The Downtown of Vancouver was once a driver’s consumer choice. Today there are just two gas stations remaining – but there were once 99 (and maybe more). Here’s one of the earlier ones at 590 Hornby Street in 1920. It had been built that year on the corner with Dunsmuir Street, and was billed as a Gasoline Service Station – this was Imperial Oil’s Auto Filler #4, although they actually only had three, and this was the only one Downtown. We wondered initially if it was because City Archivist Major Matthews had worked for Imperial Oil that he was able to identify several of the people in the picture. “Men identified (left to right): Alfred Huggett, J.E. Hayden, unidentified man in car, Stan and Jack Duggan” – then we noticed that Mr. Hayden donated the image to the archives in 1960. In 1920 he was a clerk with the CPR who lived on Drake Street, Alfred Huggett was a clerk with Imperial Oil. There’s no sign of either a Stan or a Jack Duggan in the city then, although there was an A Duggan who drove a truck for a living.
Major Matthews said that Imperial Oil, although a Canadian Company was controlled by Standard Oil, so even apparently rival filling stations were feeding the same profit stream. At the turn of the 20th Century all the garages received their supplies of gasoline from Imperial Oil, at 20c a gallon, and then resold it at 35c. Imperial decided to sell directly to the motorist at 20c marking the start of oil company owned filling stations – and significant animosity with the independent garages. After the war a wave of new premises opened – J W Horne opened one in 1916 only two blocks from this corner.
Today there’s a bike lane and an anonymous 1968 office building on the corner.
Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA LP 295