Archive for March 2015

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 to the back of the building. The garage was built in 1920 for the lesee, D Marks, cost $3,500, and was designed by Gardiner & Mercer.

In our 1937 Vancouver Public Library photograph the four storey building was being 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 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 developed the two storey building to the west. They 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, and right through to their sale in the 1908s.


Posted March 5, 2015 by ChangingCity in Altered, Gastown

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41 Alexander Street

41 Alexander

Today this is a condo building called ‘The Captain French’. It was built in 1910 to Parr and Fee’s design for George H French – who really was a captain – or at least the owner of a number of seagoing vessels. French was born in Ontario and first shows up in New Westminster in 1891, aged 39 with his wife Cynthia, 32. It’s not possible to read exactly what his occupation is, but the family’s religious affiliation is identified as Salvation Army. In 1901 he was living in Vancouver (aged 48) with his wife, Cynthia (42), where the census recorded him as ‘master mariner’, and they are now Presbyterian. The street directory show the family living at 350 Alexander, and his business address was 145 Alexander. His 24-year-old son, Austin, was living at 328 Alexander, also a master mariner with his wife, Mildred, and their two children, Clara and baby George. In 1911 he was living on Beach Avenue, and curiously his wife’s name seems to be Simyeon, or something like it (although we’ve noted the frequent errors in that particular census – as well as the cheap nibs the census-takers used for their pens).

french tugs 1910In 1910 Captain French’s tugs were listed as the Sea Lion, the St Clair and the Superior. A S French, who was living on Nelson Street was also involved in the tugboat company, but there was also the A S French Auto Co, founded in 1909, (whose premises had the same address as the Tug Boat Company). Austin French was also a Director of the Columbia Taxicab Co.

In 1911 Captain French had either abandoned the ocean, or was downplaying it and A S French and Co were his main advertised business interest. The company was run by Austin French, but George was a partner in the dealership for both Napier Motors and Stoddard Dayton Cars.

french auto 1910The Archives have an image of the Prime Minister, Sir Wilfrid Laurier in a Napier car in front of the CPR Station in August 16, 1910. Laurier opened the first Vancouver Exhibition at Hastings Park that year. The Napier was an expensive British-built automobile, noted for being the first car to cross the Rockies (from Boston to Vancouver) in 1904. Mulliner built the car’s aluminium body.

Stoddard Dayton were a new company with high quality vehicles built in Dayton, Ohio. By 1911, Stoddard-Dayton offered twenty models with four different engines, and by 1912 when the company had become part of the United States Motor Company the advertising claimed “None can go farther. None can go faster.” With the dramatic expansion of sales of much cheaper Ford and rival cars, the company ceased production in 1913.

In 1911 the Daily World announced “The A. S. French Auto Co. are now occupying their new commodious quarters at 1027 Pender Street West, and have the largest fireproof and most up to date garage and sales rooms in British Columbia. They have a storage capacity for 600 cars, and carry besides a full line of accessories. The building is of reinforced concrete, absolutely fireproof, and with two floors, 66×132 feet In size. Each floor has a level driveway entrance, the lower being on Seaton street, and tha upper on Pender. When the outside decorations are completed, the building will present an extremely attractive appearance. “Any one wanting a. Napier car this season will have to hustle.” said Mr. A. S. French, “as the allotment for this year Is almost sold out. Nearly all the cars allotted us are In now, only five or six carloads remaining to be delivered. I have no idea how many Naplers have been sold in Vancouver without looking up the records, but as an instance of the way they are going I might mention that last week I sold over $42,000 worth, including the sales of Saturday night after dinner, which amounted to $19,500. We are open for business day and night. Besides the Napier we also handle the Stoddard – Dayton cars, which I consider the best car on the market for the money. The Napier is a British built car.” The showroom had cost $55,000, designed by ‘Blackmore’ (presumably E E Blackmore). Clearly with success like this Austin’s father could afford the new investment of the warehouse building he erected on Alexander Street at a cost of $24,000, built by Hoffmeister Bros, seen in this 1927 Vancouver Public Library image.

A S French continued in business, switching to selling the Overland cars in 1916 (at only $850), and in 1922 the Chandler, Cleveland and Liberty Six lines of vehicles. George, Austin, and Austin’s son, (also George) were all associated with the company.

The new warehouse had six tenants when it opened; Vancouver Scale and Butchers Supply Co, The International Battery Co Ltd, Shurley Deitrich Co Ltd (a saw manufacturer), Electrical Manufacturing Company, Kaufman Rubber Co Ltd and F F Henderson, manufacturers agents. In 1920 there was just one occupant, Martin Finlayson & Mather Ltd, the successors to the George Hunter Hardware Company. When the photo was taken in 1927 there were multiple tenants again, Ames Bros, (manufacturers agents) Imperial Stage Co Ltd, Wayne Pump and Tank Co, Wells Ltd, (who were ‘reconditioners’) Pacific Wire Ltd and Bartholomew Montgomery Ltd (electrical engineers).

By 1935 Gainers Meats had moved into part of the building – their name can still be seen painted on the back of the building. They shared the premises with the Consolidated Sales Book and Wax Paper Co Ltd, who were a paper wholesaling company (if their name left you guessing).

In 1990 the building was an early Gastown residential conversion, designed by Paul Merrick and creating 20 condos.