This retail location is seen in 1897 when it was the offices of the British Columbia Electric Railway Co. That was the year the company took over existing streetcar and interurban lines in southwestern British Columbia in 1897, and operated the electric railway systems in the region until the last interurban service was discontinued in 1958. It was created from the bankrupt Consolidated Railway and Light Company (forced into receivership due to a streetcar accident in Victoria). That company had been created from ten earlier companies – three of them also bankrupt and founded in 1890 and 1891.
The Electric Railway Co were tenants in a building that had been constructed nine years earlier, designed by N S Hoffar for Dr. Whetham – we saw the building in an earlier image.
Major Matthews identified the men as: Mr. Stein, Mr. McDonald, Mr. Jackson and Mr. Wilcock. There are three McDonalds working for the BCER – Mr McDonald is either HA McDonald who was a lineman, William McDonald who was the lamp inspector for the Electric Railway Co, or possibly Angus McDonald, the line foreman for the railway. Mr E H Willcock was a clerk for the railway company that year, although he would be a motorman in a couple of years.
We’re not sure if the identification of the other gentlemen was inaccurate, if the street directory failed to identify them, or whether they were connected in some other way with BCER (or just keen to be photographed). As far as we can tell, there were no BCER employees called Stein (although there was an accountant with an office on the 600 block of Hastings nearby). Similarly we haven’t found anyone called Jackson at BCER, but there were two businessmen on this block of Cordova, one a jeweler and the other the co-owner of the Savoy Hotel, a couple of doors to the east.
The almost windowless building that replaced Whetham’s was the first of only two buildings completed for Project 200, a massive redevelopment plan that would have seen the entire waterfront of Gastown bulldozed to create a row of towers over a waterfront freeway. This rather more modest structure was built in 1969 as the home of CNCP Telecommunications – the first serious hi-tech investment in the city, designed by Francis Donaldson and developed by Grosvenor Estates. The company was created as a joint venture between the CP and CN in 1967, merging the different networks used by the two railway companies. It became an early telecom business; was bought by Rogers in the 1980s, renamed Unitel and was later acquired by AT&T Canada. (It’s now called Allstream).
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Bu P171