Archive for November 2017

823 and 827 Union Street

The Strathcona building on the left of our 1973 image was once a laundry. There’s an earlier image (on the left), said to have been shot some time after 1960, showing that use. We think it’s probably as earlier image, from the 1950s. The Laundry was constructed in 1911 – there are three different permits, and the laundry operator’s name is slightly different in each. The permits were issued for 823 Barnard, but by the time they were built it was 823 Union Street. The street directory says it was operated as Yee Yat’s laundry, but George Dunlap was the builder for either To Lo Wang, or To Loy Wing (the more likely name).

Next door, at 827 was the Standard Glass Co, built in 1910. There are two permits here – an initial $1,000 proposal for a store and then a more expensive $3,000 version which added both a store and dwelling house, which was the developed building (still standing today). This was designed by E Stanley Mitton for H M Thompson, and built by F M Parr and Sons. Henry M Thompson was secretary and treasurer of the glass company, and lived on York Avenue.

Standard Glass actually did work that was anything but standard. The firm was founded in 1909 or 1910 by Charles Bloomfield, the most experienced glass artisan in the city at that time. Bloomfield, his brother James, and father Henry founded the province’s first art and stained glass business, Henry Bloomfield and Sons, in New Westminster in 1891. Burned out by the great fire of 1898 they moved to Vancouver. James was a talented artist and glass designer who trained in the United States and England between 1896 and 1898. In 1904 he decided that prospects for quality stained and art glass work in the city were limited and the firm broke up. Charles acquired some of the technical and artistic expertise of his brother and carried this experience into the firms which he subsequently worked for and the one which he founded and managed in this building, Standard Glass. Charles initially lived upstairs, over the production space, although not for long.

By 1914 there were ‘foreigners’ in the first two houses on the block to the west of here, Yee Yet’s laundry, and Rothstein Bros, junk dealers had replaced Standard Glass. Charles Bloomfield was working elsewhere as foreman of the Western Plate Glass & Importing Co, and living on Yew Street. By 1916 almost the entire north side of the block was vacant, except for Yee Yick’s laundry, and ‘foreigners’ at 817. The two buildings stayed empty for many years. By 1924 827 was occupied by W Coste upstairs, with the Atlas Rubber Co on the main floor, but the laundry at 823 was still vacant. (Lawrence Coste was a salesman with Atlas Rubber).

By the end of the 1920s the laundry had reopened as the City Laundry, Chinese were living upstairs, and the Buckingham Chair Works was in the back of 823. Next door was residential on both floors – listed as ‘Chinese’. Chinese residents continued to occupy 827; in 1955 it was Low Chew and Low Sing. In 823 BC Paper Excelsior operated: tragedy struck a year later when fire broke out in the living space behind the works: Oliver Beaulieu, the proprietor, died in the blaze, as well as Harvey Markel, a visitor. A third man escaped through a basement window. From the state of the property in 1973 it may never have been occupied after that. The narrow Vancouver special that replaced the building was built in 1974.

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 808-27 and CVA 780-332

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Posted November 6, 2017 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone, Still Standing

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Balmoral Hotel – East Hastings Street

Today the Balmoral Hotel is closed, slowly being restored after the City of Vancouver finally tired of trying to get its owners to meet basic standards for the SRO housing rooms in the 1912 former hotel. When it opened it was a smart addition to the booming new city, although completed just before a serious bump in Vancouver’s economic road. An economic boom that had lasted from the mid 1900s to 1912 suddenly went into reverse, made no better for several years as the First World War saw thousands of men leave the city.

In a September 1912 announcement of the official opening of the Balmoral Hotel, the journal Architect, Builder, and Engineer noted that construction of this first-class hotel “will relieve some of the former congestion in hotel circles of the day“. It appears that this was a bigger building than originally planned, and with a different use. In mid 1911 the Contract Journal reported “Plans being prepared for office building (Hastings street). Owner, J. K Sutherland, 1901 Barclay street, Vancouver; architect, Parr & Fee, 570 Granville street, Vancouver; 6 storeys, store and offices. Tenders for excavation have been called. Supplementary report later.” A few weeks later it was reported that Hawley and McMillan had won the excavation tender for $5,000 of work, but the other details remained unchanged. There’s no further mention of the building in that publication. In September the building was described in the Daily World as ‘six-storey, apartments over stores‘. On completion the Province newspaper, referred to it as the Sutherland Block. It was built by J J Dissette and the building permit was for apartments, with the whole construction estimated at $140,000. It was built next to George Munro’s rather more modest two storey building that had appeared in 1903. Two doors to the east was a building that became the Crystal Theatre, designed in 1904 by A Pare for Thomas Storey. In the early 1950s it became the 24 hour Common Gold Café.

Mr Sutherland took a hand-on role in the construction of his project – which faced an initial problem with drainage; The Daily World in November 1911 reported “The dissatisfied – with – the – sewers brigade was well represented at yesterday’s session of the board. One delegation, headed by Mr. Cross, made an emphatic protest against the condition of things in the sewerage facilities of that portion of Lansdowne street between Quebec and Ontario streets. There was a four – foot sewer being put in along there, but it was neither big enough nor deep enough to drain the bottoms of their basements, for which excavations had already been made in connection with several new buildings that were being erected there. They wanted a seven – foot sewer at least, as under present conditions with a four – foot sewer at the present level they would have to install a pump to keep their basements from filling up. The board recognized the urgency of their case and will try to make conditions satisfactory there. Mr. J. K. Sutherland had an almost similar complaint to make in connection with the lack of a suitable basement drain for Hastings street, between Columbia and Main streets. He, too, was promised relief if within the power of the board.”

From the building’s completion it was never occupied as either an office or apartment building: ‘The Balmoral Hotel; Fiddes & Thomson, proprietors’ was the first entry in the 1913 street directory. However, it immediately had many permanent residents who listed the hotel as their home address. Robert Fiddes and James Thomson continued to run the establishment for several years, which is generally not true of hotels in this era, when proprietors changed frequently. In the early 1920s the hotel had a manager, E R Hunter. In the 1940s the neon sign was hung on the front of the building, designed by Neon Products, a local company, which by the 1950s was one of the biggest neon sign producers in the world. Our image shows the block in 1985.

J K Sutherland was a pharmacist, born in Ontario in 1870. He arrived in Vancouver in 1892, living with his parents; his father was a tax collector. He initially worked for a druggist on Cordova Street, and established his own store on Westminster Avenue by 1895. Several rival druggists merged their interests to form the Nelson, Macpherson, Sutherland Drug Co in 1901, with seven stores. By 1903 the partnership had been dissolved, and John Sutherland continued on his own, although by 1910 he was described as ‘retired’, and his 1911 census entry confirms this, with John aged 41, his wife Lily five years younger, their children aged six and four, and two domestic servants, both from England. A year later he built the East Hastings building, and in 1913 he also owned the Clarence Hotel, where he had repairs completed.

The Sutherlands lived in the West End for many years. John’s death notice in 1937 read “John Knox Sutherland, in his sixty-eighth year. Mr. Sutherland, retired druggist, leaves his wife at home, one son, John Burton Sutherland, city; one daughter, Mrs. Robert L. Cold, London, England; one sister, Miss Jessie B. Sutherland, city, to mourn his passing.” His wife had married John in 1904 in Montreal and died in Vancouver in 1960.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 790-1912

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Posted November 2, 2017 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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