414 Alexander Street

414 Alexander

Once upon a time this house was considerably more decorative than it is today. And that once upon was a very long time ago – the picture dates from about 1890, and the house is one of the oldest in still standing in the city, dating to around 1889. It has water hook-up number 10 – the tenth building to be attached to the city’s new water supply, in 1889. The building’s first address was 430 Alexander, and in 1890 Thomas John Dales, a carpenter and Miss Florence Dales were listed in the street directory for the first time. We also find the first mention of T J Dales in the local newspaper that year when he was part of the entertainment for the fourth annual conference of the Methodist Church, held in Vancouver. T J Dales was listed as part of the ‘entertainment’ for the event; the nature of his entertaining wasn’t described, but  if we had to guess we would suggest that he played the organ. We can find T J Dales in the 1891 census, aged 50, born in Ontario and living with his 38-year-old wife Louisa and their two children, Florence, age 21 and Mabel aged four. A year later Florence married William Douglas, a Scot, and we discover that she had been born in Newmarket Ontario. Two years later Murdock McDonald also lived here. From the notice of her death in Saanich in 1957 we discover that Murdock was married to another of Thomas and Louisa’s daughters, Viola, who would have been aged 20 in 1891.

Dales organThomas_Dales_HouseThomas John Dales was born in Ontario, almost certainly in 1841 (although there are a few minor variations in different records). In 1868 he was living in Newmarket, Ontario, where he married Louisa M Bishop; he was 28, she was 16. In the 1871 census he was listed as a Melodeon Maker, and in 1881 an organ manufacturer, still in Newmarket.

In 1880 Thomas built a new brick home there, still standing today (seen here in a Wikipedia image). In the 1881 census three children were at home; Florence aged 11, Viola aged 8 and Leslie, 2. Leslie’s birth was recorded in 1879, but his death was recorded just under three years later before his third birthday. In 1883 Thomas raised $1,000 selling a property on Newmarket’s Main Street.

We don’t know what brought Thomas and Louisa and their family west, but it seems likely that he did his best, given the materials available in their new location, to create something like the decorated home they left behind, and given his carpentry skills it seems reasonable to presume that much of the work was his own.

The family didn’t stay in the house for long. In the early 1890s we find Thomas had moved to New Westminster where he was still a carpenter, in 1899 working for the Royal City Planing Mill, and lived at 209 Ninth. In 1901 the family had moved to Delta where Thomas, aged 59, was now a farmer; Mabel was still at home at 14 but had two younger siblings, William, 7 and Sarah, 5. In 1911 he was still in Delta and still farming, now shown as aged 73, Florence Douglas (his daughter) was living with him with her husband and his teenage grandchildren, William and Sarah, and his 80 year old father-in-law, William Bishop. We assume Louisa was there too, as we know that she lived until 1940, dying in Victoria where she lived, probably with her daughter Viola MacDonald. She was recorded at the time in the Newmarket Era newspaper as being survived by three grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren, as well as numerous Ontario relatives.

In 1892 the address switched to 414 Alexander Street and builder George Cary lived in the house. In 1894 C K Whittier lived here; a barber on Carrall Street. In 1896 he was replaced by David Ransom, who was a boom-man with the HS Mill (presumably the Hastings Saw Mill, just down the street). At the end of that same year the Vancouver Daily World recorded that Dr L M McLean, late of New Westminster had his office on Westminster Avenue, opposite the Glasgow Hotel and was living (at present) at 414 Alexander Street. In 1898 John Kerr was here; a merchant. From 1899 Mark Rose, a plumber and steamfitter lived here. The house would have been crowded: as well as his wife Annie there were four sons, three daughters and a lodger, 18-year-old Laura Rose. Mark and Annie, and the elder of their children had been born in PEI, but others were born in the US, and the youngest in BC. Laura was also from PEI, so perhaps a niece. In 1908 Joseph Rose was listed as the resident, Mark’s second son who had been 20 in 1901, as well as his father and brother, Samuel, who also worked for his father’s company. The Rose family finally left the house after 1910 when S Yoshie was shown here, the first of a decade of Japanese residents as that community gradually expanded from Japantown to the west. (Later the names weren’t recorded – just ‘Japanese’. After this through to 1950 it switched to ‘Orientals’).

The photograph suggests that either the street was lowered, or the house was raised. We think it might have been the street grade that was changed; as with a number of East End streets, Alexander was graded for concrete sidewalks in 1909. Although much of this block of Alexander Street is now in commercial use, the house is still standing, and is still in residential use. What Thomas Dales would make of his former home being valued at over half a million dollars, we’ll obviously never know.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives SGN 295


Posted 23 March 2015 by ChangingCity in Altered, East End

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