Imperial Opera House – West Pender Street

This was one of three Opera Houses in early Vancouver – if you include Hart’s house, which only had canvas walls. The CP Railway built the fanciest a long way from the city’s residents in the heart of their Granville Street territory, next to their hotel, opening in 1891. The Imperial pre-dated it by at least two years and was much located closer to the original city, which started life along Water Street as the Granville township, and spread out from there. The Imperial only lasted in business for about five years; Major Matthews, the city’s Archivist recorded that “in 1898 the Imperial Opera House was still in use, but as a Drill Hall.” This image shows the building already in use as the Drill Hall – although the major recorded the use as ‘Drill Shed’. The Imperial had closed in 1894, leaving the CPR building for a while as the sole attraction.

The Imperial opened in May 1889, only three years after the city was newly named and rebuilt after the fire destroyed almost every building. It was initially owned by Crickmay and Robson, who had arrived in 1888, and were both engineers, in partnership in business. They undoubtedly designed it themselves; William Crickmay sometimes described himself as an architect as well as engineer. John Robson returned to England in 1890, but William Crickmay, at the age of about 60, continued to run his engineering business while trying to run the Opera House. While operatic offerings were few and far between, the theatre was initially the only substantial structure to offer plays, visiting performers, the Athletic Club, a skating rink and local events including the Caledonian Society’s ‘Concert, Ball and Celebration’. In August 1889 C Norris appeared with his ’30 educated dogs’. In 1890 The Lacrosse Minstrels performed, John Robson, (not the same John Robson who had built it – this one was Premier of British Columbia) gave a speech, and Miss Agnes Knox, renowned Canadian elocutionist a dramatic recital. A year later the CP’s larger and superior Opera House opened, and bookings at the Imperial slumped. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was performed by the New Orleans Company, and Miss Olof Krarer “The Little Esquimaux Lady” gave a performance with stories of “Life in the Frozen North”.

Miss Krarer, a dwarf, described herself as coming from the remnant of a small tribe of blue-eyed blond people called the Angmagsalik from the east coast of Greenland. Clothed in her “native costume” of a polar bear skin parka, she spoke about her people and their customs and sang native songs. Her face was “peculiar, and almost impossible to portray” and her arms bowed, which she claimed was due to her people’s custom of keeping their arms folded at all times to ward off cold. All people of her race, she stated, were of similar height and build. The Esquimaux, she explained, lived without laws or government, the only distinction being that between rich and poor: the rich were those who had flint to strike fires, and the poor were those who did not. Nearly all the information she gave in the 2,500 lectures she gave in North America was made up, uninformed, and just plain wrong, but no one at the time disputed her facts.

Mr. Crickmay hoped his salvation might come with the creation of the Imperial Stock Company, formed in conjunction with John E Rice of the Belmour-Gray Company, the first attempt at establishing a BC touring circuit. With John F Cordray of Seattle, and soon after ;inking up with the refurbished Philharmonic Hall in Victoria, plays were performed across a number of different venues, carrying the scenery and props with them. Audiences were unpredicatable, and often performances were better attended in small towns than in the bigger cities. A smallpox outbreak in 1892 in Victoria put the circuit out of business. That year ‘Handsome’ Jim Corbett (later ‘Gentleman’ Jim) fought an exhibition bout in the Opera House, but business was thin. It was closed in 1894 and a year later the Imperial was leased by the Provincial Government as a Drill Hall. William Crickmay died on December 24 1900. His sons, Alfred and Fred continued in business in the city as Crickmay Bros; warehousemen and customs brokers.

The building was replaced in 1911 by the Duncan Building, developed by Howard J Duncan and designed by H L Stevens and renamed in 1925 as the Shelly Building when it was acquired by Cora Shelly.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Mil P5

 

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Posted May 21, 2018 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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West Pender Street east from Cambie

Sometimes we notice that the most obvious buildings have been overlooked on this blog. Here’s one of the most glaring examples; the World Building, today known as The Sun Tower. These days, from this angle, the lower part of the building is hidden by the street trees, but in 1920, when this Vancouver Public Library image was shot, it was clearly visible. The triangular piece of land fronted by Beatty and West Pender was part of the old City Hospital grounds, but the buildings were set further south, with land reserved to allow Pender to continue to Beatty, although the road was never actually built.

Newspaper mogul L B Taylor hired W T Whiteway to design his new office building in 1910, and it was completed in 1912. The Vancouver Daily World was the city’s biggest paper of the day, and the World Building the most prestigious offices, with a claim when completed (published on postcards of the time) of being the tallest building in the British Empire – although the Contract Record only acknowledged it as the tallest in Vancouver. Whiteway was an experienced and busy architect, and he had also received the commission for the warehouse (originally described as a business building) also clearly visible in 1920, next door on Beatty Street for Storey and Campbell, completed in 1911 and built by Snider & Bros for $60,000. G L Sharp, in an interview recorded in the 1970s, claimed that the design of the World Building was actually his, and that he was paid $300 and Whiteway given the design to complete. Another source suggest E S Mitton also collaborated.

L D Taylor had arrived in Vancouver from Ann Arbour in Michigan in 1896, escaping his failed bank and abandoning his wife. He reinvented himself in Vancouver without mentioning many details of his past life – especially the fact that he was wanted by Michigan authorities in connection with the bank failure. Failing to find work in a depressed economy, he tried gold mining in California, then the Yukon, and ended up back in Vancouver in 1898 with 25c in his pocket. He worked at the Province newspaper running their distribution and circulation, and ran successfully for election as a Licence Commissioner in 1902, although he lost in 1903.

In 1905, having persuaded various financial backers to help, he took over the World newspaper, the Province’s rival, and set about boosting its sales. He ran for mayor (coming second) in 1909, and winning in 1910 aged 53, and again a year later. By the start of the Great War there was a new rival paper, the Sun, rising newsprint costs and falling advertising revenue. These caused the World to face a financial crisis. In 1915, Taylor ran and won as mayor again, on the same day a judge ruled that the paper had to be sold to pay its creditors. Taylor lost his paper fortune with the buy-out, and the new owners of the paper abandoned it’s building overnight, although Louis Taylor was no longer associated with the building’s owners, the World Building Company. In 1916 he married the newspaper’s former business manager, Alice Berry, (and a year later got round to divorcing his first wife in California).

Louis Taylor hadn’t personally develop the tower; the World Building Company was initially organized by Taylor, and they planned to spend $375,000 to develop it. On the permit they claimed to be building it themselves, but actually it was Smith and Sherborne, and the final cost was $560,000. It had a “class A steel frame; reinforced concrete floors; materials, stone, brick and terra cotta.” An added detail not shown on the original design were nine barely clad maidens, designed by Charles Marega, who graced the top of the 8th storey pediment. Financing proved difficult, and L D was accused of bending the rules by negotiating with J J Hill’s Great Northern Railway (as Mayor) for their new terminus station while at the same time persuading Hill to loan funds to the World Building Company.

Once the World was out of the building in 1915, it became the Tower Building. A variety of office tenants continued to occupy the building, including architect E E Blackmore. After the war the Pride of The West Knitting Mills were located on the second floor where the newspaper had once been produced. After coming second for three elections in a row, L D Taylor was elected mayor again in 1924, and was re-elected two more times. He lost in 1928, after 2-year terms had been introduced, but won again in 1930, when the Tower Building had become the Bekins Building, owned by Bekins Moving and Storage. Taylor was re-elected mayor again for the last time in 1932, at the age of 74.

The Vancouver Sun was published in the building between 1937 and 1964 and left its name with the tower, so that today it’s still known as ‘The Sun Tower’. It’s still an office building, despite most of the rest of the Beatty Street commercial buildings converting to residential uses.

 

West Georgia and Richards – ne corner

We posted earlier on the first building to be constructed here; St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. It was demolished in 1937, and yet another gas station and car dealership replaced it a few years later. In 1940 the St Andrew’s Wesley Community Centre was demolished on Richards Street (the original Sunday School building) and this location became home to the Georgia Imperial Service Station run by G T Peverley. In 1942 it was renamed as the Georgia and Richards Service station run by J O Betts.

In 1947 a Ford dealership was added, Black Motors, run by George Black. We’re not sure if the service station always had a sales building on Richards, or was remodeled to add the showroom at the back of the site in a matching style. According to their directory entry the dealership sold “Mercury, Lincoln, Meteor and English Ford Passenger Cars; Mercury Trucks”, and were “Wholesale Parts Distributors for All Ford Products.” It was a big operation; there are over 20 employees listed in the 1948 street directory.

In 1948, when our Vancouver Public Library image was taken, Black Motors also had another location; a paint shop on Seymour Street, and in 1949 they added another on the corner of Dunsmuir & Homer. The Ford dealership was competing with Stonehouse Motors across the street who sold GM products. (In 1949 Black Motors provided the Mercury car that ended up on stage at the Strand Theatre as part of a promotion).

By 1953 the Dunsmuir and Homer location (which was on the same block as this location) was the main business address for Black’s Motors. There was a used car lot on Kingsway and another on Main Street for new and used trucks, and this was listed as the service station. 686 Richards, the former parts department was now listed as Black’s Restaurant, with Mrs A M Oliphant as managing director. That situation remained true in 1955, the last year we can see street directories online. Vancouver As It Was has more on the conversion to a restaurant.

In 1974 the current 10 storey BC Turf Building office was completed. Designed by Zoltan Kiss for the Diamond family and built by Dominion Construction, it has recently been remodeled on the main floor to house the Post Office and the Bank of Montreal, both relocating from nearby. Since 2001 Saskatchewan artist Joe Farfad’s sculpture of “Royal Sweet Diamond”, a bull, stood here. The site was bought from Gulf Oil, who last operated the gas station as a British American station, in 1968. Originally the plan was for a 26 storey hotel, but an oversupply of hotel rooms and tight money supply changed the plans. Originally TD Bank were tenants on the ground floor.

George Black Motors Ltd relocated to North Burnaby, and continued operating there in the 1960s and 1970s.

Posted May 14, 2018 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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Homer Street north from West Georgia Street

This modest almost suburban street doesn’t look like the heart of a busy metropolis, but in 1948, it was. The clue that you’re in a city is in the background, where the Hotel Alcazar can be seen on Dunsmuir Street. At the far end of the block on the corner of Dunsmuir was a single storey retail building. The tallest building on this block is a three storey building about two thirds of the way down. 632 Homer Street was built in 1912 as three-storey brick & concrete printing shop by Gustav Roedde, who claimed to have designed and built it himself. He also moved the 1904 house built by F H Donovan on the adjacent lot to the north, presumably to allow construction of his building. There had been a house built on the lot in 1901, designed by Bedford Davidson for Mr. Goldstern. Mr. Roedde was a bookbinder who was born in Germany, worked his way from Cleveland to San Francisco to Victoria, and eventually settled in Vancouver in 1888. He started work at the News Advertiser, was briefly based on West Cordova, and then in 1892 moved to premises on Cambie Street. His building here was renumbered to 616 Homer in 1948, but was still the home of G A Roedde Ltd, printers.

To the south, also in 1901, R M Fripp designed a house for Robert Mee. In 1948 it had been redeveloped (or altered) as a single storey building on the street, home to the BC Journal of Commerce. The two storey building at 622 was the home of Smith Marking Devices, as well as printers Cornell & Burroughs, and as the bus poking from the archway shows, it was also the Greyhound Bus Company depot.

Closer to us is a house that had been built in 1902 by the Church of England as a mission, designed by W T Dalton. The house to the south of the mission, extending forward to the sidewalk by 1948, was built by Fred Melton in 1910. By 1920 it was home to another printing firm, Trythall & Son, run by Wm J, Wm T and E Howard Trythall. The family were living on Nelson Street in 1921, and William and his wife Minnie were both shown aged 50. William had arrived in Canada in 1888, and Minnie in 1909. They had a six-year-old daughter, Marjorie at home, and a governess and lodger. William Trythall, William’s father lived next door, as well as their son Ernest, (known by his middle name, Howard) who was also a printer. They appear to be living with William and Ernest’s sister and her husband, George Peake. Fred Peake worked for Trythall and Son as well, living in the West End. In 1948 It was still a printer’s: J A Kershaw.

The buildings to the north, closer to the camera, predated the turn of the century as owner J H MacNab carried out repairs costing $300 in 1901. Next door to them, to the north, was another house that was built before 1901 (666 Homer) that had repairs carried out in 1915 for the Chinese Trust Co. In 1948 both houses were listed as vacant. The site was probably in process of being acquired for redevelopment. The new General Post Office, which takes up the entire block was completed in 1956. Designed by McCarter and Nairne, it is now a heritage building that will be repurposed as a retail and office project, with new towers above the restored 1950s structure.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Str P256

Posted May 10, 2018 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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Hornby Street – 600 block, west side

In 1981 this block of Hornby had a parkade and an office building – today there’s an office building and a public space with an art gallery. The parkade in part served the Devonshire Hotel that was up on West Georgia Street and would be off to the left hand side of the picture. The office block was the Georgia Medical Dental Building – we’ve seen the back of it in an earlier post. It was designed by McCarter & Nairne, and imploded in 1989. Across Georgia is the third – and current – Hotel Vancouver. On the right hand edge of the picture is the entrance to Gary Taylor’s Show Lounge, Piano bar and restaurant.

The food wasn’t why anybody went to the club. Local music historians record that Gary had started out as a drummer; he was in the CBC house band, The Classics, in the 1960s filmed ‘Let’s Go’, the Vancouver segment of Music Hop, the CBC’s version of American Bandstand.  In the late 1970s and early 80s he was running his club on Hornby Street. The main floor hosted touring international acts in the Rock Room upstairs (including Johnny Thunders, who apparently had to be talked into the country by Gary after showing up at the border in 1981 to play the Rock Room with only his New York library card for identification). Up and coming locals like DoA, The Dishrags and the Pointed Sticks also got to play the room, while downstairs there were strippers.

The club had started on Granville Street, and Gary had run into problems in 1973 when he was charged with presenting an ‘obscene performance’ at his show lounge. In a rather unusual form of defence the five performers who were charged re-enacted the performance at the Show lounge with police, the crown prosecutor and Judge McGivern in attendance – they must have been good as Gary won the case.

The parkade and office building were replaced by Cathedral Place. Opened in 1991, Cathedral Place was developed By the Shon Group, headed by Ronald Shon, through a joint venture with Sir Run Run Shaw of Hong Kong under the company name of Shon Georgia Investments Ltd. The Shaw Group were Hong Kong’s biggest media company; founder and noted philanthropist Sir Run Run Shaw died in 2014 aged 106.

Paul Merrick designed Cathedral Place in a post-modern art deco style, borrowing the roof design from the chateau design of the Hotel Vancouver opposite. The building incorporates casts of the original nurses from the earlier 1930s building, although medical uses are no longer associated with the contemporary building. The office is still owned by Shon Group Realty.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-W05.05

Posted May 7, 2018 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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524 Homer Street

 

From 1925 to 1927 the Canada Garage was at 428 West Pender Street. From before the 1900s to 1925 there were houses on this Homer Street lot, but from 1926 the Pacific Garage run by M Balmer  and R H Lampman was shown here in the street directory. The odd thing is that there’s a photograph in the Archives of this building dated 1925 and showing it as the Canada Garage (seen on the right). One possibility is that the owners of the Canada Garage intended to move, or duplicate their operation on Pender but then thought better of it, and the Pacific Garage was opened here instead.

One of the first owners of the Pacific Garage also didn’t stay around: Murray Balmer wasn’t listed in the city in 1924, or by 1927. He seems to have been born in New Brunswick, and was in Chase before he moved to Vancouver, and died in Princeton in 1951. Robert Lampman however had been repairing cars on Pender Street in 1924, and was still in the city as service manager of Fordyce Motors in 1927, when J O, A P and R L McLean had taken over the garage. A year later N MacRae had taken over the business. In the 1930s the building was also the office and terminal for Maple Leaf Stage Line.

The 1925 permit to demolish the house that stood here was issued to Homer Garage, but the $30,000 construction permit for the garage was to J H Todd & Sons Ltd, with the building being designed by Townley & Matheson. The owners almost certainly built the garage as an investment. J H Todd & Sons were a Victoria-based fishing canning company. Jacob Todd had built his first cannery on the Fraser River in 1882, having run a wholesale grocery business in Victoria. He was originally from Brampton, Upper Canada, of Scottish stock, and had worked his way westwards, operating as an itinerant trader in the Cariboo, and in Barkerville (losing $10,000 including his building and stock when it burned down), before settling down in Victoria. His canneries produced ‘Horseshoe’ brand salmon, and eventually he owned five locations before the business finally amalgamating with B C Packers in the 1950s.

A variety of different owners ran the Pacific Garage: by the 1950s it was N M Crosby, and by the 1970s it had become the Marine Garage. It was still standing in 1981, as can be seen in this earlier post, but was replaced in 1992 by BC Hydro’s new office tower, designed by Musson Cattell Mackey.

Image source City of Vancouver Archives CVA 778-197,  and  CVA 1399-529.

 

Posted May 3, 2018 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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888 Burrard Street

This rather unimpressive structure on Burrard Street will surely be redeveloped one day – although the residential strata from 1983 to the north may add some complexity, unless that’s also redeveloped at the same time. Today there’s a yoga studio upstairs and a Thai restaurant, a diamond store and a pub underneath. In our 1974 picture Denny’s were alongside a realty company, a furniture renatl store, and Hertz car rental, who had a huge rooftop signboard that would never be permitted today.

Before the retail uses this building was an automobile showroom, with Sherwood Motors selling imported Hillman cars. They were here in the early 1950s having replaced McLachlan Motors, who sold cars (Kaiser Fraser cars – an obscure brand that operated from 1946 to 1951), but also farm equipment and Rototiller machinery as well as Firestone tires. By 1950 McLachlan were selling DeSoto cars, as this advert shows – another brand heading for closure in 1960, but part of the Chrysler empire selling mid-line vehicles.

The company had been here since 1938, when Frank Leonard took this picture of the new building, now in the Vancouver Public Library collection. The corner was originally cut away, with the gas pumps underneath the second floor – something else that wouldn’t be permitted today, although it might be the only way that Downtown will have a gas station if it were possible for this arrangement to return in future.

The architects for the garage were E Evans and Son, but the design would have probably been by George Evans, who was running the company. Enoch Evans, the founder died in 1939, and hadn’t been active in the company for several years.

Before the garage was constructed there were four houses here, built in the early 1900s – similar to those visible to the north in the 1938 image.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 778-29

Posted April 30, 2018 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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