Remarkably, in a city that likes to reinvent itself (or at least its buildings) on a regular cycle, these single storey retail stores have sat on the corner of Robson and Burrard for over a century. They were built in 1911 by builders Allen & Jones at a cost of $9,500 for C N Davidson, and designed by Parr and Fee. A year later the same owner hired Braunton & Leibert to design a much more expensive proposition, the $132,000 stores and apartments called Irwinton Court, behind the stores. Those are still there today as well.
In 1890 jewellers Davidson Brothers had a store on Yates Street in Victoria, and another in Vancouver on Cordova, which had opened in 1888. We know the brothers were previously in business ‘in the east’ because Dr Guthrie managed to borrow money (with insufficient funds to cover the loan) on the basis of earlier acquaintance.
In 1891 C N Davidson is listed in the census record as a jeweller aged 32, and his family are living in Vancouver with 1-year-old daughter, Elaine, his wife’s mother, Frances Haskett and their domestic, Maggie Johnson. Mr Davidson’s father was shown as an American, although he was born in Ontario (apparently in Guelph). His wife’s family were from Quebec; (it looks as if she was born in Montreal but had moved to Ontario before she was 14). The street directory had his home on the corner of Seymour and Georgia
In 1894 the Provincial Building and Loan Association formed a local board in Vancouver, with C N Davidson as president. That year saw the family living at 731 Burrard, seen in this 1898 picture. In 1896 he was on the board of the Vancouver, Victoria and Eastern Railway along with William Templeton and other leading members of the Board of Trade. Unlike many of the proposed railways of the day, this one was actually built, and eventually became a subsidiary of the Great Northern.
As we have seen with a number of other pioneer developers, Mr Davidson did not limit his interests to his main profession. In 1897 he was involved in gold mine prospecting. He and his brother, A A Davidson (who ran the Victoria jewellery store) were two of the four owners of a $250,000 mining company, Winchester Gold Mines of Fairview, Victoria, formed to purchase the Winchester claim in Yale. The same year they were also partners in the $250,000 Shamrock Mining Co with the intent of taking over the Shamrock claim in Osoyoos. Cicero was also briefly a defendant in a case against the Orphan Boy Gold Mining Company on McCulloch Creek where the owners (including C N Davidson) were accused of defrauding shareholders. While his brother seems to have maintained active involvement in the region, there’s no mention of Cicero retaining an interest.
In 1899 Mr Davidson was severely hurt in a fall from a ladder at his home, but obviously recovered. In the 1901 census Cicero and Cecilia have a son Freeman, younger son Irwin N, her mother Fanny Haskell and their domestic Stella Struthers. In this census Cicero’s family background is Scotch, and his wife’s Irish.
In 1911 the family were living at 779 Burrard (a renumbering of 731), Cicero and Cecilia were both aged 52, their sons Freeman and Norman (aged 18 and 14), his wife’s mother, Frances Haskett and their domestic, Rachel Cullen. The development of their home into the Irwinton Apartments must have taken place in 1913 – by 1914 all but one of the 54 suites is occupied. The family had moved to 1609 Harwood. Freeman appears to have fought in the First World War, but after that we have not been able to identify him. Cicero was living in retirement on Dunbar Street in 1926 (when this picture of his developments was taken), and was still living there in 1940. At this point his wife was Rose E Davidson; he remarried in 1922 after Cecilia had died. Rose was 24 years younger. Cicero Davidson died in 1946.
In 1981 Irwinton Court was restored by architects Lort and Lort and strata titled.
Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-1522