Here are two images of the same building, on the south west corner of Abbott and Hastings. The building permit tells us it was initially built in 1905 for the Thompson Brothers, designed by Parr and Fee (who were also responsible for a number of the other buildings on this block). It seems to have been extensively rebuilt in 1910 – the cost of the work was $35,000 (and again, Parr and Fee designed it). (We wondered if the upper floor was added, but there’s a 1908 picture that shows the full 3 storeys). There were a lot of Thompsons in Vancouver in 1905; fortunately the street directory tells us that they were really J A and M P Thomson who ran their business from 325 West Hastings. These are the same brothers who ran Thomson’s Stationery. (There are at least 17 building permits that refer to them as Thompson Bros, and just one that got their name right.)
By 1977 it was the ‘Argyll House residential hotel’ and David Gordon’s shoe store (seen in out 1978 image, below) were in the space that the Black and White Hat Store occupied between 1916 and 1935 – (before that they were a bit further along Hastings). The store occupied the corner of the main floor in this 1923 Vancouver Public library shot, Kirkham’s Groceteria (No. 18) was next door, the rooms were now The Central Rooms, and A M Lowe ran the dental practice. The Vancouver Public Library image above from 1923 shows the Black and White Hat Store; below our 1970s show it when David Gordon’s shoestore occupied the corner.
The ‘Description of Historic Place’ will tell you that this was the home of Charley Dunn & Company, tailors who would later open a series of successful retail outlets which continue to this day. That’s entirely incorrect – Dunn’s were located two blocks west and on the other side of the street! The description does accurately report that ‘In 1907, the building became the home of the Bismarck Café, one of Vancouver’s elite dining establishments. The Café once had ‘a full orchestra, seating for 115 people, eight private dining rooms and an electric fountain.’ Upstairs were the St Ermin Apartments run by Wesley W Shaw (along with William Moody’s dental practice), and J A Coldwell had the corner spot, selling real estate. In 1912 it is identified as the ‘Santa Rosa’ on the insurance map, as the apartments had become known as the Santa Rosa Rooms.
It was the home of Owl Drugs for sixty years; they had the main retail floor ‘modernized’ in the 1940s, although the specifications called for the use of the original plate glass wherever possible. For a number of years it’s been closed, and in poor condition, but the owners have recently completed a comprehensive restoration with the rooms upstairs being reoccupied and new restaurants moving into the retail spaces.