We showed Wood, Vallance and Leggat’s West Cordova Street retail premises a few posts back. Like the Army and Navy store today, the company operated on both sides of the alley between Cordova and Hastings. Here’s the wholesale and office portion of the business, on West Hastings Street as it looked in 1908, six years after the company bought out Thomas Dunn’s hardware and ship’s chandlers business. However, on Hastings Street the previous business owner wasn’t Dunn, it was E G Prior who sold hardware and machinery.
Prior was a Yorkshireman who trained as a mining engineer, and worked in the Nanaimo coal mines. He was appointed Inspector of Mines in 1877, living in Victoria, representing that city in parliament from 1886 (and establishing his trading company a few years earlier on Yates Street). Prior was elected an MP but lost his seat in 1900 because of violations of the Electoral Act. He became Premier of BC in 1902, only to be dismissed in 1903 following a charge of conflict of interest, He remained an MLA until his defeat in 1904, and was appointed lieutenant-governor of BC in 1919, only to die in office in 1920.
E G Prior & Co were operating in Vancouver some time after 1891 (as this 1893 advert shows) and established the Hastings Street premises around 1900. They apparently didn’t sell the business to Wood, Vallance and Leggat as they had Thomas Hooper design a new warehouse on Beatty Street in 1910. The company also had premises on Pender Street that were expanded in 1901 by a Victoria architect, W R Wilson.
We haven’t been able to discover the architect of the Prior building which looks as if it was built in 1899. It could be W T Dalton, who designed a number of Hastings Street premises around the turn of the century. In 1903 Wood, Vallance and Leggat hired Dalton & Co – (presumably Mr Eveleigh) to design a $9,000 addition to the building.
In 1913 architect P M Julien applied for a permit for the Rex Amusement Co to build a $40,000 theatre, and the Rex Theatre appeared soon after (it was operating by 1914). It’s listed as a 922 seat theatre, and was used for some vaudeville acts before transforming to a movie house. J A Schuberg, a theatrical impresario from Winnipeg bought a half share in the theatre in 1916 and by 1918 the Rex was described as “the leading highclass photoplay house of the British Columbia metropolis” Schuberg’s First National Exhibitor Circuit Exchange of Canada distributed movies throughout BC and the prairies, with exclusive rights to Charlie Chaplin’s movies.
It was still operating in 1950 when this VPL Artray photo was taken, but in 1959 was closed to be incorporated into the adjacent Army and Navy store. Sadly, underneath that ‘modern’ metal screen there are no vestiges of the theatre facade – it was replaced with concrete blocks..
Photo source, City of Vancouver Archives CVA Bu P500