Here’s 1201 Richards Street in about 1900 in a picture held by Library and Archives Canada. The house seems to date back to about 1888, so it was a very early intervention into the recently-cleared forest landscape. Even by 1900, although the sidewalk has been levelled there’s still quite a drop to the street which hasn’t yet been raised. According to the census and the directories of the time, the house was owned by the Fletts. John H Flett worked for the CPR as a machinist, and his wife Isabella ran the house. The CPR moved into their Yaletown yards around then, which is presumably why the family moved there.
It looks as if John and Isabella married in Lanark in Ontario in 1885 when John was 48 and Isabella was 42. She already had a son, Harry who had been born in 1878. In 1900 John Flett, aged 65, died in Vancouver. In the 1901 Census Isabella is the head of the household, and she has three young lodgers (aged 13 and a 15 and 20 year old brother and sister) as well as her son Harry living at home. In the directories Harry is listed as an apprentice with the CPR. In 1911 she’s still there, with three other lodgers, and street directories show her there until 1918. She may well have gone back to Ontario, where she was born, as an Isabella Flett died there in 1924 aged 82.
Tracing the family is complex as there’s another family headed by a different John Flett who ran a hardware merchants in the city for many years, also tracing back to the 1890s. William Stock has moved into 1201 Richards from 1919 to 1922 when the address disappears – suggesting that’s when the house was demolished. The address then switches to 500 Davie Street, and to an industrial use as the Ice Delivery Co make their home there from 1924 onwards, and in the mid 1950s the Domino Refrigeration & Appliance Ltd.
By the 1980s when this Planning Department shot in the City Archives was taken there was a standard two storey commercial building on the site, as there was in much of the Downtown South area. Following the new Downtown Plan of the early 1990s it became much more likely that the site would once again become residential, and in 2003 Bosa Properties completed Rafii Architects design for ‘Eden’, a 25 storey condo project with 177 units.