Thompson-Ogle Building – West Hastings Street

Another building swallowed by the expanding Spencer retail empire, the Thompson-Ogle building was the earliest on the block, and one with a series of questions still unanswered. It’s the building to the east of the Molson Bank in this picture. We know that C O Wickenden designed it, and that it was completed before 1889 – it’s the only building on the block on the 1889 insurance map. However, it took a while to complete; the 1890 Directory describes the building as ‘4 stores, unfinished’. A year later the first tenants have moved in; a number of civil engineers and the all-encompassing Vancouver Loan, Trust Saving and Guarantee Co, whose principle was H T Ceperley. Henry Tracy Ceperley was from New York state, a former Montana rancher who arrived in 1886 and went on to become one of the most important real estate brokers in the city. His long-time business partner, Frank Rounsfell was also with the VLTS&G Co, as bookeeper.

The main 1900 picture shows the four bay building, the outer bays on the top floor with triple windows of Romanesque curved arches, the centre bays with a larger single arched window. In case you were wondering, that’s the Tsimpsian brass band marching past.

We don’t know for sure who the Thompson in the Thompson Ogle Building was. There are only a handful of candidates, with the most likely being Philip Nairn Thompson, a wealthy Ottawa native who had moved to Vancouver by 1891, some years later joined by his brother and married sister. In 1891 the Williams Directory identifies the corner of Pender and Howe as having the Thompson Block, (possibly designed by R M Fripp) while Henderson’s Directory for the same year identifies the address for Captain Philip Thompson as being 504 Howe (the corner of Pender Street). In the 1898 Voter’s List Philip N Thompson was one of only two people in the entire list whose occupation was describeed as ‘gentleman’. Captain Thompson died in 1934, still in Vancouver, and reported in the Ottawa obitiary as being single. We’re reasonably certain that Thompson also developed the Innes-Thompson block on the opposite side of Hastings.

Ogle is most likely to be Edmund W Ogle, a Sheffield native whose sister-in-law had married pioneer John Morton. Ogle was in business with dry goods and clothing, buying Dan Drysdale’s business in New Westminster when his Vancouver store was destroyed in the 1886 fire. Ogle stayed in New Westminster, but by 1896 like Thompson was also living on Howe Street.

In 1906 David Spencer managed to get into Vancouver’s retail market by buying first Charles Stevenson’s half share, and then in 1907 Gordon Drysdale’s other half of Drysdale-Stevenson, who occupied the store in the Thompson Ogle Block (which had stopped being known by that name). Gordon was, coincidentally, Dan Drysdale’s brother. The Spencer family immediately started on the road to increasing and modernising the business. They were helped that in 1903 Drysdale-Stevenson had already hired Parr and Fee to rework the front of the building. Wickenden’s Roman arches were replaced by Parr and Fee’s trademark white glazed bricks.

Despite the Spencer company intention to rebuild the entire block, this structure stayed as part of the store until it was demolished in the early 1970s to be replaced by the Harbour Centre development.

Image source, City of Vancouver Archives In P120.1, VPL

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