Oppenheimer Warehouse – Powell Street

Oppenheimer Warehouse 1890

The Oppenheimer Brothers were from a large Jewish German merchant family. After political upheaval and bad harvests, five brothers emigrated to the US in 1848, initially to New Orleans and three years later to California, when David Oppenheimer was still aged only 17 and his brother Isaac a year younger. They became traders in the California Gold Rush, and then took on a similar trading role in Victoria from around 1858. They made – and nearly lost – several fortunes as they expanded into the interior of British Columbia, establishing businesses in Yale, Fort Hope and Lytton and helping finance the construction of a section of the Canadian Pacific Railway in the Yale area.

From 1885 David had extensive land holdings in the (soon to be) new city of Vancouver, acquiring land from the Hastings Mill and forming a Land Company to attract development (while holding some sites in his own name). Very soon after the 1886 fire Oppenheimer Brothers built a brick warehouse designed by  T C Sorby on Powell Street opening by 1887. We think that’s the building in the image above, which is shown on the 1889 Insurance map. In 1891 N S Hoffar was hired to design a building for the company, which may have been the extension along Columbia. David Oppenheimer became the city’s mayor and the brothers contributed hugely to the success of the new city. The building was bought by Pilkington Brothers, the British glass company, in the early 1900s, and in 1916 they hired Somervell & Putnam to design an additional storey for the building built by T L Grey at a cost of $4,000. This followed $3,500 of alterations a year earlier designed by Bryan & Gillam and carried out by Baynes & Horie.

While the Oppenheimer Group are still in business today, their use of the warehouse ended decades ago. In the interim it was used as a glass warehouse by Pilkingtons, but since 1991 it has been the Warehouse Studio, an international standard recording complex owned by Bryan Adams, and carefully converted to the design of Don Stuart Architects.

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