Archive for January 2012

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.

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.

We haven’t been able to find the architect of 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 January 20, 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


Burrard Street – 1200 block, north side (1)

Here’s one of the more dramatic changed views that we’ve featured. The only thing that looks as if they’re still standing in both photographs are the street trees. In 1914 Burrard Street was barely paved (it didn’t lead to a bridge, so it wasn’t a major through route). On the right is a $18,000 ‘brick veneered’ apartment, Burrard Court, built and owned by R Y Blackhall and designed by R V Pushaw in 1911. Mr Pushaw seems to have also been a builder, but only has a handful of buildings to his credit.

The rest of the block consists of houses – relatively inexpensive ($1,000) frame dwellings built speculatively around 1902 and 1903 by (among others) J B Cawthron and A M Sharpe. You can see the homes of Reginald Marshall, George Forrest, William A Campbell, Arthur Valentine and Mrs Mary Roddick in the picture. The times were more turbulent than the picture suggests. Mrs Roddick was living with her son George and husband John in the house in 1911, but John had left by 1914 (perhaps for the war?) and George had a job with a Tire and Rubber company – aged only 15.

Further down the hill is the Winnitola Nursing Home. Today you can see the Milano (By Paul Merrick Architects), the Ellington, Carlton Court and Crystallis by Roger Hughes and Partners. And today’s picture will change soon too – a 17-storey tower designed by IBI/HB to be called ‘Modern’ has been approved to be slotted onto Burrard where the small beige Commercial Electronics store can be seen. We’re not going to list the nearly 500 people who now own or rent homes in this view. Traffic is a bit busier as well.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA LGN 1230


Posted January 18, 2012 by ChangingCity in Gone, West End

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Hastings Street Court House (1)

The first Court House at Hastings and Cambie Street was built in 1890, designed by T C Sorby. It sat on an almost triangular lot where the two different grids of the city met – the midway point between the Canadian Pacific’s new city area to the west and the older Gastown to the east. As the city grew rapidly, and criminal activity along with it, the Court House needed and got a significant makeover. Popular and flamboyant (in architectural terms) N S Hoffar was hired to add a classical addition more than double the size whose dome and temple facade made it a grand, but controversial building (at least among the established British born architects). Completed in 1893 it stayed in use only until 1911, so this 1906 image shows it towards the end of its use.

In 1907 a new Court House was started at Georgia Street, designed by Francis Rattenbury – and like this one, that too immediately had to be enlarged by Thomas Hooper. The new building opened in 1911 and the one shown here was torn down. At the end of the Great War the location became the home for the Cenotaph, designed by G L Thornton Sharp, architect and park commissioner. It has been reworked since then, but still offers a welcome green space surrounded by significant buildings that pre-date the creation of the park, including the Dominion Building, the Flack Block and the Province Building.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Bu P524


Posted January 17, 2012 by ChangingCity in Gone, Victory Square

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Carter Cotton Building – 198 West Hastings

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Hotel Europe (1)

The Hotel Europe is one of the city’s most identifiable, and appreciated, buildings. It is undoubtedly the best flatiron building in the city, taking advantage of the meeting of two streets meeting at a sharp angle to create a building with a beautifully curved prow. The man who commissioned the building was hotelier Angelo Calori, who arrived from Italy in Victoria in 1882, and settled in Vancouver in 1886. The building in this postcard image from around 1909, (the year it was completed), is an addition to the original hotel which lies to the east – and is bigger than the first hotel which dates back to 1889 (which Calori owned from at least 1902).

Designed by Parr and Fee (probably Vancouver’s most prolific architects), it displays almost none of their trademark design elements. Instead it borrows from Daniel Burnham’s Flatiron Building in Manhattan, completed in 1902. This is particularly true in the twin column window design on the ‘point’ of the building. It was built by the Ferro-Concrete Construction Company who were brought in from Cincinnati. They had built the first tall reinforced concrete building in 1902, and the hotel is among the first reinforced concrete buildings in the city (and possibly the oldest). There is an earlier design suggest an even more dramatic building – two storeys higher and with a rash of bay windows. The current version is probably more elegant, and practical from a maintainance perspective. It’s quite a bit bigger than the first idea; in 1905 it was reported that “A. Calori, proprietor of the Europe Hotel, has purchased the five fractional lots which comprise the gore at the junction of Powell and Alexander streets and having a frontage of 125 feet on each of the streets mentioned. Mr. Calori intends building on the property a large four-storey tourist hotel, containing elevators and modern equipment.”

Calori developed houses in the East End not long after his arrival in the city and also appears to have owned the Princess Theatre on East Hastings Street in 1910. These days the hotel and its older ‘annex’ provides 84 units of non-market housing.


Posted January 15, 2012 by ChangingCity in Gastown, Still Standing

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