The Dawson Building – 375 Main Street

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

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