Archive for December 2014

Gordon Villa – Cambie Street

Gordon Villa 633 CambieGordon Villa was built around 1890, and here it is in that same year. Major Matthews added a note to the photograph saying “Photograph shows Mr. John Connon seated on the steps, Miss Mary Connon (Stuart) standing in front of a door and the spire of the Baptist Church”. The house faced the Cambie Street Grounds (today a huge surface parking lot, waiting for a decision on a new Art Gallery).

From the street directory it looks as if the house was very new (if the 1890 attribution for the picture is correct). It doesn’t appear in the 1890 street listing, but J Cannon (sic) is there in 1891 with Miss M Connon, and in 1892 there’s a Mary Connow (music teacher) and John Connon, carpenter. John and Mary Connon emigrated in 1889 from Scotland when they were both aged 60, we assume their family came with them, although perhaps only Mary and William initially. We can guess where Gordon Villa got its name: Mary Connon was originally Mary Gordon, and John and Mary had married in 1862 in Banchory, Devenick, Kincardine, Scotland. They had a daughter, Margaret, who was born in 1863 and who died in New Westminster in john connon1938. A son, John, was born in 1865; another daughter, Elspet was christened in 1866 (she was called Elspeth when she died in Victoria in 1933), and a son, Gordon in 1871. The Archives have a picture of John Connon chopping a tree stump on his property on his Westminster Road (Kingsway) property around 1898. A newspaper reference to Mr Connon’s love of Burns poetry would seem to match his son’s preference for Scottish dress while clearing stumps.

Another daughter, Mary, was born in 1868 and married in 1893 to James Duff Stuart. She’s presumably who is described as ‘standing in front of the door’, and she was the music teacher in 1891. Like her siblings she was born in Aberdeenshire, while James had been born in Dufftown, Banff, Scotland, and he was aged 26, two years older than Mary. We’ve come across Mr Stuart before: he was co-owner of the Clarke and Stuart bookstore. Mary and James had at least one son, also called James, who enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps in 1915 and died in 1917 in France. They also had two daughters, Kathleen and Isabel. Mary was 87 when she died in 1956

In 1901 the family were living in Richmond and the only child with them was their 28-year-old son, William (who was aged 15 in the 1891 census). John was described as a rancher; William Gordon Connon was married in 1901 aged 25, and died aged 55 (where curiously he was described as single).

Today the site is part of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, the first project designed by the Montreal-based architectural partnership Affleck, Desbarats, Dimakopoulos, Lebensold, Sise which opened in July, 1959.

Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Bu P638

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Posted December 4, 2014 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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West Cordova and Richards – se corner (2)

Cordova & Richards 2

We posted another view of this building two years ago. It was actually just on the edge of the previous post as well, as it’s across the street from the junction of Water Street with Cordova. Our earlier image dated back to 1890; here’s how the Bell-Irving block looked in 1932. It had been repaired by Schofield & Cox for Rand Brothers who presumably owned it then, to a design of W T Dalton in 1901.

In 1932 all the businesses are moving out – Ward’s first class Shoe Repairing; Peter Greenall’s store that sold birds, seeds and supplies and the Cash Register Store who, not surprisingly sold, overhauled and repaired cash registers. In future the shoes would be repaired on Cordova, the birds supplied on West Hastings and the cash registers fixed on Pender.

In the adjacent building Robert D McMillan’s cleaning store had already relocated. The building was another Bell-Irving development, but unlike the older building on the corner which he designed himself, in 1910 he hired Dalton & Eveleigh for the building to the south, built by William O’Dell at a cost of $15,000.

The building to the east on Cordova is more of a mystery – it was already built before 1900, and appears to also be known as the Bell-Irving block in the 1896 street directory, and it might date back to 1888 like the corner building, when it was occupied by bankers Bewicke and Wulffsohn, who owned a very substantial $60,000 worth of property in the city at that time.

Mr Wulffsohn was a German who achieved some notoriety, especially during the first world war. A Portland, Oregon, newspaper reported in 1915 “Charged with insanity, Johann Wulffsohn, ex banker and German Consul at Vancouver, B.C. was taken to the county hospital late today to await a hearing before the Lunacy Commission next week. The insanity complaint was issued at the instance of Mrs. Wulffsohn, who accompanied her husband here when the European war began last August. When arrested today J Wulffsohn was wandering about downtown carrying a bouquet of roses and a new broom. He had a number of pawn tickets and told police officials that what was left of the wreck of his banking business had been destroyed by the war. But Mrs. Wulffsohn explained the pawn tickets tonight by saying it was one of her husband s idiosyncrasies to purchase jewelry and to pledge it for loans.

A Vancouver newspaper was quoted as well “Johann Wulffsohn came to this city more than 20 years ago. He was engaged in the banking and real estate business as head of the firm of Bewicke & Wulffsohn, and made large investments here on behalf of German clients. Later he devoted his time exclusively to the consulate, and was looked on as a man of eccentric habits. He figured in several sensational episodes, notably on one occasion on which he returned from a leave of absence and found that his deputy had entertained lavishly on the occasion of the Emperor’s birthday. Bills of many hundreds of dollars flowed in on Wulffsohn who one evening invited his deputy out on the lawn in front of the Hotel Vancouver, and there the two men fought and wrestled for a quarter of an hour. When last in Vancouver a year ago Wulffsohn appeared quite prosperous and still cultivated in his personal appearance a remarkable likeness to the Kaiser, especially in his military moustaches. Wulffsohn Is about 57 years old. Six years ago he married Miss Maclure, daughter of J. C. Maclure, a capitalist of Victoria”.

Like many early investors in the city, Baron Wulffsohn, (as he was sometimes described) had emigrated in 1890, and had interests in mining as well as real estate. He also acted as a shipping broker, chartering ships to carry Eurorean goods to the west coast, both to Seattle and Vancouver. In 1892 he was managing director wulffsohn 1896of the Moodyville Lands and Saw Mill Company (Ltd.) on the north shore. The company’s involvement with the mill was wound up in the spring of 1896 when a notice appeared that said that they had ‘resigned the Agency of the Moodyville Lands and Saw Mill Company Ltd and had been replaced by Robert Ward & Co’. Wulffsohn’s involvement in the company that continued to bear his name was also apparently ended (or significantly reduced) at the end of that year, if this notice is accurate.

We know far less about Percival Harcourt Bewicke – although he was British (which explains why he was a member of the cricket club representing the city in 1889). He was born in Jersey in 1863, and is most likely to be P H Bewicke Bewicke who resigned his commission in the British Army in 1888. He first appears in Vancouver news stories in 1889, and was living at the Hotel Vancouver that year (and was already in partnership with Wulffsohn). That year his wife, Dorothea gave birth to a daughter, Hilda, in Vancouver. Although his name appears in the 1891 street directory, it’s at the business address, and after that it’s purely the company name that’s recorded. He’s not in the Canada census in 1891, but P H B Bewicke was living in London with his wife Dorothea and daughter Hilda in the British census in the same year, and Dorothea gave birth in London to another daughter, Zoe in 1891. (Zoe died, apparently unmarried, in Poole in 1974).

Today the site is occupied by a parkade, and one that’s likely to stick around for a while as it provides the parking for the SFU Harbour Centre and the offices in that building.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Bu N24

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