Dawson Building – 375 Main Street (2)

George Dawson developed this building on the corner of Main and Hastings in 1911, and we first looked at its history in 2012. At that time we looked at the background of the builder and ‘architect’, Bedford Davidson. We didn’t really examine the background of the man who paid the $180,000 to develop it. George was not a cannery agent as described in the Historic Building Statement; rather, as Dawson & Buttimer, George was an active owner and developer of canneries. Fred Buttimer (actually Alfred) was his younger brother-in-law, and briefly, when the 1911 census was conducted, the two families were sharing a house on Burnaby Street while the Buttimer’s were waiting for their new house to be completed.

They both came from New Brunswick, and George looked after the books and sales, while Fred managed the production. Fred was said to be short, quiet and even tempered, while George was large, distinguished looking and generally silent unless aroused to fury – which was said to occur quite often. In 1893 with their partner George Wilson they acquired their first cannery, in Steveston, which they called Brunswick #1. Their second, Brunswick Cannery #2. was opened in 1897 at Canoe Pass in Delta. Brunswick #3 was in the Rivers Inlet District. They sold all three canneries to the B C Packer’s Association in 1902.

In 1903, now as Buttimer and Dawson, (or Dawson and Buttimer – there was no consistency to the company name) they established a new cannery on Alberni Inlet on Vancouver Island (which they sold to Wallace Fisheries in 1911). In 1905 they bought a cannery on Harlock Island, opposite Steveston, a year later they built the Kildala Cannery in Rivers Inlet, described in the New Westminster Daily News as being constructed with the aid of “an immense pile-driver”, and then in 1907 another called the Manitou Cannery in Northern BC. The also bought the Carlisle Cannery on the Skeena River in 1905. B C Packers were unhappy with the increased completion, especially as part of the agreement to buy the Brunswick Company in 1902 suggested that Buttimer and Dawson would not compete. Not only did they compete; they did it with the money B C Packers had paid them for their earlier investments.

George Dawson was from Bathurst, married to Vina Buttimer, 16 years younger, and they had one son, David. We haven’t found a great deal about George, although his marriage was noted in the Times Colonist in 1895. For some reason it took place in Winnipeg “George W. Dawson, canner, of Vancouver, was wedded here today to Miss Vina Buttimer, of Bathurst, N. B. who had journeyed half way across the continent to meet her lover.” There are almost no references to George’s involvement in civic life, although know he was involved in local politics because he was the seconder nominating Walter Hepburn when he stood for the 1916 election for mayor. (Hepburn wasn’t elected). George died in 1935, aged 83. Vina lived on until 1965, when she was 96.

Alfred Buttimer (and we suspect George Dawson) continued to be involved in the fishing industry until 1925, when their remaining cannery interests were sold to B.C. Packers. Alfred devoted his time to Vancouver real estate, and died in 1934.

In 1940, when our image was taken, this was still an office building. It stayed as offices until 1985, when it was converted to residential use, designed by Adolph Ingre and Associates. Today it’s non-market rental housing run by the Affordable Housing Society.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Bu P296

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Posted July 20, 2017 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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