The Twigg Block – 608 Granville Street

Twigg Block

In 1900 five rival architects teamed up to produce an illustrated guide to Vancouver – appropriately title ‘Vancouver of Today Architecturally’. One of the partners was G W Grant, who chose to feature The Twigg Block. Although the address isn’t identified, the photograph shows it was at #608 and was a confectioner’s, so that narrows the location to E Minchin & Co on Granville Street. 608 Granville was 50 feet south of Dunsmuir, and on the 25 foot lot that was owned by Mr Twigg, G W Grant designed an extraordinary building. Son of a Nova Scotia farmer, Grant initially moved to New Westminster in the 1880s and designed over 100 buildings there before opening a Vancouver office. While the Granville Street building was relatively modest in scale, it looks almost as if it was designed as a 3-D catalogue for all the styles of window available – recessed, bay, pedimented and square.

Although they don’t seem to feature in any of the biographies of the day, the Twigg family – or probably more accurately the Twigge family – were both wealthy and active in real estate. Major-General John Twigge and his brother Samuel Knox Twigge, came to Canada in 1887 and to Vancouver before 1890. They were the sons of Captain John Twigge of Dublin. Mrs. S.K. Twigge and her two daughters came in 1891. They lived in a house on Pender Street, jointly owned by the two brothers, and built before 1901. The Major-General, whose title is invariably referenced, is said to have been the developer of a Water Street warehouse in 1898, although his brother, S K Twigge is also often found associated with real estate in the city, and he owned the Granville Street lots. On at least one occasion he picked up a site when unpaid taxes led it to become available at a significant discount. In 1890 John Hill Twigg was recorded buying land from Robert Tatlow (so that’s the Major-General). In 1891 the brothers bought 150 acres of land in Whonnock, where the Canadian Co-operative Society built and operated the Ruskin Mill on a few acres of their property. Samuel Knox Twigge is shown on the assessment and collection records of the period until 1905, when he sold the land. He was also involved in the creation of South Vancouver in 1891, and there’s an island in the Fraser River named Twigg Island (but after a nephew, Conley, who had a dairy farm there).

Twigg 2 CVA 371-2100In 1893 S K Twigge and architect R McKay Fripp ended up in court disputing costs on a pair of houses Twigge had commissioned. He lost the case. In 1897 the Board of Trade sent Major General Twigge (late Royal Engineers) to the Third Congress of Chambers of Commerce of the Empire in London.

S K Twigge died in 1906, and his widow may have returned to England. His two daughters stayed in British Columbia; Sidney, who married in 1910, moved to a ranch in the Chilcotin, although in the 1920s she moved to England after she was widowed in the First World War. In 1909 she hired Maclure and Fox to add a $3,000 extension to the Pender Street house. Her sister Mary had married in 1896, and died at Alkali Lake in 1934.

We hadn’t appreciated that Samuel Twigge so liked W G Grant’s design that he built it again. This extract from a 1900s picture of the block shows that a second building was built to the south which is apparently an almost exact replica of the first. There’s another image of this block in the city Archives that shows both structures were built by 1893.

Today the site of the first half of the Twigg Block is the entrance to The Hudson, a 423 unit condo building that was completed in 2006 and designed by Stantec Architecture.

Image sources: Vancouver of Today Architecturally,  City of Vancouver Archives CVA 371-2100 (extract)

 

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Posted June 16, 2014 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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