Archive for April 2014

Robson and Burrard – sw corner (2)

800 Burrard 1

Here’s the Toronto Dominion Bank that used to stand on the corner of Robson and Burrard as it appeared in 1974. We’ve recently added a little more information on our previous look at this corner when it had retail stores built for Alfred Perry. In 1939 architects Palmer and Bow were hired to design the bank here – apparently two storeys instead of the single storey it replaced. In practice it was William Bow who was hired; his partner Bernard Palmer had died in 1936, but Bow kept the practice name unchanged. Bow was trained in Glasgow and headed to British Columbia in 1913 after he had come second in the design competition for the University of British Columbia. (Technically it was his brother who came second; William drew up the design, but it was entered in the name of his brother Douglas, who was already in Vancouver).

The single storey retail store is almost certainly the Townsend & Townsend designed $1,500 brick store built by J P Foreshore  for Mr Perry in 1911. There was another permit for an $800 addition issued only a week later than the first to the same architect and owner, so perhaps the building became a little more ambitious.

The single storey retail stores across Burrard also date back to 1911, designed by Parr and Fee for Cicero Davidson. While that store lives on (with a contemporary façade), the bank was replaced in 1998 with a retail building designed by W T Leung.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives  CVA 778-34



400 Burrard Street

400 Burrard 1

Here’s the south-east corner of Burrard and West Hastings (looking east) in 1974. The simple, modern looking 2-storey building was occupied by the Bank of British Columbia. We’re reasonably sure this was a McCarter and Nairne design from 1949 for Burrard Building Operations Ltd. In 1952 it was called the Burrard Building (the name was moved once the new much bigger building was completed a few years later to the south). The early tenants included stock brokers and insurance companies, including the Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co. The bank show occupying the building in 1974 was the second business with that name, and they were entirely unrelated. The first bank premises are still standing, and we featured them earlier in the life of this blog. The second bank was the creation of W A C Bennett in 1966, designed to allow more local control for making decisions on loans to BC businesses. By the mid 1980s there were $2.7bn in funds and over 1,400 employees, but serious management problems led to the bank being absorbed in 1986 by the Hong Kong Bank of Canada (today’s HSBC).

Across the lane to the south the edge of the first Bentall Building can be seen – a five-storey concrete building that was the first substantial office to be built in the city after the Second World War, in the early 1950s. It was almost certainly designed by Bentall’s Dominion Construction, probably with input from Charles Bentall.

Today it’s Commerce Place, a silver reflective office complex designed by Waisman Dewar Grout Carter and completed 30 years ago.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives  CVA 778-15


Hotel Georgia – West Georgia Street

Hotel Georgia from Granville

Here’s a view from Granville of Robson Street. It dates back to 1932, and on the right is the Johnston-Howe Block that we featured several times a while ago. Next to it, to the west, was the McLuckie Building that we’ve also see before. The building to the west is the Hotel Georgia, which even today is one of the biggest buildings on the block – certainly one of the most impressive.

The Hotel Georgia was built in 1926 and opened in 1927 and was at the time viewed as a state of the art building which became a local favourite for celebrities and politicians. It was designed by a Seattle-based architect, John Graham sr, (born in Liverpool) in association with a Vancouver-based Scottish-born architect, John Garrow. Garrow had practiced in the city for a number of years, initially with Hooper and Watkins then had moved to Seattle in the early 1920s when there was little work in Vancouver, only to return again in the mid 1920s. Garrow was supposedly from a building engineering background, so it was surprising that during the recent restoration of the building it was discovered that there was no reinforcement in some of the columns and slabs. During restoration carbon fibre reinforcement was added. The first owner was Henry Tobin, and the initial cost was over $1.5 million. (The recent restoration and condo tower was reported to cost over $350 million)

Graham and Garrow’s design (it’s not really clear which office carried out the design details) was always overshadowed by the Hotel Vancouver – initially by the second hotel across the street and then by the third further to the west. The hotel wasn’t mentioned in architectural publications of the 1970s or 1980s, but more recently as some of the older buildings in the area have disappeared, the simple but classic design has become more appreciated.

The roof initially wouldn’t support any loads, but now is used as part of the hotel. The ballroom, the Hotel Georgia’s most famous feature was removed, and then completely restored to its original appearance. The basement bar, with distinctive arched ceilings and a wood floor was restored with added contemporary features. Less obvious additions include a geothermal field, photovoltaic panels and a green roof. The much later parkade next door was demolished and an office and condo tower, designed by IBI/HB was added. Today the hotel is part of the Rosewood Group, and is undoubtedly more classy than it was for many years before.

Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 20-59


West Pender Street – 100 Block (1)

100 block W Pender n sideHere’s an image of the north side of West Pender looking west from Abbott in 1981. The biggest change is the addition of Pendera, a non-market housing project designed by Davidson & Yuen and built in 1989. We saw it when we looked at the history of the building that has been replaced since. That’s the building used by The News Advertiser and then The Vancouver Sun at 137 West Pender. Closer to us is the Duncan Building which the Statement of Significance for its heritage value says was ‘first-class, modern and fireproof when it first opened, with retail stores on the ground floor.’ They attribute the design to H L Stevens, a Vancouver architect. As with many heritage statements, this was somewhat incorrect. H L Stevens were based in New York, although they had offices in Chicago and San Francisco, and briefly in Vancouver. There were two separate permits for the building, covering the eastern end in March 1911 for a ‘6-storey & basement warehouse & office building’ and then three months later the western half. Each valued the construction costs at $70,000.

Howard J Duncan, who developed the building, was a lawyer (he represented the Japanese business community when Mackenzie King investigated the 1907 riot), and he entered a frantic market with unfortunate consequences. With a collapse in demand due to a recession in 1913 the building ended up in foreclosure and was bought by The London & British North America Company Ltd., a real estate and financial firm, in 1916.

It was renamed as The Shelly Building when it was bought in 1925 by Cora Shelly. Her husband, William Curtis Shelly was an entrepreneur and philanthropist, who the Heritage Statement credits with founding many businesses, including Home Oil, Pioneer Timber, Canada Grain Export, Nanaimo Sawmills, Canadian Bakeries, and Shelly Bakeries. He was a Vancouver City alderman and Park Board chairman, playing an important role in the development of the City’s beaches. He also served as Minister of Finance in the Tolmie provincial government in the late 1920s and 1930s.

On the corner is the Lotus Hotel – unusual for bearing the same name that it was originally given back in 1912. It was designed by A J Bird in 1912 and built by R McLean and Son for Thomas Matthews at a cost of $95,000. He was an Irishman who moved to Ontario initially and then to BC in 1884. He settled first in Victoria, arriving in Vancouver a month before the city burned to the ground. He worked as a tailor/clerk in a clothing store, but invested successfully in real estate. The Lotus was a joint venture with Loo Gee Wing who often worked with a white partner to avoid hostility to his business interests outside Chinatown (which were extensive). Today the Lotus is an SRO Hotel, recently refurbished, and the Shelly Building is one of several hundred-year old office buildings still in demand in the city’s Downtown.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-E16.15


Robson and Granville – sw corner

Robson & Granville sw 1

We’ve seen this corner when it was developed by E D Farmer in the 1920s. We also saw it when Charles Nelson represented it somewhat misleadingly in the early 1900s. Here’s how it looked somewhat more accurately in 1902, without the early use of Photoshoppe. (We’re not completely positive, but we think that Nelson’s postcard image really does show Robson Street west from Granville around 1900 – it was a very quiet street and only partly developed at that point). You’ll also notice that the ‘Nelson’s Corner’ sign was another addition, although Nelson’s had huge awnings proclaiming the company’s presence.

Charles Nelson had also decided in 1894 to open a Chilliwack drug store similar to his City Drug Store in Vancouver. The business known as ”Nelson’s Drug Store” was first located in a building opposite the Chilliwack Progress newspaper premises on Yale Road East. The store specialized in the sale of drugs, patent medicines, stationary, books, and assorted fancy goods. A year later the business relocated into the new Masonic block at the corner of Wellington and Young Street. The store now offered many new products, stocking the latest in periodicals, magazines and novels and led to a name change as the ”Nelson Drug and Book Store”. In 1897 they produced a seed catalog as the Nelson Seed Store, and during the summer introduced Nelson’s Lime Fruit Juice. By October a circulating library commenced operation. The business was sold to Dr J C Henderson and H J Barber in May 1902.

Mr Nelson sold his business and retired in 1910. As with others we’ve observed, he immediately turned to civic service. He was a Park Commissioner in 1910 and President of the Canadian Pharmacists Association from 1911-1912. As well as his Melville Street home Mr Nelson had a house called ‘Bellevue’ in West Vancouver. The the Municipality of West Vancouver was incorporated in 1912, after separating from the District of North Vancouver. With only 1,500 residents it might seem that almost everybody had a shot at the mayoral position, but Charles Nelson was the winner. The job title was actually ‘Reeve’ , and even here, Mr Nelson was apparently pursuing business opportunities. The West Vancouver Archives have a picture of his house with a large sign offering “Belle Vue lots for sale” right next door.

nelson 1916The new owner of the drug business in 1910 was W M Harrison & Company, but apparently Mr Nelson hung on to the property. He only sold in 1916 (as the BC Record cutting shows) and then to Mr E D Farmer who didn’t redevelop the site until the early 1920s. In 1917 the Owl Drug Co were lessee, and they hired architects Dixon & Murray to carry out $1,000 worth of repairs to the building.

Today it’s a recently completed office and retail building designed by Musson Cattell Mackey (MCM).

Image source: Vancouver Public Library


Posted 3 April 2014 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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Nelson’s Corner – Granville Street

Here’s Nelson’s Corner as shown by drugstore proprietor and postcard published Charles Nelson at the turn of the last century.Nelson’s Drug Store Limited was founded in Vancouver around 1886 by Charles Nelson who was born in Manchester in England in 1862 (according to the census – although 1861 in a biography). He initially came to Winnipeg in 1882, and to British Columbia in 1886. He founded a drug company, located at 100 Cordova Street on the corner with Abbott Street in the heart of Gastown, and lived in the West End on Melville Street through the 1890s. At the end of 1899 or early in 1900 he added this second store at 801 Granville. We haven’t been able to trace the architect of this new structure, or confirm whether Mr Nelson developed it for his own occupation, although we’re almost certain he did.

In 1901, Nelson formed the Nelson, MacPherson, Sutherland Drug Company with seven stores, but by 1903 the partnership had failed and Nelson only retained the Granville store shown here.

In the year the new store opened Charles Nelson was aged 38 and his wife, Edith, 26. The census in 1901 says she was born in Nova Scotia – which she was – but she’d been in the city longer than most residents. She was born in 1874 in Cape Breton but her father, Peter Cordiner moved to Granville in 1879. In 1900 Charles and Edith had a six year old daughter, Beatrice, Winifred was 4 and a new baby, Gordon, had been born the year before.

Charles Nelson seems to have constantly looked for ways to expand his business. He added a seed company for a while, and he published postcards sold in his stores. This image of his new store, which makes it look like it’s located in Gastown’s angled grid, was published as a Nelson’s postcard very soon after the building was occupied.

Image MSC130-5845 courtesy of the British Columbia Postcards Collection, a digital initiative of Simon Fraser University Library


Posted 1 April 2014 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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