Holland Block – Cordova and Water Street

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We looked at this corner, with its early flatiron building, in an earlier post that took a more distant view of this building. This 1892 Vancouver Public Library view of the Holland Block shows it just completing construction. It was designed by C W H Sansom for James M. Holland, described as ‘an early real estate developer’.

Nothing seems to have been recorded of Mr. Holland’s history – other than his middle initial, and his area of employment. Before 1890 he was in partnership with W O Elliot as Real Estate Agents, as his partnership was dissolved that year. He also had interests that year south of the border: “Jas. M. HOLLAND has been appointed agent in Blaine for the Northern Pacific railroad, thus giving Blaine even advantages with other places in securing traveling privileges“. He may have been in a real estate partnership in Blaine as well; the Blaine Journal reporting that “HOLLAND & McFARLAND have just completed them a real estate office at the corner of H and Washington avenue“.

In 1891 James M Holland was registered in the Canada census as aged 32, an American and a lawyer. The Daily World confirmed that in 1890, announcing that “James M. Holland, the well known real estate agent of this city, has been admitted as an attorney in the Superior Court of Washington”. He was listed as lodging rather than owning property in the census, which the street directory confirmed; he was living in rooms at the Leland rooms at 131 E Hastings. His offices were on Cordova Street where he dealt in real estate, loans and insurance.

The first time he appears in a directory was in 1888 when he was the manager of the Vancouver Real Estate Exchange. Representatives from 25 companies created and signed a formal constitution and bylaws. The Exchange collapsed after almost three months and 24 meetings; there wouldn’t be a similar organization in the city until 1919. James didn’t stay here too long; the last entry we can find for him was in 1895, when he was listed as a capitalist, and living here, in the Holland Block. He had previously moved to Seattle in 1891, but apparently returned and built this corner building after that.

He was in a business partnership in Seattle as early as 1890, so seems to have divided his attention between BC and Washington State over several years. In 1892 he was president of the Bank of Sumas, in Sumas City, announced in the Daily World in 1891. In 1893 he acquired property in Blaine: “Documents were signed last week which makes James M. HOLLAND of Seattle the owner of the Lindsey block, sitting on the corner of Washington avenue and Martin street. The sum named in the conveyance is $20,000. This is one of the finest pieces of rental property in the city, being built of brick and in every way central and convenient. Mr. HOLLAND is to be congratulated on coming into possession of this fine piece of real estate, and it can but prove a remunerative investment. Mr. HOLLAND, as is shown by this investment, has an abiding faith in the future prosperity of Blaine.”

An 1895 announcement suggests he had got married: a Blaine newspaper reported that “Mr. and Mrs. James M. HOLLAND of Vancouver have gone for a visit to New York City.” Earlier that year the Holland Building in Whatcom was destroyed by fire, but was fortunately insured. There the trail goes cold; there are no further references in any Seattle, Vancouver or Blaine publications we can find.

hollandWe now know that he initially stayed in New York – James M Holland wrote in 1931 from Wall Street, recalling joining Theta Chi (a fraternal organization) fifty years earlier in Vermont “During fall quarter in 1881, Norwich University was reduced to only 12 students and Theta Chi’s membership was reduced to one undergraduate member, James M. Holland. In November of that year, Phil S. Randall and Henry B. Hersey approached Holland and insisted that they be allowed to join Theta Chi; Holland agreed, thus saving the Fraternity from extinction“.

Theta Chi have a history that includes a biography for James Michael Holland, and it includes a reference to him being in Vancouver, so we can be sure it’s the same person. He was born in Northfield, Vermont, in 1859, went to university and then studied law, being called to the Michigan bar in 1884. From 1885 to 1887 he represented a Boston bank in Fargo, North Dakota, then in real estate in both Seattle and Vancouver until 1895. That was the year he married and moved to New York, where he practiced law, engaged in real estate and public utilities, buying, improving and then selling to the municipality the water supply for Northfield. He was a trustee of Norwich University (where he obtained his degree) for 20 years. He died in Northfield in 1944.

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Posted January 30, 2017 by ChangingCity in Gastown, Still Standing

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