were in the building for several decades). Closest to us is the Smith Davidson & Wright warehouse , also selling stationery, designed by Ted Blackmore in 1909 and completed in 1911.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1135-54
This is another of the Yaletown warehouse buildings built after the Canadian Pacific railway released some of their land for development around 1910. Frank Darling & Co built this warehouse in 1913. Honeyman and Curtis were the architects, Frank Darling was the client, and Irwin Carver and Co were the builders of the $40,000 structure.
Frank Darling was an electrical equipment supplier, living on Nicola Street in 1911 with his wife Frances and their three young children, David, Elizabeth and Ruth. He was born in Montreal, Quebec, Frances was American, and the children had all been born in BC. Frank’s company was established in Vancouver in 1906. Frank was one of four brothers (with Arthur, Edward and George) who owned Darling Brothers, founded in 1888. Frank set out on his own in 1906, leaving the day-to-day management of the manufacturing arm of Darling Brothers to his three siblings and acting as an agent for their products in British Columbia. At the height of its production the Darling Foundry was the second largest operation in Montreal, with over 100,000 square feet of space. Each of its 4 buildings was dedicated to its own specialized purpose: inventory & stock, a showroom, the iron works, and the assembly plant. The company closed in 1991, and in the early 2000s repurposed as an Arts Centre.
In Vancouver, Frank’s business stayed here until the 1940s, sharing the building with Rennie Seeds for a while after the war before moving to premises in Burrard Slopes. Advertisments in the Vancouver Daily World offering space for lease suggest that Frank continued to own and lease the parts of the building his own business did not need.
In this 1924 picture H J Heinz were using the Hamilton side of the building as their warehouse, staying here through to the 1930s. In the early 1950s a variety of companies operated here including Industrial Adhesives and Barclay & Co, importers and exporters, joined rather unexpectedly by the Consulate of Spain. Frank was still alive in the early 1950s, but retired from the business, with the former manager, W G Metcalf as President of the company that still dealt in pumps and other machinery.
In 1973, when the image was taken, Luxford International Housewares were operating their warehouse here. Today it’s the Brix and Mortar restaurant on the main floor (on the Homer Street side) next door to the New Oxford pub, with another restaurant on the lower loading dock floor and a market research company occupying the upper floors.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-3446 and CVA 447-96
Our 2003 ‘before’ image was taken shortly before the demolition of the Plaza Hotel. Despite the swanky name, the Plaza was a run-down SRO hotel with 33 rooms on part of a small development lot (only 12,000 sq ft) that was, at the time, potentially developable as a condo tower. A numbered company applied for the project which had 120,000 of space above ground, and 60,000 below grade as a 6-storey parkade. The tight site meant that a lot of the underground space was taken up by parkade infrastructure of elevators and ramps. A 3-storey podium was proposed with 16 floors of condos designed by Hancock Bruckner Eng & Wright, and a public benefit of space for the Artstart for Kids program, still running today. Back in 2003 Council took a less stringent approach to the loss of older SROs, and with payments to the replacement housing fund of $5,000 a room and an additional contribution to the affordable housing fund Council of the day approved the loss of the rental space.
The building, christened ‘R&R’ (Robson and Richards) was completed in 2006. The predecessor ‘hotel’ here started life as the Montgomery Block. Approved to be built in 1911 for J A Montgomery, it was designed by G P Bowie, and described as a “4 storey brick store & rooming house; marble entrance, hot water heating, plate glass front” costing $29,000 to build. Egdell & Dixon were the contractors, although Mr. Bowie supervised the work (which wasn’t always the case in those days). Mr. Bowie designed several larger residential buildings during the city’s early 1900s boom, as well as Yaletown warehouse projects. He was also responsible for the design of the lumbermen’s Arch in Stanley Park. He died in July 1915, fighting in Ypres.
The building was delayed a little – but in March 1912 the Daily World announced that Mr J A Montgomery of New Westminster would commence construction of his 4-storey building, which would cost $33,000 and was expected to be completed in June. In 1913 it was called the Richelieu Rooms, run by Mrs J E Conroy. The names of the proprietor changed frequently; every year we checked to see who was running the rooms found a new name – in 1919 J A Trepanier was running the establishment, in 1925 O and H Agnew and in 1930 Mrs L H Smith. In 1940 Mrs A Chambers was shown as running the rooms, and in 1950 L T Taylor was running the now renamed Plaza Hotel.
John Alexander Montgomery was born in Drummondville, Quebec and was married to Fannie, also from Quebec. She had been married to Rev. Simeon Huff and had two children, but he died in 1900, and she remarried in 1906, having two more daughters, Jean and Joyce.
John Alexander Montgomery, who had lived in New Westminster from 1887, was described as “one of the best known and most highly respected men of the city, each year having chronicled an increase in his prosperity and his additional security in the esteem and confidence of his fellow citizens. He was born in Drummond county, Quebec, and is a son of James and Jane (Bothwell) Montgomery, pioneers in that province, where the father engaged in farming.
John A. Montgomery acquired his education in the country schools of his native community, and after laying aside his books was obliged on account of conditions at home to earn his own livelihood. In choosing an occupation he took up that for which he was best fitted by early training and environment, turning his attention to general farming. For a time he assisted his father with the work of the homestead, afterwards becoming connected with railroading and following this by a period of activity in the mines. Seeking broader scope for his labors and better opportunities, he came to British Columbia in 1887 and, recognizing immediately the splendid future of New Westminster, took up his residence here. He invested heavily in land, and during the twenty-six years of his residence here, has continually added to his holdings until he is today one of the most extensive owners of valuable real estate in the city. All of his business interests are carefully and progressively conducted and his success rewards many years of well directed and honorable labor.”
There’s a three storey building in our 2011 ‘before’ image that dated back to 1912. Designed by William O’Dell for Albert Milton when 2nd Avenue was called Dufferin Street, this was described as a factory/warehouse three storey brick stable. Assuming that the Albert Milton who built this is the same Albert Milton in the 1911 Census (which is a pretty safe bet as he was the only Albert Milton listed), he was from Ontario, already retired at the age of 50 and living with his 38 year old wife Luretta and their four children, Ada, Ernest, Aletha and Edward. Ada was aged 18, and all the children were born in BC, so the family had been in the province for a while.
Before moving to Vancouver Albert had been down the valley – the 1901 Census shows him living in Surrey, farming in Cloverdale. 56th Avenue was once called Milton Road, so it was a reasonably important farm. Daniel Milton, his brother also lived with the family then. Albert was the Treasurer of the Surrey Agricultural Association in 1895, (a role that would have been much more appropriately performed by the Association’s Secretary, Mr. Thrift). In the 1880’s Mr. Milton built the first Campbell River Bridge – Mr. Thrift recalling the story in his memoir: “the Hon. Prov. Secretary instructed the Council to let a contract for the erection of the bridge and to draw on the Government for the amount of $500 when complete. This was done, Mr. A. Milton of Cloverdale took the contract and erected the bridge and when completed the Council attended the official opening, a grand dance was held on the Bridge, the settlers ran pony races across the structure and there was much jollification in celebrating the opening of the Campbell River Bridge on the Coast Meridian Road.”
William O’Dell in Vancouver wasn’t really an architect; he was a builder. He constructed an East Cordova hotel, but the owner hired an architect to design it. He also built one of the buildings in an earlier post. In the 1880s however he was one of four architects in Nanaimo, so had the ability to design this structure with no difficulty. It was indeed a stables, run by Burke & Wood Co Ltd, a transportation company. In 1913, when they were first shown having their stables located here, their transfer office was on Water Street and H Vasey was company president. There was another Water Street firm of draymen, Burke and Cameron, and we assume it might be the same Mr. Burke; Allan (or Allen) L Burke. In 1913 Mr. Wood was no longer associated with the company, but he was S P Wood, and in 1910, like Mr. Burke, he lived at 791 Cambie Street. The company had a stables then at 102 Harris Street – today’s East Georgia Street.
It’s surprising how long horse-drawn transportation remained viable in the city: the company operated here all the way to 1920 – then the building was shown as vacant. In 1923 the street name switched to East 2nd Avenue, and Burke & Wood Co Ltd are shown here again all the way to 1930. In the early 1930s it became home to Vancouver Art Metalworks Ltd, run by J Woodman. From the early 1940s until at least 1955 Hume and Rumble, electrical contractors, were based here. The South East False Creek area was identified to be ‘let go’ from industrial to residential uses in the late 1990s, but development only took off a few years ago. The residential over retail building here, called Proximity, was designed by IBI/HB for Bastion (who also developed Opsal nearby), and was completed earlier this year.
Here’s another of the undated and unidentified location shots from the City’s Archives. From the cars we’re putting this into the 1970s; it’s at least 30 years ago as the Expo 86 pavilion now occupied (for only a short while longer) by the casino is just visible today. We’re looking north on Columbia Street towards False Creek and the mountains.
Back then Downtown seemed a whole lot closer to the Mount Pleasant industrial area. You could see the Woodwards ‘W’, The Sun Tower, and the Dominion Building. Today there are two rows of buildings in the way; the residential towers built on the Expo lands, and the more recent buildings of South East False Creek.
The industrial area hasn’t really changed that much – at least, not here. There are still a few of the houses that show how this area first developed, including one on the corner of 5th Avenue that dates back to 1909. It’s clearly visible in the 1970s, and hidden today by one of the street trees added in the past 40 years.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 800-239