Here’s a rare warehouse building on Water Street that isn’t there any more. Built in 1912 for McLean Bros, and designed by Thomas Hooper, it fell victim to Woodwards expanding empire – in this case to add a parking garage. It cost $60,000 and n 1920, when this Vancouver Public Library image was taken, a company called Smiths occupied enough of the building to have their name over the door. Robert S Smith was president of a dry goods company, and he lived on Burrard in 1920. The other tenants in the building were Matthew H Hartley, a tea importer, the Standard Silk Co, the National Paper Box and Carton Co Ltd and the Vancouver Trading Co. The Trading Co wholesaled produce, and was run by S O Turner and Archibald Baillie.
The McLean Brothers were Scottish islanders – Lachlan, the eldest, was born on Islay, and Hugh and Norman on the Isle of Harris. All three worked in farming and lumbering in Ontario in the 1870s, but Lachlan spent a year building bridges on the Cariboo road between Hope and Lytton in 1875. The brother bought the Au Sable Mills on Lake Huron in Bruce County in Ontario in 1879, and ran the business until 1890 when they headed west. Initially they created a contracting business, introducing mechanized dredging to build dykes in the area to allow the development of Richmond farmland. They followed up with a series of contracts heading east up the Fraser River and out to Chilliwack. They also built railway embankments, roads and bridges across the province, and in 1896 their 1914 biography says they formed a syndicate to build a road across the Hope mountains from the east to the Pacific coast, “being the first to ever propose such an undertaking”. With no government subsidy being available, that project was never built. Newspaper reports suggest it became a railway project, which was eventually replaced by a rival route. In 1906 they were ‘contemplating the erection of a sawmill’ on one of the islands near Delta. By 1908 they had left the contracting business and concentrated on their timber and investment opportunities, including the construction of this warehouse (which appears to be their only significant building investment in Vancouver).