22 East 5th Avenue

22 E 5th

This is another Mount Pleasant industrial building, built in 1942 as the Cemco Electrical Manufacturing Company Factory. According to the recently published heritage statement for the building “Cemco commissioned the factory to house its expanding electronics business which supplied equipment for ships being constructed in local shipyards. Not much is known about the company, as is the case with many industries during the War which were subject to a certain amount of secrecy and security. Cemco remained at the site for a couple of years after the War ended, and then ceased to exist. Until recently, the building was occupied by N. Jefferson Ltd., a family owned textile supplier which has been operating since 1926 and continues to do so at a new location”

Cemco factory floor 1943Cemco weren’t as mysterious as this suggests, and they didn’t disappear after the war. They had been in operation since 1934, in the Mount Pleasant area, with S Darnborough as Managing Director. Before this new factory was built they were at 165 W 4th Ave. S Darnborough was Sidney, (although he was really T S Darnborough), and before Cemco he was president of Canadian Electrical Manufacturing Co (which would be CEMCO’s precursor), with a home on Osler in Shaughnessy. Before CEMCO, in the 1920s, Sid Darnborough was an electrical contractor, living on West 8th Avenue.

The company were still operating from this E 5th address in 1949, with Sid still running the company, having moved to University Boulevard. They were here in the mid 1950s but by then Sid had retired and B W Ball had taken over as President of the company. A year earlier they had expanded eastwards by adding a new factory in Granby, Ontario. At the time they were described as specializing in switchgear for industrial uses. They also made electrical instruments, street light fixtures “and many other products of a similar nature for industrial and commercial use”. The 1943 image of the factory floor shows what looks a lot like light fittings being assembled by a workforce with a high proportion of female workers.

A little more insight about the company is contained in a 1946 court case where the company’s salesman, Peter Van Snellenberg, sued for wrongful dismissal after discovery that he had added commission on the sales tax payable on a few of the orders he had obtained. He was dismissed in 1943 (the year our images were shot), so although the company has been described as ‘building radar and radio equipment for ships being built for the war’ (which they may have been doing), they were also selling their products on the open market. In 1958 the Federal Pacific Electric Company of Newark New Jersey acquired Cemco, where it was described as “engaged in manufacture and sale of electrical switchgear, air circuit breakers, air switches, load break switches, fusible breakers, cable terminal potheads and related apparatus for the distribution and control of electricity”.

The Cemco Factory was designed by Australian-born architect H.H. Simmonds, and used pour-in-place construction that retained the marks of the formwork. It supposed heritage value earned it a reprieve from redevelopment, but also permitted a larger office project (yet to commence) to be built behind the retained walls.

CVA 586-1783 and  CVA 586-1784

 

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Posted August 11, 2016 by ChangingCity in False Creek, Still Standing

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