Unit block – West Pender Street

We’re looking at the north side of the unit block of West Pender Street in 1981. Several buildings have changed, and that will be even more true in future as development is likely to finally develop the corner lots. As we’re looking east, we’re counting down from the former gas station at 99, already closed down and used as a car rental lot when our ‘before’ image was shot 36 years ago. There was a gas station here 80 years ago when it was identified as the Pender Abbott service station – gas and oil, and a century ago in 1917 it was the Central Gas Station, managed by W Noble who lived next door in Patricia Lodge.

Before the gas station opened there’s a 1909 image showing this block; it shows no structures on the corner lot, so ignoring the small gas station kiosk, this must be one of the only never really developed lots in the city. The two storey building was occupied by Stevenson Bros, wholesale boots & shoes, numbered as 83 W Pender. It dates back to the turn of the century, appearing in the street directory around 1901 as the Boyd Burns & Co warehouse, (addressed then as 45 Pender Street). That company, which dealt in plumbing and engineering supplies  including Portland Cement, built a new warehouse on Alexander Street in 1907, and a bigger one on Powell a few years later. The building survived many years, and was only incorporated into the gas station site after the 1950s.

The first building still standing is the Arco Hotel at 81 W Hastings. It was designed by Braunton & Leibert for John Walker, and completed in 1912. When it was built it was called Patricia Lodge and it seems to have a delayed opening until 1914. Then the building was described as a ‘private hotel’, seen in this early image by William Stark. It cost $53,500, and was described as “reinforced concrete stores & rooms”. John Walker was listed as a real estate developer in the Street Directory, living on Bute Street, but we haven’t conclusively linked any of the John Walkers in the 1911 census to this development.

Next to the Arco is a 2-storey building dating from 1927. In the 1950s it was occupied by an advertising company and Regal Greeting Cards. Beyond it is a large warehouse building, either rebuilt or remodeled in 1951. There was a clothing manufacturing company, a wholesale sportswear company and Safeway of Canada’s Training School here when it was first completed. We’re not sure if there are the bones of an earlier building underneath the 1950s warehouse, although the building’s appearance suggests that might be the case. Surprisingly, it appears to continue in use as a warehouse today. Beyond is W T Whiteway’s design for the Palmer Rooms Hotel; completed in 1913 for Storey & Campbell Ltd, and completely rebuilt in 2012 for the Vancouver Native Housing Society with funding from BC Housing and federal funds.

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-E17.22, Sc P57.3 and LGN 1185.5

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