Archive for December 2012

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.

Image source: Warehouse studio



Shaldon Hotel – 52 East Hastings Street (2)

Windsor Hotel 52 E Hastings 1931

We’ve seen the Shaldon Hotel before, and here’s a slightly earlier image from 1931 when it was known as the Windsor Hotel. As seems to be the case for a number of the city’s hotels, the same name has appeared on more than one building over the years – there was another Windsor Hotel on Granville Street, and an earlier building with the same name on Water Street in the 1890s.

In 1931 the hotel was owned by L S Barrack  who seems to have recently acquired it from Sam Plastino, an Italian who had been born in Italy in 1886 and was married to a Scottish born wife. Whether he was related to the Sam Plastino accused (unsuccessfully) of being a white slaver in Spokane twenty years earlier isn’t clear. That Sam Plastino was a former Northwest pool playing champion turned real estate agent who was fined and then jailed for bootlegging in 1917.

Photo source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-3884


Posted December 15, 2012 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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Selkirk Block – 149 West Hastings Street

100 block W Hastings 1923

We’ve seen the building on the left back in 1890 when it was the YMCA Building and agin in 1910 when it was The Hotel Astor. By 1923 when this picture was taken it had become the Astoria Hotel (and it still had that name in 1947).  The building we know today as the Astoria on East Hastings only took the name in 1950 (in 1923 it was still the Toronto Apartments).

Next door to the east is the Selkirk Block. In this image Rae’s Shoes and The New York Outfitting Co are the retailers on the main floor. By 1926 F W Woolworth had taken over both units. Like the hotel conversion from the YMCA, at least half this building seems to have been designed by Dalton and Eveleigh for Crowe and Wilson. selkirk 1908The eastern half was given a permit in 1909 for a $15,000 building constructed by Bedford Davidson, while the western half which seems to be older was altered by the same owners. That suggests that it was built at different times, although completed to appear to be a single structure. We haven’t been able to find out when it first appeared (but this 1908 image shows it only 25 feet wide), or where the name Selkirk came from (although the mining town of the same name is an obvious possibility). In 1920 Davidson again carried out an addition to the building for Crowe and Wilson, this time  for a 1 story and basement extension to make a home for the Tip Top Tailors.

Woodwards construct and Astoria Hotel 1947 VPLWe have noted another of Wilson’s developments before, also using Dalton and Eveleigh to design a substantial block on Granville Street. His development partner on West Hastings, Sanford Johnson Crowe was from Truro, Nova Scotia, apprenticed as a carpenter and arrived in Vancouver in 1888. He partnered with Wilson in 1901, and a 1914 biography said “As a contractor he saw opportunity for judicious investments and from time to time added to his holdings until he now derives a gratifying annual income there from.”

He was successful enough to retire by 1910, aged 42, in order to enter politics. He was a City Alderman in 1909-15, He was elected to the Canadian House of Commons in the 1917 wartime election and ran as a Liberal-Unionist supporter of Sir Robert Borden’s Government defeating a Laurier Liberal opponent in Vancouver’s Burrard electoral district. He was appointed to the Canadian Senate in 1921 by Borden’s successor, Arthur Meighen and sat in the upper house until his death ten years later. Crowe was married with two sons and lived in the West End.

Today both buildings have been replaced by the Woodwards development (the previous department store version  bumped into the Selkirk Block in 1947, as this VPL image shows).

Picture source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Str N52.1, VPL.


Posted December 11, 2012 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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Metropolitan Building – West Hastings Street

Metropolitan Building 1934

In April 1910 the Metropolitan Building Co., Ltd were listed as owners, architects and the builder on the Building Permit of a $300,000 10 storey steel building at 833 Hastings Street. J W Weart was manager and solicitor for the Metropolitan Building Company, and the company did indeed handle the development of their premises – by the time all the sub-contracts had been let the cost had climbed to $325,000. (The Contract Journal in April 1910 listed the various contractors – the elevators were supplied by A & P Steven of Glasgow. For some reason the publication accidentally transferred the building to Ottawa). By August the steel frame was reported to be well under way, and the architect was identified – John S Helyer and Son. This was something of a minor miracle, as there are websites that say John Helyer fell to his death on the stairs of his already complete Dominion Trust Building. It was all finished by 1912 and our picture shows the building in 1934, after the Merchants Exchange Building has been built in the 1920s to the east.

The Metropolitan Building Co were also sometimes the Terminal City Club – the club started life as the Metropolitan Club, and the name was switched around 1898. It should therefore come as no surprise that today, the Terminal City Club sits on the site of the Metropolitan Building. Completed in 1998, the 30 storey tower has one of the most complex mixes of uses, from condos to a hotel, retail, office space, and the club itself which includes three restaurants for the members.

Picture source City of Vancouver Archives Bu N440


Wood, Vallance and Leggat – 8 to 12 West Cordova Street

Wood Vallance Leggat Cordova 1908

Thomas Dunn, born in Edinburgh, sold hardware in Scotland, and continued to do so when he moved to Canada in 1876. He arrived in Victoria in 1883, and in Vancouver in February 1886, four months before the new city burned to Dunn's 1898the ground. In 1889 he teamed up with postmaster and pioneer Jonathan Miller to build the Dunn-Miller block on Cordova Street, the pair hiring N S Hoffar to create a harmonious and heavily decorated brick facade, behind which a number of different businesses operated. In the bays furthest to the east, Dunn set up his hardware business. Here’s Dunn’s business in 1898, four years before he sold the business (but not his share in the building).  In the upper floors were a variety of public spaces and offices. The Vancouver Reading Room was here, and so were the offices of the Vancouver Electric Railway and Light Co (where Thomas Dunn was Vice President). In 1891 Vancouver’s first Jewish congregation celebrated the High Holy Days at the Knights of Pythias Hall, located on the second floor of the building. In the photo above you’ll see “Entrance K.P. Hall” over one of the doors.

The company that bought Thomas Dunn’s business was Wood, Vallance and Leggat. Andrew Wood was from Northern Ireland, and he was working in Toronto by 1846. By 1856 he was in Hamilton and running his own hardware business, and three years later he went into partnership with Matthew Leggat.

Leggat was a Scotsman who arrived in Canada in 1854. His wife, June, also arrived from Scotland six years later and while we don’t know when they married, they had at least three children, including a son John, and another three years younger, called Matthew like his father in 1871. They settled in Hamilton, and both Matthew senior and his son were still living in the same household in 1901 (with the help of a domestic staff of three). In 1880, as the Canadian Pacific worked its way westwards, the company set up in Winnipeg. Five years later they reorganized the business by bringing in two more special partners, William Valiance, manager at the head office, and Wood’s elder son, William Augustus, who had been with the firm since 1872. As Wood Vallance they became the largest wholesale hardware business in Canada. By buying in anticipation of sales and carrying huge inventories, the firm reduced its marketing risks. Its practice was to order by the carload: 10,000 kegs of nails from the Ontario Rolling Mills Company, 200 tons of wire from the Ontario Lead and Barb Wire Company, 40 tons of twine from the Brantford Cordage Company, and 1 million bolts from the Ontario Bolt Company.

When Thomas Dunn sold out to Wood Vallance, they seem to have turned to the younger Matthew Leggat to run the new business. In 1902, when he arrived in Vancouver, he lived at 1102 Seaton and was referred to as Matthew Hendry Leggat, treasurer and secretary of the company’s Vancouver operation. A year later he was at 1126 Seaton, and in 1909 at 27 West Hastings. (Our photograph shows the retail part of the company on Cordova Street in 1908) A year later he was listed as living on The Crescent in Shaughnessy. For some reason the 1911 census shows the family address as 1847 Barclay St, Matthew’s wife is called Anne and their son seems to have been called Hendrix – although Hendrie seems rather more likely, and later he was listed as Matthew, like his father and grandfather. The name Hendrie may have come from Matthew’s wife; the Hendrie family were another wealthy Hamilton industrial family, originally from Detroit. The Leggats are still shown living on The Crescent in 1930 – and Matthew Leggat’s son, Matthew, was living at home too, although the company had abandoned the Cordova location to the Sterling Hardware Company.

These days the Army and Navy store occupies the space, although only the first few metres of the store are original construction, the remainder of the structure having been rebuilt in the early 1970s.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Bu P500.2


Dufferin Hotel – Smithe and Seymour Streets

Dufferin 1981

The Dufferin Hotel maintained the same name for 95 years of its existence. Since it was built in 1911 it also remained a hotel – these days re-launched as the Moda. It was designed by Parr and Fee, and there are contemporary records that show the Dickie & Dugmore, Daily Building Record, Liens Filed 3 Feb 2012owners as ‘Dickie and Dogmore’. However, there is also a 1912 Builder’s Lien that identifies the owners as W R Dugmore and R D Dickie – and that looks as if it’s more likely to be correct. The 1910 building permit was for six storeys – the owners obviously decided to stop at four.

There were several men called Dickie living in the city in 1911, and with a remarkably limited imagination, every one of them was called Robert. The hotel developer was almost certainly Robert Donald Dickie. He was a real estate broker, who was also associated with the Canadian Securities Co and lived at 1460 Barclay Street. Although there was a well-known wholesale grocers called Leeson, Dickie, Gross and Co, we haven’t been able to identify any links that R D Dickie had to that company.

Robert Donald Dickie enlisted in the army in 1915 and survived the war, rising to the rank of Lieutenant. He had a wife called Lillian, and military records say he was born in Calcutta. His expertise was in railway construction – he started out as a sapper in the army’s Canadian Overseas Railway Construction Company. In 1911 both Robert and Lillian were identified in the census, living at 1460 Barclay (with Mary Bevan, their English-born servant), and here both are listed as being born in Ontario.

We haven’t found anyone called Dogmore – or Dugmore – in or around Vancouver around the time the hotel was built. The only W R Dugmore anywhere around that time was a retired British army officer. There is another building developed by ‘Major W R Dugmore’ (with the spelling correct) – an apartment building designed by Fred Townley, on Powell Street. The rank of major may have been his rank in the Reserves. There were a number of candidates in the Dugmore family – all of them had an impressive set of achievements – W R is the most likely given a Canadian connection, and the fact that he was retired in 1909.

William Francis Brougham Radclyffe Dugmore was born 1 October 1868, eldest son of Captain Francis Dugmore, 64th Regiment, and the Honourable Evelyn Mary, daughter of the 2nd Baron Brougham and Vaux.  He was educated at the Oratory, Egdbaston, and at St Mary’s College, Oscott, and was commissioned in the Prince of Wales’s North Staffordshire Regiment 20 June 1894, as Second Lieutenant.  He was employed in the Uganda Protectorate 27 December 1899 to 23 January 1902, serving with the King’s African Rifles in the East African Arab War, taking part in the operations against the Mazrui rebels (Medal); in Unyoro, 1896-97 (Medal), and in the Uganda Mutiny in 1897-98, when he averted the threatened insurrection of 500 Sudanese.  He was mentioned in Despatches, received the Medal and clasp, and was created a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order [London Gazette, 24 January 1899]

He had been promoted to Lieutenant and served in the South African War from 1899 to 1902, and was promoted to Captain 12 January 1901.  He was employed with Kitchener’s Fighting Scouts, took part in the operations in the Tranvsaal to 31 May 1902, and received the Queen’s Medal with five clasps.  He was on Special Service with the Somaliland Field Force 7 November 1902 to 27 May 1904, taking part in the operations in Somaliland (Medal with clasp).  He was employed under the Liberian Development Company 27 March 1906 to 17 September 1907; and retired in 1909.  In 1914 he was Second-in-Command, 72nd Highlanders, Canada.  He served in the European War from 1914, and the London Gazette of 25 August 1916, announced the appointment of Captain W F B R Dugmore, DSO, Reserve of Officers, to be temporary Major (24 March 1916).  He was Second-in-Command, 72nd Highlanders, Canada.  He was killed in action 12 June 1917.  He had married, in 1910, Phyllis, daughter of J Wilson Usher.

The Dufferin continued to operate as hotel as it was in this 1981 picture. Over the years the hotel’s bars became associated with the city’s gay community. One 2002 review commented “The Dufferin pub is lots of fun. Especially if you love balloons. The ceiling is always heavenly decorated with them.” The club offered male strippers under the slogan “Go Buff at the Duff”.

These days, as the Moda, there’s are two restaurants, a wine bar that’s a little more sedate than in the Dufferin days; the surroundings are more up-market (and the beer is no longer advertised as being  cheap). To the south, the block featured a car dealership for many decades. Now its Metropolitan Towers, a pair of rental apartment towers.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-E06.17