We noted in an earlier post that the building on the corner with Dunsmuir (on the left of the picture) may not be purely a 1988 structure. This 1974 image shows that the Bible Society building shared similar dimensions, but looking more closely we think the façade at least would require a complete reconstruction to change the windows as much as they were. Next door the BC Stamp works is almost identical over the 40+ years. The building is shown as having been completed in 1926, although underneath is an earlier house. In 1896 it housed Mrs. S McDonald, Alex Wilson, William Taylor, Mr. Bradley, Mr. Simpson and Dr. J A Mills, who had his office next door on the corner of Dunsmuir, and who built a house there in 1896. Mrs McDonald continues to be associated with the address for several years, although the street directory doesn’t always list anyone else, suggesting she was running a rooming house.
In 1901 Mrs. Sarah McDonald and Dr. J A Mills are listed here, but at separate addresses in the same building, and by 1903 Dr. Mills has moved to the corner property, and William McDonald a teamster has moved to 579 Richards and Sarah McDonald, widow, is shown at 581 Richards running a boarding house. She was shown running it in the 1901 census, aged 41, from Ontario, and with six male lodgers including a carpenter, a machinist and a CPR ticket clerk, and two female guests; Hilda Thompson, a 35-year-old chamber maid from Norway and Annie Maslin from BC, who was aged 30 and a Dining Room Girl.
S Astell had the house rebuilt in 1911 when the permit sought to have the house lifted and altered. This was Ontario-born contractor Sebastian Astell, who lived with his brother, wife, five daughters and one son on West Pender. Once completed, Hunter and Henderson, decorators occupied the basement and there were three separate suites; one was vacant, A Kjos was in another and Mrs. Nina H Perine was at the back.
These days it’s run as the Urban Hideaway Guesthouse, an apparently cash-only cross between a b&b and a hostel (with prices closer to b&b than hostel) with seven guest rooms. The BC Stampworks were in the building long before our 1974 image. The earliest we can find them under that name at this address is 1930 – which must make them one of the longest-running continuous business locations in the city. The company goes back to 1909, and as the previous occupants of the premises were Houghton & Smith Ltd, who also manufactured rubber stamps and other marking devices, that continuity is even longer. They had moved in only a couple of years earlier, moving from West Pender, and replacing Love & Co, who were auctioneers.
The more ornate four storey building on the right was developed by Captain Henry Pybus, built by the Provincial Construction Co, cost $30,000 in 1911, and was designed by S B Birds. We’ve seen another of Captain Pybus’s investments on West Pender Street. A Master Mariner, born in South Africa, in Vancouver he commanded all three of the CPR ‘Empress’ line ships. He was married to Florence, and had two children, Ann and Mary, both of who married into the Bell-Irving family. He retired in 1911, and lived in Vancouver until his death in 1938.
The date of construction suggests that Captain Pybus turned his savings into real estate on his retirement. He also became very active in the Art, Historical, and Scientific Association of Vancouver, where he was President from 1921 to 1927. The 1912 insurance map references the building as the Dunsmuir Rooms, although there’s no entry in the street directory until 1914 when Sarah L Shaw was running the establishment. In 1918 an advertisement in the Daily World offered “up-to-date rooms at $2 a week and up”. Today it’s the Hotel St Clair, although it’s more of a hostel with shared bathrooms, and very reasonable hostel rates for the rooms. (The hostel’s website will tell you “It was the first concrete building in Vancouver”. It wasn’t; the four storey building is wood frame and the front facade is clad in concrete that has been cast to appear like stone). A 1996 proposal to redevelop as a larger rooming house with en suite bathrooms behind the preserved façade was never pursued.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 778-379