It’s unusual that a street configuration has changed in Vancouver, but here’s an exception. The Fleck Brothers warehouse (as it appears in 1934 in this Vancouver Public Library image) was in two sections, one fronting Alexander Street, and one fronting the rail right-of-way that ran all the way from False Creek at a diagonal angle through the East End. Elsewhere that right-of-way still exists today, although the tracks have long gone, but this 1934 image shows how the warehouse angled round the corner. The first element of the warehouse dates back to 1898; the third fourth and fifth bays (closest to the corner) were W J McMillan’s warehouse. McMillan arrived in Vancouver from Victoria soon after the fire of 1886 – so had the advantage of having lost nothing in the fire, but ready to build a business in the frantic re-construction that followed. He was originally from New Brunswick (although the town he was born in is now part of Quebec). Leaving home in 1880 he farmed with two of his brothers in California before moving to Portland to work for the Oregon Railway and then Victoria in 1883 for the Island Railroad Company. In Vancouver he switched gears completely, and opened a fruit and produce store on Cordova, and then Abbott Street with two partners, (one, R J Hamilton, his cousin). When their new warehouse was built they were identified as McMillan and Hamilton. At some point the next two bays to the east were added – we don’t know who designed the original building or the addition (probably the same architect).
By 1902 the partners had taken over the Kootenay part of the business, and W J McMillan & Co remained in Vancouver with William and his brother Robert growing “one of the largest grocery houses of the Canadian west”. In 1912 they moved to Beatty and Smithe to a building they had Thomas Hooper design, and a sailmaker, C H Jones & Son (Charles and Fred Jones) occupied their space. Jones & Co moved in 1918 to 28 Water Street and this building was vacant for a while. It appears that sugar and real estate baron B T Rogers had acquired the building; in 1916 he hired Somervell & Putnam to carry out some minor repairs to the building.
Fleck Brothers were another early arrival to the city; J Gordon Fleck and Bryce W Fleck were running their company in 1908, operating as manufacturers agents for Roofing, Lumber, Paper etc. from an office on Seymour Street. They moved to this building in 1921, and in 1941 hired W F Gardiner to add 2 additional floors, using a steel frame rather than the heavy lumber frame of the original structure. Once the CPR had stopped running trains through the streets they acquired the right-of-way, and in 1951 added a wedge-shaped addition to their premises. They also bought the warehouse on Powell Street across the lane. The company continued in business well into the 1970s, but as with most of the warehouses in this area, more efficient operations saw the use cease.
In 1988 the building was converted to residential use, with a new structure replacing the right-of way as a part of the Four Sisters Housing Co-operative, designed by Davidson and Yuen Partners for the Downtown Eastside Residents Association.