1000 block Richards Street – east side

As in our last post, here are more old houses and a modest commercial building on Richards Street in 1981. There are four houses here: one is almost hidden by a billboard in the 1981 image, with a larger house to the north. Along with one of the other closer houses it has been moved and swung through 90 degrees to add to three others already standing on Helmcken Street. Today there’s a street edge of five houses, recreating the view that existed in 1910, but which was lost in the 1950s when the commercial box on the corner replaced two of them.

The houses that were relocated date from 1907 and 1908, a period where we have no comprehensive building records. The houses here were built speculatively, usually as rental properties. We know that the other three houses, (those that weren’t moved) were built by Wellington Brehaut. Richard Greenwell was the first resident of 108o Richards (the 1908 house that was moved, almost hidden by the commercial block). Richard was a fireman at the Hastings sawmill, and his family were also listed including sons Alexander, a cigarmaker, John, who worked for the CPR and Robert, an elevator boy for Manhattan Court as well as daughter Mary who was clerk for Dr Minogue. The Greenwell’s moved on and by 1911 had been replaced by John McKissock. New residents were shown in 1912. William Knight was a bar server who had only arrived in Canada in 1911 with his wife and three daughters, and to help out they had two lodgers, Mr and Mrs Marshall, also originally from England.

There would later be much greater stability of occupancy for the other house that was moved, 1062 Richards, dating back to 1907. It’s another modest cottage that was built in 1908, and like 1080 saw some changes of occupancy in the early days. The first street reference lists the occupants simply as “foreigners”. A year later John Fraser, a telephone operator moved in, staying for a number of years. He was from Nova Scotia, as was his wife. They had arrived in Vancouver from the USA, where their four year old son had been born. They also had lodgers in 1911, J B and Edith Moore. J B was born in BC, and Edith was from Alaska.

In 1962 Linda Rupa moved in, paying $16,000 for the house. She was a clerk at Safeway’s, who had initially worked at the Army and Navy store when she first arrived in the city, earning 99 cents an hour. She discovered the house had a poker table upstairs, and 17 phones, with to private lines to the US. The house had been a speakeasy for a bootlegger – a profitable enterprise in the area, especially during the war. Once development of residential towers took off in the 1990s, site assembly started. Richards on Richards, the nightclub, sold to developer Mark Chandler, who then offered Linda $3 million for the two lots she owned, one with the house on. She turned him down, and he soon had bigger problems as he was eventually run out of town for selling several units in an earlier project to more than one prospective owner. The Aquilini family acquired Chandler’s assets here, and finally succeeded in persuading Linda to sell, for $6 million. She planned to move to New Westminster, noting when asked what she would do with the money that “I bought myself a nice tube of lipstick. I’ll get a new quilt from Sears – they’ve got them on sale”.

The timing of the site purchase was unfortunate. The condo project planned here was called the Richards. Francesco Aquilini spent five years assembling the site, in an area where buyers were paying $800 a square foot for their new, yet-to-be-built condos. The units came to market just as the market crashed. A handful of the 226 condos and townhouses sold, not enough to start construction. “We opened the sales centre the day after the October 27 crash,” says Aquilini. “It was like opening after 9/11.” The site sat for a couple of years before the units were re-marketed, at prices around 25% lower than initially anticipated. Fortunately construction costs had fallen as well, and the project (designed by Lawrence Doyle Young and Wright) sold out and was completed in 2011.

Image Source City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-E08.26

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Posted September 7, 2017 by ChangingCity in Altered, Downtown

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