Main Street – 400 block, east side

Technically this picture isn’t of Main Street; it’s of Westminster Avenue. The picture dates from 1907, and the Main Street name switch took place in 1910. This block had fancier buildings than are found today, as Westminster was one of the more important city streets, crossing False Creek on a bridge and leading to Kingsway which in turn linked to New Westminster, already an established town when Vancouver was created.

This block started at Hastings street, just behind the photographer. We don’t know who built any of these buildings, because they all pre-date 1900 and we don’t have building permits for the 1890s. There were two more buildings on the block to the north; the first in this picture is the City Meat Market in 412 Westminster Ave. It was part of the business empire of Pat Burns, run in Vancouver by his brother Dominic. Upstairs Dr. H R Storrs had his office, as did James Duncan, a commercial agent, and Lockwood and Fleming, who ran a real estate business. Next door was G W Hutchings, who ran a furniture store. He sold floor covering as well – carpets and linoleum.

This view is from a postcard – probably produced by Valentine & Sons. They also had a coloured version, although the colour was added by hand before the cards were printed as a reproduction.

At 420 W J Orr sold boots and shoes, at 424 the Royal Bank of Canada branch was on the main floor, but they were building a new larger building at the end of the block, and upstairs Edward Oliver ran his contracting business and H C Freshwater ran the Freshwater Studios, on the corner of Hastings. Lewis and Sills sold hardware beyond that, and their business provides the only permit we can find: they carried out repairs in 1901. ‘Scott’s Toggery’, a clothing business, occupied the next building (replaced in 1908 by Weinrobe & Co, who sold men’s furnishings – so another clothing business). The building at the end of the block, on the corner of East Pender, is one we’ve looked at already. In that post, with an image of the building in 1901, C F Foreman had their grocery business in the 1889 building. In 1907 The City Brokerage Co had offices upstairs, with the Canadian Bank of Commerce below, and grocers La Belle & Co had replaced Foreman’s on the corner. Ulderic La Belle (and his son, with the same name) ran the store. He was from Quebec, as was his wife, Marie, but their son (who was apparently known as Ulrie when he was young) was born in Manitoba in 1890, and their younger children Yvonne in 1893 and Albert in 1896 were born in BC.

Today a few of the buildings are still the original structure, although they all have new facades. 434 Main (the Orr and bank buildings) was rebuilt in 1986 by the Hoy Ping Benevolent Association.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Str P425


Posted October 19, 2020 by ChangingCity in Altered, East End

Powell Street – 300 block

Here’s the 300 block of Powell street looking westward. We looked at the history of T Maikawa’s art deco department store on the right (which today is a food manufacturing business) in an earlier post. In 1936 it replaced a 3-storey building with bay windows, seen here in 1929. It was a boarding house run by Y Uchibori, built around 1907 (when the building permits are missing). Mr. Maikawa had his store on the main floor. Before that there was a house here, occupied for many years by Maggie Phillips, a widow who worked as a nurse. The smaller buildings to the west were owned by builders Champion and White.

Next door. on the edge of the picture is another 3-storey building, a $35,000 apartment building designed (according to the permit) by ‘Horton & Phillips’ for ‘Mrs. Tuthill”. She lived in Glencoe Lodge at the time, and was originally from New York. She married David S. Tuthill, an accountant, in 1874, and they moved to Portland, Oregon. He was apparently successful in business; by 1897 he was president of the Acme Mills Ltd. He died at his home in 1897, from a gunshot to his head, which was probably self-inflicted. By 1899 Emma Tuthill had moved to Vancouver, and become a partner in F.R. Stewart and Company, a firm of wholesale produce merchants. Her daughter, Helen, married a Portland bank manager in 1898, and they also moved north, (her husband became an accountant at B.C. Sugar) but she died in 1915. Her mother died in 1927, and both are buried in Mountain View Cemetery. The architects were actually Horton & Phipps, but the clerk could be permitted the error as they were a Victoria partnership.

On the left is the 1912 rental apartments designed by William Gardiner, according to the building permit for David Sanguineti, who paid E J Ryan $45,000 to build the building. David and his wife Mary were from Italy and in their late 40s in 1911, and apparently earned enough income from their three lodgers and other sources to not have to work (according to the census). Their lodgers included an Italian tailor and an engineer.

David had arrived in Canada in 1880, when he would have been aged around 17, and Mary was 33 when she came in 1898. We had some trouble tracing David in Vancouver, until we remembered the struggles clerks had with spelling names. That way we found David living in the household of Angelo Calori in the Hotel Europe, in the 1901 census, when he was recorded as David Sanguinati, a barkeeper. The street directory managed a typo and a spelling puzzle, and called him Davis Sanguinetti in 1901 (the first time we find him in the city), David Sanginnet in 1902 and Sanguinette in 1904. By 1909 David was living on East Cordova and was the hotel Europe’s clerk, listed as Sanquineti. Strangely, although he supposedly developed this relatively expensive building in 1912, he was listed as David Sanguite, a labourer, that year.

In 1914 David applied to prospect for coal and natural gas on a 640 acre property on the Fraser River. By 1916 he was recorded as Sanguineti again, and once more was the clerk at the Hotel Europe. He still had the same job in 1920, and was only 59 when he died in 1921. He has a prominent memorial in Mountain View cemetery, which tells us he came from Genova. His widow, Maria Martina Sanguineti was buried with him following her death in 1937. She died at St Paul’s hospital, and the funeral cortege left from Angelo Calori’s home in the West End. For David to have accumulated sufficient funds to develop a building like this from a clerk’s job in a hotel seems unlikely. It seems more likely that he was backed by other partners, most likely Mr. Calori who was very successful, and reasonably wealthy.

The building housed the Sun Theatre from 1912-1918. It was in the eastern half of the building, so not quite in this image. C F Edwards ran the movie theatre initially, and in 1913 advertised ” CHANGE OF PROGRAMME DAILY THE SUN THEATRE 368 POWELL STREET, 6 BIG REELS. 5c. The home of Variety – Meet Me at the Sun. (Kindly note the Star is not the only six-reel show in town.) The operation appears short-lived, or at least there was no advertising after that year. By 1915 the building had become part of Japantown. The Canadian Japanese Association had their offices in the Sun Rooms, along with Japan Canada Resources Co and M Yamada’s real estate business, and the Theatre.

A story in the Vancouver Sun showed the attitudes to the Japanese population after they had been forced from the coast into internment camps in 1941. “PRESENT OPERATOR FINED $50 FORMER JAP LODGINGS ‘NOT FIT FOR HUMANS’ E. C Thompson, operator of a rooming house at 376 Powell, was fined $50 by Magistrate Mackenzie Matheson Monday for an Infraction of the health bylaw. In fining the defendant His Worship expressed the belief that former Japanese rooming houses were “in a filthy condition and not fit for human habitation.” Counsel for Thompson told the court his client had taken over the premises in 1941 and had since that date been ‘waging a relentless war on vermin’.

Today the Japanese connection has been restored with the building’s name; Sakura-So, now owned by the Lookout Emergency Aid Society, and providing 38 units in a renovated SRO. (There’s also the New Sakura-So, a seniors housing facility located in Burnaby). All of the tenants have come from the street or shelters, and have a chronic history of homelessness, and are supported by on site tenant support workers paid for through income from tenant rents, retail rents, and an annualized grant from Vancouver Coastal Health. Sakura So offers “supported transitional units” and aims to move residents to better and more permanent housing over time. Lookout spent over $3m improving conditions and adding bathrooms in the property in 2015. A grant of $190,000 from the City of Vancouver was tied to an agreement that the rooms would remain as social housing, at welfare rates, for 60 years or the life of the building.

The building next door was built as a bank in 1913. Designed by Parr Mckenzie and Day, it cost $30,000 as it was built with reinforced concrete construction for the Japan Trust Co. It replaced a building that had been erected in 1904 as tiny ‘cabin’ housing developed by H C Train.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-2467


Posted October 15, 2020 by ChangingCity in Altered, East End

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False Creek from above

This 2019 image, taken by Trish Jewison from the Global BC helicopter almost perfectly lined up with our 1982 aerial image. Cambie Bridge has been rebuilt on a slightly different alignment, SkyTrain tracks have been built, and BC Place stadium had a brand new inflatable roof in 1982, and a fairly new retractable one in 2019. There were towers at the end of False Creek, on Quebec Street, but they were the towers of a concrete batching plant, not the residential towers built by Bosa over nearly 20 years from start to finish.

While the buildings on Granville Island look almost the same – although Emily Carr School of Art hadn’t been developed – on the north shore of the creek the only building standing near the waterfront was the CP Roundhouse, still there today (after a fight) and repurposed as a community centre. Amazingly, considering it was still a working waterway with log booms occupying water lots while awaiting processing in the remaining sawmill, there were more recreational boats moored nearly 40 years ago than are permitted today.

While the Concord Pacific development had yet to be designed, the Expo ’86 World’s Fair was being planned; the name, and the committee to make it happen were selected at the end of 1981. Almost all vestiges of industrial use were replaced for a few months with what is surprisingly the last World’s Fair to be held on North American soil.

Image source: Trish Jewison Global BC helicopter.


Posted October 12, 2020 by ChangingCity in Altered

Canton Alley

This narrow Chinatown alley was, on some maps, Canton Street. It ran south from West Pender, which is where the buildings in the pictures are addressed to. We’ve seen the 1912 building (designed by J G Price) that fronted Pender until 1948, but this is an earlier building. The 2-storey building was developed by the Wing Sang Company in 1903, cost $10,000 and was designed by ‘Mr. O’Keefe’. Michael O’Keefe wasn’t really an architect, he was mostly a builder, but he was willing to design buildings for Chinese owners to build themselves. He didn’t even live in Vancouver; the only likely M O’Keefe we’ve found was a carpenter, and later a builder, living in Victoria.

Canton Alley, through the archway, was apparently developed in 1904, was a courtyard enclosed by two parallel rows of buildings running south from Pender Street. The permit for the construction describes a $50,000 project for ‘Five separate buildings on same ground’ on ‘CPR ground W of Carrall & S of Pender & N of Keefer Chinatown’, also designed by Mr. O’Keefe, but built by Yip Sang & Co. (Yip Sang was the anglicized name of the owner of the Wing Sang Company, and some early records switch ‘Yip’ and ‘Wing’). The premises were damaged in the 1907 anti-Asian riots, and in the subsequent hearings Wing Sang was described as owning half the buildings here. That was technically accurate, but overlooked the fact that the Lun Yick Co, a wholly owned Wing Sang subsidiary also owned property. Wing Sang may have been the lead owner with other Chinese merchants; although rivals in business, more expensive and ambitious transactions were often carried out by a consortium of owners. In 1911 several buildings were damaged by fire, and there were several buildings reconstructed on Canton Alley, and the entire Pender block was redeveloped as a six storey rooming house.

Canton Alley very quickly gained a reputation – and not a good one. The narrow space was home to over 500 residents, almost all men, packed in to small rooms with bunk beds. There was effectively an entire town centre in the alley, with grocers and general stores, restaurants, tailors, barbers, an employment agency and an umbrella repairer. In 1905 readers throughout North America could read about a dispute between partners in a Canton Alley tailoring business that led to two deaths. A row between two partners led to one owner, who wanted to split the partnership (and be paid out) shooting first the son of his partner, then killing the partner and then himself. The local press were happy to report the local police opinions. “Looks like a desperate dope fiend and crank,” observed Detective Waddell as he surveyed the hatchet-like face and glazed eyes of the murderer”.

In 1906, as the police closed down the nearby Dupont Street brothels, the Daily World reported that some of the women were moving to rooms in Canton Alley. Sure enough, by the end of the year police were raiding and arresting the ladies. “Celestlne Brown was named as the keeper, and Merle Thomas and Lena Hamilton as assistants”

The police interest in the ladies continued into 1907. Another raid was referenced in the Daily World, and suggested that 25 women were living in the alley. Belle Walker was fined $50 three days later, with a note adding “the police seem determined to put a stop to other than Chinese women living in the Chinese quarter”. Yip Sang was unhappy that his leaseholders were sub-letting their premises, but it was reported that a meeting at the Empire Reform Association got so heated that the landlords had to have a police escort to safely leave the meeting.

At the end of the year the intrepid Police Officer Latimer apprehended Fred Symonds in a Canton Alley house; he was wanted for beating a woman in the alley and stealing $50, using a ‘sandbag’ as a weapon – actually a length of garden hose with a iron bolt inserted. Attempting to escape arrest by using the weapon on the policeman added a charge of assault on an officer for the Ottawa-born Symonds.

Several assaults, sometimes involving firearms, were reported, almost always involving a gambling game. An opium den was raided in 1905, although the production of the drug in an adjacent building was a legal business at that time. Later raids through the 1910s, 20s and 30s for the same reason were taken more seriously, as the processing of opium was now illegal as well. In 1909 another sensational story filled the press, and was reported in other cities. A complex story of attempted murder and suicide saw Canton Alley’s illegal gambling under scrutiny after a stabbing nearly killed a would-be informer. He was apparently seeking payment to not tell the authorities about the death of another Chinese resident, a laundryman from Seymour Street who lost heavily at a game in Canton Alley, and refused time to repay his debts, chose suicide using opium. The newspaper in passing mentions that his was the third death from opium poisoning in three weeks.

Things seem to have quietened down once the buildings were rebuilt after several significant fires. There are reports of theft, a Chinaman was found shot dead, presumed murdered, but as no-one heard the shots that killed him no investigation seems to have been considered necessary. When the Daily World was reporting that a store holder was fined $10 for selling pears not properly marked under the Fruit Market Act (in 1912), then serious crime would seem to have slowed. In 1914 sacks of flour were stolen. Gambling and opium raids were frequent, and carried out with mixed success. (Several senior police officers found other employment over the years, having been accused of accepting bribes to turn a blind eye to illegal operations).

The Chinese population of the city fell after the 1923 Chinese Immigration Act (or more accurately, the Chinese Exclusion Act) forbid any Chinese immigration to Canada. Canton Alley remained occupied, although the street directory clerk couldn’t generally be bothered to record anything other than ‘Orientals’. The buildings here were eventually demolished in 1949. The site remained vacant for years, but in 1998 the CBA Manor and an adjacent building were built, designed by Joe Wai and Davidson Yuen Simpson. The 4-storey social services centre run by SUCCESS recreates the alley entrance as an entrance to a gated courtyard, (just as Canton Alley was after the 1907 riots).

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 689-56.


Posted October 8, 2020 by ChangingCity in Chinatown, Gone

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West Hastings Street – 100 block, north side (2)

We looked at this part of West Hastings, where the Woodward’s store once occupied most of the block, in an earlier post. That showed the street in 1904, when Woodward’s store was only 4 storeys high on the corner of Abbott. Here we can see the 1923 street, and there’s an addition to the west (built in 1913), as well as two more upper floors. That wasn’t the end of the company’s expansion here. By 1981 (below) there had been further additions to the west, and further floors added on top. W T Whiteway was the architect of the $60,000 1904 building on the right, a four storey ‘brick and stick’ construction (a heavy wooden frame with a brick facade). A few years later Smith and Goodfellow designed the $35,000 vertical addition (in 1910). Three years later the store got the further addition, a $100,000 westwards extension designed by George Wenyon with a steel and concrete frame.

There was still a Woolworths store next to Woodward’s in 1981. It had been developed by the company in 1926 at a cost of $33,000, built by Dixon and Murray, and Woolworth’s may have had their own architect to design it. Previously we think there was a building that had been owned by Crowe & Wilson, who employed Bedford Davidson to carry out repairs and alterations in the late 1910s and early 1920s. They were significant developers in the area and had developed another building, the Selkirk Block, a bit further to the west, and visible on the top picture.

The Woodward’s redevelopment (designed by Henriquez Partners for Westbank) retained the wood-frame building on the corner of Abbott, but all the other buildings were demolished in 2006, after sitting empty since Woodward’s went bankrupt in 1993. The 1903 building now had added concrete reinforcement on the western facade to give the old frame seismic stability, while the bricks were tied back and the original lettering faithfully restored after being covered in layers of paint for decades. New retail uses including a TD Bank now sit underneath office space. Further west the new part of the project here includes non-market housing and Simon Fraser University’s Arts campus over a London Drugs store.

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Str N49.2 and CVA 779-E16.27


Water Street – 100 block south side (2)

We’ve seen the buildings further to the west in an earlier post. We also looked at the history of the two very similar buildings on the left of the picture; 110 and 118 Water Street. On the left, Sharp and Thompson designed a rooming hotel for Dr. Alfred Thompson costing $65,000 to build, which opened in 1913. Next door the same architects were responsible for the 1911 block for Albert DesBrisay, built at a cost of $62,000. Dr. Thompson was the MP for the Yukon, although he moved to Vancouver (and practiced medicine) in the 1920s. Albert was from New Brunswick, and part of a sizeable family who were all in business in Vancouver. He was a commissioners agent, and had been in Winnipeg for some time. His investment rooming house initially called The Colonial Rooms (as seen in this 1914 picture).

The third building in this part of the block was another investment for a local developer, but one that came with substantially lower costs as there were no architect’s fees. W T Whiteway designed the $45,000 warehouse for himself in 1910. By 1916 he had already sold the building; Kirkland & Rose hired R W Watson to carry out $3,500 of repairs and alterations. In 1925 A E Henderson designed another $1,400 of repairs to the warehouse.

John Rose and Henry Sinclair Kirkland were manufacturer’s agents, specializing in confectionery supplies. Before they moved here they were futher west at 312 Water Street. They moved in here around 1918, with the Canadian Chewing Gum Co and Cowan Co who were chocolate manufacturers in Toronto and represented by Kirkland and Rose.

The building beyond the gap was another $60,000 investment, built in 1912 for McLean Bros, (three brothers from the Scottish Islands). It was designed by Thomas Hooper and like the Kirkland & Rose warehouse was a victim to Woodward’s expanding empire, in this case to add a parking garage.

Today the Colonial Hotel, and the adjacent Gastown Hotel are both managed by Atira Women’s Resource Society. The Colonial is still privately owned, while BC Housing bought the Gastown Hotel and has carried out a number of internal improvements to what had become a very run-down building. The rest of the block to the west was demolished to build Woodward’s Water Street parkade, which was re-built by the City of Vancouver a few years ago, and has been altered again this year with the addition of a childcare facility on the roof.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA LGN 987



From Granville Bridge (2)

Like our previous shot, this is an undated view from Granville Bridge. We think it was taken on the same day, probably around 1978. The 1974 tower at Pacific Centre can be seen down Granville Bridge, and the Scotiatower is behind the lamppost, dating from 1976. The dark TD tower can still be seen, but a condo tower that replaced the Capitol Theatre on Seymour Street hides the Vancouver Centre from this spot today. The pedestrian illustrated warning of the approaching crosswalk has, over 40 years, become either a little more athletic, or bent over.

Here’s a slightly more distant version of the same view. From here it was possible to see that the railyards that were developed in the 1980s as the Expo ’86 World’s Fair, and since then as a new residential area built by Concord Pacific. Today the two buildings on the right are part of their Beach Neighbourhood, with Icon, from 2006 on the tight and Park West, the taller tower two years earlier. The development agreement required land to be available for the City to develop non-market housing, and some time this view will change with the addition of a new tower to the east (right) of the bridge’s offramp. It’s planned at 54 storeys with condos in the tower over a podium of 152 non-market apartments to be given to the City of Vancouver. There’s another potential non-market site closer to us, currently vacant as well.

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 800-3261 and CVA 800-3260


Posted September 28, 2020 by ChangingCity in Altered, Downtown

From Granville Bridge (1)

The Vancouver Archives have a series of images taken looking north from Granville Bridge. They’re undated, but we think they date to around 1978. Although apparently taken on a foggy day you can just make out the angled tubes of the 1974 CBC bunker off in the distance, with the Sun Tower behind. The 1976 Sandman Hotel is the solid block to the east.

In between there were dozens of small commercial businesses in a mix of converted houses and simple one and 2-storey concrete or stucco boxes, many of them related to motoring. On the left the orange sign is for Buller’s Glass, who occupied the former gas station where today the final phase of Emery Barnes Park is located. In the distance Trev Deeley’s cycle business was still operating on the edge of Yaletown. On Pacific, on the right in the foreground, the 1936 gas station was still operating, although a few years later it became Carlos n’ Bud’s Tex-Mex restaurant.

Here’s a slightly different view from the bridge. The same cars are parked, so we think it was taken on the same walk over the bridge. The 1976 Harbour Centre, and the Vancouver Centre’s Scotiatower are both visible on the left.

Today there’s a series of residential buildings – in this view there are market rentals, non-market housing and condominiums. On the right is The Mark, a 41 storey condo tower with a childcare on the roof of the podium. Next door are the orange panels of Karis Place, completed in 2011, a non-market housing project developed by BC Housing on a site provided by the City of Vancouver. The building has an underground geo-thermal heating system. On the far left is 600 Drake, a 193 unit market rental project developed in 1993. The grey tower with the blue frames is another condo tower called Space, completed in 1996. 89 of the 211 units are double height lofts.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 800-3254


Posted September 24, 2020 by ChangingCity in Altered, Downtown

Granville Street – 500 block, east side (2)


We saw the building in the middle of this 1899 picture in its original incarnation as a building almost certainly designed by W T Dalton for Hope and Fader Co., Granville Street, ‘next to the Imperial Bank’, in 1898. The intricate design was replaced, or covered, with a windowless box to house British departmental store Marks and Spencer, and more recently has been given an even more featureless façade with the store offering (until its recent closure) Loblaw’s clothing brand ‘Joe Fresh’. That’s the Marks and Spencer incarnation below, seen in 1981.

The Imperial Bank was the building to the north – still standing today, and designed in 1898 for W H Leckie, the Vancouver arm of John Leckie’s dealership in salmon nets, rubber boots and oilskin clothing. We looked at the history of that building in an earlier post. It was designed by G W Grant in a rather more restrained style than his later designs. The Imperial bank was replaced by the Quebec Bank, and by the early 1910s the building was known as the Mackechnie Building. In 1913 the upper floors held a variety of office tenants, among them real estate offices, a judge, two doctors, a dentist, a barrister and a broker. Persistent rumours suggest an office tower will be proposed above the restored heritage building.

To the south (in the top picture) is a fifty feet wide building. Today it has a 1909 façade, designed by Parr and Fee for owner Harry Abbott. The building dates back to 1889, when it was designed for Abbott (the Canadian Pacific Railway official in charge of the west coast) by the Fripp Brothers. In it’s earlier incarnation it had a brick facade with smaller sliding sash windows.

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Bu N422 and CVA 779-E02.01


Posted September 21, 2020 by ChangingCity in Altered, Downtown

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20 East Hastings Street


Some of the buildings in this stretch of the Downtown Eastside are in a bad way, but few buildings show the decline of the neighbourhood in recent years more than 20 East Hastings. Built in 1911, it started life as retail stores and a billiard hall. More recently it was home to one of the city’s best pieces of neon art, for the Only Seafoods restaurant. If the owners had sold ‘only seafoods’ they would have been fine, but the restaurant was closed in 2009 with the health inspectors forcing the closure when the trafficking of drugs from the premises were deemed a health hazard.

At that point it was said to be the city’s longest surviving restaurant in the same location. It changed very little over the years with the original ornamental tin ceiling and a full-length wall mirror. There were seventeen chrome button swivel chair-stools and two tiny booths at the back, so only 25 people could pack in. The restaurant was cash only and patrons were given a rude awakening if they were too drunk to sit up. (The area hasn’t changed that much over the decades – just the nature of the substances available).

When it opened, there was the Mexican Jewelry Palace and John Bogress, a boot black on the main floor, and the Brunswick Pool Rooms (which immediately closed down for a while). L W Sauter took over the jewelry store in 1915. A year later it became a restaurant; the Vancouver Oyster Saloon. In 1918 it was bought by Greek brothers Nick and Gustave Thodos, (although the 1918 street directory thought he was Gustave Tohodar, and for many years they were listed as Thodas). Although born in Greece, in 1910 the family were living in Shasta in California. Although it’s said that the restaurant was ‘immediately’ christened ‘The Only’ , the name ‘Only Fish and Oyster’ doesn’t appear in street directories until 1924.

That year City Council moved in next door. They converted The Holden Block (to the west) into a new City Hall, and continued to occupy the premises until 1936.

The $27,000 building was designed by H A Hodgson for Con Jones, who initially leased the shops, although he almost certainly had an interest in the billiards hall. Jones was an Australian; an ex-bookie who was successful in Vancouver in the tobacco trade. He carried out repairs several times over the years; he was still owner in 1925. He had another billiard room on West Hastings in 1921.

We have a 1936 picture of the building with a tobacco shop that had opened in 1930. Con Jones had a seizure while watching a soccer game in 1929 at the sports facility he developed; Con Jones Park. He died five days later, aged 59, leaving a wife and five children. His tobacco business was run under the slogan ‘Don’t Argue’ – completed by the often missed text, ‘Con Jones sells fresh tobacco’. A year after his death the business added a store here, next to The Only – which was now so well known that it appeared in the street directory as ‘Only, (The)’ The Thodos brothers made their modest premises the go-to for fish; especially clam chowder. The arrangement with the Fishing Co-op that they’d only ever receive fresh caught products ensured their food was better than any other restaurant, even after they ceased to be the only fish restaurant in town.

In 1950 Constantine Thodos, known as Tyke, took over from his father. The ‘Don’t Argue sign was replaced with a huge neon sign commissioned from Neon Products. The seahorse (which was never on the menu) had a tail that curved the wrong way, and at night the eye glowed an alarming red, but despite the steady loss of importance for the area, the restaurant still did well for many years. (Our main picture shows the building in 1985). The family decided to quit in the late 1990s, and it looked like it would close, but waitress Mary Wong took over and continued for over a decade, although the continued decline of the area made things difficult. The presence of dangerous drugs beneath the till was the last straw. The sign was removed a year later – either to safe keeping with Neon Products, or to new owners who planned to reopen the cafe one day. A decade later the increasingly derelict building shows no sign of renewal.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 790-1902 and Bu P56 (detail)


Posted September 17, 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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