97 Water Street

97 Water St

This warehouse was built on the north side of Water Street in 1909. Built for Leeson, Dickie, Gross and Co, the building was one of the earlier in the city to use reinforced concrete for its construction. Inside you can see the octagonal concrete columns that support the floors. The brick infill and strip windows are set on the concrete floors extended to the edge of the building between the floors.

Curiously, there’s very little written about the company. In 1908 all three names associated with the company lived in the West End: Clarence H Gross was manager for wholesale grocers E W Leeson and Co and was living at 1203 Thurlow. Mr Leeson himself was living at 1139 Barclay, company clerk Lavell Leeson also lived there and Francis Leeson, also with the company, lived across the street at 1118 Barclay. Edwin Dickie, was secretary-treasurer of the Leeson company and lived at 1641 Davie.

E W Leeson had interests in the city longer than his partners; in 1894 he was in partnership with E A Baker as Baker & Leeson, corn merchants, at 123 Water Street. However, it doesn’t look as if he actually lived in the city in those days; in 1891 E W Leeson was 31 and his wife Maggie 29; both born in Ontario, were living in Manitoba with their two very young children. In 1901 Ernest W Leeson and his family were still living in Brandon, Manitoba. He appears for the first time as a resident of Vancouver in 1903, still associated with Baker and Leeson – as was the case in 1906. In 1908 the new partners joined Mr Leeson, and a year later they built their new warehouse, designed by Parr and Fee who had also recently designed the Europe Hotel nearby. Parr and Fee also designed the 2-storey warehouse that was built on Leeson’s original location at 131 Water St, in 1910.

In 1910 Mr Leeson was president of the grocery company and was also President of the Portland Wonder Mining Co. A year later he was secretary of the mining company, and Francis Leeson was also with the mining firm. A year later Francis Leeson is a broker, and there’s no mention of the mining company – although it continued in business with silver ore identified in the assay on Glacier Creek, near Stewart. C H Dickie was general manager in 1910.

In 1911 39-year-old Clarence Gross was living with his wife Margaret and his children, Alice and George, and it appears that they had moved to the city from New Brunswick. They had moved from the West End to W 12th Avenue. Edwin Dickie was 44, and lived with his wife (recorded, probably inaccurately, as Francis) and four daughters, all aged under 9. The Dickies had also moved from New Brunswick. Somehow the Leesons appear to have been missed – or misnamed – in the 1911 census.

In 1918 A Macdonald Grocers announced that the grocery company, including the British Columbia arm of Leeson Dickie & Gross, would be known as Western Grocers. W P Riley created Western Grocers in 1912 in Winnipeg, and twenty years later they absorbed the rival Malkin grocery company.

By 1938 when our Vancouver Public Library image was shot, the Terminal Cartage Co were using the warehouse. Today the building is still standing, almost unchanged, and is used for offices.

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