Seaton Street was the name that the part of Hastings west of Burrard was known by in its early years. Here’s the home of Stephen Osborne Richards, right across from the Nicolls family home that we posted recently. Mr Richards house was here earlier than the Nicolls house – here it is in 1893, when we think it was newly completed. We haven’t found an architect for the house: W T Dalton designed a commercial block for a Mr Richards in 1896 (one of his earliest commissions), but he was working for C O Wickenden from 1891. If we had to guess we would suggest it was Dalton, working for Wickenden who designed the house: Wickenden designed an office building for F C Innes, Mr Richards business partner.
There was another Stephen Richards in Vancouver for a while; in 1913 his widow was still alive, so Stephen’s biography was included with her entry in ‘Northern Who’s Who’. “The late Stephen Richards was born Brockville, Ont., and practiced profession in Toronto thirty years before coming to British Columbia, settling first at Victoria, and then at Vancouver, where he died, 1896. He was a Queen’s Council; a specialist in jurisprudence; an acting judge; and Liberal.” The biography isn’t completely accurate, as Stephen’s death was reported in 1894, and it wasn’t in Vancouver – he was waiting for a ferry on Centre Island in Ontario when he died, aged 75. His widow, Susan, was American (from Buffalo, New York) and their son also became a judge, in Winnipeg.
Stephen Richards was one of three brothers born in Brockville; their father was originally a blacksmith, born in Burlington, New York. Each of the three brothers became lawyers, and later politicians and all three at some point held cabinet office.
Stephen’s brother, Albert Norton Richards was for a time Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, from 1876 to 1881. He returned to Ontario for 3 years then back to Victoria, where he practiced law. He was one of the founders of what is now the Vancouver-based law firm of Richards Buell Sutton. Richards Street was named after him, and he died in 1897. (His daughter Frances was a talented painter. Oscar Wilde had his portrait painted by her in London in 1887; while sitting he exclaimed “what a tragic thing it is – this portrait will never grow old and I shall” – this to become the plot of The Picture of Dorian Gray.)
The third and eldest brother was Sir William Buell Richards, the first chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. He had three sons and two daughters: one son was S O Richards – almost certainly Stephen Osborne Richards. No doubt he used his middle initial to distinguish himself from his uncle.
Stephen O Richards was apparently here before the 1886 fire, but apparently purchased no property, and wasn’t on the Voter’s list. In 1887 he was working as a barrister for Courbold and McColl. By 1889 he was a partner in Innes and Richards, land agents, and living (appropriately) on Richards Street. F C Innes was another Ontario migrant who was one of the most active real estate promoters (and developers) in the city. In 1891 Stephen O Richards was a lodger with an American couple, Joseph and Celia Lambert, (who lived on Granville) and was listed in the census as a lawyer. In 1892 he was in rooms on Pender Street. By 1894 he was shown living on Seaton Street, as were Miss M L Richards and Miss S C Richards. In 1896 the company had become Innes, Richards and Ackroyd.
In the 1901 census he was listed as a land agent, and lived with his sister, Mary, his aunt, Susan, and their domestic, Ah Wong. Neither Susan or Mary’s age is identified. By 1905 the company was Richards and Ackroyd, and while Miss M L Richards was still living on Seaton, Mrs S Richards was living on Robson with Miss S C Richards. The last time Stephen O Richards appears in a street directory is in 1909, when another partner had been added to become Richards, Ackroyd and Gall. He died in 1910, although we haven’t been able to find details surrounding his death.
We think that Stephen O Richards’ aunt, Susan, was the widow of Stephen Richards, the judge. In 1911 she was still living in Vancouver at 1951 Robson Street, aged 87, with her 34 year-old daughter, also called Susan, and her son-in-law, William Robertson. William and Susan had married in Vancouver in 1907.
Today the front gate to the Richards house has been replaced by the entrance to the Renaissance Hotel, designed by Waisman Architectural group and completed in 1975.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives SGN 329