Archive for July 2013

Hornby Street – 900 Block (1)

900 Hornby east 1

Adding colour, and 30 years can make quite a difference. Here’s two 1981 images showing the one-year old Law Courts that were part of the re-thought Robson Square complex. In the early 1970s a 50 storey 600 foot tower would have been on the site if the WAC Bennett Government plan had been followed. Instead Arthur Erickson designed the Dave Barrett NDP ‘tower on its back’ that we have today, completed in 1980. It’s still nearly 140 feet tall, and has 35 courtrooms on seven levels, but the most striking thing today is the integral landscaping that has vines trailing from every floor, and trees carefully sited in mounds and pits that create an entire elevated park through the complex, designed by Cornelia Oberlander.

900 Hornby east 2

Originally the 1,300,000 square foot complex cost $139 million. After thirty years of use it recently saw a multi-million dollar restoration that included replacement membranes and re-sealing the waterproofing throughout the buildings. The waterfall is running again as well, and all the planting was carefully removed and returned, or replanted so there’s still a mature 30-year old landscape. The double row of red maples that line the Hornby sidewalk (and flank the new bike lane) have done a bit of root damage to the sidewalk surface – but nothing like what would have happened in Erickson’s preferred Plane Trees had been planted.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-W07.24 and CVA 779-W07.31



The Lee Building – Broadway and Main

Lee Building

Herbert Oliver Lee – generally known by his initials – arrived in Vancouver in 1903 from London Ontario when he would have been aged around 26. Two years later he married Beatrice, who was aged only 20 and from Carlton Place, also in Ontario. The marriage took place in Vancouver where Herbert had already established a grocery store on Main 8th to Broadway 1906 BarrowcloughWestminster Avenue (today’s Main Street), just north of the junction with Ninth Avenue (today’s Broadway). Here’s his store in 1906. The second floor seems to have been a hall, referred to as ‘Lee’s Hall’.

Mr Lee must have been successful in the fast-growing city, and by 1907 had apparently acquired a plot next to his store right on the corner of Broadway and Main. The corner was the home of the Mount Pleasant Methodist Church from 1891 until 1909, although it was closed a few years earlier. A 1907 advertisement in the Mount Pleasant Advocate placed by H O Lee said “For Sale or Rent, the old Mt. Pleasant Methodist Church Building.” Clearly he had no takers – or at least none he liked, because in 1910 he hired architect A J Bird to design the Lee Building for the site. There’s just the one reference to this scheme in the Province newspaper, although Mr Lee did take out a building permit for a $100,000 steel framed building that year with W C Stevens to be the builder, and Mr Lee himself as architect (which seems a bit unlikely, and Mr. Stevens later claimed to have designed the building, even though it wasn’t actually built. Nothing really happened for a year, and when it did it wasn’t Mr Bird’s, or Mr. Stevens’ design that was used. Instead Stroud and Keith were the architects for a $200,000 six-storey building (although as built it’s seven). Allan Stroud was a Toronto based architect who arrived in Vancouver in 1909, partnered with A W Keith in 1910 and designed very few buildings before leaving again after 1912. This is one of only two buildings still standing that the partnership designed, and easily the biggest that was built.

It was the largest building in Mount Pleasant for many years, and Mr Lee continued to live in the building with his family. Our 1939 VPL image shows it soon after his death, which was in 1937. His wife, Beatrice, died in 1948. The family apparently lost control of the building due to a debt of $12,000 to the Royal Bank, and eventually the building was sold in a rather unusual arrangement of joint shareholder ownership – almost a strata, but not quite. The building houses a mix of residents, offices and retail stores.

The shops are pushed back behind an arcade, but that’s not how Stroud and Keith designed the building. The sidewalk in front of the building was taken for widening Broadway in 1953 and the arcade – which is more like a corridor – was the compromise solution. Fortunately this was achievable with a steel framed building (erected by J Coughlin and Sons, who conveniently had offices in the same building as the architects).

The single storey retail stores on the left, on Westminster Avenue included a Safeway store in the 1930s. Today’s replacement buildings are still low, having been rebuilt in the past two years following a fire.


Posted 21 July 2013 by ChangingCity in Broadway, Still Standing

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Cambie and Broadway sw (2)

Cambie from 8th south

Here’s another view up Cambie Street, this time from closer to West 8th Avenue. It’s supposedly 1931, the gas station and billboard we saw in earlier posts were also here – and the Bridgeway gas station appears to heve been owned by General Gasoline and sold Union 76 gasoline. The problem with that is that Union 76 was only introduced in 1932. The name referred to the 1776 United States Declaration of Independence, and was also the octane rating of the gasoline in 1932.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 20-85


Posted 17 July 2013 by ChangingCity in Broadway, Gone

Robson and Chilco Streets

Robson & Chilco

In 1910 this was a brand new home. This was just one house, the property of J A Russell that had been completed a year earlier at a cost of $5,000 to the design of W H Milner. Mr Milner became a distinguished architect, but not in Vancouver. He appears to have been responsible for only one other design in the city, but it was a really important one, the $45,000 Vancouver Horse Show building on West Georgia Street, built in the same year as this house. His main practice was in Seattle, although he also briefly had a joint partnership with John R Wilson in Victoria.

The huge house was the home of a small family, just father (Joseph), mother (Jessie) and Flora, their 23 year old daughter. The rest of the household consisted of Mary Depford, a nurse, the Domestics, Annie and Fito, and the labourers, John and Frank (Annie’s husband). This clearly wealthy household was the home of one of the city’s most important lawyers, partner with his brother (and other partners at various times) in what appears to have been the most successful law firm of the day.

Joseph Russell was born in New Brunswick in 1866, was called to the bar there in 1887 and headed to Vancouver a year later. As with many of the most successful Vancouver residents, Mr Russell did not limit his interests to his profession. A 1914 biography extensively described his activities “For nine years Mr. Russell filled the position of police magistrate of the growing city of Vancouver, and aside from duties thus directly connected with law practice, he has had other business interests, being heavily interested in the salmon canning industry for several years. For a long time he has been interested in timber, holding substantial interests in two large lumber companies, and he is now interested in other industries, including the Vancouver Ship Yard, Ltd., and the Burton-Shaw Manufacturing Company, Ltd. He owns claims and is very active in coast mining for gold and copper, and the keen analytical power and ready discernment of the lawyer are also effective forces in recognizing the possibilities of a business situation and the utilization of these possibilities in the attainment of success. Mr. Russell was one of those who conceived the idea of establishing the Vancouver Horse Show and became one of the founders and active promoters of the association, of which he has been a director and an exhibitor from its inception.”

“In the field of sports Mr. Russell is well-known, and for many years was president and captain of the Vancouver Rowing Club. He stroked the crew for four years without a single loss. He is a member of the Vancouver Tennis Club, Vancouver Athletic Club, and was for some time president of the Pacific Northwest Amateur Athletic Association. He likewise belongs to the Brockton Point Athletic Club, has been master of the Vancouver Hunt Club since its inception in 1886, and is a member of the Canadian, Vancouver, Jericho Country and Minoru Clubs. He is a recognized leader in political circles and deeply interested in civic affairs of the city and province, but owing to his extensive practice and many private interests he has not found time to become openly identified with these.”

The collapse of the property market saved the house – in 1913 H B Watson was hired to design a six storey apartment building here, but it appears it was never built; Joseph Russell was still living here in 1920, and the family remained here until 1937. His legal practice was unusual because he represented many Chinese clients, and challenged many of the prejudices of the day. More on this aspect of Mr. Russell’s history can be seen here.

The building that replaced the house is perhaps older that it looks. Chilco Towers was built in 1957 and designed by Kenneth A Gardner. Gardner was born in South Africa in 1919 but emigrated in 1953, and established a successful practice in Vancouver designing two of the first ‘self-owned apartments’ in the city – including this one. These pre-date the legislation that created strata ownership, so they were described as ‘tenant-owned apartments’ and were built by ‘Self-Owned Apartments Ltd’. They cost from $17,000 for a 1-bedroom to $38,000 for 3-bedrooms. The modernist building had (and partly still has) fabulous views – but no balconies.

Image source; City of Vancouver Archives CVA M-11-59


Posted 15 July 2013 by ChangingCity in Gone, West End

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Cambie and Broadway sw (1)

Broadway & Cambie sw

What could be better to locate opposite a prominent billboard than another billboard? Here’s the south-west corner of Cambie and Broadway in 1932 with site occupied by a hoarding. Up the street is the funeral home of Nunn and Thompson, but the entire corner site is taken up with a trio of advertising billboards. There had been buildings here – the 1912 Insurance map shows two structures although the street directory said the store on the corner with Bridge Street (as Cambie was called then) was vacant.

In 1941 the corner was still vacant, but there was a new Safeway store next door at 510 West Broadway and there had been stores further west for many years. In 1986 the existing building was built on the corner, and ten years earlier the office building used by the Vancity Credit Union, and now the City of Vancouver, was built up the hill on the corner of West 10th.

Image source; City of Vancouver Archives CVA 20-112


Posted 14 July 2013 by ChangingCity in Broadway, Gone

Cambie Street and West 10th Avenue

W10th & Cambie 1

Cambie Street had three gas stations down the hill at West 5th Avenue. There was another on the corner of West Broadway (although on the west side of the street). And here’s another block up the hill, where Shell hoped to catch the drivers coming down Cambie before Standard Oil or Union Oil could get their custom. These 1937 VPL Leonard Frank images show the three pump forecourt, the lube bay, and the rather smart houses along West 10th Avenue.

The Park View Service Station appeared in the late 1920s, and was still there in 1950. For a number of years there was a large parking lot – which has now shrunk a little with the addition of the Canada Line transit station in 2009.

W10th & Cambie 2


Posted 13 July 2013 by ChangingCity in Broadway, Gone

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Cambie and Broadway nw (2)

Cambie & Broadway 2

In 1953 a Royal Bank appeared on the north-west corner of Cambie and Broadway. In the interim during the 1940s the Hall Motor Co operated on the corner, with a cartage firm just down the street, although both had gone by the early 1950s. Before that there was a filling station, as we showed in an earlier post. Commonwealth Construction built the new bank, and Leonard Frank recorded its construction in 1952 (below). There were still houses on Broadway to the west.

Alongside and behind the bank Fairchild Square was developed in 1989 – an auto centred mall with small retail stores and restaurants around a central parking courtyard, with offices at the back for Fairchild Radio and TV. The centre was developed by Thomas Fung, the owner of Fairchild Media.

Fairchild went on to develop the Aberdeen Centre in Richmond, and PCI took on development of the site, hiring Peter Busby’s architectural company to replace the bank (who are back in the new building) along with Wholefoods, London Drugs, Lululemon and medical and other office space in a project called Crossroads, completed in 2009.

Image source, City of Vancouver Archives CVA 772-318 and Jewish Museum LF.01614


Posted 12 July 2013 by ChangingCity in Broadway, Gone

Cambie and Broadway nw (1)

Cambie & Broadway 1

Here’s one of the busiest corners in town – remarkably so considering it’s not in the Downtown. In 1932 it was just a bit more quiet. City Hall wasn’t here – the decision to locate it on Strathcona park wouldn’t be made for three years. There was a gas station on the corner, one of a remarkable number nearby, and a billboard. The gas station offered complete lubrication and Dunlop tyres. Beyond the billboard was another billboard, and the home of Albert C Jeffers. In 1953 a new Royal Bank was opened here, moving from the opposite side of Cambie.

Today the Crossroads development, designed by Busby and Associates, showcases green construction with a mix of office space and big-box retail and a residential component down the street to the west. And on the other side of the (much busier) street there’s still a billboard.

Image source, City of Vancouver Archives CVA 20-84


Posted 11 July 2013 by ChangingCity in Broadway, Gone

West Georgia and Burrard

Glencoe Lodge

Here’s the home of J M Browning, the Canadian Pacific Railway’s land agent, soon after it was built in 1888. It was quite a way out of town on recently cleared land at the corner of Burrard and Georgia. It looks as if the site had been graded, but the street was still playing catch-up. It was actually a CPR commision for a double cottage, designed by Bruce Price who had a lot of work from the CPR, including Sir William Van Hornes’s mansion on Sherbrooke Street in Montreal, the Hotel Frontenac in Quebec and the Banff Springs Hotel. The house only stayed a home until 1905. Browning was successor to L A Hamilton, the surveyor who supervised the subdivision of the new city (and got to name the streets).

A P Horne (who worked for Mr Browning in the land department) described him as ‘a delightfully charming man’ and ‘very Scotch’. Thomas Roberts, who was an early resident, recalled helping build the house. ‘I helped to build the Browning House on the northwest corner of Burrard and Georgia. There was a man nearby; he was blasting stumps, and he broke the circular windows which Browning had had brought out at a cost of thirty dollars. The big glass window panes were semi-circular and it took a long time to replace them.’

The Browning weren’t young for all this activity; in 1891 John M Browing was aged 65 and his wife Magdalena (who was born in Quebec to a Scottish family) was 57. They had no children at home, and one domestic, Hannah.

As the city grew westwards, sugar magnate B T Rogers assembled a site including the house, had it lifted and added to, and turned it into a hotel. In the meantime J M Browning also became property developer in 1894 with a building at Granville and Dunsmuir.

From the 1930s to the early 1970s there was a gas station here. Today the banking hall of the Royal Bank sits on the corner, part of the Royal Centre built in 1973.

Image source City of Vancouver archives CVA LGN 483


Posted 10 July 2013 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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Cambie Street and 5th Avenue

Standard Oil 5th & Cambie

Here’s the Standard Oil station at 5th Avenue on Cambie Street. Photographer Stuart Thompson was commissioned by the company to record their new filling station, and he photographed it in 1935. Just as coffee shops seem to cluster today, so apparently did filling stations. The driveway to the right of the picture led into the older Union Oil gas bar. Union and Standard were rivals, Union based in California and Standard in New York.

They weren’t the only auto businesses in the area – Nye’s service station can be seen behind the gas bar in both pictures. Designed by Townley and Matheson it was built in 1923 and also sold gas. While the Nye building lives on in a new role, as a funeral director’s, the two gas bars were replaced in 1993 by the ICBC office complex housing the main police station with one of the Insurance Corporation’s assessment centres.

Image source City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-4774


Posted 9 July 2013 by ChangingCity in Broadway, Gone

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