1674 Nelson Street

1674 Nelson

Here’s an old house on Nelson Street. The picture probably dates to around 1917 when Walter Thicke jnr lived here – he stayed here until 1952. He was shown as a log tower (it’s an odd definition until we realized that Walter and his brother Claude operated a towing company and owned a tugboat – although in 1917 Claude was away on active service). Walter had got married in 1915 to Dorothy Higman, and we can tell that Walter was doing well from the announcement that “After the ceremony Mr. and Mrs. Thicke left for a two weeks’ cruise on the groom’s yacht, Adelphi.” Technically it wasn’t Walter’s yacht – it was designed by E. B. Schock for the Thicke brothers, built in 1912 and sailed by them until 1919 when it was sold to Bert Austin, who sold it in 1922 to Seattle. In 1916 Claude was working for a blue print company, and Walter was an accountant with the Hudson’s Bay Company.

Walter senior was from England, having arrived in Canada in 1878 when he was around 31 years old. His wife, Clara, was nine years younger, and they had five children; Walter junior the eldest. All the children had been born in Ontario, and in 1891 the family were living in the town of Russell. When they first arrived in Vancouver they were living on Hornby Street in a house we already featured.

The first time this house appears is in 1909, when Frank Barnett, who was in real estate, was the occupant. He seems not to have actually developed anything, and there’s no office listed either, so we’re unsure whether he developed it himself. In 1911 he was replaced by Hugh Sweeney, who ran two businesses, as H Sweeny & Co, Clothing, Hats and Caps and Men’s Furnishings, and in partnership as Sweeney & Needham, Exclusive Clothiers. Both businesses were on West Hastings. In 1913 Sheldon D Brooks of the Brooks-Scanlon Lumber Co owned the house, and carried out some unspecified repairs. In 1916 Allan C MacIntosh moved in here briefly, before the Thicke family, just in time for Walter’s daughter to be born in July.

Walter’s granddaughter, Heather recalls “There was a big lawn swing on the front porch and window seats in the living room. You could see daylight through the roof in the closet in the back bedroom – formerly the maid’s room. It is my understanding that he added this room himself, which may explain the daylight. There was a fireplace in the huge master bedroom and a tiny balcony off it. The bathroom was fabulous and big. There were linen drawers all down one wall and the toilet was down the hall in its own little room. There were two other bedrooms.”

Claude Thicke was apparently the leading light of the towing company. Betty Keller recounts how he started in business on the Sunshine Coast towing with the 71 ft tug Coulti, launched in 1904 in False Creek for Union Steamships, but sold because it buned too much fuel. Claude bored holes in the firebox to improve combustion, and made a go of the business. When he returned from the war (where he was in the Navy) B W B Navigation was created with four tugs bought from the Progressive Steamship Company, used to tow log booms from Jervis inlet.

The firm was renamed Blue Band Navigation when a new partner was added in 1923, and the firm added a sawmill and logging to the business – although the new partner was a poor businessman and the entire operation failed in 1931 while Claude was secretary and Walter manager of the company. In 1932 Walter was already a director of another company, Plummer-Craig, who were log brokers.In 1937 Claude also had a new job, working as the managing director of Hayes manufacturing, who built logging trucks on 2nd Avenue. That year Walter was identified as a salesman; in 1940 he was working as an appraiser by B C Appraisal, and both brothers kept the same line of business: Claude in 1950 was with Pacific Truck and Trailer, while Walter was treasurer and later a co-partner in the General Appraisal Company on Bute Street.

The redevelopment of the West End saw the loss of many of the original houses, including this one. Zoltan Kiss designed Chelsea Square, a 3-storey rental building with a central courtyard in 1979.

Image Source: grateful thanks to Heather Lapierre

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Posted July 27, 2015 by ChangingCity in Gone, West End

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