Archive for April 2012

936 Cardero Street

Here’s something of a mystery. In 1968 this Cardero Street house was a little the worse for wear, but that wasn’t surprising as it had been standing on this spot since 1904. According to the building permit it was designed and built by C W Thomas for C W Thomas. The mystery is who C W Thomas was. There are plenty of Thomas’s in the city, but none with the initials C W, and none with the initial C who could build a house this expensive (over $2,000 at the time). C W Thomas didn’t own, build or design anything except this one building, and there are no C W Thomas’s in the city directory around this date, (or in New Westminster), or in British Columbia before or after in the census.

The only C W Thomas we can find as an architect around this time had been in partnership with Gilbert Davies since 1896. The only problem is that he was in Shanghai, where he helped design the Astor House Hotel on the Bund – “the finest hotel in the Far East”. It seems far fetched that he would design and build a house in the west End – but perhaps he did.

Our image is from the 1968 listing, which offered it for sale for $33,000 as either a family home or for conversion to rooms, but also noted the possibility of a future assembly in the ‘prime apartment area’. And that’s what happened eventually – in 1980 three quarters of the block along Barclay Street was redeveloped, including all the Cardero Street frontage. A condo building designed by Raymond Y Ching and Associates was built, but it wasn’t sold off. Rather it offered rentals, including eight small townhouses on Cardero Street, seen here in Maurice Jassak’s image. Then in 2008 the whole complex was renovated and sold off as strata homes as ‘The Barclay’, including the townhouses along Cardero.



Carnegie Library and City Hall

As we noted in the YMCA Building post, by the late 1890s the city was in need of a library – a real library rather than a room in another building. American steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie (his family moved from Sctoland when he was 13) was funding libraries all over North America, and Vancouver was viewed favourably for an investment in literature. (There were 125 Carnegie Libraries in Canada, almost all in Ontario, but Victoria and New Westminster got one too). G W Grant was hired to design the building, which was most definitely outside the CPR part of town, on the south-west corner of Westminster (Main) and Hastings. Carnegie donated $50,000 on the basis that the City would donate a site and spend $5,000 a year on running the library.

Work started in 1902 and nearly two years later the library opened. It was located next door to the new City Hall. An earlier City Hall was located at Powell Street in 1888. In 1898 the City moved to the building you can see to the south of the library. It was originally erected in 1889 as a market hall designed by Sansom and Dawson (although oddly it has been attributed to C O Wickenden). It was built of Bowen Island bricks where Mayor David Oppenheimer had a financial interest in the brickworks. Unfortunately the clay, or the firing, wasn’t the finest, and Wickenden had to hastily change the design to add two buttressing towers to make sure the building stayed up.

In 1929 with the amalgamation of two other cities into Vancouver larger premises were needed and Council decamped to the Holden Building, an existing office also altered to become City Hall.

The Library stayed until the early 1950s, taking over the former City Hall as an Annex. After the Library moved to their new building on Burrard Street the Museum used the Carnegie building, and the old City Hall was demolished in 1958. After threats of demolition the renovated Carnegie Centre opened as a social service centre for the Downtown Eastside in 1980, incorporating a branch library and with a subtle addition designed by Downs Archambault to the south.

Image source: Library and Archives Canada


YMCA – 149 West Hastings Street

The YMCA was active in Vancouver early in the new city’s life. The newspaper records suggest their new premises on West Hastings Street were completed in 1893, to designs by Thomas Hooper. However photographs, like this Vancouver Archives image and the BC Archives picture below are dated 1890 – so perhaps it wasn’t completely finished for a while.

A city library started initially in the Hastings Mill and later moved around as it grew. In January 1894, the Free Reading Room and Library leased a 46×46 foot room in the new YMCA Building for use as a new library.

By the late 1890s it was already overcrowded, and in 1901 the City Council approached Andrew Carnegie about funding a new library, which he duly agreed to, helping fund the building that today is the Carnegie Centre (and still a branch of the City Library).

The YMCA building itself didn’t last a lot longer. Around 1909 it was replaced by the Astor Hotel. We hadn’t realised until we posted here that the Astor took the 1890 building and remodelled it for hotel use.

These days it’s part of the Woodwards development where SFU operate their Arts Faculty, designed by Henriquez Partners.

Image Sources: City of Vancouver Archives YMCA Building  CVA BuP118, BC Archives F-07610


Posted 27 April 2012 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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137 West Pender Street

This building has proved a bit hard to track down. It’s by no means a notable building, although it is associated with an exciting moment in the city’s history. It almost certainly was first built in 1915 as a 2-storey printing house (and offices) costing $15,000, and there is a permit for J N Bond as owner and architect, built by William Proust. We didn’t found J N Bond in any directory entry, or for that matter a W Proust. It’s almost certainly William J Prout, who was a builder in the city for many years. It’s also likely to be I Nicholas Bond, owner of an advertising company in the city. He was English, born around 1872 and had arrived in Canada in 1891. He went on to own an import company, and also a farm in Coquitlam.

We know that the occupant of the building from 1915, when it was built, was the News Advertiser, at that point published by J S H Matson. In 1917 the newspaper was bought out by the Daily Sun, and they took over the premises. The 2 storeys (to the street – there was one below on the lane as well) version of the building can be seen on the photograph of the adjacent building. It was either rebuilt or added to around 1923 to the 4 storeys seen here. (Jonathan Storey of Storey and Campbell owned the adjacent lot to the west, and in 1920 commissioned a $50,000 building designed by W T Whiteway to allow the Sun’s editorial offices to expand, but there’s no evidence that it was actually constructed.)

The Sun stayed at Pender Street until 1937, when a fire destroyed their printing plant (although not the offices seen here still standing in the early 1980s). The newspaper purchased the Bekins Building, rechristened it the Sun Tower (which is how we still know it today, although the Sun moved out many years ago). The Sun Tower had originally been built by L D Taylor for his World newspaper, so the use as a storage warehouse by Bekins didn’t last too long. They would occupy this building later – we’re  not sure if they swapped premises, or if it’s a strange coincidence.

In 1923 the newly enlarged building was the backdrop to Harry Houdini’s visit to the city. The escapologist successfully removed a chained straitjacket while suspended upside down in front of the building. It’s unclear who was was in greatest peril; Houdini, or the cameraman recording the scene.

Our image dates (we think) from the late 1960s, and the building was finally removed in the 1980s, and in 1989 Pendera was completed, a 113 unit non-market housing building that was part of the Jim Green era Downtown Eastside Residents Association development program.


News Advertiser – 420 Cambie Street

Another of the newspaper buildings clustered around Victory Square, this is the News Advertiser seen in 1900, ten years after it had been constructed on the corner of Pender and Cambie. It cost $20,000 and the business included a bindery run by G A Roedde (you can still visit Mr Roedde’s former home in the West End). The News Advertiser claimed a number of firsts for the city, and possibly the country, including electric powered presses and, in 1893, typesetting machines. In 1910 the paper was sold by its long-time owner Francis Carter Cotton and seven years later the paper was again sold, this time to rival newspaper the Sun.

In 1907 the paper move to a new location on West Pender, and three years later a building permit was issued to replace the wooden former offices. Although the new building is often identified with fruit and vegetable dealer H A Edgett, the developer was Francis Carter Cotton, who presumably retained ownership when he moved his paper to its new home beyond the Courthouse. Carter Cotton had built an office building to the north of the site in 1908, and he used the same architect for his latest property investment, A A Cox. The style of the two buildings is complementary, and H A Edgett who occupied it had a storefront on the corner for his greengrocers and furniture store – a somewhat unlikely combination. That’s the store on this 1912 postcard, and the wagons from around the same time suggest the furniture part of the business was equally as important as the grocery.

Harry Edgett was born in New Brunswick and arrived in British Columbia in 1890. He was obviously a successful merchant as he was also a director of the Sterling Trust and by 1914 was living in Shaughnessy Heights.

The building was adapted in 1924 as the printing works for the Province Newspaper who also occupied the offices to the north and created an arched bridge between the two buildings.

These days the Architectural Institute of British Columbia occupy the building after a renovation designed by Peter Busby.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives, News Advertiser Building c1900, CVA SGN 1457


Morning Star – 303 West Pender Street

The city’s newspapers clustered around Victory Square – or in earlier years around the Courthouse that was located there. The Province had their office and printworks there, as did the News Herald. The News Herald was established by journalists no longer working for the Morning Star, a newspaper whose offices were around the corner across from Victory Square on Pender Street. Here’s the Morning Star offices in 1929, five years after the paper started life as the Star, published as an evening paper. After a rapid change of ownership and a deal with one of the rival papers, the Sun, the Star became the Morning Star and the Sun the Evening Sun.

As was true of some, but by no means all of the papers of the day the Star aimed for accuracy and fairness, even in politics. The Star claimed a link back to the city’s first successful paper, the News Advertiser, initially published in 1887 and merged into the Sun in 1917. The Star never really made any money for its owner, Victor Odlum, and was sold to a new owner in Calgary who lost $300,000 in the venture before selling it back to Odlum in 1931. The losses continued, a proposed 15% wage reduction was rejected by the workforce, and the paper closed in 1932, leaving no morning newspaper in the city.

The newpaper office the Star occupied were originally a new home for the News Advertiser. Like the later Star, it was noted for its painstaking accuracy and detailed reporting, but unlike the Star it was a strong Conservative supporter. It was run for many years by Francis Carter Cotton, and occupied a number of buildings before moving to a new building on the corner of Hamilton and Pender in 1907. That’s the building in the picture, which has no identified architect in its heritage write-up, but Dalton and Eveleigh are said to be the designers. In 1910 Thomas Hooper designed additions to the building, the same year another owner acquired the paper, which would end up being merged into the Sun newspaper.

The building is still there today, stucco covered and without the cornice, but still solid for over 100 years of history.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives, Morning Star Building 1929, CVA 99-3784


News Herald – 426 Homer Street

This small building, tucked away down Homer Street behind the Hartney Chambers on Pender Street, has been around longer than most buildings in the city. In 1935 when this photograph was taken it was already over forty years old. Initially it was designed by R P Sharp and Samuel Maclure for the Daily World in 1892, the newspaper having been founded in 1888. Under the new management of L D Taylor that newspaper moved on to much grander premises with the construction of their new tower – these days called the Sun Tower. A very short-lived newspaper moved in around 1916, the Standard (it changed its name from the Chinook in April 1916 and closed in August 1917).  Printing companies continued in the building, the Wrigley Press in 1925 and the Technical Press in 1930.

The Daily World, as might be expected, blew their trumpet on their new home in 1892 “Messrs. Sharp and Maclure, New Westminster, were instructed to prepare plans and specifications for a building which should be perfect in all its proportions, a credit to the city and a home worthy of The World. The building now completed is the best evidence which can be adduced of the artistic skill and ability of these gentlemen as architects …. The dimensions of the building are 52 x 40, and it is of brick and stone and is two stories in height. The foundations are … laid with portland cement to the ground level; above that being random course ashlar, neatly pointed in red. Then comes the brick work, laid up in red mortar. The stone string course are rock faced; the door and window sills of Pender Island cut stone. The cornice work is of brick basket pattern. On the coping is to be erected an iron cresting with the words “The World” in five foot gilded letters. Over the door way on the coping will be a statue of Atlas supporting the world; while in the centre is already a flagstaff 30 feet high.”  (Thanks to Heritage Vancouver for identifying this quote). The City of Vancouver Archives 1893 image shows the staff in front of the new printing works. (It’s one of the new high resolution images available on the archives website – double click to see the full detail).

Later the News Herald moved into the building, having scraped together enough money to start up in 1932. The staff were mostly from another newpaper called the Morning Star (which had started up in 1924), and they operated on a hand-to-mouth existance using old equipment and sometimes resorting to hand cranking the press. Many staff became famous – Pierre Burton was the 21 year old city editor for a while and Jack Lindsay was a news photographer from 1941 to 1947 and sales increased. In 1954 they moved to larger premises, sold to Roy Thomson and less than three years later publication ceased.

These days you’ll find the Platinum club who offer massage “for erotic moods and sensual escapes, beautiful and attentive hostesses are always available for companionship“. The website notes “Please be advised we do not offer sexual services or acts of prostitution within our facility” in case you thought otherwise.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives (News Herald, 1935) CVA 99-4742, World Print Works 1893 CVA 677-4


Hotel Vancouver laundry and power plant

For once we can’t post a current image here. For the 1916 image on the left we would have to be in the tower of the Vancouver Block, looking at the unintended green roof of the Sears portion of Pacific Centre Mall. For the one on the right we think we would have to be up in a room of the third Hotel Vancouver – the one that’s still standing. While there are hundreds of images on the internet taken from the hotel, curiously none seem to be of Sears. Similarly we can only get glimpses of the power house in the past – and only thanks to the fabulous high resolution images just made available on the City of Vancouver Archives website.

What we’re identifying here is the building on the far left, and behind the York Hotel on the right. It’s the power house that was erected in 1912 at a reported cost of $215,000. Almost certainly it’s the building that was described as a factory/warehouse in the $120,000 permit issued to architect W S Painter in 1912. There was a laundry, with a huge chimney, on the site from the 1890s – it’s frequently discretely removed from photographs. It was rebuilt as the hotel was enlarged and altered. A 1913 edition of the Contract Record described the building; “The power house, which supplies both heat and light to practically the whole block, was then erected. The upper portion of the power house is used for laundries, and employees’ quarters. The lower part, containing the boilers and engine room, goes down nearly three storeys underground. There are three immense boilers, capable of using either coal fuel or oil fuel. Oil fuel is being used at the present time. The auxiliary engine room extends from the power house to the motors, hydraulic pumping and refrigerating machinery. Tunnels are run from the engine room and power house containing the pipes for heating and pumping purposes. Opening off from the auxiliary engine room is a large incinerator for the purpose of burning all rubbish. The engine room of the power house is located just below street level and is fitted out with the latest recording instruments, showing the consumption of fuel oil, pressure of steam, thermometers, etc., all working automatically. The power house is finished throughout, both inside and out, with cement.”

As well as supplying power to the hotel, the Vancouver Fire Service used it as a reliable source of power for the Fire Alarm System that was located in a nearby Firehall. “The Fire Alarm Office (FAO), located on the top floor of No. 2 Hall, on Seymour Street, received more than 80 percent of its alarms via telephone through the emergency number, Seymour 89. The system had 318 boxes on thirty-seven box circuits and all alarms came through the fire alarm system and were relayed by the central station operator to the firehall due to respond. The four operators on duty operated two large switchboards, one of which was always recharging. When the operators were alerted by the electric master clock that the board in operation had to begin its recharge cycle, then the changeover to the charged board took place. Power to recharge the batteries on the DC system was supplied by the power plant at the nearby Hotel Vancouver, and should that fail, there was a gas engine-powered generator in reserve.”

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives: View from Vancouver Block 1916 CVA  PAN (extract) York Hotel 1931 CVA 99-3994, West End and Hotel Vancouver 1929 CVA Van Sc N63 (extract)


Posted 11 April 2012 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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Second Hotel Vancouver – Granville and Georgia

The history of the redevelopment of the second Hotel Vancouver is surprisingly complicated. The CPR opened the first hotel in 1888. In 1893 the added a new wing known as the Van Horne wing on Granville Street, and then another completed around 1904 on Georgia Street at a cost of $100,000. This was designed with the intent of setting the style of the new, much larger hotel. By 1908 Eric Nicol noted that the Hotel “had 205 rooms, 75 with bath connections – a ratio bordering on hedonism”.

In 1910 the CPR excavated on Howe Street and in early 1911 built Honeyman and Curtis’s Annex. Meanwhile, at the end of 1910 the new CPR architect W S Painter obtained a building permit for $2,000,000 for an ‘Addition to hotel’. In January 1912 it was reported that a $1,000,000 14-storey replacement hotel would be built for the CPR. It wouldn’t just fill the Granville and Georgia corner – as the 1917 image above shows it filled the block all the way back to Robson and Howe.

In May under the headline ‘To Start work on CPR Hotel in Fall’ the Contract Record said ‘The latest advices from Montreal by the C P R inVancouver state that the board of directors ot the railway company have approved an appropriation of  $1,200,000 for the proposed reconstruction of the Hotel Vancouver, and another $215,000 for the power plant in connection with the hotel The latter building is now in course of erection.

The main hotel building will occupy the site of the hotel office or central section and will be extended south as far as the Opera House lane. It will be at least twelve stories in height, and two additional stories will be added to the Georgia st wing completed about eight years ago.

When completed the hotel, it is said, will have the largest ground floor corridors  of any hotel in existence. Construction will be started late this fall as soon us the rush of tourists is over. The plans are now being prepared by Painter & Swale, Metropolitan bldg.’

In October the Daily Building Record reported “Plans were filed with the building inspector yesterday for the proposed rebuilding of the Hotel Vancouver, corner of Georgia and Granville sts, at a cost of $800,000. The structure will be of steel and concrete with terra cotta facings.

The bldg will be heated by steam and all of the partition walls will be fireproof. Hardwood floors are specified also 3 passenger elevators and one for freight. The central portion of the bldg will be 14 storeys in height with wings on either side, the New Orpheum theatre, which is now being erected, being in the nature of a wing to correspond with the railway company’s main hotel bldg. Painter & Swales, Metropolitan bldg. are the architects. A contr has not been let as yet.”

By November 1912 the architects (who had moved offices) were looking for suppliers of the terra cotta and the steel contract was let to J Coughlin at a cost of $200,000.  Then everything slowed down. In 1913 reports covered a revised version of the plans “The Canadian Pacific Railway recently deposited plans for four additional storeys to the central portion of the Hotel Vancouver, Vancouver, and for the east wing fronting on Granville street, at an estimated cost of $1,100,000. The estimated outlay on the work of reconstructing the central portion of the hotel, calling for twelve storeys, was $800,000, so that with the addition of the work now proposed, the ultimate cost will not be far short of $2,000,000. According to the plans, the central part of the structure will be sixteen storeys in height, and the east wing will be eleven storeys, with the exception of the centre, midway between Georgia street and the Orpheum theatre. Here a large hall will be situated, for banquet purposes. The entrance to this hall will be 87 feet by 59 feet, and will be from Granville street. The whole structure will be of reinforced concrete and steel construction, faced with pressed brick.” Painter and Swales obtained another permit – this one for $1,100,000, and construction started. The various replacement sections, additions and the extra height were now said to be costing $2,500,000. By the time the project was being built the architect was Francis Swales; like Francis Rattenbury who was the initial choice for the new hotel, W S Painter had abandoned the task.

Even then, everything wasn’t complete. The Granville Street wing was the last to be added, replacing the Van Horne wing, and completed in 1916. The company confirmed that year they would be adding 250 more rooms but not until the war was over. The company said the hotel had already cost $3,000,000 and the addition would cost $750,000 more. That part of the project never happened. Even as it was being planned, a long term future of the project was in doubt. In the meantime, the most remarkable and expensive building that the city had seen was open for business, with fabulous views out to the north shore mountains from the sixteenth storey roof garden and terrace. We’ll return to the story of the hotel’s future in a further post.

Main image source: City of Vancouver Archives, Second Hotel Vancouver CVA 677-969


West Hastings and Richards – sw corner

Back in 1889 this corner (the southwest corner of Hastings and Richards) seems to have M Reynell and Co as tenants. They imported Japanese goods into the city, although they were shown in the street directory as being at 422 Pender Street. In 1890 Fred Cope and Cope and Young were here, both importing dry goods. (Cope and Young had the middle store in the photograph). By 1895 the Bank of BC had premises here, and by 1900 the Royal Bank had taken over. By 1905 all the tenants had changed again – they included the Board of Trade saloon, Mortimore Bros, tailors and the Colombo tea Co. In 1908 there were a number of real estate offices including those of C T Dunbar and Count A V Alvensleben, as well as William E Green’s timber lands office. In 1910 and 1911 the Bank of Ottawa are on the corner, and the Regent Hotel has been established on the upper floors. And then it’s gone – in the 1913 directory it’s called ‘new building’

The building was one of a series of buildings in the city designated ‘The Ferguson Block’ – Mr Ferguson seemed to like to have his name associated with all his developments which gave him name recognition while causing some confusion for researchers today. This Ferguson Block was built in 1889 and the architects were the Fripp Brothers who designed a lot of buildings in the city in only a couple of years from 1888 to 1890. They also designed both the Boulder Hotel (for Mr Ferguson) and Dougall House on Cordova Street.

By 1916 the new building was listed as the Standard Bank Building. It was briefly known as the Weart Building named after its promoter, J W Weart, but it quickly got named after its most important tenant. Like the Birks Building and the Yorkshire Building built in the same period the Standard Bank Building was supplied with ornamental ironwork from the Chicago Ornamental Iron Co. The steel frame was tested by The Robert W. Hunt & Company Engineers’ Bureau of Inspection, Tests and Consultation, of Chicago, (as was the Hotel Vancouver and the Bank of Ottawa). Seattle architects Russell Babcock and Rice carried out the design.

The new building had a variety of tenants – there was the Venetian barber on the main floor, a tea room on the second floor, and the Canadian Red Cross had offices on the third floor, as well as Brighouse and Brighouse, dentists. The other floors had a thorough mix from lawyers, accountants, steelworks offices, lumber mills offices, a fish company, a creosote company and up on the fifteenth floor J W Weart’s own office as well as Winifred Kindleyside’s public stenographers.

Today, with no Standard Bank left in town it’s just the Standard Building, and at 100 years old showing absolutely no sign of being irrelevant to the 21st Century city. The Ferguson Block lasted 25 years. So far the Standard building has 100 years on the clock, and looks good for 100 more.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives, Ferguson Block 1901 CVA LGN 707