311 Water Street

300 block Water St 2

Here’s the McClary Manufacturing block on the corner, and next door at 311 Water is the Martin and Robertson warehouse built a year later and completed in 1898. It started life as a 4 storey building, and each floor had a different style. It started with a rustic stone base, a square second floor with paired sash windows on either side, Romanesque arches on the third floor  and six sash widows on Martin & Robertson 1900the top floor. W T Dalton was the architect, and as he featured in a brochure, we even know all the suppliers of materials – from Thomas Dunn for the glass to Geo H Hinton for the electrical fittings. As this 1900 photo from the brochure shows, the Canada Paint Co were in the building in 1900, but Martin and Robertson who developed the building were here too. Although described in some descriptions as ‘Klondike Outfitters’ they were importers and suppliers of dried foodstuffs – not just to would-be miners heading north. In 1903 W T Dalton (who had added the extra floor on McLary’s a year earlier) designed the $4,500 2-storey addition to the building for Mr Martin, built by ‘Horrobin’ – (contractor Theodore Horrobin).

Martin was Robert Martin, born in 1851 and Robertson was Arthur Robertson, who we think was seven years younger. Robert Martin was from Ontario, his wife Lydia was English, ten years, younger, and in 1901 they had four children aged seven, six and five as well as a 9-month-old baby. The household was completed by a ‘lady’s help’, Caroline Watson, and Jin, the domestic. Scotsman Arthur Robertson was looking after the company’s other warehouse, in Victoria. Both partners were interested in other investment opportunities; in 1903 the Times Colonist reported: “anticipating the boom that is likely to strike Port Simpson on the commencement of the building of the Grand Trunk Pacific enterprise, speculators are hastening to ‘get in on the ground floor’. Robert Martin of Vancouver and Arthur Robertson of Victoria are applying at Ottawa for a grant of foreshore rights at Port Simpson”. Whether they obtained the rights or not we’re don’t know – they might have been better off being turned down, as the railway terminated in Prince Rupert instead.

In 1908 a new 6-storey building was designed for the company by Parr and Fee (although we’re not sure where it was located), although Martin and Robertson were still in this original building in 1910. They were described then as ‘manufacturer’s agents’, and Duncan Gavin was the manager. They moved to new premises in 1911 to a warehouse they developed with John Burns at 329 Railway Street. That could be the Parr and Fee building – although the building permit, taken out in 1910, suggested that they had designed it themselves (which seems unlikely). This building was used by the Northern Electric and Manufacturing Co, who hired Thomas Hooper to design $1,500 of changes in 1911. Their name was truncated to Nortel many years later. The company started life in the 1890s as the manufacturing subsidiary of Bell Telephone of Canada.

Martin & Robertson advertised in ‘Canadian Grocer’ in 1918 in their Railway Street premises as Rice Millers, Importers and Manufacturers Agents. They distributed Japan, China and Siam Rices, as well as “BEANS, PEAS, SPLIT PEAS, TAPIOCA AND SAGO, SPICES, TEAS AND COFFEES, PINEAPPLES, DESICCATED COCOA-NUT, CURRANTS, DATES, FIGS, NUTS, SHELLED AND UNSHELLED, RAISINS, Etc., Etc. Representatives in all distributing centres throughout the Dominion”.

The 1907 Vancouver Public Library image above shows pretty much the same set of buildings that can still be seen today, as they can in our 1970s slide below. The biggest change is that the Martin & Robertson warehouse wasn’t red forty years ago, while the other buildings on the block were.

300 block Water St north 1

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Posted June 15, 2015 by ChangingCity in Gastown, Still Standing

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