Here’s the south-west corner of Robson and Burrard, diagonally across the street from the Vancouver Public Library building location and across the street from Cicero Davidson’s single storey retail building – still standing a century later. The building won’t last many years after this picture; in 1939 architects Palmer and Bow were hired to design a larger Toronto bank here – two storeys instead of the single storey it replaced. This detail from a 1980s or early 90s picture shows the bank. The current building was completed in 1998 and was designed by W T Leung.
We can tell from building permits that the building in our main picture was probably developed by A F Perry, although what got built is a bit confusing – there are a number of permits and it’s possible some weren’t pursued. It wasn’t the first building on the site; initially there was a house that was addressed to Burrard – as that was the direction it faced. It was a big building, and in 1891 it was recorded as being occupied by John Rounsefell, although Mrs Mary Dempster was also living here in 1892. Thanks to an eagle-eyed researcher, Andrea, we now know that John Rounsefell was the father of Francis William (F.W.) Rounsefell, his brother, Geiorge, and Mary Rounsefell (married to William Dempster in 1890). Frank became an accountant, worked in Brandon, Manitoba and then to Vancouver in 1888, later working as a bookkeeper for, and then partnering with Henry Ceperley to build a real estate empire in the city. In 1891 John, and his sons Francis and George were shown to be born in Nova Scotia; a slightly younger sister was born in England, as were several other younger siblings, so the family presumably reached British Columbia after initially leaving Canada, and then returning. (John Rounsefell was originally from Cornwall).
In the 1894 Williams Directory, John Rounsefell was living at 1126 Robson, with a Real Estate office in the Holland block, 413 Cordova. By 1898 he has moved to Chilliwack, BC. By 1895 800 Burrard had Walter Taylor living there, the manager of the Vancouver Fruit Canning Co, and he stayed for several years. In 1901 Mrs Munsey, a widow, lived here, and in 1904 Daniel Healey. In 1905 A F Perry (retired) is shown living in the property. In 1906 we now know that he was planning some changes, thanks to this Vancouver Daily World cutting. As there doesn’t seem to be a 4-storey building here (at any time) it looks like Mr Perry changed his mind about what he would build several times in the next few years.
The 1911 census shows Alfred Perry, aged 58, was a retired contractor, born in Quebec, and with his wife Annie (an American) they ran a lodging house at 800 Burrard – they had 12 lodgers living with them.
The 1912 insurance map shows that the house was behind a row of shops, with two more to the east on Robson. There’s a 1909 permit for a brick dwelling house and shops, designed, built and owned by A F Perry. That may well be these stores, although it’s unclear if the dwelling house was built; there are two 1911 permits that relate better to what the 1912 insurance map shows. There’s an $8,000 rooming house, owned and designed by A F Perry and built by A F Heide, and also a Townsend & Townsend designed $1,500 brick store built by J P Foreshore, but that’s on the eastern half of the lot, so not likely to be the building in the picture. The Townsends also designed a brick addition to 936 Robson at the same time.
When this 1935 picture was taken The Bank of Toronto was on the corner, and next door was Stuart Thomson’s photographic studio. Thomson was born in Hampstead, England, and came to Vancouver from Australia in 1910. He became a well-known professional photographer in Vancouver and was noted for his aerial photography. Thomson sold his negatives to the Vancouver Sun newspaper in 1954, and the Sun newspaper donated them to the archives in 1963. The street numbering had changed by 1935 – the corner was 1000 Burrard, Thomson’s studio was 1002 and at 1004 was the Chesterfield Shop.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-4836 and CVA 772-284 (extract).