Archive for January 2016
For a very short while longer the building on the left of this 1981 image, on the corner of Drake and Seymour, is the home of ISS, the Immigrants Service Society who welcome new immigrants to Canada. They’re moving to new premises soon, but underneath today’s beige stucco (converted in 1988 by J A Rogers & Associates) is a much older building: the Johnson-Morrison Block completed in 1908 (Johnson & Co took out the Building Permit on the 2nd of January that year for a frame apartment costing $14,000). It first appears in the street directory in 1909, and while there is nobody called Johnson associated with it in the city that year, Katie Morrison was shown as running a rooming house at this address. Philo Johnson showed up a couple of years later, born in Ontario in 1868. In 1901 he was in Dawson City; he had been seven years in the Yukon at that time, and a 1902 edition of the Dawson News Golden Clean up Edition tells Mr. Johnson’s history in searching for gold, and his co-owned No. 49 claim on Bonanza Creek.
The 1911 census recorded him as a miner, but he was now living in this building in Vancouver; still single, aged 43. There were many other families living at this address, which seems to have been recorded by the census clerk as self-contained apartments rather than a rooming house, although Katie Morrison was still recorded as running furnished rooms here in the 1911 street directory. The change to apartments probably took place when Philo arrived in 1911 (to be included in the census, but not in the street directory for that year). Katie Morrison in 1912 is shown as living in apartment 12; Philo is the building manager and living in apartment 10.
Perhaps – but almost certainly not – coincidentally, this mirrors the 1901 Yukon census. Philo Johnson (aged 33) lived next door to ‘h keeper’ Katie Morrison (aged 23) that year. (According to the 1902 Yukon and Alaska Directory, Kate Morrison was a hotel keeper, jointly running the Adams Road House with Mrs. Ida V Gardner). We think Katie is shown as being born in Perce in Quebec, but the handwriting isn’t easy to make out.
Because the building dates from 1908, we haven’t managed to identify the architect: the building records for that era have been lost. We do know what stoves the apartments were fitted with – the makers of the Kootenay Range chose to advertise their installation in the Daily World in the summer of 1908 – although they got the spelling of Mr. Johnson’s name wrong. Philo is an unusual name, and there’s one Philo Johnson who features in any search; one of the elders of the Mormons, chosen by Brigham Young to help found Salt Lake City. Our Philo was recorded as a Methodist of Scottish family origin – so there doesn’t seem to be any obvious connection.
What happened to the people who gave the building its name is a mystery we haven’t solved. Philo last appears associated with the property in 1919. Katie Morrison seems to no longer be in Vancouver after 1912, (or at least not under that name, although there is a Kate Johnson who lived in the West End). The building continued to be known by the Johnson-Morrison name for many years: it was still known by that name in 1977 when City Council considered whether it was in full compliance with the city’s new Fire By-Law.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-E07.24
Our tag of ‘still standing’ doesn’t really apply here – (although in the case of Dunsmuir House, off to the side, it’s something of a miracle that it is still standing). There’s really very little change, despite the passage of over 40 years. This 1974 image shows the wall of the Bay parkade on the left, and to the north the lightwell of Dunsmuir House – once the Dunsmuir Hotel. The building has seen better days: it was past its prime in the 1974 image: now it’s boarded up, apparently considered too dangerous to even house the homeless on a temporary basis.
In the background The Hudson has been built: a huge condo that was permitted in the Central Business District to pay for expensive retro-fitting of the Granville SkyTrain station with a new disabled access. (Blair Smith reminds us that it’s a ‘live-work’ building, so not specifically residential only; some owners run their business from their suite). Otherwise the surface parking of the almost total city block owned these days by the Holborn Group sits, and waits for a development proposal. Over ten years ago the developer bought the site, and a 2006 memorandum was endorsed by the City Council that established a requirement for “a minimum FSR 5.0 commercial floor space, including at least one major office tower; retention and renovation of Dunsmuir House as Single Room Accommodation, affordable to low-income singles, with the possible transfer of the site to City ownership; market residential space as a bonus to cover the cost associated with retaining and up-grading Dunsmuir House; additional market residential space, as may fit into an appropriate form of development, which may or may not be density transferred from other heritage sites; and provision of other appropriate public benefits, subject to project viability.” Ten years later, there’s no sign of a project, although the base zoning of the site has been increased by the Metro Core Study, so now they might have to provide 7.0 FSR of commercial (which would be floorspace equivalent to seven times the site area).
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives, CVA 778-385
Until 1985 the George Rooms sat behind Charles Woodward’s Vancouver Main Street store that stood on the corner of East Georgia. The building was designed, as far as we can tell, by Townsend & Townsend for D C McLaren (of 646 Main Street) and built at a cost of $40,000 by E J Ryan. When it was built in 1912 East Georgia was still called Harris Street, and the building was described in the Daily Building Record as a five-storey brick store & rooming house. D C McLaren was a saddler and harness maker – the Museum of Vancouver has some of his work. He was also the Provincial Grand Master of the Orange Lodge of BC. David Carlson McLaren was born in Ontario in 1868, his wife Mildred came from Quebec, and in 1911 they had a 12-year-old son at home called Raleigh, who had been born in Kamloops in 1898. Mr. McLaren’s business was on Main Street, but he lived on Woodland Drive. David McLaren died in 1943, having last worked as a leather worker in 1922. His wife Mildred died in 1950, aged 83, and their son Raleigh McLaren died in 1966, aged 67, at Ganges in Saltspring Island, having worked in construction as a bridgeman according to his death certificate.
The rooms changed name in the very early years. They started out as the Mori Rooms, but in 1914 they were the Apex Rooms run by Mr. McLaren himself – a name they retained into the 1920s. By 1975 the building had clearly deteriorated, but was returning (briefly) to active service as a 73-room SRO hotel. A Council report in 1975 on “Derelict Buildings in Skid Road – 205-15 East Georgia Street” stated that “The Fire Chief reports as follows: These premises are now fully sprinklered and at the time of writing this report the building is almost ready for complete occupancy. There are some minor routine Bylaw requirements to be completed but otherwise the premises may be occupied at any time.” The rooms continued in use until 1984, and were demolished in 1985 to make way for the 8-storey strata parkade, retail and office building that’s there today.
Across East Georgia Street from Charles Woodward’s store, the London Hotel is still standing. The Heritage Statement for the building says it was built by D J McPhalen in 1903, with a 1910 addition designed by W F Gardiner (the four storey section on East Georgia). That building work cost $35,000, and Mr. McPhalen built it himself. He lived in a house just across the street – in those days called Harris Street.
We’re questioning the accuracy of that version of events. We’re sure Dan McPhalen developed this site, but the insurance maps and street directories suggest a slightly different sequence of events. The corner is numbered as 700 Westminster Avenue, and in 1903 it was shown as being vacant with John S Duguid living a bit further south at 706 Westminster Avenue, with cabins behind. Both the cabins and Mr. Duguid had been on Westminster Avenue since 1901, when the City Fuel Co occupied the corner. A year later S T Wallace’s grocery store occupied the corner, with Mr. Duguid and the cabins still listed at 706. In 1906 the grocery was still here, and Mr. Wallace was also running Avenue Furniture Mart. Next door at 706 the cabins were still here, and James Stanley, a saw filer was living at the same address. From the 1903 Insurance map and the Building permit issued that year we think that there was a retail unit built by Mr. McPhalen on the corner in 1903 at a cost of $4,500, (with grocer Samuel T Wallace occupying it from 1904). Mr. Duguid lived in the house furthest to the south. We think that was probably a single storey structure – we’d be surprised if $4,500 would pay for a 3-storey brick building (and the permit only mentions ‘brick store’).
In 1907 there was a ‘new building’ listed, (but so too were the cabins at the rear of the site). In 1908 the corner was still occupied by Mr. Wallace, both as a grocer and the Avenue Furniture Mart. 710 Westminster Avenue was the Gordon Furnished Rooms, (presumably the ‘new building’ completed in 1907) run by J Grantham, and in 1910 by Isabelle Cameron. In 1911 the London Hotel is listed here for the first time, with A G Marin and J Conta as proprietors. The 1912 Insurance map acknowledges the height change, but shows this as one single property, spelled out as London House. The southern half of the Main Street façade has square windows, similar to the 4-storey part on East Georgia, so we think those parts of the building might have been all built at the same time in 1910.
This suggests the corner part, with the arched windows was redeveloped (or added to the single storey retail built in 1903) in 1907 with the building we see today; initially as the Gordon Furnished Rooms, then in 1911 as part of the expanded London Hotel with the 4-storey East Georgia Street addition. The three storey building could have been built very quickly – the building on Westminster avenue built for Charles Woodward was completed in less than 3 months. It’s quite likely that D J McPhalen built them both; we know from building permits that he constructed his 1903 store, and the 1911 addition.
These days the Pacific Hotel is an SRO above the Brixton Café and the London Hotel bar, renovated by Porte Developments after they built Ginger, the condo building to the south in 2009. Our image shows the building when the condo was under construction, and the hotel was in its unrenovated state. For many years before the renovation, the windows were obscured reflecting a mid-century belief that drinkers should not be visible from the street. A ‘ladies beer parlour’ was constructed at the hotel in 1931; there were two entrances, one at the corner and one along Main Street.
We featured an image of the Woodward’s store on the corner of Abbott and Cordova in an earlier post (over three years ago). Here are two more – the first a Vancouver Public Library image dating back to 1903 when W T Whiteway’s first building for Charles Woodward (in this location) was just complete. Actually, it wasn’t just Charles’s store: he started out on Westminster Avenue (Main Street today) but partnered with a jeweller, a crockery store and a boot and shoe storekeeper to expand into the much bigger new building in what Woodward believed would one day be a more central location. When he bought the site for $25,000 it was less promising: ‘at one corner of the lot was a deep hollow, a swamp eight feet below the elevation of the sidewalk, wherein grew huge yellow skunk cabbages and bull-frogs abounded. The wooden sidewalk was built on stilts on a level with the street. Across the road was a cistern for use by fire-fighters. “People forgot” said Charles, “that the hollow saved a lot of excavating and reduced expenses and the drain which was put in by the city took care of the swamp“‘. The Woodward’s family biography records that because the contractor offering the lowest cost was considered to be ‘anti-union’ the building took over a year to complete; for example the stone for the foundation had to be shipped from the US by scow as supplies couldn’t be obtained in British Columbia. Charles finally negotiated with the local Labour party executive, showed them that the next tender was $7,000 higher, and persuaded them to drop their obstruction to his building. (E Cook was the contractor of the $60,000 building). A month after the store opened the BC Electric Railway company decided to run a streetcar up Hastings, from Main to Cambie, confirming the value of the location.
The gamble to expand so dramatically initially looked like it hadn’t paid off. In early 1904 the store had lost $7,000 to $8,000 in its first three months of operation. It was over-stocked with expensive but slow-selling merchandize like diamonds and china. A Receiver was appointed at a cost of $5,000 who fond the store had $199,500 of assets and $89,000 in liabilities, and recommended that the firm should be allowed credit from the Bank of British North America at an interest rate of 6% to pay off trade creditors and allow the firm to trade out of their precarious position. The directors fell out even more; led by jeweler Cicero Davidson (who had his jewelers store nearby, and lived on the west side, on Burrard Street).
They tried to get Charles Woodward to resign as Manager; he resolved to continue in control and to buy them out. He sold his original Main Street premises for cash, paid off the mortgage on the building and had enough left over to buy out the Davidson Brothers and T B Hyndman, another director. (He was running the crockery department of rival store R G Buchanan Co in 1901; we recorded some of his history in connection to his later Canada Hotel investment).
Over the next few years Charles Woodward managed the store, paid off the creditors, the mortgage and eventually a $30,000 bank loan that had kept the store solvent. He added two additional storeys in 1910, designed by Smith and Goodfellow. Architect Sholto Smith had married the youngest Woodward daughter, Cora (who hated her given name, and was known as Peg), and he also designed the company stables as well as the store’s vertical extension. The arched window in the centre bay of the original building was rebuilt so that it didn’t look odd on a middle floor of the larger building.
This 1981 view shows that the Woodward’s store continued to grow over the years. George Wenyon designed an addition in 1913 to the west of the original store. H W Postle designed an addition in 1925 along Abbott and Cordova, while W T Whiteway was responsible for several elements added to his 1903 store over nearly 30 years (including the parking garage in 1930). By 1981 the business had expanded to 21 stores, but the flagship Downtown store had already faced declining business once the Pacific Centre had opened on Granville. The 1980s saw the entire business facing challenges; the family relinquished control in 1989, and the Downtown store store closed in 1993. It took nearly 20 years and several false starts before a City of Vancouver initiated redevelopment, (hustled by Jim Green) designed by Henriquez Partnership for Westbank saw the original corner store reconstructed and the remainder of the site redeveloped.
Image source: Vancouver Public Library and Peter B Clibbon
We’re looking at the East Georgia face of the building that used to sit on the corner of Main Street – we think our image is from the early 1970s. When it was built Main Street was still called Westminster Avenue, and East Georgia was Harris. We don’t know who the builder was, but we know the developer; Charles Woodward. It’s possible that the builder was Dan McPhalen. He was a contractor, lived across the lane on Harris Street, and was in the city as early as 1888, and built several other buildings that look like this. On the other hand, many buildings built before the end of the century looked like this – so that’s by no means a definitive observation. When he arrived in Vancouver in 1892 Woodward was just short of forty years old, had eight children, and was an experienced but unlucky storekeeper.
Charles Woodward was born in 1852, started out as a farmer, but newly married, decided he wanted to learn how to run a store. He sold his farm, apprenticed as a storekeeper and after a couple of frustrating years was able to open his first business on Manitoulin Island in 1875. He had intended to farm there, but the land he had bought turned out to be so poor he ended up building a log cabin and opening a trading post. He then built a small store in Manitowaning village – but inexperience led him to be too trustful, and as a result he ended up in debt after a customer’s cheque for $600 was not honoured. After that Woodward’s stores never sold goods on credit. He paid off his debts, accumulated some profit, and almost immediately lost much of it trying to invest in a cattle business in what quickly turned out to be a failed ‘boom’ in Manitoba. He tried partnering on another store in Thessalon – only to have the profit spent by his partner, along with $30,000 more. Charles had to dismiss the partner, sell his first store, and concentrate on making Thessalon work. He moved his wife and now six children over the store, and worked on recovering the business. He accepted the job of town magistrate; a role almost certainly connected to the discovery one morning in 1890 that his building had been burned to the ground. He had a wife, eight children, $2,000 in insurance, and $15,000 of lost stock – but he had no debt, some savings, and no intention of staying in Ontario.
He moved his family to his parent’s home, and headed west. He briefly stopped in Calgary and Kamloops, looked hard at Port Moody and even harder at New Westminster before deciding on Vancouver where he bought the two lots at Westminster and Harris. He returned east, collected his family but returned without his wife who was ill with tuberculosis, and pregnant. Charles arrived in the first week of January 1892 with the children, rented a house, hired builders and on 1st March the new store in the picture was complete. His wife Elizabeth joined him with the new baby, only to die in August, followed by the baby, Ruby, two weeks later and his oldest daughter, Margaret only a few months after that. A financial crisis in the US and massive flooding on the Fraser River caused a recession that forced Charles into bankruptcy – but as before he worked on, paid off the debt, and continued to feed his family now numbering six (the oldest son, Jack, was attending college in the east at this point).
Initially he ran the store single-handed from 7.30am to 7.00 pm, six days a week. Whenever he could, he passed any discount he obtained for goods on to his customer’s with a modest mark-up. This made him unpopular with his rivals, but established a customer base. His son, Jack, returned from Ontario, aged 19 and a qualified pharmacist. Charles had sold off the grocery part of his business to concentrate on dry goods and footwear; now he intended that the grocery space would be occupied with a drug store offering the same modest markup as his other goods. The local pharmacists had no intention of letting a discount rival become established, and made sure his supplies were cut off whenever they could detect where he was obtaining them. He circumvented them by setting up two other pharmacies that were owned by him, but fronted by other pharmacists, and they picked up supplies for his store as well.
His luck finally turned when the Klondike gold rush started up: Charles acquired all the hardware, snowshoes, sleighs and dog harnesses he could find – $10,000 worth, mostly on credit. His experience on the trading post came in useful, and he cleaned up financially, and in 1897 was able to rent the three adjacent stores and expand. Business continued to grow, but in 1900 Jack died, like his mother and siblings from tuberculosis. In 1902 Charles decided to grow and move the business to a much more grand new property at Abbott and West Hastings. He sold the former store a year later to buy out the partners he had made the mistake of teaming up with for the new store. We think he may have sold to Chinese merchant Loo Gee Wing – Mr. Loo built a frame dwelling and store here in 1904 on East Georgia (which would have been at the back of the store, on the right of the picture).
Charles Woodward’s original Vancouver building lasted until the 1980s. In 1987 James K M Cheng designed an unusual replacement: an eight storey strata parkade with retail and office spaces. Originally the top floors were planned to be housing: that changed to office while the building was under construction.
We’ve seen a 1906 image of this block in a much earlier post. Right at the northern end of the picture (on the left) is G W Grant’s eccentric Twigg Block. Next door is a building that we’re pretty certain was one of the first wave of office developments created by CPR linked sponsors. This was the Crewe Block, designed by Bruce Price in New York, and built in 1888. This was where the Hudson’s Bay Company established a branch store in 1890, only two years after they built their Cordova store, and three years before their new building on this same block (on the corner of West Georgia – towards the right of the lower picture). The newspaper of the day described the carpenters fitting up the store: “The ground stores will be devoted to provisions and groceries, and the upstairs to dry goods”
Next door was a building, designed by A E Henderson for William Dick jnr. in 1919. This replaced an earlier structure that dated back to the 1890s. The new building cost $35,000 for a 2-storey structure, and was for many years the home of F W Woolworth on Granville Street, from the day it was built, through 1937 when this Vancouver Public Library image was shot, into the 1980s. We’ve drawn a complete blank on the other 25 feet wide store at 642 Granville; it’s another 1890s building, with relatively small windows in the upper two office floors.
This second image was taken a little earlier, in 1921, and the New York Block (like the Crewe Block, designed by Bruce Price of New York in 1888) was still standing down the hill from the Hudson’s Bay store designed by C O Wickenden in 1892. Next door, to the left was the 1892 Hunter Block, built by Samuel and Thomas Hunter and still standing today (it’s just visible in the top image on the extreme right hand edge). In 1925 the Hudson’s Bay and New York buildings were demolished and replaced by the terra-cotta covered Hudson’s Bay Company store still there today, designed by Burke, Horwood and White of Toronto. The first phase of the current building had been built in 1912 on the Seymour and Georgia corner, and this new phase dramatically increased the size of the store. The rest of the block today contains The Hudson, a massive condo building with over 400 suites and some retail space below, designed by Stantec Architecture. It incorporates the facade of the Hunter Brothers block.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-5008 and Str P426