Archive for May 2013

Sweeney Cooperage


From as far back as the 1890s until the early 1980’s the site to the east of the Cambie Bridge made barrels. The earliest reference we can trace is the 1899 street directory, and the 1901 Insurance Map shows a large industrial cooperage alongside the bridge. Although it was identified as the Cambie Street Bridge, the road that led to it was considered to be Beatty Street, not Cambie, although the cooperage was addressed as Cambie (but not allocated a street number). It was operated by the BC Sugar Refinery as their cooperage, and seems to have replaced the BC Oil Co who seem to have occupied the site before 1898.

Cooperage 1912By 1912 the BC Sugar Refinery Cooperage continued to occupy the site, there’s a new bridge next to where the earlier structure had been located, and the Cascade Coal and Wood Co also seem to operate from part of the same wharf that pushed out beside the bridge into False Creek. By 1916 there were two cooperages on the waterfront of False Creek, one on either side of the Connaught (Cambie) Bridge. The BC Cooperage and the Vancouver Cooperage & Woodenware Co were both here.

It’s likely that the BC Cooperage was the “small branch plant established in Vancouver on False Creek” that Michael Sweeney established in 1914. Initially Sweeney, a cooper from Newfoundland, set up shop in Victoria in 1889, and his first Vancouver cooperage was in 1914. In 1921 the firm amalgamated with Vancouver Cooperage, and with an interest from an Oregon company the name was changed to Canadian Western Cooperage Limited. The firm expanded in both Victoria and Vancouver, rebuilt in both cities after spectacular fires (in 1937 in Vancouver’s case). The Sweeney family bought back the company shares in 1939 and the company regained the Sweeney Cooperage name

Sweeney barrels 1950 VPLAt one point the cooperage was the largest barrel manufacturer in the British Empire producing 2000 barrels a day, selling them to customers in more than 40 countries with branches in Montreal, Portland and Seattle. Sweeney barrels were used to ship goods from strawberries to salted salmon around the world.

The sawmill which produced the wooden barrel parts (shown in this 1960s image) was built in 1946 and the cooperage closed in 1981 to make way for the construction of B.C. Place and the new Cambie Street Bridge. Some of the factory lives on – McGinnis Wood Products in Cuba, Missouri acquired some of the barrel making machines and now has the largest air dried inventory of bourbon barrels in the world.

Today Concord Pacific’s Cooper’s Mews has replaced the Expo activity with four condo buildings containing over 500 units designed by Walter Francl, Hotson Bakker and Hancock, Bruckner, Eng & Wright.

Thanks to Jennifer Sweeney for the detailed (and accurate) company story.

Image sources, VPL, City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-489


Posted May 8, 2013 by ChangingCity in Gone, Yaletown

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152 and 156 West Hastings

152&156 W Hastings blog

The pair of black and white painted buildings were constructed at the start of the city’s greatest building boom in the early 1900s. The owners were the Rogers family, long time Vancouver developer Jonathan Rogers, and his recently married wife, Elizabeth.

Trocadero156 W Hastings (to the west, closer in the picture) was built first in 1901 for Jonathan Rogers , cost $10,000 and was designed by Parr and Fee. 152 West Hastings, next door, was built in 1904 and designed by William Blackmore and Son. It cost $8,000 and the developer was E Rogers – Elizabeth, Jonathan Rogers’ wife (who he married in 1902). Rogers built a number of other buildings in the city, and generally used either William Blackmore or Parr and Fee to design them. Initially the two buildings were different in appearance; this CVA image shows the Trocadero Grill in 1914 with a very shallow bay window on the Parr and Fee building. The first tenants were a bicycle dealer and Barr and Anderson, plumbers. A harness firm moved into the second stage when it was completed. The Vancouver Fancy Sausage Company was another long-term tenant of the building.

Our 1940 picture shows the buildings soon after they were remodelled to match the Blackmore design, with the Trocadero still in place. E. Chrystal & Co (a sash and door manufacturer) carried out the alterations in 1939. In September 1936, the café was the scene of a week-long strike after employees walked off the job to obtain higher wages. The management of the Trocadero Grill brought in strike breakers to staff the restaurant, but had to back down after customers refused to cross the picket line.

Tenants changed over the years, and once Woodwards closed the area went into decline. In the past few years a number of arts tenants occupied the building as the Red Gate, but the city eventually ordered the building closed until safety issues and code problems were addressed. After a comprehensive restoration by new owners, new tenants have occupied the building including a restaurant, a fitness centre and Appnovation Technologies, a fast-growing Information and Communication Technology company.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 586-2574


West Cordova Street – unit block


The biggest building on the unit block of Cordova was built by Thomas Dunn and Jonathan Miller in 1889 as a sort of loose alliance – one architect, (N S Hoffar) two owners and a variety of tenants. We’ve featured Wood, Vallance and Leggat who were in Thomas Dunn’s part of the building. There was also a hotel, a reading room, the headquarters of the Electric Railway and Light company and the Knights of Pythias Hall, located on the second floor of the building.

Today the facade says it’s the Lonsdale Block; North Vancouver property magnate Arthur Lonsdale acquired the building and had the facade plaques reworked with his name replacing the original. Despite Mr Lonsdale’s attempt to recast history, the building is still generally known as the Dunn-Miller Block. Arthur Pemberton Heywood-Lonsdale (as he became when he was allowed to change his name in order to inherit a fortune of a million and a quarter pounds under the will of his maternal uncle, John Pemberton Heywood, who died in 1877) used some of his funds to finance the Moodyville Mill in 1882 (several years after Sewell Moody’s untimely death at sea). He acquired property on the north shore and in the city, although he continued to live in Shropshire in England where he became High Sheriff in 1888.

The Army and Navy Store occupied their West Hastings premises from 1919 when San Francisco native Sam Cohen established the store, and the company purchased the Cordova buildings  later. Through the 1940s there were a variety of restaurants, a barbers school and two tailors shops as well as the Skidrow Store grocers. Army and Navy restored elements of the Classical-style façade in 1973-74 in a remodelling of the entire store. What you can see here is the original building in the 1960s, before it became effectively a facade in front of a more modern (although now 40 year old) interior.

Image source; City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-768


Empress Theatre – East Hastings Street

Empress Theatre

The Empress Theatre was built on the corner of Gore Street in 1908. The permit was applied for by Evans B Deane and Co in 1906, and initially was supposed to cost around $40,000. Deane was a partner in a real estate and financial partnership known as Deane and Barrett with G A Barrett (who sold Burnaby real estate as well as Vancouver lots). The first operator of the theatre was the Del S. Lawrence Stock Company, who at various times also played the Avenue Theatre and the Opera House in the city. His company worked the west coast, from his native California to Vancouver, with stops in Seattle, Portland and Victoria. The house was managed by Walter Sandford,  another American actor (whose wife was busy running the Hotel Stratford up the road). The architect was a Scot called Charles K Shand who established an office in the city from his Seattle practice.

We know a great deal about the construction of the theatre from a 1908 profile in Contract Record that identified the final cost as closer to $80,000. “A unique feature of the building is that it was built entirely of concrete blocks, manufactured and erected by the Concrete Engineering & Construction Company, of Vancouver. The illustration shows the fine appearance of the building, which is claimed to be the largest concrete block structure in Canada. While the rock faced blocks are all of the same pattern, it does not show a monotonous appearance, as the pattern possesses no sharp or distinct feature.

The structure is 119 feet long, 92 feet 9 inches wide, and 71 feet high from the street level. The walls are 21 inches, 18 inches and 12 inches thick, while the fire wall between the auditorium and the stage is 12 inches thick. The side walls of this are of blocks and the arches solid concrete masonry. The 21-inch walls were constructed of 12-inch and 9-inch blocks, and the 18 inch walls of two 9-inch blocks side by side, with a header every third course and every six feet. The building consumed 31,630 blocks 24 inches long and 8 inches high. These blocks were made on the Perfection power machine, one of which is a feature of the plant of the Concrete Engineering & Construction Co.

The aggregate used in the blocks was, one of cement, two of sand, and three of crushed rock, which has been found to give very satisfactory results. The cement used is the local product known as the Vancouver Brand, being purchased at $2.60 per barrel. The sand is sea sand, pumped from the beach on English Bay, and is clean and without any impurity. The crushed rock is purchased of a size from two to four inches and crushed in the company’s crusher from 1/2-inch down, which is the size used in the blocks. These blocks sell in Vancouver, 9-inch for 33 cents, and 12-inch for 43 cents, being the price in the yard. Contract price of the concrete work on this building was $21,200.

The architect was particularly pleased with the work done, as well as the owners; both of whom are satisfied that concrete block construction, such as has been supplied in the Empress Theatre, is to play a very important part in future building construction in Vancouver.

The Concrete Engineering & Construction Company were organized a little over two and one-half years ago, under the name of the Perfection Cement Block Company, to manufacture concrete blocks. With the spirit of the times the company has grown and enlarged, and is now doing every class of plain and reinforced concrete construction, pavements, waterproof floors, walls and foundations, as well as being manufacturers of power-made hollow concrete blocks, concrete stone and ornamental concrete.”


Empress 1940The theatre only lasted until 1940. Between the wars it saw a number of stock theatre companies tour through the city, and it was popular for the size of its stage – one of the largest in the west. It was demolished in 1940 (the year our photos were taken) and from other pictures that exist it appears to have remained a cleared site used for parking for over 40 years until the unremarkable 1987 retail building that stands today was built. The only slightly unusual thing about it is that it appears to have a second storey – a pretence that’s somewhat blown by the ‘window’ openings where the infill panels have gone, revealing a view through to the sky.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Bu N134


Posted May 1, 2013 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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