This image is listed as “Exterior of the John P. Nicoll’s residence – 1120 Seaton (Hastings) Street: 1895” The 1895 Directory says J P Nicolls, a clerk working for John J Banfield (an Alderman, and a ‘general and financial agent’) and Edward Nicolls, a solicitor, were both resident. They had both been in the city since 1891, living at a house on Hornby (where John was shown having rooms in Edward’s house). They were from Cornwall; originally a town called Callington, although Edward had practiced in Plymouth before heading to Canada. The last time Edward is mentioned in a street directory is 1900-01; we thought at first they might be brothers, but some digging revealed that Edward was born in 1831, married Anne Pethybridge, and his son, John Pethybridge Nicolls was born in 1871. So this was more likely to have initially been Edward’s house, and became J P’s after Edward Nicolls died in September 1901, aged 69. We haven’t identified an architect, and it may have been designed by the builder as it’s a reasonably modest house.
In the 1901 census John is aged 31, head of the household; his mother, Anna and two older unmarried sisters, Margaret and Mary are also at home. Both his mother and Mary were listed as music teachers in the street directory. They’re still together, all aged 10 years more, in the 1911 census, now with the help of a servant. Margaret, who had been the organist at St Andrew’s Wesley, left for California in 1902, but another sister, Elizabeth Hawley had moved in.
In 1898 C H Macaulay and J P Nicolls teamed up as Macaulay & Nicolls, insurance and real estate agents, registered in BC and J P Nicolls opened bank account #8 with the Royal Bank of Canada for the firm. In 1900 their offices were at 611 West Hastings. In 1922 Ronald Maitland, who joined the firm as a clerk in 1904, becomes a partner and the firm became Macaulay Nicolls Maitland. Charles Maitland died in 1932 and J P Nicolls became the firm’s second president. In 1948 John’s son, J P R Nicholls, joined the firm at age 21.
J P Nicolls was elected to office in several of the city’s business organisations, including the first President of the Building Owners and Managers Association of British Columbia. At some point he was engaged to Ethel Wilson, a noted Vancouver author, but she called the engagement off. In 1919 he had a new house built at Drummond Drive. In 1923 he married Gladys Ranking, daughter of the impressively named Devey Fearon de L’Hoste Ranking, in London, and she moved to Canada with him. Gladys was 20 years younger than her husband, 33 to his 53 when they were married.
John Pethybridge Nicolls died in 1957, aged 87, and Gladys in 1971. The company he founded continued to expand. By the end of 1978 they had 11 offices and 360 employees in Canada and the U.S., headquartered in 200 Granville Street. In 1985 they merged with Colliers, becoming Colliers Macaulay Nicolls, now known as Colliers International Canada, still based in the Granville Street location but with 1,400 employees across the country, linked to nearly 16,000 around the world.
Today the spot where the house stood is the backside of a modest (by contemporary standards) 7-storey office called the Shorehill Building, designed by McCarter, Nairne & Partners and completed in 1966.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Bu P561