The new Telus Garden office is an unusual building for the city because it’s over 250 feet wide, at the end of a block. That’s because the lane dog-legs into Richards, but this wasn’t always the case – it’s a newly created diversion. The first building on the site was built in 1889 and designed by William Blackmore. It was the First Congregational Church, seen here around 1905 – it stood here for only just over 20 years. The First Congregational Church held its first service on April 28, 1888 in Wilson Hall on the southwest corner of Cordova and Abbott streets. The congregation was officially organized on June 17, 1888. It secured property on the corner of Richards and Georgia streets, with the new church officially opening on December 8, 1889. The congregation split away to form Central Congregational Church over the issue of pacifism, but returned to First Congregational Church in 1903. It sat across the street from St Andrew’s Presbyterian, built only a year later and also designed by William Blackmore, (and from the look of the two buildings he was a keen recycler).
The church authorities bought property at the corner of Thurlow and Pendrell Streets and a new church was opened on November 9, 1912. In 1925, First Congregational Church became part of the United Church of Canada and First Congregational was amalgamated with St. John’s United Church. The 1912 First Congregational Church building was given to the continuing Presbyterian Church.
In the meantime this site had already been cleared, although it previous use seems to have been influential enough that despite barely surviving 20 years, the lane between Seymour and Richards was for a while called Church Street (one of very few named lanes in the city). It looks as if the site stayed empty for several years – there’s nothing shown in the street directories for this location for several years until “Brandon Auto Livery” is listed just after the end of World War One.
That was also a gas station – we don’t have much of an image of it: just a 1930 movie in the Vancouver Archives. It was operated by Home Oil, and it stood here until the mid 1930s, sharing the location later in its existence with ‘U-Drive Ltd’ – one of the earliest car rentals in the city. In the early years of the operation the company was owned by R G Hetherington. In the early 1920s it passed to G A Mathers and C J Hamilton, who was replaced by J H Mills at the end of the 1920s. As far as we can tell the final year of operation was 1937, when it was being run by L Richardson.
Image sources: CVA 677-413 and film MI-99