We’ve dug into the background of Both Ben Springer and Captain James Van Bramer on our Building Vancouver blog. Ben Springer was associated with the Moodyville sawmill after successfully mining in the Cariboo. James Van Bramer was an American, ‘a little man with a beard’ who owned shares in Moody’s first New Westminster mill, owned the tug the ‘Sea Foam’, and later a silver mine. They partnered to build several structures, and this is the one most associated with them (probably their third). It has lost its ornate cornice and Freemason’s insignia, but otherwise it’s pretty good for a building completed in 1888. It was designed by N S Hoffar with 5 stores, second floor offices and the Masonic Temple and Oddfellows’ Hall on the third floor.
By 1901 there were a curious range of tenants including the National Cash Register Co, Kelly Douglas & Co’s wholesale cigar department, George J Dyke’s violin academy and the Victoria Vancouver Transportation Co. A decade later only the cash registers were still there – upstairs had become a rooming house, two rival safe companies Toronto and Vancouver were both represented), and a wholesale jewelers. 1920 saw many of the units vacant, but the Enterprise Engine Agency and the Paris Hat and Frame Co were both in business along with the Pacific Tractor Co and the Commercial Auto Delivery Co. In 1930 it seems to have been called Mercantile Building #2, and now has mostly office tenants but also the Blue Bird Dress Co and Sterling Clothing Manufacturers.