Archive for October 2015
The Vancouver Archives title for this picture is “Day-Smith Motors Ltd. showroom building on 110 block of Georgia Street”. Actually it’s the 1100 block in 1927; that’s Day Smith at 1126 W Georgia selling Dodge Brothers vehicles and next door were Bowell McDonald Motors at 1130 offering the rival Pontiac Six for $1,195 as well as Oakland cars. The cars didn’t come from California, like Pontiac they were a General Motors brand and they were built in Detroit. Both Dodge Brothers had died suddenly in 1920, and Dodge was owned by Dillon Read & Co, an investment company, from 1925 to 1928 when it was sold to rival Chrysler. This was one of the city’s automobile meccas; right alongside to the east were Begg Brothers, Chevrolet dealers, and across Thurlow was Nash-Ajax Cars. There was another car dealership to the west, and then Willis Kingsley Motors on the corner of the block. (Apart from the First Church of Christ Scientist, the only other resident of the block was Mrs M E Ford – but we’re pretty certain her name is just a coincidence!)
The car dealerships here date back to before 1920; before that there were houses. We haven’t managed to trace the architect for the vaguely mission-style buildings, but Bowell McDonald did commission a $25,000 garage at 1130 West Georgia in 1925, so they would seem to have been the developers of these properties. There was a $10,000 garage proposed by R J Snelgrove for 1140 West Georgia in 1919: Robert Snelgrove was a real estate broker, so it was a speculative project and was the building next door at 1146 occupied in 1920 by Commercial Cars, of Luton, England, distributers of Commer and Stewart Motor Trucks. He claimed to be both architect and builder – which we rather doubt. The 1146 address disappears from the street directory by 1927, but it looks like Bowell McDonald occupied more property to the west as well at that time. The design of the single storey buildings here (from 1919 and 1925) was very similar, as this 1929 image shows when REO (makers of the Speedwagon) also had a showroom here, with Erskine selling Studebakers on the corner.
Day Smith were Harry Day and Ivan Smith, and up to 1924 they were in business on Granville Street – they started in business late in 1921 when they were selling the Light Six Studebaker. Early Neil Motors took over from Day Smith Motors in 1928, the year that Dodge became part of Chrysler. They continued to operate until around 1931, when the Dodge dealership was transferred to Begg Motors. (Begg were longer-established in the city and in 1930 were selling Cadillac, La Salle and Nash cars from their two buildings; the one on the corner, and the Begg Block to the east, designed by M E Williams in 1912). Begg took over these premises, selling Dodge and Chevrolet cars, and Bowell McDonald were next door still selling Pontiac and Oakland cars. Early Neil continued selling cars in New Westminster after 1931 but appear to have had no dealership affiliation.
This remained a car sales centre: by 1950 Begg Brothers had moved to the Willis Kingsley building on the corner of Bute, selling Dodge and DeSoto cars. J M Brown were selling Studebaker cars in this building, with Dan McLean selling Nash and Hillman cars to the west.
In 1958 the location became known for a completely different reason: Isy’s Supper Club was established by Isy Walters in 1136 W Georgia and for over a decade combined top acts of the day – one bill shows Richard Pryor, Little Richard and Buddy Rich (on different nights) with ‘exotic dancers’. In 1962 Lenny Bruce was booked – but only managed to play for one night before the Morality Squad threatened to pull Isy’s licence. Isy had run the Cave nightclub in the 1950s, and before that had booked the acts at the State Theatre. One act at Isy’s combined the two aspects of the venue’s booking: the Ladybirds were an all girl topless band (3 shows nightly). As interest in live performance saw smaller audiences the venue lost the acts and became Isy’s Strip City in the 1970s – a return to Isy’s roots as he had started booking strippers in the early 1950s. Isy died in the club one Saturday morning in 1976, and the club died with him.
The buildings were still standing as retail stores – Sleep Country had a Downtown store here – when the site was assembled by Westbank who hired James Cheng to design the tallest tower in the city – 62 storeys with condos above the Shangri La Hotel. Where the car dealerships stood is part of the development: an Urban Fare store to the west and an art instillation location curated by the Vancouver Art Gallery with regularly changed site-specific artworks.
Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives Bu N300 and CVA 99-3748
Major Matthews, the City Archivist, wasn’t always accurate in his identification of the thousands of photographs he accumulated. Here’s a case in point, an image titled ‘Clark Parsons Buick Limited showroom building on West Georgia Street’ dating from 1927. Actually it’s on Burrard Street – we’ve seen a corner of it in an earlier post. In 1930 the company were advertising the advantages of the used cars to UBC students in their Annual publication ‘The Totem”. W G Parsons was listed as the President: W Clark (identified as Robert W Clark in the street directory and later advertisments) was the Secretary-Treasurer of the company.
They sold McLaughlin Buick of Canada under the slogan ‘Vibrationless beyond belief’ and the cars were built in Canada as part of the General Motors Canadian operations. It’s possible J Y McCarter designed the building – he was responsible for the design next door in the same year at 635 Burrard, and we think some of the frame of a part-built hotel was used in the buildings here. The reason Major Matthews got the wrong label is that Clark Parsons moved to this building in 1927: in 1926 they were newly in business at 1219 W Georgia; we think W Parsons was most likely to be Wallace Parsons who was an auto mechanic in 1925.
By 1931 ther company had expanded – as well as these premises there were Used Car Stores on Melville Street and Granville Street – although only Melville was open a year later, and in 1933 just this property remained active. A year later the business here was Bowell McDonald – a Pontiac and Buick dealership who later added Chevrolet and became better known in a foreshortened version of their name – Bow-Mac.
Today the site is part of the Burrard SkyTrain station, and park honouring Art Phillips, the former mayor.
Image source City of Vancouver Archives Bu N293
This 1933 image shows a gas bar and two car sales buildings. Perhaps surprisingly, one is still standing. Already 20 years old when this image was taken, the building at 418 W Georgia dates back to 1913. The developers were the London & British North America Co, associated with several buildings in the city, including the London Building on Seymour Street developed the year before this one. Like other investment businesses in the city they raised their capital in London, with directors based there, but with a locally based board managing the portfolio in Vancouver. The architects were Sharp and Thompson and Bruce Brothers built the $20,000 investment. Initially the Forshaw-Ford Auto Co moved in, but a year later they had gone. The Ford was for Bert Ford, the managing director and co-owner – they actually sold Studebaker and Cole cars. Hamilton Read, a Vancouver lawyer, was the president of the company and Thomas Forshaw was the sales manager. Bert Ford joined the expeditionary force fighting in Europe, and was killed in action in 1916. That year the Model Service Garage moved into the building. Soon after the garage moved in the owner, William Tulk, reported that there had been a break in and two tires had been stolen.
Briefly after that the building was home to the Stettler Cigar Factory – described at the time as ‘the largest cigar factory west of the great lakes’, from 1917 to early in 1919. There’s a picture of the building when it was the cigar factory: titled “Group in front of the Stettler Cigar Factory, Vancouver Branch, Factory No. 10 at 418 West Georgia Street”, the Vancouver World article suggests this was the main (and perhaps only) factory, and Factory No. 10 (although it appeared on the façade) was a rather misleading title. The factory was moved from Stettler, a town in Alberta, and it appears that the company may have received financial support from the BC Government.
Stettler’s main product was the Van Loo cigar, sold at two for a quarter. F D (Fred) Carder ran the company, at least until it became bankrupt in the early 1920s. He arranged for O R Brener to buy the company, and was then hired by Brener as manager at $300 a month. That deal went sideways when Mr Carder filed for damages, claiming he was also to receive shares in the new company, the Van Loo Cigar Co (we saw their product for sale on West Pender Street in an earlier post). We’re not sure who won the case, but the company factory in the early 1920s was on Water Street.
Knight-Higman Motors moved in after the cigar factory in 1920, and stayed until around 1923; they sold Ford cars. In 1923 Ray Knight bought all the company’s shares and it became the Knight Motor Co. The Daily World reported that “The same department managers and staff will be retained. A feature of the Knight Motors, Ltd., that will appeal to Ford owners is the service station and repair shop that is now in operation. Plenty of modern machinery to take care of Ford work and a flat labor charge that enables the customer to know In advance exactly what the cost of any repair work will amount to. Mr. Knight came to Vancouver in September, 1919, from Calgary, where he managed the Machin Motors, Ford dealers of that city.” He had initially bought out the interest of a Mr Ferguson on the Ferguson-Higman Motor Co. The October 1923 article claimed that the company had sold over 650 Fords so far in that year.
When this image was taken Stonehouse Motors were here: the painted sign on the wall of the building says they were Ford dealers, while the signs hung on the front say they offered both Oldsmobile – product of General Motors, and Chevrolet sales and service (also a GM brand after 1915). They’d moved in around 1926, managed by S B Stonehouse, and they initially took over the Ford dealership.
In 1945 the company was still known as Stonehouse Motors, but the President and General Manager was S G Collier, and they only sold GM brands. By 1947 the company was known as Collier’s Motors, and they built a new streamline moderne style showroom (now demolished) on the Georgia Street lot to the west of the lane that runs alongside 418. Budget Rent-a-Car has been in the building since Collier’s left here in the 1980s.
Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-4373, CVA 1376-336 and Trans N12,
As we noted in our previous post, Vancouver Motors had a non-identical twin on West Georgia Street. We saw this building first in an early 2011 post, when we first started this blog. That was a 1926 picture, when the building was only just completed. Here it is again as it looked in 1981, when it was home to Dominion Motors. They were a Ford dealership that operated here until the early 1980s. They replaced the Vancouver Motors Ford dealership some time in the early 1960s (also selling the Mercury line of cars in the 1940s, and Monarch in the 1950s). All three floors of the building were used by the dealership; a 1960s car jockey recalled driving a car that needed to be cleaned and serviced up to the third floor of the building.
The construction is poured in place concrete: presumably with the embossed lines on the columns incorporated into the mould. There’s an Archives picture of the building under construction, showing how it was built by Poole Construction. Although the current building by-laws don’t allow a gas station underneath a building, that wasn’t always the rule in the city. There was a gas bar across the corner of the building that operated here for many years, although by the 1980s it was part of the showroom. In the 1936 VPL image here it’s shown as being open all night, when gas cost 25 cents (presumably for a gallon).
Some years after the car dealership closed, in the mid 1990s the main floor was taken by Staples as an office supplies store. In the past year the upper floors have been fully restored and are now available as office space. The strange canopy that was initially added to the office store (visible in our 2011 post) has been removed, and the building looks mush closer to how it first looked 90 years ago.
Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1399-545, CVA 1399-533 and Vancouver Public Library.
Back in 1925, when our ‘before’ shot was taken this was the home of Willis-Kingsley Motors. They sold both new and used vehicles; they were Studebaker dealers, but the sign on the widow also notes “Buying a Used Car From Us Insures Satisfaction – Read the Pledge on Other Windows”. If the design of the older building looks at all familiar, it may be because Vancouver Motors (also built in 1925) was designed by the same architects, Townley and Matheson – and that’s still standing on Seymour Street, as we saw in one of the very first posts on this blog. (The building has had an extensive make-over since that earlier post). Provincial Motors Ltd were the Studebaker dealers before Willis-Kingsley, we first found them in the street directory in 1923 sharing the same premises as A S French’s garage on West Pender. Before the garage was built there were two houses on this site. Although there’s an article from a few years back that says the company sold Pierce Arrow motor cars in the 1920s and 1930s and then Willys cars and trucks and finally Studebaker products, that’s incorrect. A 1923 Daily World article reviewed the company’s creation (we’ve skipped the part about how dependable and wonderful the cars were): “The local Studebaker agency was officially taken over yesterday by Messrs. Willis and Kingsley. The name of the new firm is the Willis – Kingsley Motors Ltd, 1027 Pender St. W. Mr. C. H. Willis, for the past ten years, has been selling Studebakers in Victoria, associated with Jamieson & Willis, Studebaker dealers in that city, where he is well known as an enthusiastic motorist and an active worker in all movements pertaining to good roads and other interests for the betterment of conditions affecting the motorist. Mr. George Kingsley, who Is equally well known in British Columbia automobile circles, comes from Shawnigan Lake. He is a native son and prominent in athletics in the province. He is a member of the Vancouver Rowing Club and holds the northwest Pacific coast championship for single sculling.” This 1928 advertisement for the company showed the style of the – Made In Canada – Studebakers. The new premises joined several other car dealerships on West Georgia. Technically this location is in the West End, as it’s on the south side of West Georgia, but functionally it feels like it’s part of Downtown. In 1980 the office building that replaced it was completed, designed by Bruno Freschi for Highfield Developments. Initially the corner was a great open space, but later it was filled in to extend the office atrium. Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1399-534
We looked at the Yale Hotel, one of the earliest buildings on Granville Street, in an earlier post. It was designed by N S Hoffar in 1889 as the Colonial hotel for J W Horne. As part of the development that saw the Cecil replaced with the Rolston condo tower, the Yale was seismically upgraded and the SRO rooms refurbished and handed over to the City of Vancouver for long-term retention.
It’s neighbour, the Cecil, managed to limp past its 100th birthday. Obviously the news of the redevelopment hasn’t reached Wego.com, who will still try to book you in to what they claim is a three star hotel. “The Cecil Hotel is perfectly located for both business and leisure guests to Vancouver (BC). All hotel’s guestrooms have all the conveniences expected in a hotel in its class to suit guests’ utmost comforts. Room amenities include shower. This hotel is characterized by a combination of modern comfort and traditional element of Vancouver (BC), making it a distinct accommodation. To make your reservation at the The Cecil Hotel quick and easy, please select your preferred dates of stay and proceed with our secure online booking form.” As an increasingly tired SRO, any guests who had succeeded in booking into the hotel would have been surprised at the hotel and it’s surroundings. Another website identifies what the booking site overlooked – and still promises more than they’ve been able to deliver for over four years “The Cecil Hotel is Vancouver’s premier exotic show lounge, featuring a prime selection of Western Canada’s hottest nude dancers. At The Cecil, showing you a great time, is our great time, so we hand pick the wildest, sexiest, most fun lov’n girls on the planet to go crazy on stage every single night for you (we don’t mind so much either!). So if you’re in the Vancouver area, and you’re looking for the hottest strippers, the best wings, burgers and ribs, and the wildest time allowed by law, come on down to The Cecil Hotel. You’ll be blown away!”
Since the construction of the ‘new’ Granville Bridge in the early 1950s the hotel had lost its front door; (you can see how it looked before the bridge was built on this 1912 Heritage Vancouver picture) – the entrance was moved around the corner from the street, with the bar entrance a storey below, accessed from a parking lot. The hotel was built in 1909, and although looking remarkably like one of the many hotels designed by Parr and Fee along Granville Street in a very few years, we are pretty certain this one was by Grant & Henderson for O B Grant. While we haven’t been able to identify the original permit, a 1910 $500 permit was taken out in those names for an additional steel and glass canopy. However, there was nobody called Grant with the initial O in the city directories at the time. The Hotel Cecil was being run in 1910 by Charles M Hartney, who had taken over from John McDade who ran it in 1909 (the first year it appears in a directory). Then a chance reference to a new building permit listed in the 1908 Contract Journal clarified: “Mrs. O. B. Grant, brick store and rooming house, Granville street, $30,000.” Olive Grant was G W Grant’s wife. George Grant was half of Grant & Henderson: they were both originally from Nova Scotia.
The Grant’s were early arrivals in British Columbia. George was born in 1852 or 1854, and Olive Burris in 1852. They were married at her father’s house in 1876 at Upper Musquodoboit. After their marriage they made their home at Maitland, N. S. where they lived for three or four years. Mr. Grant was a contractor and builder and while in Maitland he was engaged in building houses. They sold up in 1880, and while his wife, in poor health, returned to Nova Scotia, George went west to Winnipeg which was experiencing a building boom. There he became a successful architect, designing several buildings including a branch of the Bank of Montreal. In 1886 they moved further west – apparently looking at, but initially rejecting the fledgling Vancouver for Victoria, where as an architect he secured several important commissions, before moving again to New Westminster. In 1892 their niece, Janie Arthur moved in with them, and in 1896 they moved to Vancouver.
G W Grant designed dozens of buildings in the fast-growing city, including the Carnegie library, and added a partner to his business, Alexander Henderson, in 1903. They continued to design buildings across the city, including the Hotel Cecil (presumably purely an investment, placed in the ownership of Mr. Grant’s wife). In 1912, when they were both aged 60 and the city’s economy was stalling, the family moved to Pasadena in 1912, and on to Bellflower, California in 1916. Janie Arthur moved with them, but had her own home. George died in 1925 and Olive in 1928, and they are both buried in Riverside, California, where other members of the family had been interred.
The Cecil switched from the Hotel Cecil to the Cecil Hotel by the mid 1930s. It continued as a hotel, but by 1935 there were a number of permanent residents. While the hotel became old, and tired, despite (or perhaps because of) the run-down nature of the bar, (dark, smokey and windowless according to Rex Wyler), in the 1960s it became a gathering place for journalists, environmentalists, and UBC students. In 1967 the founders of the Georgia Straight came up with the name for their new publication while drinking there, hoping to attract free publicity because radio newscasts of the era regularly issued gale warnings for the nearby body of water called the Georgia Strait. Many of the founders of Greenpeace also drank in the bar in those days.
As the Georgia Straight noted when the building was about to be demolished, as with many other bars in the city, “in the mid-1970s, the Cecil started bringing in exotic dancers, which continued up until closing night. One former dancer contacted by the Straight said that in the 1980s, the Cecil was more like Playboy magazine and the movie Flashdance, whereas the Drake and the Marr were more hard-core, like Penthouse magazine and, on a bad day, like Hustler magazine.”
This 1981 corner shot is from a comprehensive survey of the city taken that year of almost all the Downtown streets. It shows the corner of Nelson Street with Hornby, and the massive bulwark base that was covered in mosaic tile, with the tower of the BC Electric Company’s headquarters rising above. Today the tower is still there, but it looks quite a bit different, The original 1957 tower was designed by Thompson, Berwick, Pratt and Partners and was the first significantly tall building south of Georgia Street. Ned Pratt was the lead architect, but Ron Thom, who had apprenticed with the company, also played a significant role and was made a partner on the building’s completion. The narrow tapered design allowed every desk to be no more than 15 feet from a window, and the blue, green and black mosaic tile patterns were designed by artist B.C. Binning. The original curtain wall of porcelain coated metal panels covered an innovative structural system of cantilevered floors supported by a central service core with slender external supports.
If the design had a flaw, it was the street frontage to Hornby which was definitely ‘back of house’. In the early 1990s the company moved on to a new headquarters, and by 1995 it had taken on a new role. The frame was stripped and re-clad (with a residential code glazing system that also allowed more light into the units, and opening windows). There are 242 residential condo units, and 100 office units. Paul Merrick Architects designed the conversion, called The Electra, and they managed to redesign the Hornby frontage, and the corner, to introduce retail units and liven up the previously dead frontage.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-W07.21