Archive for December 2015

Hudson’s Bay – Granville and Georgia

The Bay, Georgia & Granville

Surprisingly, we haven’t published an image of the second Bay store that sat on a prime piece of CPR land at the corner of Granville and West Georgia. The first Bay store was closer to the early city, built on Cordova Street around 1887, a location they only retained for eight years. Presumably, once it became apparent that CP’s efforts to move the centre of the city’s action westward to Granville Street were paying off, the Bay decided to join in. In 1892 C O Wickenden was hired to build a new store on Granville Street, near the CP’s Hotel Vancouver, their opera house, and many other office buildings developed by CP Directors. Some were involved in the Hudson’s Bay Company – so that probably helped the decision, and the new store was much bigger, so a larger site was needed as well (although initially only two floors were going to be occupied).

The Daily World described the plans in April 1892 “As mentioned in The World a few days ago C. P. Shindler has been awarded the contract for the new building to be put up by the Hudson’s Bay company on the corner of Granville and Georgia streets. The designs prepared by C. Osborne Wickenden show what will be a very handsome structure, four storeys high. The building will be of brick with stone dressings and after what may be called the Romanesque style of architecture. The basement will be divided and half used as a store room with a small section taken off to accommodate the furnaces, and the other half as a liquor store. On the ground floor will be the grocery and dry goods departments, and in the second storey will be put the millinery and carpet departments. The third and fourth storeys will for the present remain unfinished. The dimensions of the building are 50 x 100 feet, which affords ample accommodation in every department. The contract price will total up to about $25,000, but it will take more than that if the third and fourth storeys are to be finished.”

This 1908 Vancouver Public Library shot shows the store had an array of large picture windows on both Granville and Georgia. Very quickly the growth of the city ensured that all four floors were Bay 1898needed – and then more. We’re unclear when the building became 100′ wide on Granville – it must have been after 1898 (when the image on the right was taken), but before 1901 when the insurance map of the day shows the building above, and it seems likely that Mr. Wickenden was still the architect. In 1913 a new addition, quite a bit bigger in scale and grander in design was added to the east, running down Seymour Street. Even that proved inadequate for the stores’ needs, and in 1926 the brick store was demolished and a further enlargement of the 1913 store was built, designed by Burke, Horwood and White (who had also designed the 1913 store).

The creamy white terra cotta design referenced the Selfridge department store in London, and similar buildings went up in Victoria, Calgary and Winnipeg, all designed by the Toronto based architects. The 1926 Vancouver store expansion took just six months to build after demolition of the 1893 structure; the five reinforced concrete floors were erected in just two and a half weeks.

Image source Vancouver Public Library and City of Vancouver Archives Bu N417





Posted 31 December 2015 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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Granville at West Georgia

Granville at Georgia

These three office buildings were some of the earliest built in the city. Seen here in 1889 on Granville Street, south from the corner of Georgia were the Donald Smith Block, the Lord Durham Block and the Lord Elphinstone Block. We think all three were built in 1888, and all were part of Canadian Pacific Railway’s efforts to create an instant ‘new city’ on the CPR’s own land, some distance from the more established former Granville townsite down on Water Street.

The Donald Smith Block on the corner was designed by Bruce Price, an American with impeccable credentials as a designer, based in New York. He produced a series of designs from 1886 to 1888 for CPR sponsored buildings, including this 4-storey building named for Lord Strathcona, the Scottish born Canadian co-founder of the CPR (with his first cousin, Lord Mount Steven). As a CPR Director there was an expectation that Sir Donald would invest in a building to encourage the growth of business in the new city (and particularly that part controlled by the CPR).

Next door was the Lord Durham Block. The architect was T C Sorby (whose role was reported in a Victoria newspaper). We were not completely sure if the Lord Durham of the day, The 3rd Earl of Durham, John Lambton, was associated with the CPR, but a contemporary 1888 publication certainly implies that he was. There’s also a building permit in 1902 for repairs to the building issued to ‘Durham, Lord’.

Lord Durham’s grandfather, an English peer, the 1st Earl, also called John, had earlier connections to Canada. He was a political reformer who in December 1837 was asked by Lord Melbourne, the British prime minister, to solve the Canadian situation after rebellion had broken out in both Upper and Lower Canada. He was promised virtually dictatorial powers as governor-in-chief of the British North American colonies and high commissioner, but didn’t last in the job very long. After his short stay in Canada he wrote a report in 1838 that proposed merger of Upper and Lower Canada and the creation of responsible government, in which the governor general would be a figurehead and the legislative assembly would hold a great deal of power. In the responsible government, the legislative assembly would be elected by the people, and the party with majority would hold power – as long as they held support, they would keep power. The merger would eventually come ten years later.

Durham 1888There’s a woodcut of the Lord Durham Block in an 1888 publication which shows a very English looking building. In 1889 the Daily World reported “The alterations to the Lord Durham block are approaching completion. The store windows, and those of the upper storeys as well, have been enlarged, and the general appearance of the block has been so changed that it would be difficult to recognize it. The new upper cornice is a great improvement to the building. T. Tompkins, the contractor, has reason to congratulate himself on the success of the work, as the building looks very much improved since the alterations have been made.” There’s no way of being sure, but we think the photograph above is the revised building – there’s an 1893 image that shows the building looking the same as it does here. While we haven’t identified the architect, we can rule one candidate out: a Daily World article in 1888 reported that Bruce Price of New York was the architect of a number of new buildings with the exception of the Lord Durham and Lord Elphinstone Blocks. It reported that each of the three were costing about $26,000, and that Mr. Tomkins was contractor for all of them. The Lord Durham Block was where the congregation of Christ Church met while they tried to raise the funds to build their church; often in cramped and stuffy conditions if reports from 1889 are accurate.

The third building is the Lord Elphinstone Block, designed by Montreal architects John and Edward Hopkins, a father and son team who also picked up another CPR commission for the Opera House up the street. Unlike Lord Durham, we are quite certain of Lord Elphinstone’s involvement in the CPR – he was their man in London. He was one of the British subscribers who bought shares in the company, and was also a founding director of the Canada North-West Land Company (with Donald Smith) incorporated in 1882 to buy five million acres of land along the route of the railway from the CPR, (later changed to a mere 2.2 million aces) including  forty-seven towns on the CPR main line. We can probably rule out the possibility of the Hopkins’ designing the Lord Durham Block, as the list of their works is comprehensive because it comes from the ledgers recording their income.

Despite their early importance, the buildings didn’t last very long. In 1912 the Birks Building went up here, only for it to be tragically replaced in the mid 1970s by the uninspired Vancouver Centre.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Str P73


579 Granville Street

579 Granville

We’re reasonably certain this building was constructed in 1907, added to in 1912 and again in 1919. Hooper & Watkins designed a building for Gordon Drysdale in 1907 on Granville Street – and this is where that company was based. The newspapers that year refer to this as both The Bower Block and the Drysdale Building, so we think George Bower owned the site and partnered with drysdale in the 440,000 project. In 1912 the building had a $9,000 addition, designed by S B Birds of ‘mill construction’ – which we’re guessing was the top floor. In 1919 Gardiner and Mercer designed another $4,000 addition at the back, “Repairs; addition of brick construction w stone trimmings to present premises; addition 25×40 ft, intended to furnish add’l accom. for firm’s growing business”. There was another $8,000 alteration in 1925, designed by J C Day.

drysdaleGordon and his wife Maria, and both their older children were born in Nova Scotia (George in 1888 and Janet in 1892), but their youngest son, Norman, was born in BC in 1895. Like many of our successful businessmen and developers, the Drysdale family lived in the West End at 825 Broughton. He was born in Truro, Nova Scotia into a farming family with Scottish roots, and at 15 apprenticed with a mercantile company, setting up and managing a branch store in New Glasgow from 1881 to 1884 (when he was aged 25). That year he partnered with his brother, Dan, but they soon parted company with Dan moving west and Gordon running the business on his own until 1892, when he brought his young family to Vancouver, buying out the general merchants  Haley & Sutton on Cordova Street. He moved to the corner of Cambie & Cordova in 1899, and the to Hastings in 1903, partnering with Charles Stevenson as Stevenson & Drysdale. Victoria-based rival David Spencer wanted to open up, buying Stevenson out first, then a year later Drysdale, who moved to new premises on Granville Street.

A 1914 biographical portrait describes the business His is the finest exclusive store in Vancouver, or in all western Canada, an extensive stock of high-class goods being carried. The store is most attractive in all its equipments and appointments and courtesy on the part of all employes is demanded, patrons receiving every possible attention. The company was the first in Vancouver to inaugurate six o’clock closing, and in 1912 they introduced the plan of closing on Saturdays, during July and August, at one o’clock. They are practically the only firm in the city today who follow this practice and have naturally earned the thankfulness of their employes, whose loyalty to the house has been greatly increased by this measure. The store further enjoys the enviable reputation of employing only first-class help and paying therefor first-class salaries.

Drysdale's interior 1922 VPLThe employes are well treated and many measures are undertaken to contribute to their welfare and comfort. The business is a general dry-goods, millinery, and ladies’ and children’s furnishings establishment and they also maintain a carpet and draperies department. The fundamental principle upon which it is built is to treat the public fairly, and their reputation is that their advertisements are always strictly confined to statements of facts, and the public accept these advertisements absolutely for what they say. It has been the motto of the firm “never to misrepresent,” and that such conduct is appreciated is evident from their ever increasing patronage.”

Unlike almost all the successful businessmen we have come across “Mr. Drysdale is a member of no clubs or societies, preferring home life when not occupied with the cares of management of an extensive business.” The Library have a 1922 shot of the building’s interior, rather daringly featuring the lingerie department. Gordon died in 1932, aged 73, survived by his second wife, Hilda, Maria having died at home on Broughton Street in 1926, aged 64.

woodsNext door to the south, we looked at 559 Granville in an earlier post. By 1945, when this picture was taken, 579 Granville was occupied by tailors Paterson & Bell, and F W Beaton – civil and military tailor. They had their signs on the third floor, and shared the floor with manufacturers agents in other suites. On the second floor were Cluett, Peabody & Co who were agents for Arrow shirts and collars. The York Knit Mills had been here, but were replaced by Woods lingerie who had their advert peeking over the lace curtain. There was a wholesale jeweller on the top floor, and the main floor had Wilson’s glove and hosiery store and the Eden Café. When homeless veterans occupied the vacant Second Hotel Vancouver (two blocks up the hill) in 1946, the Eden supplied 150 meals.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1184-1864


Lyric Theatre – 700 block Granville Street

Lyric Theatre 700 block Granville

The Lyric Theatre replaced Canadian Pacific’s Opera House that they built next door to their Hotel Vancouver (or more accurately, next to the addition designed by Francis Rattenbury). The first version of the Opera house was completed in 1889, and significantly rebuilt a few years later. After a fire, this version opened as The Orpheum Theatre, built at a cost of $160,000 in 1912 by new owners, US impresarios Sullivan and Considine. The architects were hired locally; Donnellan and Donnellan, originally from Seattle specialised in theatre design.

In 1928 it was known as the Vancouver Theatre, although the office space on the street front was still known as the Orpheum Building, (a name it retained for many years). The Orpheum Theatre name moved south and across the street in 1927, where it was initially known as The New Orpheum. In 1935 this building was renamed as the Lyric, still showing vaudeville, but also movies. In 1947 it became the International Cinema, and it wasn’t a theatre any more, but rather a Famous Players movie house until 1960 when it reverted to the Vancouver Theatre name, before closing in 1969. It was demolished for the new Eatons department store, recently given a new lease of life as Nordtroms with, once again (for the first time since 1969) office space on the upper floors.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Bu N439.5


Posted 21 December 2015 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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West Georgia Street east from Hornby

Georgia e from Hornby 2

Here’s a 1927 view of the Pacific Centre across the Courthouse plaza (soon to get a comprehensive makeover as a paved area lined with trees). We’ve seen this area before, but looking the other way. We’ve been waiting to attempt this shot as the Pacific Centre rework of the former Eatons / Sears store has only just been completed. The Courthouse on the right really hasn’t changed, although the existing trees hide it a bit. The huge flagpole has gone, as has the second Hotel Vancouver that we wrote about a few years ago.

The courthouse was originally designed by Francis Rattenbury in a grand neoclassical structure in 1906. Six years later it was expanded in a less flamboyant (and cheaper) style by Thomas Hooper. Once Arthur Erickson’s new courthouse was completed in 1982, the Vancouver Art Gallery moved here after extensive alterations, also designed by Erickson’s office.

The second hotel was one of the city’s finest buildings, and its loss was very regrettable, but understandable as its replacement was so large that the two could never have successfully have survived together at the time, even if there hadn’t been a deal that ensured it closed. It was demolished in 1947 and only replaced in the early 1970s with Cesar Pelli’s TD Tower, and his white concrete Eatons store, recently reclad and repurposed as offices and Nordstrom store to a design of James K M Cheng.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives  Bu N141.1


Granville & Davie – nw corner

Granville & Davie 4

The corner building on Granville and Davie was a bank for many years. The first buildings here were two storeys high, built around 1901, and we haven’t found an image of them. The corner was initially the Braden Meat Market, and from 1908 to 1916 the corner store was the West End Meat Market. In 1916 the building in the image above was designed and built by Bedford Davidson for P Burns & Co at a cost of $5,000. The West End Meat Market was part of the meat empire controlled by Pat Burns. Four years later builders Coffin & McClennan carried out $500 of repairs for the Royal Bank of Canada – who were the tenants from when the building was constructed.

The building didn’t really change its appearance from when it was built until 1931, when our Vancouver Public Library image was taken. We have an image that shows the left hand side of the building in 1916, and the only significant difference was the lack of any awnings.

We assume that at some point the Bank acquired the building; in 1952 they replaced it with a two-storey structure (that’s still standing today). We haven’t identified the architect, but the most likely candidates are Mercer and Mercer, the father and son partnership who had a contract with the bank to design new branches throughout the province. Our 1970s image shows the bank still in operation; in more recent years it has been a Chinese restaurant, but that’s also likely to change soon as there’s an approved replacement residential and retail building that will be seven storeys.

Granville & Davie 1


Posted 14 December 2015 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone, Still Standing

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Granville Street – south to the Pacific Centre

Granville south 3

This early 1974 image shows the second of the ‘dark towers’ of Pacific Centre under construction. The IBM Tower, as it was first known, was a shorter sibling to the TD Tower to the south and slightly west, completed a couple of years earlier. The steel framed towers were designed by Cesar Pelli who was at the time working for Victor Gruen Associates in Los Angeles. Many descriptions identify the design as ‘Miesian’ after the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who perfected the simple structured office tower – one of the best examples is the Seagram Building that he designed in 1958. In Canada his Toronto-Dominion Centre was the real thing; like the Pacific Centre it was developed by Fairview Corporation five years earlier than the pacific Centre in 1967, with Mies as design consultant. Vancouver’s was similar in many respects, but the towers’ colour was slightly richer; more brown when the sun hits it than the dark bronze of most Mies buildings.

We can date this image from the construction of the tower, and from the street. In 1974 Granville was designated as a transit mall, and general traffic was removed. The 2010 redesign widened the sidewalks and straightened the streets. Public consultation responses also led to the street trees in this stretch of Granville remaining in place. (Elsewhere they were replaced with more appropriate varieties than had been planted previously).

The ‘Dark Towers’ of the Pacific Centre as they were known at the time (and not the “towers of darkness” quoted more recently) were not universally welcomed. Later phases of the project were approved on the understanding that they’d be lighter coloured; the Cannacord Tower (as it’s now called – it started as the Stock Exchange Tower) at 609 Granville was completed in 1981 with a paler beige finish. It was the fourth tower to be completed after the Four Season Hotel, which was also lighter. Here the glazing and panels on the office are pretty much the same dimensions as the darker towers; it’s just the colour that changed. McCarter Nairne are credited with the design, but Cesar Pelli was still involved.

After nearly a decade another phase of the mall was built to the north, with a corner store for Holt Renfrew. It replaced a modest 1960 2-storey building and was redesigned a couple of years ago by New York designers Janson Goldstein as this image (and an earlier post) show more clearly. It replaced the Tunstall Block built as 3 storeys in 1902, and 1909 (when 2 more floors were added). The small building next door with the arched top floor windows was originally designed by G W Grant for builder (and owner) Bedford Davidson in 1903. A year earlier the same team had built the two small buildings two buildings further north (hidden by trees in the 1981 image), while the four storey building with the Ingledew’s Shoes mural is the work of Hooper & Watkins who designed the building in 1907 for Gordon Drysdale (with a later addition by S B Birds).

Granville & Dunsmuir nw 1

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 800-452 and CVA 779-W01.34


Granville Street – 700 block west side (2)

Granville 700 block west side 2

We already posted this same 1920s image of the corner of Robson looking north along Granville four years ago – before the reconstruction of the Sears store as Nordstrom. As we’ve shown in our last few posts, today’s building looks very different, having had a James K M Cheng re-clad with the top four floors of the building being repurposed from retail to office uses.

The building in the foreground, Granville Mansions were built in 1906 for William Farrell at a cost of $125,000. He was an Englishman, 50 years old, a partner in the brokerage of Farrell & Tregent. He lived in the West End on Nicola Street (at Pendrell). We couldn’t find a reference to an architect for the building, although initially we thought it might be W T Whiteway; or Dalton & Eveleigh. However, with Patrick Gunn’s sleuthing, we now know that this was the work of Saunders & Lawton of Seattle, the only project that we know of that they worked on in Vancouver.

In the early 1890s the Yorkshire Guarantee and Securities Corporation had taken a large interest in the New Westminster & Burrard Inlet Telephone Company. William Farrell was the manager of the controlling company. He worked to amalgamate it with smaller operations, eventually forming the BC Telephone Company Limited in 1904 with the other major stake held by Dr. James Lefevre. As president, William was the brains behind the expansion of BC Tel through the first 20 years. While he was president of the company they connected up the local exchanges in every community from Port Alberni to Victoria and Agassiz to Vancouver.

Wm FarrellWilliam Farrell moved to Vancouver with his wife Jessie Maude in 1891 as the first General Manager of the Yorkshire Guarantee and Securities Corporation. The company was backed by wealthy woolen merchants in Huddersfield in Yorkshire, and had extensive interests in early Vancouver, including a controlling interest in the Vancouver Loan and Securities Corp., and the city’s street railway. In 1897 the brokerage of Farrell & Tregent appeared in the street directory, and their entry continued to appear, although after 1906 William was referenced as President of the Telephone Company. In 1901 there were three children at home, Nora (11) Gordon (10), and Kathleen (2). In the 1911 census Gordon and Kathleen were still at home, with Sheila who was aged 6.  William had an 18 metre yacht built, named Sheileen for his three daughters. It was eventually renamed Kitchener and used in WWII by the Canadian army. Gordon Farrell served in the Royal Naval Air Force in WWI. He joined B.C. Telephone in 1919 as treasurer, was company president from 1928-58, and held numerous directorships (although the telephone company had been sold to US interests in the 1920s). It would appear that before he went off to the war, Gordon took over managing some of William’s assets; in 1913 G Farrell obtained a building permit for $300 of repairs to this building carried out by Electric Supply Co.

Mr Farrell didn’t always get exactly what he wanted. Initially the land was held on a lease from the CPR. The economics of development influenced the size of the building that was worth constructing. Initially Mr. Farrell planned an eight storey structure, but the lease CP were willing to grant only justified a four-storey building – which is what Mr. Farrell built. In July 1907 he applied for a liquor licence for the Mansions. His lawyer, Osborne Plunkett, tried to obtain a hotel licence. The Commissioner who awarded licences, Mr Hunt, disputed that the Mansions were a hotel, and suggested that Mt Farrell reapply for a restaurant licence. Mt Farrell wasn’t happy with this – it prevented the sale of whiskey (only beer and light wine) and it cost more. It appears he was unsuccessful, although he was able to obtain a permit to erect decorative street lights to the outside of the building.

In 1921 the building was sold to the owner of the building on the opposite side of Robson Street, Edward Farmer. The newspaper of the day said the building owned by William Farrell and Alice Lefevre was sold to Edward Disney Farmer, of Fort Worth, Texas, for $400,000. As a result the paper said the “Mr. Farmer is now one of the largest holders of real estate in the city, controlling as he does nearly a million dollars worth of business property on Granville Street“. It said that “Mr. Farmer has had quite a romantic career and is a man of outstanding and most attractive personality. He is an Englishman who came to the States many years ago and by his enterprise and business ability has amassed a very large fortune, his principal interests being in cattle and oil“. (Actually, Mr. Farmer was born in Ballybrophy, Ireland, the son of an Episcopal minister, although he did go to school in England. Some records say Mr Farrell had also been born in Ireland, but the census records say it was England, and birth records suggests it was Cheshire, like Jessie, his wife, and the older children).

Mayor L D Taylor lived in the Mansions for many years, as did his employee and future wife Alice Berry. In 1920 the Canadian Bank of Commerce moved in, hiring W F Gardiner to carry out the repairs, alterations and structural changes for the new bank. In 1923 there were further alterations to the building designed by Townley & Matheson. The Mansions were damaged in a 1957 fire, and eventually demolished to make way for the massive Downtown regeneration project in 1969, with the Eaton’s store located in this part of the site. (The image below show most of the tenants out of the retail spaces). There’s an unlikely connection to over 60 years earlier; in 1906 the Vancouver Daily World reported that “the most sensational rumor current in the city for some time was given publicity by a morning contemporary today, apparently with the sole purpose of contradicting it. This was to the effect that T Eaton & Co, the huge departmental concern with headquarters in Toronto and a branch establishment at Winnipeg, had obtained a thirty years’ lease for the purpose of carrying on a branch in this city” The paper went on to report Mr. Farrell’s plans for the Mansion, and noting that if Eatons has moved in “many business men think would be bad for local traders. A firm covering so many lines of goods, and with such immense resources, can afford top be content with a working profit of five per cent., and no small trader could live on such a narrow margin of profit as that“.

Robson & Granville nw 1

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 371-820 and CVA 2010-006.097


701 Granville Street (4)

Granville south 1

As we noted in a previous post, the original retail store for Eatons on ‘Block 52’ in Downtown was a couple of storeys shorter than building that has recently been given a comprehensive makeover by owners Cadillac Fairview. The initial 1973 building, designed by Cesar Pelli with local architects McCarter Nairne Associates was in practice a rework of an even earlier design. Back in 1966 noted architect I M Pei was hired by the Fairview Corporation (which was established in 1958 as the real estate division of Cemp Investments, the holding company of the Bronfman family). His design for the retail store was relatively unchanged in the Pelli design; even the semi-circular corner entrance off Georgia was in the original design. The TD tower was quite different (and somewhat taller) with a white concrete grid design similar in some ways to the 200 Granville building on the waterfront, (the only tower from the ‘Project 200’ development that was built).

Our picture (above) must date from around 1974, when the IBM Tower (in the foreground to the right of the picture) was nearing completion, and the transit mall had yet to be built. There’s a sliver of the Birks building showing on the left. The image below probably dates from 1973, when the tower frame construction was well on the way. The construction was steel – not a construction system we see too often these days.

Eatons Granville 2

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 800-450 and CVA 800-441