Hastings and Howe – nw corner

800 block W Hastings

We looked at a building on this corner in an earlier post. It was the Merchants Building, designed by Townley and Matheson and completed in 1923. Here’s an earlier image showing the house that was replaced when the Merchants Building was developed. The picture shows the dramatic scale changes going on at the time as the frame for the Metropolitan Building was being erected next door, in 1910. The house pre-dated the century, in fact it was one of the oldest in the city. It had been built in 1887, designed by T C Sorby who also had the job of designing the first station and rail terminal.  In 1891 it was occupied by H Abbott, and A G Ferguson owned the house next door (where the Metropolitan Building was built). Significant city-building was being directed from this block: Harry Abbott was superintendent of the BC Division of the CPR and Arthur Ferguson was one of the most active real estate promoters and developers in the city.

Before this Mr. Abbott had, according to reports recorded by City Archivist Major Matthews, stayed in the Sunnyside Hotel on Water Street and the Burrard Hotel on Hastings. The house was built at the same time as the first Hotel Vancouver, and the lumber came from the Moodyville Mill on the north side of Burrard Inlet. Mr. Abbott’s family joined him from Brockville just before the first train arrived in Port Moody in July 1886. Apparently they travelled in his rail car a few days before the first official train, and so were technically the first passengers to travel across Canada. When the Abbott family were in residence Mrs. Abbott was said to have kept chickens in a large run in the garden.

Harry Abbott came from a well-connected Montreal family – (his oldest brother was the first Canadian-born Prime Minister). He studied law, then switched to civil engineering, helping build new rail lines in eastern Canada. In 1882, aged 53, he joined the CPR, and two years later was given the job of managing the construction of the main line to the west. He was appointed to superintendent of the BC division of the railway in 1886, and spent over a decade developing the new city and expanding its services.

In 1897 Mr. Abbott was still living here, but had retired from the job of running the railway’s Vancouver operation, although he was still living in the house. A year later he had moved to a new house he had built on the corner of Georgia and Jervis, and Richard Marpole, the new general superintendent moved in. One possibility is that the house had become a company owned building rather a personal one, (although Mr. Abbott was definitely owner of the lot in 1886). Another credible scenario is that Mr. Marpole bought it and lived here for 12 years before Shaughnessy Heights was ready for house construction. He moved to a new home on Angus Avenue in 1911, and it looks as if the house was vacant, and then the address disappears completely until the Merchants Building was built in the early 1920s.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Bu P556

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Posted June 27, 2016 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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