Archive for December 2011

Horne Block – Cambie Street

James W Horne was a successful land speculator (he founded the Manitoba city of Brandon) who developed a number of buildings in Vancouver, including this 1890 development designed by N S Hoffar at 325 Cambie Street. The block is unusual in having two retail floors behind the cast iron facade, with stairs up and down from the sidewalk.

Among several significant tenants were the Bank of North America (1892), Rand Bros. Real Estate (1896) and G.A. Roedde, bookbinder (1896). In addition, Atlen H. Towle, architect of the First Presbyterian Church (1894) at East Hastings and Gore Avenue, had premises here. Between 1910 and 1925, several publishing and lithography firms had their offices here, no doubt due to the proximity of the Province and Sun newspaper buildings. These days Danny’s Inn has 18 Single Room Occupancy tenants, while the retail space continues to be used on both floors.

Image Source: BC Archives



Posted 31 December 2011 by ChangingCity in Gastown, Still Standing

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West Hastings and Granville – sw corner

These days the corner of Granville and Hastings has the United Kingdom Building which has sat there for over 50 years. Built in 1957 it was designed by Douglas Simpson who previously practiced with Hal Semmens for about 10 years, producing a significant set of quality modernist residential and commercial buildings, especially in the West End and Downtown, including the Main Library in 1957 (just coming to the end of it’s more recent reincarnation as a music superstore).

For over 60 years before that the MacKinnon Building (later known as the Williams Building) occupied the same spot. Designed by W T Dalton for J M MacKinnon, a land and timber broker who had arrived from Scotland in 1885 aged 22 and only 12 years later built the 5-storey stone-faced building, seen here in 1928.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Bu P646.1


Dunsmuir and Granville – se corner

Here’s the south-east corner of Granville and Dunsmuir, which today has a restaurant behind the preserved heritage facade of the former BC Electric Showroom. It was designed by Hodgson and Simmons and completed in 1928 for BC Electric who used the building as a showcase for modern domestic electrical appliances. The design is an interesting combination of modern box, with the windows forming the main attraction, but at the same time includes classical details like the ornate bronze window surrounds and the second floor balconies.  Architectura, who became Stantec Architecture, supervised the 2006 restoration.

The photograph on the left shows the same corner in 1927 – so the new building didn’t replace a one-storey retail kiosk, but a substantial building in its own right. The Browning Block, built by J M Browning was designed by G W Grant and completed in 1894. Browning was on City Council in 1890 with David Oppenheimer as Mayor. He was CPR land commissioner, was described as ‘very Scotch’, and built a house in 1888 where the Royal Centre sits today.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Bu P634


British Canadian Securities Building – 402 West Pender

These day the building is just known by its address, 402 West Pender, and it’s almost exactly as built a century ago, and as seen in this 1918 Vancouver Public Library image. It was completed in 1912 by British Canadian Securities Limited, a successful land investment company (and a subsidiary of the Dominion Trust Company). It was designed by H S Griffith, an English-born architect whose practice was based in Victoria. It’s a sophisticated Chicago influenced building, with a contemporary structural design and classical details. The base is stone, the top is terra cotta, and in between the walls are brick. It’s a reinforced concrete frame, built by Norton-Griffiths Steel Construction Company at a cost of $299,000.

An interesting court case from 1917 offers some insight into how projects like this were funded. BC Securities obtained mortgage financing from the Mutual Life Assurance Company, secured by the building itself. After the completion of the building the Dominion Trust Company became tenants for one year, and at the expiration of the lease, bought the building. They then went bankrupt, and the Insurance Company went after them for the building and the safety deposit boxes in the vault. To cut a long set of arguments short, the judge ruled that the 2,800 boxes installed by BC Securities were part of the building, so the Insurance Company got them. But over 300 boxes installed by Dominion Trust a year or so later, placed on top of the rubber floor (which covered the vault’s steel floor) were the property of Dominion Trust, so the insurance company couldn’t have them. Despite this the building was still called the Dominion Trust Building. Today it continues to offer office space in what is now a heritage building.


Rainier Hotel – Carrall and West Cordova

“Go with the crowd – a warm welcome always awaits you at the Rainier Hotel. Where all the Oldtimers meet and strangers feel at home. Look for the Big Friendly Neon Sign”. The 1936 advertising slogan came true again in 2010 with a new Big Friendly Neon Sign, financially supported by the City of Vancouver, being installed on one of the Single Room Occupancy Hotels (in this case for women) purchased and rehabbed by BC Housing, the provincial housing agency.

The Rainier, at the corner of Carrall and Cordova, dates back to 1907 and was designed by Emil Guenther for John Quann, who also owned the Rose Theatre on Hastings Street, and the Balmoral Hotel that was demolished to make way for the Rainier. In 1920 when this image was taken the Hotel was owned by Jack West and the Rainier ran a taxicab fleet and had a cafe, barbers shop and billiard room.  The recent refurb supervised by architect Barry McGinn saw eight layers of paint removed from the brickwork, repointing of the walls and construction of 170 feet of recreated shopfronts.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-1387


Posted 29 December 2011 by ChangingCity in Gastown, Still Standing

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Alexandra Hotel – Water Street

We’re in Maple Tree Square, in Gastown, in 1907 – and in 2011 there’s Gassy Jack’s statue, but in 1907 there’s a spiffy new $45,000 hotel, the Alexandra. Parr and Fee designed it the year before, and it replaced a building less than 20 years old, the Sunnyside Hotel. The Sunnyside was one of the first buildings in Granville – built in 1875 before the town was renamed as Vancouver – and it sat on the water side of Water Street, so mostly on piles over the beach. It was right opposite (Gassy) Jack Deighton’s hostelry.

The original hotel burned with the rest of the city in 1886, but a new structure was quickly built to replace it and given the old name. It’s still listed in 1906, but in 1907 it’s replaced by the ‘Alexandria’ – corrected to Alexandra in subsequent years. Just 11 years later that’s gone too; in 1917 it’s still there – In 1918 the 2-storey extension to the 1911 Swift Meat Packing Company was built.

There’s no record of who designed it, but the 1911 4-storey (later 5-storey) structure to the west was designed by Swift Canadian Co and there’s no reason to suppose they needed anyone else to help design a 2-storey brick-faced box extension. (They obtained a permit in 1912, when it was going to cost $26,000 to build, but seem to have sat on it through the war years). More recently it’s been a restaurant and a furniture store, and is now awaiting a new tenant, but it’s a smaller and meaner building than the hotel that lasted only a few years on the site.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 677-577


Boulder Hotel – 1 West Cordova (1)

The Boulder Hotel is the building that was until recently home to Boneta restaurant. As the 1901 photograph shows, it started life as a 2-storey building in 1890, and later grew another at some point before 1920 and after 1907. The latest picture of a 2-storey version is dated 1907, and it appears in the background of a 1920 picture. It was designed by the Fripp Brothers (Robert and Charles) for American tunnel builder turned real estate mogul A G Ferguson. Unusually for the time it’s a stone masonry construction (on the front) with plain sash windows – it’s faced with sandstone over a granite foundation. We thought for a while that, unusually for Mr Ferguson, it wasn’t called the Ferguson Block (while almost everything else he commissioned apparently was). Then we noticed that on the 1901 Insurance Map it is indeed called the Ferguson Block – Mr Ferguson was nothing if not consistent.

It sits on the corner of Carrall and Cordova, which was one of the prime spots in the early city, and is on the spot Angus Fraser had his house (Fraser was one of the earlier and more successful loggers in the area). Frank Hart, one of the pioneers of the city in a 1934 conversation recalled “There were very high ceilings in the Boulder. They had a fad for high ceilings then, the higher the ceiling the fancier the store; they had a fad for, well, sixteen feet ceilings were common.” 

A 1908 ‘Vancouver Illustrated’ article references the demand for skilled contractors, specifically “David Gibb & Son, whose office is at 1259 Robson street. Mr. Gibb, senior, left Glasgow, Scotland, in 1879, and after spending ten years in New York and Chicago, became a resident of this city in August, 1889. Since that date he has been actively engaged in cut stone contracting”. The Boulder is listed as his, along with Christ church and the Commercial Hotel. The building is getting a makeover at present – plans for a more elaborate addition didn’t pencil out as a logical choice, so the building will probably retain it’s current height.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA LGN 718


Posted 28 December 2011 by ChangingCity in Gastown, Still Standing

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Seymour Street – 500 block east side (1)

Three buildings on the top end of Seymour Street, just below Dunsmuir, seen here in 1926 in this Vancouver Public Library image. On the left is a Braunton and Leibert designed building built by Hoburg Surges Co for Standard Trust & Industrial for $50,000 in 1913. It’s a wonderfully complex terra-cotta facade that has seen better days, but was preserved when the rest of the building was refitted for Sam the Record Man. Next door is the Arts and Crafts Building. As can be seen, it was built in two stages.

The first phase was designed by Thomas Hooper for Evans and Hastings (who were printers), and constructed by Norton Griffiths Steel at a cost of $45,000 in 1911. In 1927 R T Perry was hired to add another three storeys, which he achieved without dramatically altering the building’s style.  The architect of the 1920 Railway Club building (in 1926 occupied by George H Hewitt & Co) is still a mystery, but the developer was H A Jones, probably using a mortgage from Viggo Laursen.


West Cordova from Abbott (1)

We’re looking west up West Cordova Street from the junction with Abbott in this 1889 Vancouver Public Library image. Somebody at the studio of Bailey and Neelands took the photograph – both the Bailey and Neelands families moved west from the same small area of rural Ontario that a number of other successful Vancouver pioneers came from. The only building in common in both pictures is right at the end of the street and almost out of sight. That’s the Arlington Block, developed by Dr. James Whetham in 1888, almost certainly using N S Hoffar as the architect. The pink building is the Panama Block, built in 1913. The block on the left is G W Grant’s first known project in Vancouver “commercial block for W B Wilson, 1887”. It was illustrated in an 1887 promotional publication “Vancouver – Pacific Coast Terminus of the CPR”.

There are several businesses that will be very successful on this side of the street including G E Trorey, whose business was later bought by Birks jewellers. (When Birks took over they also got the clock Trorey bought in Boston for $2,000 in 1905. When they moved their business to its new location they also moved the clock, which became the Birks Clock). Johnston and Kerfoot are there, who outfit many Klondike excursions in years to follow, and McClennan and McFeely, who will grow a trading empire in the city. Bailey Brothers, the photographers, are based about half way up the street, just before Kurtz and Co’s cigar factory. On the right is the Cosmopolitan Hotel, the Savoy Theatre (designed by William Blackmore), a Chinese company, Kwong Hang Chung Co (showing they weren’t all confined to Chinatown) and Rae’s Boot and Shoe Co, among others.

In between the two photographs Woodwards took over the entire south side of the street, and these days it’s the base of the 43-storey Woodwards W tower by Henriquez Partners with a mix of condo and non-market housing above retail, including Nester’s Market. Most of the right side is Henriquez’s redesigned Gastown Parkade, but the Cook Block from 1901 and the 1911 Runkle Block designed by G L T Sharp are both still standing.


Beatty Street – 500 block (1)

We’re on the 500 block of Beatty Street in 1927, looking north to the World Building which is now covered in the advertising for the Bekins moving and storage company. There are a series of warehouses coming up the hill, ending with one designed by Parr and Fee for Robertson-Godson in 1909. That building was removed to make way for the SkyTrain station and public plaza and steps down to International Village, but the rest are still there, often with alterations.

These days the bottom of the hill has the Sun Tower (as it’s been known since the Sun newspaper moved in in 1937). The steel dome is painted to look like copper, and although W T Whiteway gets the architectural credit it was suggested by G L Sharp that he actually drew the initial design. Storey and Campbell’s 1911 warehouse also designed by Whiteway is next up the hill, converted to apartments in 1996. The Bowman Lofts were converted in 2006 and the Crane Building next door two years later. Both have extra new-build floors added on top as part of the residential conversion. The Bowman building was built in 1906, added to in 1913 and then rebuilt to Townley and Matheson’s designs in 1944, while the Crane building had Somervell & Putnam as architects and cost over $120,000 in 1911.

At 548 Beatty Bruno Freschi took a 1904 warehouse and radically reinterpreted it in 1983 by pushing the front wall back leaving a front windowless screen as balconies. 560 Beatty (today, but 576 when built) dates back to 1909, when it was built by J M McLuckie for Fred Buscombe, at a cost of $35,000. Next door at 564 Beatty the original architect is also a mystery up to the top of the first floor. It was built in 1907 by Jonathan Rogers, but in 1912 J P Matheson added two more floors for new owner R A Welsh. This view has changed with a four storey addition by IBI/HB being built, with new windows replacing the never-meant-to-be-seen side of the building, and a cafe added to the plaza.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Str N165