115 Water Street

115 Water St

Here are two pictures of the same company’s premises – one is Rainsford and Company in the building they occupied in 1903, and the contemporary image shows the building the company had constructed twenty years later. The original building didn’t start life as a warehouse; very soon after a fire destroyed the city, the Methodist chapel was quickly rebuilt by the minister, Joseph Hall. Hall had built the first chapel on the site only weeks before it burned down in 1886; the Methodist parsonage was built earlier (on the same lot), in 1873 and services were initially held in the kitchen, then in 1875 the first modest ‘Indian’ Church was built on the same lot.  (Next door was Birdie Stewart’s home, Birdie being the first recorded resident of the city to offer gentlemen the opportunity to share her girl’s company for an appropriate fee).

George Schetky recalled lodging at the parsonage before the fire, and watching the trees being felled to the west by the CP Railway workers. Another early resident described the situation for the parsonage; the beach consisted of large boulders and kelp, with a path made by the Indians who pulled their canoes up onto the beach here. The location was generally quiet – except when the crows dropped clams from the beach onto the roof to try to break the shells open. By 1884 Methodist services were held in the Mill’s schoolhouse. When the two lots the parsonage and new hall occupied were conveyed to the Methodist congregation in 1886, only five of the seven trustees were actually members of the Methodist congregation; the other two William Soule (Church of England) and Peter Cordiner (Presbyterian) agreed to act as trustees for the greater good of the new community. In April 1887 Vancouver’s first band concert was held at the church, opening with The Maple Leaf Forever.

The Methodists, with a new minister (brother of B.C. Premier John Robson) soon decided to build two new churches, one to the east on Princess Street in 1888 and one closer to the new CPR city centre on Homer Street, in 1889. The former chapel was quickly taken by John B Lovell of Victoria (who also owned the Bodega Hotel) and used as a feed and grain store by Henry Arkell. It was used by the mid 1890s by Welsh Brothers, flour and feed merchants, then by Fred Allen in 1899 (who had been Arkell’s clerk), and in 1903 Rainsford & Co occupied the space, fruit merchants whose business had previously been on Powell Street. They were still there in 1907, as we saw in an earlier post, and the two Rainsfords (son Clifford and father Benjamin) were both living on Beach Avenue.

By 1911 the family had sold up, and moved to the North Shore. Benjamin’s occupation was described as ‘income’, while his wife Harriet and 27-year-old son Clifford had ‘none’. Rainsford and Co carried out repairs in 1920, and were responsible for replacing the building in 1923 with the structure still standing today – but by then there were no Rainsfords actually involved in the company. In 1911 it was run by Anderson Littlehailes and Guy Chellis. Anderson lived on Point Grey Road, and was from Monkwearmouth in County Durham, England, living with his wife, her mother and sister, while Guy lived on Arbutus Street, with his wife and daughter He was an American who, unusually for the time, declared no religious affiliation. Guy moved on from the company, but Anderson was still in charge 12 years later when the new building was developed. It was modest in comparison to some of the other warehouses along Water Street, and we don’t know who designed it, but as it was built by Dominion Construction it may well have been an in-house architect. By 1931 Rainsford & Co was managed by M G Hunter, and by 1941 the B C Coast Veg Marketing Board were in the building.

Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives Ch P21


Posted 30 March 2015 by ChangingCity in Gastown, Gone

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