550 Beatty Street

548 Beatty

Many, but not all the warehouses along the 500 block Beatty Street have been converted to residential use over many years. Here’s the first conversion, carried out over 30 years ago by architect Bruno Freschi. This 1974 image shows it when it was probably still Johnston Terminals’ warehouse.

The architectural intervention for the residential conversion was significant – there are balconies punched into the façade held up by the heavy timber frame. The frame is far more visible as a result – much more than is true of most of the buildings from this period. That’s especially true on the main (and basement) floors where the widows and brick bases were completely removed. The conversion didn’t go smoothly – there were unexpected problems with the warehouse foundations (probably the lack of them!) and completion was delayed. The original partnership ended up forfeiting the building to a finance company, once the original bank financing was pulled. The contractor withdrew, and eventually completion of the project was only possible once liability had been settled by the courts.

Curiously, no architect has been identified as the designer of the 1906 building, originally used by developer Mainland Terminals, part of C P Railways operations. In 1914 Mainland created Vancouver Warehouses Ltd who operated the building until at least the mid 1950s with a variety of other tenants in the building, especially in the offices on the top two floors added in 1928. In 1932 they included the Columbian Consulate, the Chilean Consulate and the Northern Alberta Dairy Pool.

We’ve seen another of the Johnston Terminals buildings, a business  created by Elmer Johnston described as “One man, a team of fine horses and a wagon” in 1913. Johnston Terminals went on to become the largest and most diversified physical distribution organization in Canada.

Image source City of Vancouver Archives CVA 778-4

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