West Pender Street – 100 Block

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. 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

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