The Mahon House – Hastings and Burrard

Mahon House

This image is labelled in the archives as “old house, Burrard and Hastings Sts, Jan 1929”. We’ve identified it as the Mahon House, home to Edward Mahon for many years, and very soon after this it was demolished and replaced by the Marine Building. For much of its life it was addressed as Seaton Street, the name for this stretch of Hastings. We weren’t sure who designed the house, but we now know it was W T Dalton who retained a relationship with the Mahons for many years, and it appeared in 1898. (A year earlier Edward Mahon was living at 825 Howe Street).

Joseph W McFarland, an Ontario-born early investor in Vancouver took credit for creating the brokerage company of Mahon, McFarland and Mahon in 1894. He had been involved in the formation of Vancouver’s water company and the Electric Light company (with David Oppenheimer) in 1886, and a real-estate, insurance and stock company in 1892. That company added Edward Mahon two years later and Gilbert Mahon (his younger brother) in 1895. Edward and Gilbert Mahon were the sons of an Anglo-Irish father, Rev. Sir William R. Mahon and his wife Jane. Sir William was 4th Baronet of Castlegar, County Galway, Ireland, and Edward, the sixth child was born in 1862 (in Yorkshire where his father was an Anglican minister) with Gilbert (the eighth) arriving three years later. The Mahon’s were from a family with money. Guinness Mahon was a Dublin-based land agency that soon after their mid 19th century creation became a merchant bank.

Edward Mahon was already in town, and active in development before joining McFarland. In 1894 he was one of three people to put up $100,000 to found the Granville Club, a business social club where his co-founders were Henry Bell-Ogle and David Oppenheimer. That year he was listed as living at the Hotel Vancouver, although he soon moved to Howe Street. In 1895 both Mahon 1896-2Gilbert and Edward were involved in creating a mining syndicate, and Gilbert was also living in Vancouver. Gilbert obviously raised finances in London for the “Jewel Mine” at Long Lake Camp. An 1898 Minster of Mines report noted “Work has been resumed on the Jewel, in Long Lake Camp, lately Jewel acquired by the Jewel Development Syndicate, which has organised a Mineral Claim, a short time ago in London, England, by Mr. Gilbert Mahon, of Vancouver. The Jewel had an incline shaft sunk about 170 feet prior ‘to the suspension of work, which took place early in 1898. About 220 feet of drifting at the 120-foot level was also done at the same time. The first steam mining plant brought into the district was installed at the Jewel early in 1897. It consisted of a 15 h.p. boiler, 6 h.p. hoist, and a steam pump. The Jewel last year enjoyed the further distinction of having the best timbered and, from the miner’s point of view, safest shaft in the district. Its quartz vein has been irregular in value, although maintaining well its size. It is anticipated that, under the new auspices, more settled country will be reached, and better general values be obtained.” The 1897 Vancouver street directory shows Gilbert living in Rossland.

This wasn’t Edward’s first foray into mining – Edward Mahon came to BC in 1890, using family money to invest in mining sites in  the area. His older brother, John Fitzgerald Mahon came in 1889, and upon his return to the UK he convinced Edward to emigrate and act on his behalf. Initially he didn’t do a great deal  of actual mining, but bought and sold properties.  In 1891 he purchased 320 acres on the west side of the Columbia and had it platted for a townsite in 1897. He gave mineral names to the streets, ie, Silver, Galena, Iron etc.  He named the area after his home in Ireland, Castlegar, but “was frustrated in the fulfilment of his vision by unfavourable developments that were orchestrated by the Canadian Pacific Railway” (according to his biographer, Walter Volovsek in ‘The Green Necklace: The Vision Quest of Edward Mahon’).

John Mahon returned to BC in 1892 and foreseeing the potential for development of [Vancouver’s north shore], he established the North Vancouver Land & Improvement Company Ltd. in 1891 and appointed his brother, Edward, as president, a position he held for 45 years. John and Edward were also financial Mahon 1896partners in Vancouver and there were substantial funds involved in their 1896 investment company. John Mahon, although he always lived in England, had his name associated with repairs to the house on Burrard at Hastings. It was paid for by John originally, and was a gift to Edward. In 1902 W T Dalton designed $350 of repairs to the house for J Mahon, a year after he designed the Mahon block on West Hastings for Mahon, McFarland and Mahon and a $500 greenhouse for E Mahon at the house address. The 1902 addition was most likely the shop annex, built in its western wall to accommodate Edward’s Holtzapffel lathe, which he bought that year. The greenhouse was built later on its eastern (Burrard) face. John’s visits were important enough to attract press coverage in Victoria in 1906 “Among the visitors at the Driard are John F. Mahon and Lady Alice Mahon, of London, Eng. Mr. Mahon has large real estate Interests In Vancouver, and has recently been staying with his brother, Edward Mahon, In that city”

Gilbert had been active in Vancouver as well as he acquired George Black’s Water Street property in 1896 (lot 12 of block 1 in the Old Granville Townsite). It took him a further five years to get the Provincial Government to give him clear title to the property. In 1896 he was shown as living at 813 Georgia Street (near Howe) while Edward was at 825 Howe. He gravitated more to the Kootenay district towards the end of the decade, but by 1902 he had had enough of the mining business. The distribution of a legacy (the King Legacy) gave him the funds required to settle back in England with his wife Fanny. Poor investments saw a dissipation of his fortune. He returned to Vancouver with Fanny in 1907 to visit Edward, checking out Rossland and Greenwood enroute.

Mahon McFarland and Mahon owned a series of investment properties in the city, as well as acting as financial brokers and agents for the North British and Mercantile Insurance Co. Other property was held by John F Mahon, and some by Edward.

Joseph McFarland remained president of Mahon, McFarland and Mahon until 1911 when it was sold to London & British North America Company, Limited, one of the largest and strongest financial institutions in Canada. The renamed Mahon McFarland and Procter seem to suggest Frederick Procter, an English broker who arrived in 1895 replaced Gilbert Mahon. Gilbert had apparently moved to Rossland by 1901 where he expanded the mining interests significantly in the early 1900s, and by 1907 it was reported that he had sold the Jewel Mine and returned to Ireland, although he visited mining prospects in BC at least once in 1907, and apparently retained an active interest in the mine, as he selected the location for the new cyanide plant in 1909 (suggesting the Jewel was still producing valuable ore).

By 1913 Edward Mahon was resident at 323 Burrard St, Vancouver. Clubs: Vancouver; Union (Victoria); University (Dublin). He had been married in 1911 to Lilette Caroline Julia Rebbeck, daughter of James K. Rebbeck and Elizabeth l’Abbadie, and in 1913 his son, Bryan was born. Elizabeth was a widow after the death of James from esophageal cancer in 1910. As a published record notes, “Edward encountered a few hurdles in his courtship of Lilette: firstly, she lived in Victoria; secondly, her mother, Elizabeth Rebbeck, was opposed to their relationship. Yet this was somewhat understandable given that Edward was 29 years older than Lilette – he was 48 and she was 19! But being a savvy businessman, Edward solved his problems by offering a managerial position at Capilano Suspension Bridge to Elizabeth. She couldn’t turn down such an opportunity and quickly moved to Capilano, accompanied by her lovely daughter Lilette. Needless to say, Edward and Lilette were married one year later .

The North Vancouver Land and Improvement Company was the foremost among the real estate companies in the early years of North Vancouver. The greater part of the company’s lands were surveyed for settlement in 1896, and in 1897 and 1898 the first five families moved in. In 1908 the company commenced clearing on Grand Boulevard. In 1910 the Capilano Bridge property was acquired, giving Edward the opportunity to offer his mother-in-law-to-be a position. In 1914, the company was restructured and incorporated, with John Mahon being a major shareholder.

John Mahon had one child, a son, (John) Denis, who was a highly distinguished collector of Italian Art and an international expert on the topic, acting for many years as a Trustee of the National Gallery in London. Sir Denis died in 2011 aged 100 and left his personal collection of multi-million dollars worth of painting on loan to a number of International Galleries on the understanding that they can never charge admission to see them.

Edward continued development, quite a bit later than many other investors. Mahon McFarland and Mahon built a new block in 1913 (a year after most investors had stopped activity as the economy plunged). He is shown living at the Burrard or Hastings address until 1928. The corner location confused the Directory compilers a lot, and Edward apparently preferred to list his Seaton Street address rather than the more formal Burrard Street entrance. The Seaton entry was via the kitchen, and Seaton Street was not aligned exactly with Hastings across Burrard in those days – it was straightened when the Marine Building was built). In 1929 Edward is living in the West End on Burnaby Street, and in 1930 he is listed as retired. He died in 1937; John died in 1942 and Gilbert in 1947

Two other Mahon cousins, Ross and Henry Mahon established their homes on Saltspring Island in the 1880s, established themselves in the lumber industry and financed the construction of the community hall, Mahon Hall, in Ganges in 1904.

Thanks to Walter Volovsek for details of the Mahon family: see the Facebook page linked from his website for more on the family.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 447-296

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