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