Gilmore and Clark Block – Carrall and Cordova

Carrall & Cordova 1961

When this image was taken in 1961, our address in the title was correct. When the building was commenced in 1886 it was described as being at Carroll and Oppenheimer as Carrall Street was often spelled differently and Cordova was only the western half – David Oppenheimer gave his name to the eastern half. Designed by W T Whiteway for Alexander Gilmore (although he may have been christened Gilmour) and Robert Clark, it’s another example of the first brick buildings to be built after the fire (and at least one source claims it to be the first completed). The style matched Whiteway’s other building on the north end of the same block

Alexander Gilmore was born in Ireland in 1824 and made his way to Vancouver via Philadelphia (in 1849), San Francisco (in 1852) and Victoria (in 1858). He established a tailoring and clothing business there, and when the Canadian Pacific Railway came through, partnered with Robert Clark to open another store in Yale in 1881.  They established a Granville store in 1885, ahead of the railway’s arrival, and then lost it to the 1886 fire. They built the structure in the picture on the north-east corner of Carrall and Cordova, and a year later Gilmore retired, handing his active role to his nephew, Alexander Gilmore McCandless. Never married, he seems to have lived in Victoria even when investing in Vancouver. He was still in Victoria when he died in 1910.

Robert Clark was the younger partner, born in Scotland in 1845. He apprenticed as a grocer and then as a shipwright. He left for Toronto in 1870, building ships through a bitter winter and then heading west, walking to Winnipeg. A 1906 biography described his experience building steamers on the south shore of Lake Winnipeg. “He built the first steamer that sailed on Lake Manitoba. Going into the forest he picked out the trees, hewed the timber and with help whip-sawed the lumber. He then built and launched the boat and delivered her to the owners, a craft one hundred feet in length. The woods were infested with mosquitoes so numerous that they occasioned great trouble to the men. Their supply of provisions also became exhausted and Mr. Clark found it difficult to retain his helpers until the work was completed. They made a boat to cross the lake two hundred miles for provisions, but the day they intended to make the start help came to them, bringing them needed supplies. They had made sails out of their blankets and thus they sailed the boat across the lake.” 

He moved on to  Grand Forks (where his brother was ill), again building ships. The brothers headed to San Francisco in 1875, then in Seattle, up the Skeena River and then to Alaska and finally to Victoria in 1879. Partnering with Gilmore saw both men acquire land individually and jointly, as well as running the Yale business, which burnt out in the 1881 fire soon after they established it. Something similar happened in Vancouver, but after the Vancouver fire they rebuilt in brick. Clark is shown living at the Carrall Street address in 1887, the first year he was elected an Alderman. (He was re-elected on three further occasions) 1890 saw two big changes in Robert Clark’s life – his partnership with Alex Gilmore was ended, and his marriage to Frances Gilmore took place. We don’t know if she was related to Alex (she was 38 years younger) but she was also from Ireland. They had two children, Robert and Cuthbert who were aged 16 and 14 when their father died in 1909. Frances died in Vancouver in 1946.

The building was torn down around 1963, probably not long after the closing out sale shown in the picture. It stayed as a parking lot until the mid 1990s when Carrall Station was designed by Kasian Kennedy, a 81 unit condo project with five floors of lofts, completed in 1997.

Photo source: City of Vancouver Archives, Walter E Frost CVA 447-344

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Posted January 9, 2013 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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