Cordova and Cambie – sw corner

Cambie & Cordova

Here’s an 1888 image and the 1913 building that replaced the earlier buildings. The older photograph shows  a boarding house and Dr. Beckingsall’s office, E.V. Bodwell and Gravely and Barker Real Estate Offices, Dr. Lefevre and Dr. Robertson’s surgery and The Palace tobacco shop. The buildings were erected soon after the 1886 fire, and appear to have been wooden rather than the brick that was favoured for more permanent structures (like Dr Whetham’s Arlington Block built in 1887 that’s just visible to the right of the modern image). We’ve seen both sets of buildings in a long view up the street, and they’re across Cambie Street from the Cambie Hostel (the former Carlton Hotel).

The Panama Block that replaced the wooden structures was named to acknowledge how important the construction of the Panama Canal was in 1913. The building came late in the boom for the city – compared to the previous years relatively few buildings were added to the city in 1913, and even fewer for several years after that. The building is triangular, without a lane, and it was designed by fairly obscure architects (Wallington & Wheatley) who only appeared in the city in 1912 for relatively unknown owners (McConnell, Abbott & Drayton) and cost $10,000 to build. It’s apparent that Arthur Wheatley left the city early in 1913; Edmund Wallington operated from 615 W Hastings, and stayed in Vancouver through to 1915 but his only other significant commission for the Sisters of Good Shepherd in Point Grey was delayed indefinitely in 1913. He seems to have practiced again in Seattle in 1920.

The Drayton in the consortium who built the Panama Block was Charles Drayton, manager of the Vancouver Financial Corporation. The Abbott was almost certainly Harry Abbott, the Chairman of the same company. There were too many McConnells in town to positively identify the most likely candidate. Harry Abbott was co-proprietor of a wholesale and retail liquor company based on Granville Street. He was born in Ontario, and in 1911 lived on Robson Street with his American wife, Elizabeth, their 8-year-old daughter and domestic servant, Maggie Jack. Charles Drayton (who was born in the West Indies) was also in his 30s, lived on Burnaby Street with his wife Lilian and twin 7-year-old sons, a governess and a Chinese cook.

The Panama Block took a while to get many tenants – five offices were still empty in 1915 although there was a contractor, a pennant manufacturer and on the top floor Israel Baumgart, a tailor. Mr Baumgart was still in the building in 1925, along with several other tenants including the National Sailors  & Fireman’s Union. In 1930 Mr Baugart was there along with the Shasta Lunch, the Federated Seafarers’ Union and the Cambie Tailors. In 1940, Mr Baumgart was still in business, and he shared the upper floors with a signmaker, R G Berry and a printer, Lawrence Campbell. Mr Baumgart, who with his wife Bertha Blythe had been born in Poland, continued to work in the building through to 1948, although in 1940 he had lost his son, Morey, a car salesman who died in Vancouver General Hospital. Today Mr Baumgart’s legacy continues; M.C. Tailors & Cleaners operate from the main floor.

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Posted October 7, 2013 by ChangingCity in Gastown, Gone

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