Recently there have been comments about how streets like East Georgia are losing their Chinese character – but much of the Chinese character of some parts of Chinatown is relatively new. Here’s a house built on East Georgia in 1903, back when it was called Harris Street. This house was built by someone recorded in the building permit as architect, builder and developer; Jna Curell. He was probably more accurately named John Currell, as that’s who was living there in 1904.
He was a saw filer working at 65 East Hastings (and there was another saw filer in the city called Joseph Currell who was eight years younger than John, and also from England, arriving in Canada a year earlier than John). John was born in England in 1841, and he arrived in Canada in 1869, as did his wife, Alice. In 1901 they had a son, William, said to be born in the USA in 1885 living with them, which would suggest the family had moved south before returning to Canada. However, that attribution may be incorrect. Before he built the house John had worked as a cutler and lived on Front Street, and before that in 1899 he was both a cutler and a saw filer and lived at the 200 block of Keefer Street. In 1891, the earliest we can find where he lived, he was living at 25 E Hastings. He was included in the census, that year, which might give a better sense of his movements before arriving in Vancouver. He was a cutler, and his wife is recorded as Mary, not Alice. They had five children, a 16 year old daughter born in Ontario, two sons aged 14 and 12, James and Joseph, also born in Ontario, and two daughters, Mary Ann and Lily May who were seven and five, born in Manitoba. A year later the family were listed at 31 E Hastings.
In the 1911 Census John was retired, and had moved to 635 Keefer. Alice was with him, but William was elsewhere in the city. Elizabith Bufton, Alice’s 90 year old mother was living with them. (There’s only one Alice Bufton born in England with a mother called Elizabeth, so we think it’s likely that Alice was born in Herefordshire). Joseph Currell was still a saw filer, and so was James Currell, (presumably John’s son). In August 1911 the Sunday Sunset announced that “Mr. and Mrs. John Currell have left on a four-months trip to Australia, during which time they will visit Mr. Currell’s sister in Sydney.” In 1914 John Currell took out a permit to add a floor to his home on E 11th Avenue, but the following year he appears not to be living in the city, and the house on E 11th was vacant.
We’re not completely sure when this picture was taken – it’s somewhere between 1960 and 1980 according to the Archives. It was replaced by a 2-storey restaurant and retail building in 1999 designed by Scott Gordon Architect.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-359