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.

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.

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