Archive for September 2013
Around fifty years ago (in the 1960s) this was the view at the foot of Alder Street where it meets West 6th Avenue. There was a small wood-frame apartment building to the east, supposedly dating back to 1910, and across the street was more of the Vancouver Iron and Engineering Works (once the buildings of the Vancouver Machinery Depot Co whose president was George Walkem, a Conservative MLA in the early 1930s).
Actually the apartment dated back to 1912, and was built at a cost of $50,000 by Arthur Langlois a carpenter who designed and built it for himself and three tenants. in 1913 they were Edward Dell (an engineer with the CPR), Harry Hunt (a compositor on the Province newspaper) and James Duke, (a draperies salesman).
Arthur lived with his wife Elizabeth, daughters Mildred and Thelma (aged 9 and 7) and son Arthur jnr. Arthur was originally from Ontario and his wife was Scottish, but all their children had been born in British Columbia. Although the apartment building only received a building permit in 1912 and the Insurance map that year shows a vacant site, the 1911 census has the family living at that location so perhaps they were about to be living in a construction zone as Arthur replaced the house they had lived in for several years into a four-unit complex.
Anybody living there today would be doing much the same; Alder Crossing, a 12 unit townhouse designed by Matthew Cheng Architect is just nearing completion. The view across the creek has changed a bit.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-485
Philadelphia Rosa Williams was probably born in 1832. She married a clergyman, Leigh Spencer, and they seem to have had five children. (Rev Spencer’s name was probably Oliph Leigh Spencer, but he was always recorded as Leigh). His family had founded All Souls College, Oxford, and there had been other members of the clergy over the years. Rosa Leigh Spencer, their daughter, was born in 1857 (or 1858) in Harpenden in Hertfordshire, England, and she had three older brothers including one called Oliph, born in 1852.
Rosa’s father was the vicar of Renhold, Bedfordshire from 1859 to 1885. The family seems to have had additional financial resources as the Rev Spencer paid for the restoration of the church building. In 1881 the family who were living at home – her father, mother Philadelphia and sister Maude had three servants. (There were three sons not recorded as living at home). Her father died in 1886, and Miss Spencer found herself single, in her late twenties, and apparently comfortably off. She set off for Canada that year; it seems likely that she may have joined her brother. We are almost certain that the O L Spencer, barrister, who practiced
in Vancouver from 1893 is Oliph Leigh Spencer. In 1891 he was in Ontario, although we have been unable to identify his sister in the census that year. In 1894 however she was certainly in the province, if not in the city, as she had an unfortunate (and expensive) incident in Nanaimo
In 1894 O L Spencer was a barrister with Armstrong and Spencer, living at 233 Dunlevy. A year later he was living on Comox Street, In 1898 he had rooms in the Badminton Hotel, and was the president of the Vancouver Bicycle Club. A year later he had rooms in the Metropole Hotel and in 1900 his office was in the Flack Block and he was living on Barclay Street (where he stayed for several years). That year, for the first time R L Leigh Spencer was listed (with an office but no home address) and a year later
there was a home address – 872 Burrard.
In 1902 O L Spencer was elected as a Park Commissioner.
Their mother was still in London in 1889, acting as exectutor to Charlotte Sophia Campbell, Baroness Craignish, who died that year at the same address that Philadelphia Spencer lived (3, Welbeck Mansions, Cadogan Terrace). She must have joined either her son or daughter some time later as Philadelphia Rosa Leigh Spencer died in Vancouver in 1902 aged 72. In 1901 R Leigh Spencer was recorded in the census, born in England, arrived in 1886, in real estate, living alone, aged 37. (Actually, she was 43). Her brother doesn’t seem to have been recorded. In 1900 we found Miss Spencer involved in mining near Nelson. A Nelson Tribune article refers to Miss Spencer as ‘the only lady promoter in
the province”. In 1902 she owned land in Cumberland, another mining district.
In 1901 we assume that the Miss L Spencer who built a $5,000 building designed by ‘Mr Grant’ on Granville Street was Rosa. The building was only 25 feet wide, and the pictures that exist for the early 1900s show a building which seems to have an unusual oval window on both the second and third floors. We’re assuming Mr Grant was G W Grant, a popular architect during this period. His design for the Ormidale Block (still standing on Hastings Street) a year earlier also features an oval window.
In 1904 O L Spencer was the secretary of the Vancouver Yacht Club, and then on the last day of 1905 the Times Colonist announced his sudden death from pneumonia while on a visit to San Francisco. This entirely unexpected turn of events appaently left his wife a widow. We have been able to confirm that this death, and therefore O L Spencer was almost certainly Rosa’s 54 year old brother, as the San Francisco funeral home registered the death of Oliph L Spencer in 1905. His wife was Annie (nee McDougall), and in 1884 Oliph Leigh Leigh Spencer was born in Toronto, so it appears he had at least one son (who died in Ganges on Saltspring Island in 1965), and two daughters, Dorothy and Vivian born in 1888 and 1889.
In 1909 Miss Spencer decided to replace her eight year old 3-storey building with an 8-storey steel office, designed by E W Houghton of Seattle. That’s it closer to the camera, next door to the Bower Building (built a year or so earlier). Known as the Leigh Spencer building it took a year to fill, but by 1913 had a variety of tenants, the Lock Tie Brick Co Ltd, Acme Manicring Parlors (on the fourth floor), several real estate offices, three barristers, Painter and Swales, the architects, the Vancouver Press Club on the seventh floor, and on the top floor “Leigh-Spencer, Miss”.
In 1910 Miss spencer built a $5,500 house at 2326 York designed by Cox & Thompson (who were generally builders).
She lived in Victoria for a year (posibly while her house was being built). At some point during her stay in Vancouver, in some reports and eventually on her death certificate Rosa had acquired an extra ‘Leigh’ (so recorded as Rosa Leigh Leigh-Spencer). She died in Vancouver in 1937, recorded as being aged 80, single.
Today there’s another office building on the site called the Bower Building covering the 75 foot width once occupied by the Leigh Spencer Building and the earlier Bower Building. The new building is 14 storeys, designed by Eng + Wright in 1995.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Str P424
George E Bower was born in Ontario, as was his wife Julia. He first appears in the 1892 Street Directory, as a salesman for Mr Winch. R V Winch was a fruit and fish merchant on Cordova, with a house on Oppenheimer. He and Mr Bower were both said to be from Cobourg, Ontario, and R V Winch had a sister, Julia, who married George. In 1894 George Bower was a partner in the Cordova store, and a home on a different block of Oppenheimer. In 1901 the Bower family of five were living on Barclay Street with their servant Sarrah Longcake.
In 1911 the family had moved to Point Grey Road in a house built at a cost of $15,000 the year before, with their daughter Kathleen (who was aged 22 and had been awarded an MA degree), their 19-year-old son George and younger daughter Edith (aged 13). There was also a domestic servant, Kwong, aged 30. George was aged 53 and listed as retired. In 1909 George had commissioned Hooper and Watkins to design an 8-storey steel frame office building on Granville Street. George may have been retired, but he continued to make alterations to buildings he owned on Granville Street past 1920, and continued to live in his Point Grey home until 1935.
Our VPL image shows the Bower Building – the tall building with the square windows closer to the camera, in 1941. Today there’s another office building on the site, still called the Bower Building but now 14 storeys, designed by Eng + Wright in 1995.
The first hotel at this location was built by Ebenezer Brown, a wine merchant in New Westminster, and it was originally named the Granville Hotel (after Granville Townsite to the east of here) in the 1860s. He sold it to Joe Mannion and Billy Jones in 1874, and in about 1879 it was rebuilt. Mannion ran it for several years, and the published history says it was then sold on to Tom Cyrs in 1886 (although Cyrs was running it for several years before this, and at least one source suggests the sale was earlier). Cyrs lost the structure when it burned down with the rest of the city, but he quickly had it rebuilt (that’s the new wooden building on the left with the gentlemen in the bowler hats in front, in 1887). The street directory for 1888 shows that R Campbell was proprietor of the Granville, and Tom Cyrs wasn’t in town (although he was listed as owning the hotel in 1887), so he may have briefly left Vancouver. In 1889 Tom Cyrs is once again shown owning the Granville, and T Roberts is listed as a bartender a situation that continues through to 1891, where the census for that year reveals that Thomas Roberts was a 17-year-old bartender living with his uncle, Thomas Cyrs, a hotel keeper (with Mrs Cyrs, an adopted son, Arthur and Mary Roberts, Thomas’s sister). In 1892 both men are listed as proprietor of the Granville.
The ‘official’ version of the building’s history says Cyrs sold the hotel in 1889 to Thomas Roberts. When we calculated Mr. Roberts age, that seemed a little unlikely. Born in 1874, he was 13 when he arrived in the city, and would have been aged 15 on acquiring the hotel. If our estimate is correct, Thomas Joseph (‘Tommy’) Roberts was still only 18 when he became joint owner of the Granville. Both men are listed as proprietors until 1896; in 1897 Thomas Cyrs moved to a house on Dufferin Street and Thomas Roberts became listed as sole proprietor (at the age of 23). This situation prevailed through the early 1900s, although Thomas Cyrs is still shown as a ‘hotel keeper’ – but no hotel is listed, and the Granville continues to be identified with Thomas Roberts.
The owner, (we assume Thomas Cyrs), had N S Hoffar redesign the hotel as a brick structure, although he retained the Granville name, in 1889. Initially it operated as a reasonably small hotel with ancillary space at the rear (likely the stables); the 1901 census shows 25-year-old Thomas Roberts as head of the household of 33 boarders (many from Ontario, some from England and some from the USA, a couple from New Brunswick and George StGeorge from Quebec). There were four live-in staff (a bartender, clerk, chambermaid and domestic) and his 19-year-old sister, Emily Roberts.
In 1903 Thomas Roberts commissioned a large, four-storey addition that was built at a cost of $25,000; this addition filled the entire footprint of the lot and was designed by R H Bracken. The hotel then switched name to the Grand Hotel. Thomas Cyrs died in 1907 aged 55. There are a number of stories told to Major Matthews about Cyrs that make it clear he was quite a character. William Edwards identified him as the first man to be arrested following the fire – two days later (several other stories relate that Mr. Cyrs considered himself handy with his fists). “They tied him to a chair at first, but he kicked over the chair; then they chained him to the tree; it was on the opposite side of Carrall Street to the tent they used for a City Hall. The old tree had been badly damaged in the fire. Which reminds me of a thing which would look very queer now. I have seen Tom Cyrs walking up the middle of Water Street with a buggy whip over his shoulder, and a horse, just a loose horse—no head rope or anything—following him.”
The architect of the hotel extension appeared for the first time in the street Directory in 1903, living in the Granville Hotel. He was still there a year later, with an office on Hastings. Thomas Bracken lived in the same lodgings for those same years, but had gone by 1905. Richard H Bracken continued to live in the same hotel until 1910 when he seems to have been working for Seattle architect E W Houghton, who designed a number of projects in the city including a theatre. In 1911 Bracken was living in West Vancouver, aged 34, and we know from that census he was born in England. We don’t know what work he was doing as we can’t decipher the census clerk’s handwriting – but it doesn’t look like it was architect.
Tommy Roberts owned and operated the hotel for many years, and invested in other real estate including the Roberts Block on West Pender Street in 1908 and the building adjacent to the Grand (now known as the Cordage – to the left in the photo) in 1911 (designed by Hugh Braunton and built at a cost of $48,000). Roberts died suddenly at age forty-two in 1918, murdered in the West End with another man when a masked bandit attempted to hold-up a poker game.
The Grand soldiered on for many years; our main image shows it in 1929, but the upper floors were effectively abandoned by the 1970s (as this image from around 1970 suggests). In 2008 Acton Ostry designed the rehabilitation of the facades and extra density above and behind three of the four buildings on this part of Water Street, including the Grand, with condos over retail uses (the Grand getting one extra brick-faced floor).
Image sources: City of Vancouver archives Hot N8, CVA 780-512 and Str N58
Fire Hall #1 was designed by W T Whiteway on East Cordova Street in 1905, replacing a grocery store. Here it is a year later in a VPL image. A new hall was built nearby on Main Street in 1974, and in 1982 the Firehall Arts Centre opened in the decommissioned building. At least, that’s the official version, and while not in any way incorrect, it’s slightly misleading – it wasn’t the first fire station in the city. The first fire Fire Hall #1 was located on Water Street – there was a hose tower, and Engine House with sleeping hall above, and a hose house and gymnasium, all to the west of the Alhambra Hotel where the 1930 Nagle Brothers Garage was later built, and more recently converted to a retail and condo structure. Firehall #1 today is on Heatley Avenue – to the left are Vancouver’s early fire fighters in 1895.
Image source: VPL and City of Vancouver Archives FD P41
It’s the 1890s. Mrs. H.E. Campbell in conversation with Major Matthews recalled the road from Eburne (Marpole today). “We went over to Vancouver once in a while, driving up Granville Street, as it is now called, but then it was just a slit in the forest, a solid wall of trees on both sides from Eburne to False Creek, with timber so tall you had to look straight up to see the sky. We went over to Vancouver on the first day of July 1890, and the mud on Granville Street was up to the hubs. The sun could not get in to dry the road—the trees were too tall. The road was no wider than a wagon, and, every half mile or so, there was a little space, somewhat wider, where the wagons could pass.” The bridge had been added in 1889, although there wasn’t a bridge over the Fraser River – just a rowboat ferry. Granville Street was called Centre Street initially, and 7th Avenue was the first east-west street to link Westminster (Main) and Centre (Granville). Ninth Avenue (Broadway) only became important when the carline was added. This stretch of Centre Street was widened and rolled in 1891, and to the south the forest started at 16th Avenue.
At the bottom of the hill the bridge to the city started at Third Avenue. Beyond that was the creek; In the early 1900s Major Matthews recalled “False Creek was a haven for ducks in the winter time. There were literally hundreds, perhaps thousands of them; all kinds from butter balls to mallards and hell divers. They could, at times, be shot … They were poor eating, being too fishy.” The Major lived on the south shore, close to Ash Street.
Today there are retail buildings (many of them art galleries), some with office space above, and down the hill the tower of the Portico development that replaced the Pacific Press plant.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 371-2587