48 – 56 Water Street

48-56 Water St

This modest two storey structure dates back to 1906; according to the heritage statement it was built for Jacob Kane. Unusually, the construction used pre-cast concrete blocks that look like stone. There’s a 1906 news piece that says that J Kane had obtained a permit for an $11,000 building on Water Street. In the same paper it noted that Dan McPhail had bought the property with Mr. Kane with a view to adding an addition to the existing building at the back, and building a new front – so the bones of the building were probably older. Earlier that year J Kane of Kamloops was staying at the Dominion Hotel, just up the street from here. There was a J Kane who owned mining interests in the province in 1894, but beyond those disjointed pieces of information we haven’t managed to pin down a developer, or identify an architect for the building. J Kane was listed in the 1901 census as a lodger in a location we haven’t managed to identify yet – he was born in Ireland, a businessman and had arrived in Canada in 1899 aged 33. His location may have been waiting to sail on board the Empress of India: most of the household are ship’s crew. He was probably christed Jacobus, and came from a family with Italian origins; there are a surprising number of Jacobus Kanes born in England and Ireland in the 19th Century.

The first tenants in the building seem to have been a fruit and confectionery dealer, F Baiocchi and Elias Healman was selling clothing next door. In 1910 Richard Johnson, a shoemaker was here with Weinrobe & Cohn’s clothing store and the Vancouver Employment Agency upstairs. In 1916 Tomlinson & Cook hired Hugh Murray to design and build a $400 brick addition to the building. That year it was a different shoemaker, Samuel Goodall was at 50 Water Street, the Mainland Rooming house was upstairs and Benjamin Wolfe, a second hand dealer in 56 Water Street. In 1920 Mr. Goodall was still in business and a branch of the Great North Western Telegraph Company were also located here.

In 1926, when this Vancouver Public Library image was taken, H Brown and Son, wholesale meat merchants had the eastern half, and H M Nugent (who made tents and awnings as well as waterproof clothing), the western half. They were right next door to Edward Lipsett’s tent and awning company, so presumably you could comparison shop without difficulty. The Canadian National Telegraph also had their office here. Henry and his son Myer Brown were Hungarian; The 1911 census suggests they had arrived in 1898 (older children like Myer were born in Hungary, four younger children were born in British Columbia). Henry Nugent was an American who arrived in Canada in 1906. He was married to Lilly, from Ontario (where their son had been born in 1909) and in 1921 lived with her parents James and Mary Nairne.

Remarkably, all three businesses were still in the same location in 1940, although the upper floor (52 Water Street) was vacant. In 1942 the Beulah Rescue Mission occupied that space. The mission served meals twice a day to the city’s indigent (while saving souls at the same time). It continued to operate here for at least 30 years.

In 2006 the building was effectively redeveloped, although the façade was retained with a new ‘old’ store front. Virtually every existing building element was replaced, including the structural, architecture, mechanical, and electrical systems. Busby and Associates, designing the project for Neils Bendsten’s Inform furniture store used heavy mass concrete, brick, and wood materials to restore as many original architectural features as possible. A green roof, complete with a skylight, was provided as well. A vertical geo-exchange system has been installed below the existing structure which, combined with a radiant heating and cooling system and exhaust air heat recovery, significantly reduces the building’s energy consumption.


Posted 28 April 2016 by ChangingCity in Altered, Gastown

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