Colonial Apartments – 589 Burrard Street

589 Burrard

The Colonial Apartments, seen here in 1917, were six years old when this Vancouver Public Library image was shot. The building permit describes the building as ‘Apartments/rooms (also 1008 Eveleigh Street); five-storey brick & steel store & apartment’. We saw it in a larger context in an earlier post. The architect was listed as Kennerley Bryan, and the developer B T Rogers, the American sugar baron who ran the Vancouver sugar refinery and also developed the city’s first up-scale ’boutique hotel’. J H Vickers was the builder of the $50,000 investment property.

There’s surprisingly little information available about the architect, who designed several buildings for Rogers at the sugar refinery between 1912 and 1917; buildings for Sam Kee including the famous ‘narrowest building in the world’ on the edge of Chinatown as well as the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club in Stanley Park in 1910. From the 1911 census we know that he was an American, living with his English wife, Cecilia, 18-year-old daughter Margaret, and his sister-in-law Harriet Ruddock. They moved to Canada in 1908 – his wife is in some records shown as Cecelia; she was from Aston, near Birmingham; (her birth and christening records confusingly show her as both Celia and Cecila). It appears that in arriving in Vancouver Mr. Bryan reinvented himself as an architect – before his arrival he was an engineer. Perhaps this explains why he favoured steel frame buildings, even when they were relatively small – although surviving the San Francisco earthquake could also be a factor.

Records suggest he was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1867 and he appears to have been a civil engineer, rather than an architect when he was in The US. The first reference to anyone called Kennerley Bryan was attending the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1892, and working in New York. As Kennerly Bryan we can find him in Chicago as an engineer in 1888, and in New York in 1889 as a junior engineer at Otis Engineering. The chief engineer of the Hale Elevator Co of Chicago in 1893 had the same name and moved to the Winslow Bros Elevator Co in Chicago in 1894 “As Consulting Engineer we are fortunate in securing Mr. Kennerley Bryan, who leaves his important position as an engineer of Otis Brothers & Co., of New York, to assist in our enterprise. Mr. Bryan has had the advantage of years of experience with the Otis Company, known throughout America and Europe as manufacturers of elevator machinery of the most approved type. He now has the reputation of being one of the most skillful and experienced engineers in the art of elevator building.

In 1900 he was shown by the US census to be living in Manhattan in New York when his son, also called Kennerley was aged 10. That same year he was living in Brooklyn when he obtained a patent for the ‘main operating valve for hydraulic elevators, etc’. He took charge of the Otis Elevator Co in San Francisco in 1900, and was running the Bryan Elevator Co there in 1906 when the earthquake devastated the city. He arrived in Vancouver in 1908, and was responsible for a series of buildings through boom and bust. The last time we can find Mr. Bryan as an architect in Vancouver is in 1919, when he represented the Architectural Institute of BC at a national meeting of architects with S M Eveleigh. He was in partnership with W Gillam that year (as he had been for several years) and was living on Broughton Street. In 1920 the architectural partnership had folded, Gillam was now in a new partnership and this was the last time Kennerley Bryan was living on Broughton Street, (recorded as an engineer, rather than architect). Kennerley Bryan junior was married in 1920 in New Westminster, moved to Ohio in the 1930s, and returned to Point Roberts in 1940. He had an older brother, Cecil, who was born in Brooklyn, New York two years before him, in 1888, and an earlier sibling also christened Kennerley who was also born in 1888 and died in 1889.

We think it’s possible the architect returned to New York, and returned to being an engineer. The record of his son’s wedding confirms that “Kennerley Bryan, 29, engineer, Titusburg NY, Vancouver, s/o Kennerley Bryan, engineer & Cecilia Ruttick, married Jean Christine MacEwen, 29, teacher, Paisley Ont., New Westminster, d/o Peter McEwen, clergyman & Christine McEwen, witnesses: Mrs. P.H. MacEwen & Cecilia R. Bryan, 19 Jan 1920 at New Westminster”. A Mr. Bryan was lodging in New York in 1920 where he was recorded as ‘Kennersly’, and an engineer called Kennerley Bryan in 1921 commented on the design of the Holland Tunnel – although we’re not sure if this is father or son. Although the death record refers to ‘Kennerly Bryan’, we’re pretty sure the architect died in Sacramento in 1935, and his son in Kitsap, Washington in 1970.

Today Eveleigh Street is no longer here and the site of the Colonial Apartments is home to a bank, part of the Bentall Centre designed by Frank Musson & Associates; (we think this part was built in 1971).


Posted 6 August 2015 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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