Archive for September 2012

St Francis Hotel – West Cordova and Seymour (2)

We saw the St Francis in earlier days in our last post, back in 1925. Here it is in 1981, not long before the wrecking ball paid a visit. The lower cornice, marking the limit of E E Blackmore’s 1907 building has been lost, but J S Pearce’s rooftop cornice is still partly intact. The original bar was by the time this photo was taken a shadow of its former self. In 1906 much was made of the bar having its entrance at Cordova and Seymour, and the hotel an entrance a storey above coming in up the hill on Seymour. In 1918, when J Nation was the proprietor, the hotel advertisement said “The St. Francis Hotel is directly opposite C. P. R. Depot and Wharf, one block from the Post Office and main business streets. The hotel is modern in every particular. Large sitting and lounging rooms overlooking the water and North Vancouver. Dining – room in connection, and the prices are moderate.”

Up the hill you can see that the 1950s rework of the Bank of Ottawa was a simpler box than the building we see today, with its fancier canopy addition. By 1981 the buildings between the St Francis and the bank had also been cleared away.

Image sourc: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-E01.17



Posted 27 September 2012 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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St Francis Hotel – West Cordova and Seymour (1)

The St Francis Hotel replaced the White Swan on the corner of Seymour and West Cordova at some time around 1906. The City Archives have a document supposedly dating to 1905 advertising “St. Francis Hotel : directly opposite C.P.R. Depot and one block only from dock”  with “100 Outside Rooms – European Plan – Fireproof – Best Location in the City – Modern – Substantially Furnished” However, in 1905 and 1906 the site held the ‘Revere House” – only in 1907 did the St Francis name appear in the street directory. This fits with a 1906 permit for E E Blackmore’s design of The St Francis Hotel for ‘Baron de Biddlecope’. The proprietor of the hotel from 1907 to 1909 is listed as Charles Hartney, who a year later owned the Cecil Hotel with D MacKay taking over the St Francis for several years. At some point the Quann Brothers, who also ran the Balmoral, were involved in the hotel.

There’s another permit for Baron Cope in 1912 with J S Pearce as the architect for $20,000 work on the St Francis Hotel. Looking closely at the windows on the top floor of this 1925 picture, they aren’t arranged as the floors below, showing that a floor was added in that year.

The Baron was also a Marquis – Marquis de Biddlecope (or Biddle Cope in some records). We can appreciate the level of the early investments the Marquis held from an 1896 Court of Appeal judgement (that he won). “The appellant, who resides in England, owns real estate in Vancouver which returns a gross rent of $3,400“. The court case established that is the net profit was under $1,500 then no income tax had to be paid. In 1896 the Marquis was only seeing a profit of $1,100, so he didn’t pay income tax in Canada. Presumably by the time the St Francis was built he had crossed the tax threshold. He bought property on West Cordova where the heritage statement says “Baron and Marquis James Canby Cyprian DeBiddle Cope (born 1852) lived in Shropshire, England and Verona, Italy, and was a Roman Marquis and a Baron of the Kingdom of Italy”. Cope acquired the site of 81 West Cordova as a holding property in 1890. He was also responsible for additions to the Yale hotel in 1909, so must have owned that too.

His attachment to his title was obviously considerable. The first reference to him in the Times Colonist was all the way back in 1886, when the Victoria paper reproduced a Philadelphia newspaper report of how an ordinance to allow him to lay a pipe on public property was nearly thrown out because of the ‘royalist’ title used by the Marquis. He got to lay the pipe, but only after the word Marquis was removed wherever it appeared in the document. One biography says “James Cyprian Canby Biddle-Cope was born in 1852 in Philadelphia, U.S.A., the second son of Alfred Cope the wealthy owner of a Liverpool shipping line. He earned a degree from the University of Pennsylvania before attending Worcester College, Oxford (B.A. 1878, M.A. 1881). In 1873 he married the American Marie Louise Saunders and the couple had six children. Biddle-Cope (a name he adopted) bought an estate in Gloucester and served as a lieutenant (later captain) in the York and Lancaster Regiment. The pope named him a marquis of the Holy See in 1883 and the king of Italy named him a baron in the kingdom of Italy in 1886 (presumably for his pro-Catholic views)”. Biddle-Cope wrote a handful of undistinguished novels (at least one of which, called ‘Mad’ is still in print).

The 1860 US Census lists him as James B Cope, and his mother’s name was Biddle so that part of his name seems to be genuine, as was the Canby, another family name. For a while in the 1880s he owned a stately home in England on the Hertfordshire and Shropshire border. His well-connected English family had been Quakers, moving to the US with William Penn in the 17th Century. By 1908 a publication reported that he had homes in Cornwall, England and Reno, Nevada. A notice in the Times Colonist in 1899 suggests that there may have been a period of financial instability within the family in connection to their British Columbia investments. We suspect his young son, John, who had moved to Victoria in 1895 as a deckhand, may have been the cause of the notice.

When he died in 1929, the Baron was living in Rome and using his Italian title – the New York times reporting “James Canby Biddle Cope, Baron Di Valromita, died on Tuesday at his home in Rome”. The Baron had a second family of five children from his time in Italy. We’ve see another part of the contemporary building before. 333 Seymour (once associated with Pricewaterhouse Coopers, an earlier tenant) is a chrome and black glass office tower from 1985. The architects were Tudor & Walters.

Image source, City of Vancouver Archives 1925 CVA Hot N45, Thanks too to Patrick Gunn at Heritage Vancouver.


2040 Nelson Street

In 1901 Almeron Soper Cross was owner of a general store in Atlin with his partner, Edward Rorke who was also his son-in-law (There’s no sign in the census records that year of his wife, Elizabeth; his daughter, Edith, was also living in Atlin but was recorded as head of her own household). In 1903 he was appointed as a Justice of the Peace ‘to perform the duties of a County court Judge’. He was also appointed a licence commissioner.

Mr Cross obviously did well in Atlin as this splendid $6,500 house on Nelson Street was designed in 1906 by Grant and Henderson and completed by 1907 (the permit was issued in February 1906).  The Cross family were listed in the Vancouver street directory for the first time in 1907; Edward was a broker with the firm of LaCappellain and Rorke. Mr Cross added a ‘frame stable’ to the property in 1909. This 1908 panorama of the street shows the significant houses that had been built in the previous few years.

The 1911 Census shows Almeron Cross was born in Ontario in 1854 (so by then aged 57) to an originally Irish protestant family. He married his wife Elizabeth in 1878 in Thornbury, Ontario and their daughter was born in Toronto in 1880. Edward and Edith lived with her parents, and there were two domestic servants as well. Mr Cross moved in 1915 to West 38th Ave in Dunbar, and died early in 1920, aged 65.

The 1968 photograph shows the house close to the end of its life. By 1972 there would be a 10 storey rental tower, the Dogwood Apartments in its place.

Picture source City of Vancouver Archives, 1968 CVA 1348-2 and 1908 PAN P-103


Posted 2 September 2012 by ChangingCity in Gone, West End

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The Railway Club – Dunsmuir and Seymour

In 1903 Mrs Thrythall was listed in the Building Permit Register owner, architect and developer of a frame store and dwelling at the corner of Dunsmuir and Seymour. Her husband, William, was one of the earlier printers in the city, setting up shop in 1888 with his son, also called William. The 1903 insurance map shows the corner developed with a printers office (electric motor) with offices above. The additions seem to have been further east, along Dunsmuit Street. The family name is recorded as both Thrythall and Trythall, so there’s some confusion, but Trythall seems to be correct. The company was still operating from the Seymour address in 1920, although a year later they have moved to Homer Street. Most history associated with the family is connected to Mt Trythall’s cabin, halfway up Grouse Mountain – when a climb to the summit took three days to accomplish.

By the mid 1920s when this picture is thought to have been taken a new building had been erected. It’s identified by the City Archives as the Lawsen Building – although there don’t seem to be any residents of the city called Lawsen in the late 1920s or early 1930s. The street directory called it the Laursen Building. Viggo Laursen was already an important resident in the 1910s, solicitor to BC Electric, and it would seem likely that his family name was associated with the building. In 1927 he was living in West Point Grey, and was still solicitor to BC Electric; he was born in Denmark but had arrived in 1893 with his parents, John and Mary, joining his brother, Otto, a plumber, who had arrived two years earlier. A settlement of the Town Estate in the 1930s confirms that this property was associated with a $68,058.72 mortgage to V Laursen.

The building permit dates from 1920, although it doesn’t tell us who the architect was. It was built at a cost of $15,000 by Baynes and Horie for H A Jones. Harry Jones ran his real estate agency from the building (addressed as 592 Seymour) in 1922; another tenant was his son, Harold Jones, who was a manufacturer’s agent selling wire rope. In 1922 Harold lived on Trimble Street, but a year earlier in the 1921 Directory he was living at 590 Seymour, where Harry is shown living in the 1921 census, having moved from Cordova the year before. He was shown married to Madge, 20 years younger, and born in Norway. He didn’t occupy his offices here for very long, as he died in California in 1923. We’ve written more about Harry in other posts: he developed an earlier building in 1893 on East Hastings, and another around 1899 on West Hastings. He also founded the Vancouver Tugboat Company in 1898.

By 1932 The Railway Club began as a members only card club for railway workers. Known initially as the Railwaymen’s Club, it was one of many membership only workingman clubs opened in the city after prohibition was lifted. The club occupied space once occupied by the European Concert Cafe on the upper floors of the Laursen Building. The club operated with a rare “red circle” license where card clubs like the Marine Club and Logger’s Social Club were given a choice by the government, stop the cards or the sale of liquor. In 2012 when we posted this, the Railway Club still operated as a bar and live music venue with one of the most eclectic selections of music in the city. It closed a couple of years later, but has since reopened.

Picture source, City of Vancouver Archives, 1927? Bu N350 (identified as the Lawsen Building)


Posted 1 September 2012 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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