These single storey stores on the corner of Granville and Nelson were built in 1919, and photographed within a couple of years of construction. These seem to be the first substantial buildings here; there was a Paints & Wallpaper’ building with frame construction that occupied a 25′ lot just north of the corner with Davie in the early 1900s. The architect of the 1919 stores was listed as H R Burns – if it’s accurate he was an obscure designer whose only known work in the city is this building (and there’s nobody in Vancouver or Victoria with the name Burns and those initials who was an architect, either). The builders of the $17,400 investment were Turnbull & Curr, and the owner was Dr O C Gilbert and Associates.
Dr. Gilbert was a dentist. He also practiced in Victoria, and the first time he appears in the city was in 1913. In 1919 he was shown living on Vernon Drive, with a practice on West Hastings. In 1920 he was in practice as Gilbert & Anderson, and he had an apartment on Jervis. We’re not sure if it’s entirely a coincidence, but there’s also a Dr Orlando Gilbert who practiced dentistry in Washington state, having developed a property in Bellingham in 1906. He was born in Indiana, and was shown living in San Francisco in 1900 and Bellingham in 1910 and 1920. It’s possible Dr Gilbert ran a practice across the border, (and there’s nobody in either the 1901 or 1911 census records with his name) or less likely, that there were two dentists at the same time with the same surname and initials. He died in Los Angeles in 1946.
We’ve been entirely unable to identify the architect or builder of the small 2-storey building next door. R E Gosse & Sons, plumbers, were the first company at this location in 1906, and they obtained the building permit for the $3,500 building that year. In 1908 it became the Royal Restaurant, we think Lucy Olmstead’s rooming house was upstairs.
Next door, disappearing off the edge of the picture, was the Dominion Theatre, built in 1911 by the Dominion Theatre Co (run by J R Muir) with a design claimed by E J Ryan in the building permit, costing $50,000. Mr Ryan wasn’t an architect – he was a builder, band this was one of two examples where we find him taking credit for the design of a substantial project. Thanks to Patrick Gunn’s digging in a May 1911 Vancouver Daily World we know that Mr Ryan was overlooking the architectural efforts of the most prolific architects in the city at the time, Parr and Fee.
It became the Downtown Theatre in 1967, then the Caprice Showcase Theatre, closing as a cinema in 1988 but retaining the name in its new incarnation as the Caprice Nightclub. Inside is also the L.E.D. Bar, a mini-club that claims to cater to Vancouver’s elite. It’s not entirely original – apparently the original cinema auditorium had a ceiling that consisted of glass with backlit lighting above.
While the Caprice lives on inside the Dominion’s frame, the other buildings were replaced in 1973 with a two-storey concrete structure. The context for the building has changed considerably with the development of 980 Howe, Manulife’s new office block.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1376-279.