The Percival Building – Hamilton Street

Percival

The Percival is one the more dramatic transformations from when our 1981 photo shows that this Hamilton Street warehouse facade was mostly blocked up. The concrete window infill was added to the 1912 building after a fire in the 1950s. The building structure today is a mix of poured in place concrete, reinforced concrete floor beams and masonry brick walls which was how it was designed by G P Bowie – being described as a “six-storey brick & concrete warehouse”.

Although it’s sometimes called the Stewart and Cromie Warehouse, and that was the name of the owners on the permit, it appeared in the Street Directories from the year it was finished as the Percival Building. The most likely candidates for having built it are Robert Cromie, who was Manager of Foley, Welch and Stewart who were railway contractors based in the Winch Building. Mr Cromie was later well connected, as his wife was the daughter of Vancouver hardware magnate Edward McFeely. He was originally from Quebec and only 25 years old when the building went up. There’s also a connection to the Vancouver Sun, as this 2012 article by John Mackie explains

“The Sun was launched on Feb. 12, 1912, at the crest of a boom that had seen Vancouver’s population quadruple in 10 years. But the boom went bust as foreign investment stalled around the First World War, and the paper floundered financially. In 1915, The Sun was rescued by an infusion of cash from railway contractors Timothy Foley, Patrick Welch and John Stewart. Foley, Welch and Stewart had cut a shady deal with the provincial government to fund the Pacific Great Eastern railway, and thought a newspaper might be useful in advancing their interest in the PGE. But the deal became a scandal, and they had to repay $1.1 million to the province. In the midst of the scandal, running an unprofitable newspaper wasn’t a priority, and the trio gave control of the paper to Stewart’s secretary, Robert Cromie. One story has it that Cromie fished out some Sun stock that was being thrown out from a wastebasket, which gave him control of the paper. Robert Cromie’s grandson, Ron Cromie, says “family legend” is that Cromie was “given The Sun in lieu of wages owed him for a construction company McConnell [or Foley, Welch and Stewart] also owned that had gone bankrupt.” In any event, Cromie managed to make the paper profitable after acquiring financing from the owner of the Seattle Times and then buying up some competing Vancouver papers (The News-Advertiser and The World) to increase circulation.”

In 1995 the building was given a comprehensive restoration and converted to residential uses on the upper floors. Marshall Fisher Architects and Acton Johnston Ostry were the architects of the newly named ‘Del Prado’ – although these days as often as not is known by its original name – The Percival Building.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-E13.32

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