25 and 27 Alexander Street

25 Alexander

To the west of the Captain French building on Alexander Street are several buildings that were previously more varied in height than they are today. They were all converted to housing around the same time, completed in 1995 and 1997, and designed by Paul Merrick (according to the permits, at least), and called Alexander and The Alexis. The two buildings, share common areas such as the lobby, hallways, and parking entrance. They also share the same address but not the same strata council making them one of the more unusual buildings in the city with a total of 58 residential lofts and 2 commercial units. Today the single-storey garage building forms the entrance to parking – there is no lane here as the rail tracks are right at the back of the building.

In our 1937 Vancouver Public Library photograph it was used as a warehouse by the Vancouver Supply Company, a wholesale grocer. The building was used first by Knowler and McCauley around 1908, who were first listed as ‘Commission Agents’ and had previously occupied premises on Cordova Street. We haven’t successfully identified the architect of the four-storey building. James Macaulay was born in 1853 in Colombo, Ceylon; was first employed by Hewitt & Wingate calico printers in Glasgow and in Vancouver started Knowler & Macaulay wholesale provision merchants. William E Knowler was born in England and arrived in Canada in 1885. The 1901 census recorded him with his family: wife Rachel, sister-in-law Ellen Andrew and his three daughters, Elsie, Margaret and Gladys. William lived on Melville Street, while James and his wife Katherine and daughter Dorothy at 829 Richards Street. Charles Thompson, a manufacturer’s agent also worked here.

In 1911 Knowler & Macaulay  shared the building with Hamblin & Brereton Ltd (wholesale grocers from Winnipeg) and the Hallman & Peniston Machinery Co. Knowler & Macaulay were still occupying the building in the 1920s when they were identified as wholesale confectioners. Their last year here was 1929, and a year later the Vancouver Supply Company took over the property. They also bought the adjoining two-storey building which was numbered as 15 Alexander St when it first opened, designed in 1906 by architect Alexander Muir. He was a Scot with work throughout BC, and especially in Victoria where he was based and this is the only building we know he designed in Vancouver.

The B.C. Market Company were long-established butchers and meat packers, with premises in Victoria and Vancouver (on Carrall street) before 1900.  They imported some of their livestock by boat – the ‘Ramona’ brought them 310 sheep in 1906. They shared the building with other businesses; in 1907 a new Orthodox congregation appeared in Vancouver, named B’nai Yehudah (also known as Sons of Israel). The first Vancouver synagogue did not appear until 1911, when B’nai Yehudah was built at the corner of East Pender and Heatley Streets, and in 1908 they were meeting here, in premises numbered as 25 Alexander Street shared with R Robinson & Co who were wholesale brokers. Despite suggestions that this was a fire station – it never was. The building was later purchased in the 1930s by the Pegg family to join 27 and 29 Alexander Street to serve as the headquarters and distribution centre for the Vancouver Supply Company, the family’s wholesale grocery business. They combined the buildings and were still occupying them into the 1950s.

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Posted March 5, 2015 by ChangingCity in Altered, Gastown

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