Archive for February 2015
With the attention that Chinatown is receiving at the moment as a few new condo developments replace vacant sites or failed 70s malls and a shuttered casino, no doubt any proposal to redevelop this corner would bring critics out lamenting the loss of another heritage building. This 1978 (or so) image shows that the red brick structure that’s there today – or at least the exterior – isn’t a heritage building, it’s a rebuild of an older property. Not only that, it shows that in the past Chinatown merchants weren’t nearly as concerned about the Chinese character of Chinatown. The occupants of the building on the corner, C S importers Co Ltd, and the retail store, Trans-Nation Emporium Ltd adopted a distinctly Art Deco Moderne theme to their store decoration, with chrome lettering on a black shiny background and a chrome canopy over the sidewalk. The building dates back to 1904, when Loo Gee Wing, the Chinese merchant who developed throughout Chinatown and beyond, hired Emil Guenther to design the $21,000 building. No doubt Mr Guenther would have been able to identify his building in the 1970s, although the style of decoration might have surprised him. Mr Guenther’s history is apparently hard to confirm due to his name changing and partner hopping, but he was probably German who practiced across the US before settling in Vancouver.
Next door is an almost unchanged Chinatown heritage structure. Well, unchanged since 1926, when the third floor was added. H H Simmonds designed the recessed balcony addition, a perfect example of a non-Chinese architect interpreting Chinese design for a Chinese client. In fact, Simmonds was Australian. The architectural irony is that the original building was in the Italianate style (designed by a Chinese architect). When it was built in 1911 it had two storeys, designed by W H Chow for Lang Kwan and built by R A McCoullough for $9,500. Campbell and Dawson were recorded as the architects because theoretically Chow, being Chinese, wasn’t allowed to practice as an architect, although he seems to have circumnavigated that situation on a number of occasions, including 1915 when he was the architect for $400 of alterations to the building for owner Chong Yuen. In the 1920s it became home to the Cheng Wing Yeong Tong Society.
Next door to that is another substantial building (for the time) that had a similar appearance to many of the other commercial buildings built at the turn of the 20th Century in the immediate area. We’re pretty certain the developer was Yip Sang, in 1908, (and the closest in design looks like W T Whiteway’s design for Yip’s Wing Sang Company, on the corner of Carrall Street, and built in 1902). Hing Sing was shown as owner when he obtained permits for $1,000 of alterations in 1909, Lim Duck Chew was listed as an owner in the same year for an address at the western end of the block, Fong Sun was listed as the owner who added partitions in 1910, and Jim Lin in 1916 altered the store front, and also made alterations to the western end of the building in 1917 – but they could all be tenants. It was demolished in the 1990s after a fire, and a new project stalled, and was eventually replaced in 2008 by ‘East’, a Walter Francl designed 6-storey condo building over two retail stores that we saw better in an earlier look at this block looking the other way.
Almost 80 years separate these images; the original identifies as a parade on Pender Street taken between 1936 and 1938, and the contemporary picture taken at this year’s Chinese New Year parade. As we’ve noted with so many Chinatown images, the important buildings have remained almost unchanged. Obviously the parade has changed – these days the cars are cleared from the street, and there generally aren’t any horses on parade (but this parade was advertising a Chinese historical production concerning the land west of Eastern Turkestan). The greatest difference in this set of four buildings is the Lee Building, to the west (the left of the picture) which was rebuilt following a fire and so today has open balconies rather than the closed stucco of the original building. (That stucco seems to have been added to a second bay of the building after 1925, as the Frank Gowan postcard we looked at before on the blog shows).
The narrower building to the east of the Lee Building was designed in 1923 by A E Henderson for Lung Kong Kung Shaw, replacing one designed by W H Chow in 1914. In this picture Kwong Yee Lung Co have their store name prominently displayed; they were at this location for several decades and dealt in Chinese herbs. It seems likely that Henderson’s client was a variant on the company name, as they hired contractor C Duck to make alterations to the previous building in 1920, and were still occupying this location in the mid 1950s.
Next door is a 5-storey 1913 building designed by H B Watson for William Dick at a cost of $30,000. Originally four floors high with the Kwong Fong grocery on the ground floor, the Mah Society acquired the building in 1920 and added a fifth floor in 1921 designed by E J Boughen. William Dick was a clothing company mogul; we’ve seen one of his properties on West Hastings. We assume this building was purely built as an investment, just like the houses he built a few blocks away. In 1917 W H Chow made some changes to the building for Yam Young.
The final building in this group was once known as Ming’s Restaurant, with extravagant neon announcing the business. the Good Luck Cabaret also operated in the building – a use that continues today as the Fortune Sound Club. In 1913 Yee Lee owned a property here, and Toy Get carried out some alterations for him. In 1919 Mrs Smith was the owner, and builder R P Forshaw carried out further alterations. The current building was designed in 1920 and built a year later by W H Chow (with W T Whiteway helping out to get the necessary permits, as in 1921 Chow was refused admission to the newly-incorporated Architectural Institute of BC, despite his extensive experience). The description of the building’s history notes that “The original facade decoration was classical, with pilasters, capitals, and a deep cornice. This was made more ‘Chinese’ in 1977, with the addition of Chinese (and English) characters on the frieze, and decorative panels and balcony railings.” There were Chinese characters on the front of the building in the 1930s through to the early 1970s, but in the 1930s there was also the English words ‘International Chop Suey’. That restaurant pre-dated Ming’s Restaurant, and was here throughout the 1920s and 30s. Ming’s was operated by Hong Wong, and advertised ‘authentic Chinese dishes at moderate prices’ and attracted both Chinese and non-Chinese diners, with many wedding banquets being held here.
Image Source CVA 300-101
Our 1978 image and today’s view of the building are almost identical. Anyone who has looked into the window of Tosi’s Italian food store might conclude that the window display hasn’t changed over the decades either. According to the Assessment Authority the building dates from 1930, which is the year the street directory tells us Tosi and Co moved here. If you look on the company website you’ll see they suggest that the building was once part of Woodward’s – we’re certain that’s not actually true. Woodward’s first store was indeed built on this block, and numbered as 622 Westminster Avenue (which became Main Street in 1910). However, around 1903 there was a renumbering of this block, and the original 622 was several buildings to the south, on the corner of East Georgia (which was then called Harris).
There were buildings here before 1930, and we weren’t sure whether the 1930 development incorporated any of those structures. Certainly if you go inside it seems that the building is old – but it’s not clear whether any of the structure might predate 1930, but we’re fairly certain everything you see today dates from 1930. Tracing the various permits and occupants of this location, the building we see today was previously two structures in two different ownerships, and went through many tenancies. The insurance map for 1912 shows two buildings here, the one to the south with a narrow alley alongside back to the lane, and there’s a 1910 image in the Library collection that confirms there were two buildings here.
It looks like the first store on the northern half of the site was built in 1903 when Armstrong & Co, undertakers (later Armstong & Edwards) were here for five years (before moving to the building next door in 1908). Stitt & Co, real estate & J L Little, barbers supplies were here in 1909, Northey, Thomas & Co, real est, in 1910, and Korist & Halras & Globe Brokerage in 1911 (corrected to Haras in 1912). The tenants continued to change every year: in 1913 it was Z Ratnegal, clothier and Peter Valchon, cigars; in 1914 Z Weretnikow (second hand goods) and in 1915 Max Weinrobe, second hand dealer. The next two tenants were also second hand dealers; Joseph Cibular followed by Mrs Anna Kafitz in 1918. In 1919 a Chinese grocers opened; Hong Kee, and then Jacob Brownstein moved in with a shoe store that stayed in business for four years before the store became the Main Shoe Store in 1924 and 1925. There are no further tenants recorded for this address, which makes us think that might be when the building was demolished, or ceased to be used, prior to its 1930 reconstruction.
The building permits identify the owner and builder of a new dwelling here in 1904 as Mrs Cole Dawson. She had obtained a permit repairs to the frame of a house here in 1902. She carried out another repair in 1911, but it doesn’t say what was being repaired. The insurance map suggests there was a building behind the Westminster Avenue frontage, so it’s quite possible there was a house at the back and a store in front. Mrs Dawson was the wife of Colin Dawson, who was clearly known as Cole to most people. Mrs Dawson hired D G Gray as her builder – not surprising as David Gray (who arrived in Granville in 1882) was married to her sister, Katie. The Dawsons and the Grays came from Ontario.
The southern half of the block had almost as many different tenants as the northern half, with retail uses going back to 1899. John P Curtis, grocer, was in a building here that year, and although the street number switched a couple of times it appears that he was still in business until 1902. George Aldred ran the grocery here a year later, and in 1904 it was Thomas Ross, confectionery and Madame Raab, clairvoyant. Joseph Azar ran the confectionery store a year later, and Philip Branca for two years from 1906. In 1908 a new partnership took over, Magnone & Crosetti, grocers, and a year later Crosetti & Branca, grocers. Joseph Crosetti was listed as a logger in 1910, and in 1911 Max Krassnoff was running a clothing store.
There’s a permit from 1912 for Braunton & Leibert to design a six-storey reinforced concrete rooming house for A E Sucking, but we’re pretty certain that was never built. (It would have been approved just before a major recession saw development activity almost stop in the city). There’s another permit a year later when Mrs. A E Suckling commissioned an office/store designed by E S Mitton here at a cost of $12,000, and that’s likely to have been built. There’s confirmation from the Daily Building Record of October 1913 who have greater detail of the one storey and basement building of reinforced concrete designed by Stanley Mitton and H H Gillingham. Once completed, August V Lang ran a clothing store from 1915 to 1917, followed by Chin Yee You’s dry goods store in 1918, and then Modern Clothes from 1919 to 1922 when Jeffs Brothers took over selling clothes until 1926. (in 1924 Domenick Soda briefly shared the store – he had previously sold confectionery at the northern end of the block). Sayer and Co who sold wholesale produce from 1927 to 1929, the year before P Tosi moved in.
In 1930 the Mission Style store still standing today was constructed – although perhaps the design was trying for an Italian hill town look. The 1930 permit doesn’t identify an architect (and there probably wasn’t one; the contractor was responsible for the building’s appearance), and the 20th December Journal of Commerce; reported “Contract for the construction of a new store block at 624 Main Street has been placed with Charles Saunders, Limited, 420 Seymour Street, by P. Tosi & Co., wholesale grocers. The building is to be of brick and frame construction with tile front. One story in height, it will measure 50 by 120 feet on a large basement. An oil heating system is to be installed.” The building permit shows the work was going to cost $7,500. Then in January 1930 came a change: “Changed plans for the new store building now under construction for P. Tosi, 550 Union Street, at 624 Main Street by Chas. Saunders, 1400 Bekins building, call for the erection of a building two stories in height. It was originally intended to build a one story structure with store accommodation only. The new plans embrace the provision of an upper floor with suites for rental. The additional work will involve an outlay of some $5700 it is estimated.“
Here’s a small commercial building on Main Street near Keefer. In our 1978 image it was a different small commercial building. Derek Neale and Associates were the designers of the 3-storey replacement, completed in 1982. The earlier building dated back to 1901, built by Baynes and Horie for owner (and supposedly, architect) H J Franklin at a cost of $2,200. It may have started life as a single storey structure because in 1911 owners Armstrong & Edwards hired an architect called ‘Price’ to make $7,400 of alterations to the building. Watson and Hitch were the builders, and ‘Price’ was most likely to be J G Price, an architect who worked on a number of Chinatown buildings including Wing Sang’s tenement building, and West Hotel. Three years later different owners Lowen, Harvey & Preston made some more (less drastic) changes.
There was a house here through the 1890s: in 1897 John Abrams, an engineer lived here, and in 1899 it was his widow. In what was presumably the new building someone identified as J Franklin sold pianos in a short-lived venture in 1902, and in 1903 Harry Franklin was running a stationery business here for three years (presumably the same H J Franklin who designed it, and probably the piano salesman as well). William Murphy set up a rival stationers right next door in 1904, and both businesses had gone by 1906 when our building was home to Empire Commission, Auction & Brokerage. In 1908 J Donald & Co were running a grocers, and in 1909 a long-term occupant arrived (and bought the building) – Armstrong & Edwards, funeral directors. The firm became T Edwards & Co in 1912, and statyed until after 1930. In 1940 B S Herbert & Son elec contrs were here, and were still in the building a decade later.
We looked at the Grand Hotel (with the arched windows in the centre of the picture) in an earlier post. That’s the red building, initially designed by N S Hoffar for Thomas Cyrs in 1889 and then extended in 1903 by architect R H Bracken for T J Roberts, (both owners were originally from New Brunswick). The published history would suggest that Roberts built the hotel in 1889, which would have made him an extraordinarily young entrepreneur; he was born in 1874, so would have been only 15. That sounded so unlikely that we checked the Census records for 1891, 1901 and 1911. Unlike many early Vancouver residents who seemed to need to shave a few years off their age as time progressed, Thomas J Roberts stuck to either 1874 or 1875 as his birth date, and was shown as aged 17 in 1891. In the census Thomas and his 12-year-old sister, Mary, were living with their uncle and his wife. The uncle was hotel keeper Thomas Cyrs, so we now think Thomas Cyrs built the Grand, and Thomas Roberts took over in 1897 (at a more reasonable age of 23) and completed the expansion of the hotel in 1903. (We’ve revised the Grand Hotel post to reflect this).
In 1901 Thomas Roberts was living in the Granville Hotel (the earlier name for The Grand), with over 30 boarders and the hotel’s staff. In 1911 he had moved to 1635 Barclay Street with his wife, Pauline (born in Ontario, and five years younger) and their two children, three-year-old Pauline and one-year-old Mary. The family had three domestics: Jennie Larson was 22 and from Sweden, Dorothy Parkes was 14, from England, and so was John Shepherd (aged 18).
In 1908 Roberts commissioned the Roberts block, a 3-storey commercial building on Pender Street. In 1911 he redeveloped the building next to the Grand Hotel (to the east). Hugh Braunton was the architect, and it cost $48,000. In 1913 Roberts was considered to be a legitimate businessman – which wasn’t true of all the hotel keepers in the city; he featured in ‘Northern Who’s Who and Why’ – a biographical volume.
When it was first opened the new building had the Vancouver Clothing Co as a tenant, along with A Waddington, who specialized in overalls, the poolroom of McEwen & Knox, Fredericks & Skatigno (who were barbers) and Jarus & Weinrobe (who sold clothing, and had another store at 56 Water St). In 1915 there were two barber’s shops – one was run by William Brown, the other by Vincent Lacolla. The other occupants in the building were the Van Pickle Co and Taisho Printing Co. Three years later there was one barber remaining, V Lacolla, a clothing store (H Cooper), and Beaver Interurban Auto Transfer occupied the rest of the building.
Thomas J Roberts was killed in a dramatic fashion in September 1918 while watching a card game. He was with seven others in what was described as a ‘gambling resort’ on Jervis Street when a masked armed robber attempted to rob the party. The ‘Daily World’ described it as ‘the most sensational holdup which has occurred in tbe city in recent years’. The ‘Times Colonist’ published a longer version of the story. “Thomas J. Roberts, proprietor of the Grand Hotel, and one of the best known of the city’s pioneers, was shot and killed on Saturday evening by a masked robber with whom he had grappled to avoid handing over a diamond ring which the bandit had demanded. The tragedy occurred shortly before 11o’clock at 1304 Jervis Street near the corner of Harwood, a fairly large residence, surrounded by a thick screen of trees.
A second victim of two of the robber’s six shots was Henry Eames, aged about 50, manager of an upcoast logging camp. He is so seriously wounded that slim hopes are entertained for his recovery.
The police have one suspect under arrest the most important evidence so far obtained is from A. Harradine, a taxi driver who conveyed a fare to Broughton Street; a block away from the scene of the murder, on Saturday night the man left the taxi with orders to await his return. He came back in ten minutes, became much agitated when the driver had difficulty in starting the car and finally was conveyed downtown, where he disappeared in the alleyway alongside the Alcazar Hotel, on Dunsmuir Street east of Homer.
The house where the shooting took place is occupied by Oscar Olesen, his housekeeper, Mrs. McLennon, and her children. Eight men were in the drawing-room when the robber’s unheralded arrival took place. Five or six members of the party were playing a card game. They and several neighborhood friends were in the habit of coming in once or twice a week to spend the evening at cards.
Story of Shooting
The robber first demanded a ring from O. Jay, who handed over a three-stone ruby which encircled one of his fingers. Then the robber turned to Roberts with: “Now, hand over that ring,” motioning to a large solitaire which the hotel man wore on the third finger of his left hand. It happened that this ring fitted very tightly Mr. Roberts made an effort —real or assumed—to remove the ring and failed. Then he held out his hand with the words: “Here, take it off yourself, if you want it so badly.” Suiting the action to the words, which were the last he uttered, Mr. Roberts stepped towards the highwayman.
The robber reached forward and in a fraction of a second the men had grappled and the robber began to shoot. Cartridges found later showed the weapon to be a .33 calibre automatic. At least five probably six shots were fired. The first went wild across the room and crashed a window. Another went through the floor. Another struck Mr. Roberts head just in front of the ear and he slipped to the floor. A fourth shot pierced the opposite wall near the ceiling and two others struck Eames.
Mr. Roberts was one of the most familiar figures amongst the younger business men of the city. He was 47 years of age; coming to Vancouver from New Brunswick thirty years ago. He has been continuously with the hotel of which in recent years he was proprietor. He leaves a wife and two daughters of 10 and 8. His brother, Harry Roberts, is proprietor of the Beaver Transfer Company. Two sisters live in British Columbia, Mrs. T. Mambrick, of Comox and Mrs. Roy W. Brown. Mr. Roberts death is the first break in a family of thirteen.
J.F. McCabe, held as a suspect in the Jervis Street murder case, appeared before the magistrate today and was remanded until September 16, McCabe was in court on August 14 last, when according to the police records, he was fined $26 and costs for having morphine in his possession.”
The ‘Coquitlamite’ blog has extensive details of the crime. The main suspect in the crime was soon identified “Known now to the Vancouver police as George Layton or George Leaf, the man was arrested here and convicted under the latter name, with a number of aliases, in November, 1914, on a charge of stealing $40 from John Oleson; and with being in possession of instruments for housebreaking. He served a six months term and, the local records show, subsequently he was convicted at Calgary of theft and was sentenced to two years In the penitentiary, from which institution he could have been released only a comparatively short time ago.”
Police combed the Pitt River area where he was reported to have been seen, but he wasn’t found. In October 1919 the Victoria press reported that he had died in Los Angeles. “Last week at Los Angeles In a running gun fight with police officers a burglar was wounded. To avoid capture he deliberately shot himself with his own revolver, and was dead when the pursuing policemen reached his side. The desperado was known in Los Angeles under the name of Nyland, but has been identified as Lehtenen or Leaf. The identification was accomplished through photo and finger prints of Leaf as supplied to the Vancouver police by the Victoria authorities shortly after the Vancouver gambling house murder.
Leaf, alias Samson, alias Anderson, alias Necthern, alias Lehtenen, was arrested here on November 17, 1914, for theft of $40 from the person of John Olson. He was dismissed on that charge, but upon the charge of being in possession of burglar’s tools he was sentenced to six months. The next heard of him was at Calgary, where he was sentenced for theft.
Leaf’s photo and finger prints were taken when he was sentenced here, and when the Vancouver police were searching for him for his alleged participation in the shooting of Roberts and Eamen, the Victoria records were supplied. Circulars bearing his photo and finger print classification were circulated far and near, and it was by that means that the Los Angeles police made their identification of the desperado Nyland.”
In 1920 Vincent Lacolla was still cutting hair, and we suspect that C H Jones had already moved from a warehouse on Alexander Street – although the street numbering gets a bit confused in the directory. In 1928 when our Vancouver Public Library image was taken, C H Jones were definitely in the building. They made sails and other canvas goods, and they stayed until 1930 when the Canada Western Cordage Company moved in. The made rope and twine, and retained an office here until the early 1970s. Their occupation explains the name that condominiums were given when they were built in 2009 ‘ Cordage’, designed by Acton Ostry Architects.
We saw this 1906 hotel in the previous post. After a series of name changes over the years, it became the Invermay Hotel. It was still the Invermay Hotel in 1930, at that point run by Merritt G Gordon who was also President of the Gordon Hotel Co, and lived on W15th Avenue. He was one of seven brothers born in Quebec but raised in Minnesota, three of who bought the Commercial Hotel in Harris, Saskatchewan in 1910. The brothers had previous experience mining in Butte, Montana, and a prospector brought some ‘rubies’ into their bar which they promised to look after, and then quickly filed a mining claim. Like many of the sharpest profiteers they made a fortune, once word was out, running the hotel, and building a camp at the instant mine townsite. It was populated almost instantly by over a thousand ruby-seekers; they operated a saloon, a restaurant and other entertainment in three large tents. It took quite a while before it become known that the rubies were almost worthless garnets. Once the hotel burned down in 1923 the family split up, with Merritt heading to Vancouver where he ran a series of hotels over the years. In 1940, 514 Richards was the Merritt Gordon Beer Parlour and 518 was the Merritt Gordon Hotel; that’s the former Marble Arch Hotel that has recently been renovated and has now reverted to it’s original ‘Canada Hotel’ name.
The Invermay Hotel name continued until 1971, when it became the Invermay Inn, as it was in this 1974 image. The final name change came when it was renamed the Jolly Taxpayer, and was painted a deep cherry red. Although it has been demolished for over 5 years, you can still find a website that say the hotel “has twenty-seven rooms with all modern facilities. Each room has ensuite bathroom facilities and private shower. The hotel also provides large screen sports, satellite televisions, pool, darts, golf games and more. It also serves fish, chips, juicy burgers, sizzling steaks, chunky chicken wings and a daily drink special.”
On the sites to the west are two other older buildings. While the hotel has gone, they survive – one as a façade, one completely intact. The façade that was retained belongs to a building known as the BC and Yukon Chamber of Mines. Actually, they were a later tenant, the building was erected to J C Day’s design for the Royal Financial Trust Co in 1926, but they went bankrupt in the depression. After a number of other brokerage and insurance tenants the building became home to the Chamber of Mines, an information and publicity organization for the BC and Yukon mining industries. In 2007 the façade was retained while a deep hole was dug for a new office and condo project. Out of shot to the right is the Ceperley Rounsfell Building that was also incorporated into the project underneath the dramatic overhang of the new building. It was retained in its entirety, chocked up laterally and suspended over the excavation before being given a new foundation and a heritage restoration.
In 2011 the new building that was completed here showed some unusual international design flair: Jameson House is an office and condo tower squeezed onto a 100′ site in the middle of the block. Designed by Foster and Associates in London (lead architect Nigel Dancey) with Walter Francl of Vancouver, the development ran into some financial and sales problems and Bosa Properties stepped in to complete the project.
Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 778-178
Here’s the Hamilton House in 1906, with the Hamilton House Bar downstairs (well, up the stairs, technically) and the rooming house above. The new level wood plank sidewalk was in front, although the street wasn’t quite as level. The hotel itself was also new – there’s nothing showing on the 1903 insurance map, and the first appearance in the Street Directory was in 1906 – The Hamilton: Francis J Hamilton, prop. We’ve met Francis – or Frank through his ownership of an East Side building. Francis didn’t keep the hotel very long – in 1907 it had become the Orpheum Hotel, run by George Fortin. That same year George was making sure he could get a licence, but in a totally different location, in North Vancouver. “A letter was read from Messrs. Cowan & Parkes, Barristers, Vancouver, stating out that their client, Mr. George Fortin, had purchased Lots 54, 55, and 56 in Block 166 for the purpose of erecting a Hotel thereon. Mr. Fortin, who was present, submitted plans of the Hotel proposed to be erected by him. After discussion and expression of opinion, the Board assured Mr. Fortin that, if the Hotel was constructed according to the plans submitted, the would have no hesitation in granting a Licence for same.”
Unlike Mr Hamilton, we can trace Mr Fortin back to at least 1896 in the city, and in 1904 he owned the Leland Hotel on West Hastings where he carried out some alterations. He only kept our building for a year – by 1908 it has been renamed again as the Fairmont Hotel, run by James Pope. Mr. Fortin in 1909 was running the Café Fortin in the Fortin Block on West Cordova where Frederick Fortin was the manager of the Pool Room at the Fortin Hotel.
This hotel retained the Fairmont name after that for several years, although the proprietors changed as we’ve seen with many of the city’s hotels and rooming houses. In 1910 it was run by Flanagan and Smedley, and they kept it all the way to 1916. In 1910, presumably when they bought it, they carried out $5,000 of alterations, designed by G M Baly and built by T E Young. In 1918 it was Mr Flanagan on his own running the hotel, and in 1919 it had become the Invermay Lodge run by Mrs A Blackburn. It was still the Invermay in 1924, but the Invermay Hotel run by E W Arnott with J LaChance.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Hot P87