West Pender – 500 block (2)

West Pender 500 block 2

Here’s a more recent view of the view west from Richards Street of the south side of West Pender. In a much earlier post we saw the buildings that were there in 1908. This 1980s picture, still before the Kingsley Lo designed parkade was built, shows how many had survived the intervening years.

Almost all the buildings were unchanged over the 70 year gap. We’re wondering if the building on the corner might have been a very early one. In 1888 T Prest commissioned William Blackmore to design stores and apartments on Pender at Richards, and if they were built, this would quite possibly be them as the 1901 insurance map only shows this corner of Richards and Pender developed; in 1902 it housed the Chinese Mission. However, Fripp and Wills were also commissioned to build a commercial block for J.M. Spinks, R.G. McKay and Dr. Powell in 1892 also at Pender Street at Richards – so that’s a more likely candidate as it comes four years after the Prest commission.

The first building past the parkade dates back to 1909 and was apparently the first of several investments by Captain Henry Pybus (he built more expensive buildings on Seymour and Richards a few years later). This two storey structure cost $11,000, and Captain Pybus had been based in Vancouver for many years. In 1897 he won the Blue Ribbon after setting the Trans-Pacific crossing record aboard the Canadian Pacific steamship ‘Empress of Japan’. In 1899 he was captain of a British flagged vessel, the Tartar, with a Chinese crew. The San Francisco Call reported a problem he ran into with that crew “The Chinese crew on the British steamer Tartar has been in a state of mutiny for three days, and it was only yesterday that they were brought to their senses. Captain Pybus threatened to send them all back to British Columbia as mutineers and fill their places with white labor or another Chinese crew. The threat had more effect upon the crew than all the persuasive eloquence of Consul Show Ting or the imperative orders of Consul General Ho Vow.”

When he built the Pender Street investment Captain Pybus was already aged 58, although he had a younger English-born wife and two daughters, aged 16 and 20 in the 1911 census. He had been born in South Africa and although his biography suggested he had come to Canada in 1901 when he was 50, the 1911 census says it was 1890, which makes more sense. He was described not just as a sea captain, but as a Master Mariner. His reason for being in the US with the Tartar was to transport US troops involved in military operations in the Philippines. Once in Vancouver he commanded all three of the CPR ‘Empress’ line ships.

The building (numbered today as 532 West Pender) still stands today, and looks very similar to when it was first built.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 772-1305

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Posted June 16, 2013 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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