Archive for January 2012

The Province Building – 140 West Hastings (1)

Here’s 140-142 West Hastings Street, on the same block of the street the Woodwards sits. A number of buildings on this block were built in the late 1890s, and this is one of them. The building has been used as an art gallery for many years, but it started life in 1898 as the offices of the Province Newspaper, Walter Nichol’s Victoria newspaper that moved into Vancouver and eventually took out Francis Carter-Cotton’s rival News-Advertiser in 1924, moving to his smarter offices in the process. In 1926 when this photograph was taken it had become ‘The Arcade’ a retail centre that may have replaced one of the same name that had been built on Hastings at Cambie in 1894 by Harvey Hadden, originally from Nottingham in England. The Arcade took in the main floor of the Stock Exchange Building next door as well, and was almost certainly designed by Townley and Matheson. Later it became the National Furniture Store.


The 1912 image on the right shows the original Province office facade before the retail conversion opened it up. Massive changes have occurred on the block in the past two years – at one time almost everything was abandoned or so run down that it looked like it would be demolished or converted to housing. However, recent demand for character office space and the impact of the Woodwards project have seen clean up and refurbishment of many of the buildings. This building has been for sale for some time, and will undoubtedly see a similar change in the future.

Image source City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1399-546



The Holden Block – 16 East Hastings

The building on the corner of Hastings and Carrall is the Woods Hotel, which we looked at already. The building under construction a little further east is the Holden Building, completed in 1911 (so this must be 1910). Like the Woods, it was designed by W T Whiteway. The developer, William Holden was a real estate developer and broker and the building was expensive, $250,000 for the steel framed structure.

William Holden was born in Stirling, Ontario, in 1872, and moved to Vancouver in 1898. He worked for seven years in insurance, then in 1905 started in real estate. A 1908 Calgary newspaper reported that Mr Holden had given up the job of provincial superintendent of the Federal Life Assurance company, and was making thousands every week out of real estate. He’s described in the heritage description of the Holden Building as ‘the man who built Granville Street” – which isn’t really true, as he dealt in realty there rather than developing. More important was his securing of the necessary False Creek lands that allowed the Great Northern Railway to build their facilities.

In 1911 Holden lived on Barclay Street and had offices in the Jones Block on Homer Street, although in 1913 he gave the Hotel Vancouver as his address. He carried out repairs to the ‘Irwin Hotel’ in 1910 – except there doesn’t seem to be an Irwin Hotel – but there was an Irvine Hotel on East Hastings, which seems a likely candidate. Holden also co-developed and later owned the Pender Hotel on the 600 block of West Pender. He married in 1911 and  transferred the hotel property to his wife, Lillian (also born in Ontario), in 1912 – at which point she was aged 25. Lillian was the daughter of Arthur Buscombe, an English-born merchant (although her mother was from Ontario), and the family had lived in Sault Ste. Marie before arriving in Vancouver. Sadly, she died only ten years later.

The office building was leased to the City Council from 1924 to 1936 as City Hall, with A J Bird making substantial alterations to allow it to operate in this role. In 1988 it was refurbished for residential use, and renamed Tellier Tower, and it retains the role of providing non-market housing today.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Str P414


Posted 29 January 2012 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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Pennsylvania Hotel – 412 Carrall Street

The Woods Hotel – as it was called when it was built in 1906 – sits on the location of the start a trail that ran through the forest to George Blacks’s slaughter house on the edge of False Creek. (His butchers shop, built on piles over the beach, was on Water Street)  That was in the early 1870s. By 1890 the street directory shows a tobacconist, the offices of W A Cumyow, and the store of Zebulon Franks, a Jewish immigrant who ran a general store.  By 1901 there were five Chinese owned shops (including Tai Chong & Co, merchants,  and Yee Ah and Yick Lung Jin, both tailors). By 1905 some of the businesses had changed, including a barber and butchers, but they were still Chinese. And then in 1906 John Woods and his wife Eliza commissioned the Woods Hotel, designed by W T Whiteway.

The Woods family had lived in Vancouver from at least 1899, living on Hastings Street, and John’s occupation was hotel keeper – although it isn’t clear which one. John (like George Byrnes, who built the Alhambra Hotel) was Australian by birth but had moved to Canada aged four. In 1901 they had a 7 year old daughter, Ermine, John’s brother William and a male domestic servant, James Wishart in the household.

The hotel was well positioned for the BC Electric and the Great Northern train station at Pender and Carrall which opened in 1910, so it catered to travellers rather than residents, describing itself on opening as “Newest and only Modern hotel in B C”. It charged between $2 and $3 a night on American Plan, and the proprietors were Woods, Williams and Woods. Dr Sun Yat Sen stayed at the hotel during at least one of his visits to Vancouver. John doesn’t seem to have been associated with the hotel too long – the family have disappeared from the 1911 census, although Mrs J S Woods is still living on Hastings in 1911 and William Woods is running the hotel – so presumably John died.

In 1927 when the photograph was taken the hotel was still holding its own, but over time as the building aged it became more run down. The corner turret was lost; the travellers became residents, the name was changed several times, eventually being closed as the Portland Hotel when a New Portland Hotel opened on Hastings. Then in 2008 a $12m refurbishment saw the hotel reopen for low income residents, but in a totally restored building rechristened with an earlier name, the Pennsylvania, and a fabulous reproduction neon sign to complete the transformation.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-3895


Posted 28 January 2012 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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The Wilson Block – 929 Granville Street

Although Parr and Fee had most of Granville Street’s design work sewn up, it wasn’t a complete monopoly. C H Wilson commissioned Dalton and Eveleigh to design a warehouse that he then built in 1910 for $75,000. Crowe and Wilson (the same Wilson) had built a single storey building to the left of the warehouse in 1904, which they designed themselves.  The 1910 warehouse is the right hand building in the picture – if you look closely you can see that the left hand set of four windows are slightly different from the right hand six. W T Dalton had designed many buildings developed by Crowe and Wilson over the previous decade. Quite a few years later – but by 1927 – the second part of the building was added to the south – (a single storey building was given a permit for the site next to the Wilson Block in 1921 to owner W W Monbeleous).

Charles H Wilson had arrived in Vancouver three weeks after the fire in 1886 from Ontario and rapidly joined the real estate boom as both a contractor and real estate broker. He was successful enough to have an area called Wilson Heights named after him (and 41st Avenue was Wilson Avenue for a while). He was elected Alderman from 1902 to 1905.


Initially furniture companies occupied the premises; in 1916 it was Standard Furniture, joined in 1917 by F Buscombe and company, the china and glass company founded by Fred Buscombe, and at this point in the company’s history run by his brother, George. Fred developed a number of significant buildings in the city, but we think here the company was a tenant.

In the 1920s the Manufacturers’ Association of British Columbia used the larger building as a showcase for BC produced goods – which suggests a somewhat more important role for this part of town than would be the case today. The building had the rather misleading slogan ‘B. C. Art Gallery’ painted on. By 1939 when this picture was taken William Worrall’s furniture emporium had taken over the building and advertised their 42,000 of space over five floors. William was an Englishman who arrived in the city in 1911 and by 1924 was an auctioneer on Pender Street. In 1926 his furniture store could be found at 1058 Granville.

In 1989 Perkins and Cheung designed the substantial renovations for Tom Lee Music, a company who opened their first store in Hong Kong in 1953. The small single storey building to the left of the warehouse also dates back to 1910 and was designed by A J Bird for J R Reid. The building to the right is the Vermilyea Block.


West Hastings and Richards – nw corner


Here’s the north west corner of Hastings and Richards, up the hill from Cordova. Today it’s the library of the SFU Harbour Centre at main floor level, and offices and meeting spaces above, behind the facade of McCarter and Nairne’s 1926 building for David Spencer’s department store.

Back in 1907 when this Vancouver Public Library image was taken it was one of C O Wickenden’s rustic stone faced buildings from the first boom in city-building – in this case the Bank of British North America, an established Canadian institution from 1835. The Bank, having confirmed that Vancouver really was a serious opportunity for business and not just an overnight railway town, built their new building in 1892 between the CPR station and the more established Gastown. In 1908 Wickenden designed an extension to the building.

In 1918 the Bank of Montreal took over operations, and continued in the building until 1925 when David Spencer’s new store was built. A Welshman, who had operated a store in Victoria from 1873 (and before that a private library), Spencer expanded his operations in Victoria and later Nanaimo. Spencer himself give up control of the company to his five sons, who quickly moved to establish a store in Vancouver in 1905 and a significant expansion in 1907.

The company continued to grow, taking over the Standard Furniture Company and their premises in 1911 to create a store that equalled or exceeded Woodwards.  David Spencer died in 1920, but his name lived on in the even grander new 1926 store. Eaton’s took over Spencers in 1948, and then moved on to Granville Street in 1972, leaving the building to be incorporated into the Harbour Centre redevelopment by Webb Zerafa Menkes Housden including a Simpsons-Sears store which closed in 1987 and the arrival of SFU’s Downtown campus in 1989.


The Glasgow Hotel – 503 Main Street

If the street directories are to believed, the Glasgow Hotel started life as 301 Westminster Avenue and ended it as 503 Main Street only 24 years later. It wasn’t moved – it’s just that the street was both renamed and renumbered in the intervening period (as was the cross street, from Dupont to East Pender).

There’s nothing really remarkable about the Glasgow – it doesn’t feature in any contemporary historical material, but it was a substantial building that was redeveloped in relatively short order. A building for this location was designed by Mallandaine and Sansom for a real estate broker called Frank Granville, who had an office on Cordova Street and lived about a block away on Gore Street. While a ‘Granville Block’ was reported in 1899 in the Daily World, no building of that name shows up subsequently.

Instead the water permit for the Glasgow Hotel was taken out by M Costello in May 1889 (two years before the photo was taken). This would be Michael Costello, a former Union soldier in the American Civil War who had built the Eagle Hotel a little further south by the False Creek Bridge in 1886. Mr Costello would later own the Victoria, the Central and the Commercial hotels, and in 1889 and 1890 was elected Alderman. The choice of hotel name seems odd given the developer was Irish and the name of the subsequent proprietor in 1890 – Fritz Schneider – who had last been working as a chef at the Hotel Vancouver.

Although it called itself a hotel, like many such establishments it had many residents, and by the end of its life (in 1913) it was called the Glasgow Furnished Rooms. A permit was approved in 1908 to add 60 rooms, designed by Robert MacDonald, but we’re not certain they were ever built. If they were, it wasn’t for long as in 1915 the Canadian Bank of Commerce replaced the hotel by completing their imposing new branch designed by their Scottish-born architect, V D Horsburgh (based in Toronto), at a cost of $100,000. Local architect W F Gardiner supervised the construction by Baynes and Horie which followed Mr Horsburgh’s preference for columns – ideally as big as it was possible for columns to get. His Edmonton bank has a traditional Greek Temple facade held up by four massive columns, and his Nanaimo branch four even bigger columns in a shallow curve. In Vancouver the columns are also huge, but grouped on either side of the entrance (and hollow). And so it still stands, and is still a bank for the same owners nearly a century later.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Hot P84


Granville Street – 1000 Block (2)

Just as furniture stores seem to end up clustering today on the south end of the Granville Bridge, in the 1920s you could find them on Granville on the other end of the bridge. We’ve looked at this block once already. William Worrall was an Englishman who arrived in the city in 1911 and by 1924 was an auctioneer on Pender Street. In 1926 (when this VPL image was taken) he had established a furniture store that could be found at 1058 Granville Street in a 1910 Parr and Fee designed building. Mr Worrall was already doing well – he was living in Shaughnessy Heights. By 1938 the store had moved to the 900 block into the building now occupied by Tom Lee Music.

When the Lion’s Gate Bridge opened Mr Worrall took a full page advertisement in the north shore newspapers pointing out his store was now only 12 minutes away and offered 42,000 sq ft of modern and period furniture on 5 floors. His store was more modest in 1926, as the Princess Rooms were upstairs.

Down the street you can see another furniture store, the Standard Furniture Co whose earlier location was in Gastown on Hastings Street. They occupied one of the few buildings on Granville Street not built by Parr and Fee, in this case a 1913 building for James Borland by Braunton and Leibert. These days the Vogue Hotel and Helmcken House (as they are now known) both have non- market housing on the upper floors.


Vermilyea Block No. 1 – 927 Granville Street

Built in 1889, this is one of the oldest buildings on Granville Street. It was designed by William Blackmore for John Vermilyea, who had moved from Ontario to farm on Lulu Island (the main island of Richmond). He was one of the few Quakers in the city at the time (and the only one on Lulu Island, where he led a service every Sunday). He mortgaged the farm, built two buildings on Granville Street, and waited for the city to grow in his direction. But by 1901 there was still 100 feet of vacant land on either side – and nothing across the street – his idea was good but his timing wasn’t, and he lost the farm in 1896 when he couldn’t keep up with his mortgage payments. He had arrived from Ontario with his family including his son, Walter, who was living in this building in 1894 when his middle daughter, Ada, was born, and was still there in 1896 when her sister Frances was born.

For a while in the early 1900s this was the Leland Hotel, run briefly by George Fortin. The name was associated with a West Hastings establishment, but that was an early wooden building, and town down in less than 30 years.

By 1925, as the photograph shows, Bert Love had become the tenant of the store, running Love’s Cafe until 1942 when his sons took over as Love’s Skillet. Upstairs was residential. Back in the 1890s, as well as Walter Vermilyea the tenants included Mrs Sam Greer. Presumably Sam was away – he was locked up for shooting a constable when he was being evicted from the 160 acres he had bought (including Kitsilano Beach), but which he was kicked off without compensation (but not without as fight – including 3 court cases that he won while failing to get either title or compensation).

These days the building still looks good, housing a bar, sports goods store and upstairs a dance studio as well – a conversion from housing back in 1975.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-3050


West Georgia and Seymour – se corner (1)

We haven’t been able to identify the architect or builder (probably the same person) of these six rental houses, lined up on Georgia Street. We know when they were built because the 1901 Fire Insurance Map says “newly completed dwellings”, and the image must be very soon after that as the street is still being leveled. (Major Matthews noted this as maybe 1890, but that’s too early). The 1901 City Directory identified their residents as including an undertaker, next door was Mrs Cornelia Van Horne, widow, G B Jones, a traveller, and Mrs McGregor, a seamstress. (Mrs Van Horne was the widow of Paul Van Horne, and was born in Hillier, Ontario).

By 1903 they’d all moved on, replaced by new tenants including Thomas Summers, chief engineer (at the Hastings saw mill) and R A Leonard, a cannery manager. There’s a church just on the edge of the picture: that’s William Blackmore’s First Congregational Church which was completed in 1889, and didn’t last long as by 1912 the congregation had moved to the corner of Thurlow and Pendrell. In 1915 jeweler George Trorey owned these buildings as he paid for ‘repairs to tenements’ here that year.

McCarter, Nairne and Partners designed the 1975 section of the Telus building, with the sunken plaza and White Spot restaurant either, but that probably doesn’t matter as it will be dramatically changing, starting in a few weeks time, as the massive office expansion of Telus Gardens will replace the low rise element and finally cover the mostly blank flank wall. There’s a 46 storey residential tower as part of the project, but that’s located south on Robson Street.

Image source City of Vancouver Archives LGN 482


Posted 20 January 2012 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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The Dawson Building – 375 Main Street (1)

Judging from the building permit record, George Dawson owned a fair amount of property in the East End of Vancouver. The one major structure we know he commissioned was the block named after him at Main and East Hastings. It seems like a huge building in the context of three storey buildings to the east – and that was just as true when it was completed in 1911 at a cost of $180,000. The ‘architect’ of record was its builder, Bedford Davidson. George Dawson was born in New Brunswick, and it looks like an obvious connection could be suggested as ‘Building the West’ says Bedford Davidson was born in Tidnish, New Brunswick. Sadly, the connection breaks down when the 1901 and 1911 Census returns are checked – in both entries Bedford Davidson was born in Nova Scotia (although he does age from 25 to 39 in 10 years).

Davidson built a number of other substantial structures in the city, and eventually got into trouble for calling himself an architect without being a member of the AIBC. A comprehensive review of Vancouver’s early buildings suggested the architects were Gardiner and Mercer, which given the scale of the project might be true as it seems a bit ambitious for a builder to attempt. Since 1985 the building, now called The Ford Building, has offered affordable housing in 76 units. (Oh, and spot the lineman dangling in the 1920 picture).

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 371-809