Here’s another building on the block where the new Woodwards project sits today. This is on the Cordova side, and back in 1889 when the photograph was taken Mr Kurtz sold his cigars here. In 1887 Mr Kurtz had his Pioneer cigar manufactory on Westminster Avenue (Main Street today) and in 1888 he was shown at the corner of Water and Abbott at #4 Abbott, but by 1890 his business has moved to Cordova. The other businesses were A. Godfrey and Company Hardware and Davidson Brothers Jewellers. Because they were the tenants, we can tell from an 1889 Daily World article who developed the site: “in process of construction on Cordova Street reference may first be made to Robert Grant’s block which is fast nearing completion. This fills up a large gap and when quite completed will be a very handsome building. It will be occupied by A Godfrey & Co and Messrs Davidson Bros on the ground floor and divided into offices and rooms above.”
John Kurtz was an American, born in Pennsylvania in 1831 who had followed the stories of gold from San Francisco to Yale around 1858. In San Francisco he’d been well off “He was dressed in the height of fashion and was one of the leaders of society there-a club member, a poet, a noted wit a contributor to the press, and one of the most popular and amiable young fellows in that big city”
In Yale he was in business, owning interests in several mines, and along with other local businessmen operated a sternwheeler steamer to break the monopoly of high freight fees. (The owners included Hugh Nelson, who for a time part owned Moody’s Mill in Burrard Inlet). Kurtz also knew the Oppenheimer family – he was a partner with them in a coal syndicate in 1883. In 1878 he established The Pioneer White Labor Cigar Company, based in Victoria, and it would seem a Vancouver operation as well.
Kurtz died in 1891, although Kurtz & Co remained in business. In later years Woodward’s expansion swallowed up the site, and this was where their gas station was located. Now it’s the pointed end of the 43-storey W Tower of the Henriquez Partners designed Woodwards complex.