157 Alexander Street

149 Alexander

We’ve got two views of this small warehouse building squeezed in between the rail tracks and Alexander Street as it curves towards the tracks. In 1919, when the picture above was taken the newly arrived owner was the H G White Manufacturing Company who were the home of White Seal products. There were White Seal apples in Tasmania, White Seal lard in the US, White Seal beer and White Seal tinned salmon in British Columbia, but H G White didn’t sell any of those – the company was described as ‘manufacturers agent’ in the street directory – but what they manufactured wasn’t identified. Harold G White lived on Cardero Street, and we’ve discovered that White Seal was a brand of fur mittens. Originally, when the premises were built in 1913 this was occupied by the builder and developer, E Cook, designed by W M Dodd, an architect who designed a series of automobile-related buildings in the city as well as apartment blocks. Edward Cook built warehouses on Water Street and Woodward’s big new store on Hastings, so this investment was a relatively modest piece of construction for him. While he occupied the building he also ran his other business from here, the Columbia Clay Co. who had a brickyard located on Anvil Island at the north end of Howe Sound. He was born in Perth, Ontario, and after learning his trade as contractor in Manitoba arrived in Vancouver in the spring of 1886. By 1891 he was responsible for building around 40 of the city’s new business blocks.

By 1915 this was the warehouse for Jacobson-Goldberg, a fur trade business. (Isaac Jacobson was a furrier who lived on Ontario St and L Goldberg lived in the London Hotel; before they moved here they were in business on Main Street.) In 1916 they shared the building with B C Grinnell Glove Co, a company who also made sealskin gloves, for loggers, steel workers and lumbermen. (In 1914 they were located in Coquitlam). Nelson and Shakespeare (Arthur Nelson, of North Vancouver and W B Shakespeare who lived in the West End) wholesale confectioners took over the premises for three years in 1917. That year H G White was partnered with Benjamin Harrison, who lived in West Vancouver, and they were importers with premises on Hornby Street (he initially worked for Harrison, and then became a partner). In 1920 Nelson and Shakespeare moved to another warehouse across the street and H G White moved in, manufacturing sealskin gloves again, although still in the import and export trade.

Harold White claimed in some records to have been born in England in 1889. That seems to be the correct year: he arrived in Canada in 1906 with his parents who had apparently initially emigrated from England to Canada in 1881. However, in the 1911 census Harold and his sister Eliza (still living with their parents) are shown as being born in Michigan, USA, so presumably the family moved south of the border for a while. In 1919 he was living on Nelson Street, and in 1923 he had moved to Cardero and was listed as Consul for Peru, and Harrison’s company was once again BR Harrison and Company, now based in 325 Howe Street. By 1924 Harold White was no longer in the directories; in 1940 he appears to have moved to San Francisco with his family – an easier move for someone born in the US.

157 Alexander

157 Alexander 1933The image above was taken in 1929 when the building was for sale. The more substantial building to the east beyond the narrow gap that was a track that crossed the rail lines has apparently been masked off. You can see the adjacent warehouse a little more clearly in this 1933 Archives shot that we can’t reproduce these days as it’s taken from inside the Port security area. Gordon and Belyea had been using 157 Alexander for some years – they were listed as ‘Mill, Mining, Railway, Marine and Waterworks Supplies’, and had been in a building across the street earlier in the 1920s. They moved to a larger property in 1929, and the sale offering suggests they might have acquired the building rather than tenanted it. In the 1933 image Burnyeats and Co were occupying the building – they were ship’s chandlers.

Scout Magazine outlines the building’s more recent history: In later decades, the address’ upper storeys were converted into offices, and by the 1970s the ground floor was known as the Banjo Palace, a 20’s-themed club, supposedly boasting the country’s largest circular barbecue. The owner, George Patey, had purchased pieces of the brick wall involved in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and had it re-constructed in the men’s room (the wall was shipped from Chicago in 7 barrels, and after the nightclub failed it was removed again). Prior to the Alibi Room who still occupy the space today the building was home to the Archimedes Club, a watering hole for Vancouver’s taxi drivers where a signature on the membership book got you access to $5 pitchers (or so go the legends).

Image source: Vancouver Public Library, City of Vancouver Archives Str P30.2 and CVA 99-253

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Posted March 12, 2015 by ChangingCity in East End, Gastown, Still Standing

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