West Cordova and Richards – se corner (1)

Back in 1890 this was the office of R G Tatlow, one of Vancouver’s early real estate moguls. Although C O Wickenden had designed a building for Captain Tatlow on Hastings Street a year before this image, and another in 1894, Tatlow ran his business from the Bell-Irving Building on the south-east corner of Richards and Cordova, and the owner of the building, Henry Bell-Irving, had designed it himself. He had also designed Captain Tatlow’s home on Pender Street in 1888.

Tatlow, born in Ireland but educated in England had been in the Canadian army when he first visited BC in 1879, and liked it enough to stay on. He was private secretary to two successive Governor Generals of the province, A N Richards and then C F Cornwall. He was one of the city’s pioneer investors and sat up all night to be the fourth in line to get the first CPR lots offered for sale. He lost his Vancouver home in the fire but his four year old daughter survived (his wife had died a year earlier). Tatlow had extensive business interests, including a mining partnership with A G Ferguson and architect C O Wickenden, The Cinnabar Mining Co. He served on the Park Board for 18 years, five of them as Chairman, and in 1894 was elected MLA for the City of Vancouver, serving as Minister of Finance in the McBride Government. He married his second wife, Elizabeth Cambie, daughter of Henry Cambie, in the same year, and they went on to have four children. He died in 1910 in Victoria after a fall from a dog cart when his horse was spooked by an automobile.

Henry Bell-Irving was a Scot, and became every bit as successful as Tatlow. For a while the two men jointly owned a grocery business on Water Street. He arrived in Vancouver with the C P Railway, working as an engineer with his friend Henry Cambie to drive the route through the Selkirk Mountains. He arrived in Burrard Inlet in 1885 (by walking), and partnered with Walter Gravely in designing some of the city’s earliest homes. He borrowed money from Cambie to marry his Cuban born betrothed, Bella, in Devon, and they returned to Vancouver to start their family of ten children. He pioneered the export of canned salmon to Europe, founding what would become the largest canners of sockeye salmon in the world. He was elected Alderman in 1888 and became Chairman of the Board of Works.

This building was his first office project and his own business was based here through the early years of the century. He developed two others in 1910, one on Richards Street and one on Granville. In 1926 there was another Bell-Irving Building developed on West Hastings. He died in 1931.

The building was vacant in 1920 and we thought it had been demolished by 1925 (although there’s a 1932 image, so we were wrong). In 1933 a parking garage was built on the site – and presumably, underneath a series of makeovers, it’s still there today, 80 years on. It was popular when Spencer’s department store was next door, as they didn’t have their own facility (as Woodwards did). For its early years it was the Code 8 W Parking, and more recently was rebuilt and extended to serve as the parkade for the Harbour Centre.

Image source; City of Vancouver Archives CVA Bu P85

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Posted November 22, 2012 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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