Archive for April 2015

Franklin Street east from Commercial Drive

Franklin east

There’s buried treasure on the City Archives website in the form of thousands of images uploaded from the City Engineer’s collection, but with no description of what the picture shows. Here’s one that we’re dating to 1976, which we have identified as Franklin Street running uphill east from Commercial Drive. Today it forms part of the Powell Street industrial area, but it once had quite a different character. For a start, it wasn’t always called Franklin Street; it started life as Albert Street but got renamed in 1929 to avoid the confusion with Alberta Street. While we know who Franklin was,  nobody seems know who Albert was, so that’s another benefit.

At least one remaining building is over a hundred years old – Franklin House on the north side of the street dates from 1913 and was designed by W H Chow for owner Ah Sing, costing $35,000 for the “four-storey frame stores and rooms”. This wasn’t an isolated Chinese investment, there was significant development for Chinese owners in the area around here, especially on Albert Street (where development was mostly occurring on vacant lots). Although many of the names of tenants in this area in 1913 were not Chinese, it looks as if the main floor was initially occupied by Lee On & Co, who were described as ‘merchants’. They also operated in the traditional heart of Chinatown, occupying premises on East Pender. By 1915 many of the buildings in this new Chinatown area were listed as vacant, but it looks as if the apartments were known as the Peterson Apartments, managed by Mrs. C Harwood.

Franklin Apartments, Inlet View Court 1944 VPLThe building next door was another Chinese developed building, with an apparently traditional Vancouver Chinese design (with open balconies on the upper floors, seen better in this 1944 Vancouver Public Library image). It was a $12,000 development for ‘Kee, Kit & Don, Chow’, built by Rigby & Marsden in 1912 and designed as a three-storey brick store, hall & rooms designed by E Stanley Mitton. It was probably what the Province newspaper described that year as Mr Mitton’s ‘commercial block for the Chinese Society’. Mitton was born in Birmingham, England and mostly designed arts and craft homes for wealthy clients on the west side and Shaughnessy, so this commission is a bit unexpected.

It wasn’t Mitton’s only building here; he also designed a two-storey brick store & rooms (apartments) across the street which is probably the building on the right of the 1976 picture. It was built by Wilson & Smalles in 1912 at a cost of $12,000 for Chow, T. Tong & Kee, Kit – probably the same developers who built the 3-storey building. Owners Chow, Ting Tong & Kee, Kit also commissioned Mr. Mitton for a house they built on the 1900 block of Albert Street, so that’s probably Mr. Chow’s full name (and T Tong also commissioned a $28,000 apartment building on the 600 block of Harris Street). Mr. Mitton also designed a more expensive project for a Chinese client in 1912, a $46,000 Market Alley building for Wing Sang where he housed his extensive family. (which these days is the Rennie art gallery). Chow Tong was listed in the street directory in 1912 living at 804 East 12th Avenue, a house that cost $5,500 and was designed in 1911 for Mr. Chow by Stanley Mitton. Mr. Chow was listed in the Chinese section of the street directory as being in real estate – which these developments clearly support. Ting Chow also had Black Brothers design some alterations to his property at 229 Pender Street in 1912, and he had other property on East Hastings, Harris Street and Carrall Street up to 1916. Mr. Kee also had Mr Mitton design some improvements to his house on Lakewood Drive, the addition of a garage.

Mr. Kee may not have generated his investment funds entirely from legitimate sources. It appears that Kee Kit was also sometimes known as Wong Kee Kit, and in 1920 he was shown in the street directories as being the manager of a grocery company shown as Kwong Wo Long at 262 East Pender. The company had been in Chinatown for some time; they received some compensation in 1907 for damage in the riots that year to their property at 13 Pender Street. In 1921 someone with the name of Kee Kit – described as a manager with the Wong Wo Lung Company – was identified in a newspaper article as the alleged owner of a farm on Lulu Island in Richmond where $30,000 of opium was seized (said to be the highest value of opium ever found). “The police state that the farm was a distribution depot and that opium was sent not only into Vancouver and surrounding towns, but also across the United States border,” the Vancouver Sun explained. “In addition to the opium a complete outfit, alleged to be used in cooking opium, was also seized.” “Totalling up the seizure the officers found that they had 40 large tins, the retail value of which they estimate at $400 each; 39 smaller tins, of the kind usually retailed in addicts and opium dens at $100 each, and a bucket containing enough opium to fill 40 of these smaller tins.” After spending the night in jail, owner Kee Kit, and seven others arrested with him, were released on $1000 bail.” We haven’t been able to find out what happened to Mr. Kee after this.

Nearly forty years later, apart from the loss of the two Stanley Mitton designed buildings not too much has changed. The large new premises at the top of the street, on the right, are part of a complex of buildings found throughout this area that are the processing plant for Hallmark Poultry, one of the largest food processors in the city, designed by Christopher Bozyk Architects.

Image source, City of Vancouver Archives CVA 800-227



Posted April 6, 2015 by ChangingCity in Altered, East End

Tagged with ,

Leland Hotel Annex – 623 West Hastings Street

623 W Hastings

The Leland Hotel Annex was one of the earliest masonry buildings constructed in the city. The Leland Hotel itself was across the street, owned by Simon Hirschberg (who committed suicide in January 1887, and became the first adult to be buried in Mountain View Cemetery). That was a substantial wooden frame building built very quickly after the fire. Simon’s widow continued to run the business. F W Hart remembered her as “the first white lady to come across the Canadian Rockies and it was to her that I presented the bouquet of flowers by the order of Mayor MacLean. She came on the first C.P.R. train from the east.

The Annex was built in 1887, the year after the fire. A souvenir edition of the Daily World in 1891 identifies a building developed by Benjamin Springer that was either the first or second in the city to be built of brick – the Leland Block. It decribes Springer (favourably) as developer of ‘a number of pretentious buildings’, one of which we already featured. We know that this site was owned by Ben Springer when he registered as a voter, and there’s an illustration of the building in the Daily World which is quite clearly the Leland Hotel Annex. It fits another identification – the first Springer-Van Bramer Block on Hastings Street, completed at the end of 1887 and described in a January 1888 edition of the Vancouver Herald as ‘Hastings Street opposite the Leland Hotel’. This was also the first building to be identified as designed by N S Hoffar, although he almost certainly designed others immediately after the fire as he was in the city early in 1886. (We think it’s possible that the Daily World was mistaken – there’s an even earlier, but much more modest brick building that we think was also developed by Springer and Van Bramer in 1886 on Cordova Street).

In a December 1888 edition of the Daily World it was described as the Springer and Van Bramer Building. “The block was finished in the early part of this year, and is occupied on the ground floor by Mr. W Skene, wholesale merchant, and the Miss Smith’s millinery establishment, the rooms above being rented as extra bedrooms by the enterprising proprietors of the Leland. The block has a 50 feet frontage and has a solid stone foundation, the main building being of brick, and adjoining the Innes Block. The total cost was about $14,000. Mr. N S Hoffar, architect.” Subsequently was illustrated in an 1890 Holiday supplement to the Vancouver Daily and Weekly World, where it was shown as being the home of Shannon & McLachlan’s real estate office.

623 windowLeland re-skinBy 1899 the Leland Hotel was run by William Hamilton, and the Annex was still across the street, as it was in 1906, when the Daily World announced “Madame Bayla, France’s most famous psychic palmist, has returned to Vancouver by special request and may be consulted from 1 to 9 p. m. every day at the Leland hotel annex, first floor. Everyone here knows about this wonderfully gifted woman. Her revelations border on the miraculous.” By 1908 Edward Stark’s shoes and E C Kilby’s furnishings were here, but there’s no mention of the upper floor use for the hotel, or the Leland on the other side of the street.

By 1927, when this image was taken, the building had become Famous Cloak and Suit Co; dressmakers, run by Isadore L Kostman. The manufacturing was taking place upstairs, as this detail of a seamstress working in the window of the top floor confirms. The 1927 directory offers us a suggestion of who might be working in the picture; while the company employed a sales staff of 25 or so, all of them women, Rosa Bell was the only seamstress recorded as working at Famous.

623 Hastings 2003In 1940 Famous occupied both this building and the adjacent Davis Chambers to the east, with a huge Art Deco shiny black sign. By 1943 the original N S Hoffar façade had been completely replaced with a simpler design with vertical window openings, (visible in an Archives picture from that year, above) and by 1974 the entire front of the building had been covered in pressed steel sheeting – a fate common to a number of Hastings buildings including part of the Army & Navy store. The stores in the building were still open in 2003, when we took this shot, but closed a few years later. This year the site was cleared, although so far there’s no application that we’re aware of to build a replacement, which sits on a block where two new office towers have recently been approved.

Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Bu N295 and CVA 586-1223 (extract)