We’ve looked at both the buildings flanking this modest 2-storey structure in earlier posts. 322 Water Street, to the left was designed by Townsend and Townsend in 1912, while 342 Water on the right dates from 1899 and was designed by William Blackmore for John Burns. The retail arcade building in the centre also dates from 1912, designed by Stuart and White for the ‘Thompson Bros’ and built by the Burrard Construction Co for $30,000. It was an unusual building for Vancouver: an arcade linking Water Street to Cordova, with an entrance across the street from Homer Street, which presumably explains its name as the Homer Street Arcade.
As we noted in an earlier post, the Thompson Bros were really the Thomson Bros; listed as James A and M P Thomson who ran their stationers business from 325 West Hastings. An 1896 Auditor General’s Report noted that the company could be up to five years late in paying for publications they had sold on the government’s behalf; the report shows they also traded in Calgary.
Somehow the 1911 Census seems to have missed James (or we can’t find him), but Melville P(atrick) Thomson was living at 1215 Cardero, aged 51 with his wife Louise and their son, Melville F(itzGerald) Thomson who the street directory tell us was working for the Dominion Trust. Two more sons, George (a bookkeeper) and Donald were at home, as well as daughters Nora and Marcella, as well as a niece, A Finkueneisel, and their domestic. Melville senior was born in Ontario, while Louise was French. Louise seems to have been a second marriage for Melville; in 1888 he married Marcella Fitzgerald in Esquimalt. Melville died in 1944 aged 84, when he was living in Oliver. His death certificate says his wife was Marie Louise Kern, and that they had moved to the town in 1924. He had lived in BC since 1887, and we’re pretty certain he was born in Erin, in Wellington, Ontario, and that his brother James was three years older. The directory says that in 1910 James A Thomson was living at 1238 Cardero, so across the street from his brother.
The photograph shows the businesses located on Cordova Street included G.R. Gregg and Co. Ltd., The Borden, and Richardson Jensen Ltd. Ships’ Chandlers. The businesses in the Arcade were addressed from Cordova Street; The Borden was actually the The Borden Milk Co (so not a bar, despite the name). The heritage description for The Arcade says “The covered passage, with shops on both sides, served the bustling community with commercial and retail services.” In reality there was very little, if any retail – the building was full of commercial offices and some pretty specialized services. Here’s the complete list of businesses in 1914: Robt D Dickie – com agt, Alex Smith – accordion pleater, Searson & Russell – whol men’s furngs, Mendelson Bros – whol silks, A Olmstead Budd – produce broker, Walter D Frith – mdse broker, M B Steele – mdse broker, Hayward McBain & Co Ltd – com agents, corn, Dan Stewart – tailor (workroom), Hugh Lambie – com agt, Chas Schenk – tailor, Produce Distributers Ltd, Successful Poultryman, Excelsior Messengers, BC Assn of Stationary Engineers and Sandison Bros – mfrs agts.
During the 1970s the building was spruced up, with odd details that included facemasks of the entrepreneurs responsible for the revival of Gastown in the 1970’s. In recent years there have been a number of restaurants in this location, renamed Le Magasin, most recently the short-lived Blacktail. No doubt another concept will pop up soon.
Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 810-1