Gore Avenue and East Cordova Street

This 1889 Archives picture is titled “Mrs. Sullivan’s house – N.W. corner of Gore Avenue and Oppenheimer (E. Cordova) Street”. It’s not entirely accurate; the house was not actually Josephine Sullivan’s, but the newly completed home of her son, Arthur, although she did live here. In the 1891 census Arthur W Sullivan was living here, aged 31, listed as a general merchant. He had been born in BC, and his wife, Annie, was born in New Brunswick. Their infant son, also called Arthur, was obviously living with them, as was Charles, Arthur’s younger brother, Josephine, their 71-year-old mother and Lillian Wood, their domestic servant. The 1891 street directory identified both Arthur and Charles as musicians, rather than merchants. Annie and Arthur had been married in 1887. In 1895 Charles Sullivan, born in New Westminster, married Amy Lilian Wood of Wasbro, England.

Josephine was born in the US, and her late husband, Philip, in the West Indies, and they were both among the earliest black residents in the Lower Mainland. (In a 1934 interview W R Lord said neither were negro; both were ‘mulatto’, and Isaac Johns said she was part French, named Josephine Bassette). Philip and Josephine arrived in BC in 1859. Although some records suggest they came from San Francisco, her obituary shows her arriving via Panama, crossing the isthmus on mules, suggesting an eastern origin. Their son Arthur was baptized in New Westminster in 1860.

Accounts suggest the family settled on Water Street, with the first Methodist services being held in the family kitchen. Initially Philip may have been a cook in gold mining camps in the Cariboo, but by 1870 he was a steward at Moody’s Mill (on the North Shore), and Josephine apparently helped her husband to prepare the meals. Philip was also musically talented – he played the organ at the Methodist church. Josephine may have had a restaurant on Water Street in 1875, although we haven’t found any contemporary records that confirm this; similarly we can’t find anything to confirm Alan Morley’s statement that they ran the Gold Hotel on Water Street for a while, which may be connected to the fact that the Sullivan two-storey store run by Arthur was next door to the hotel. Interviews with Major Matthews suggest that the store and restaurant were separate premises, and Josephine may have run the restaurant while her husband worked on the North Shore at the mill.

Because BC joined Canada in 1871, just after the census was conducted that year, there are no records until the 1881 census when the whole family were shown living on the North Shore. Philip’s origin in the census record was altered from ‘West Indies’ to ‘Irish’, suggesting where his father (and his surname) may have come from. Philip was aged 64, his son John, also a steward, was 40, while Arthur was 21 and Charlie 17. There were at least two other children who had left home by the time that census was taken. A year later Arthur had a store in Granville, but Philip was still shown living in Moodyville.

Philip died in 1886 and by 1889 Josephine had joined Arthur, across the inlet in Vancouver, where he had established a general store when the town was still called Granville, in 1882. Charlie Sullivan was working as a clerk in his brother’s store in 1884. In 1889 the Daily World recorded that the house that the Sullivan family had occupied on Cordova Street had been moved to Water Street. The same year Sullivan’s Hall appeared on Cordova, half way between Abbott and Carrall, presumably occupying the location of the former house. Major Matthews recorded in his historical Archives notes an interview that said Philip Sullivan had cleared the land himself, and the family probably lived there before the fire, and rebuilt the house that was later moved, after the fire. It was a ‘squatted’ site on Cordova, and built around 1879. On the day of the fire Arthur Sullivan had sailed to the Mission on the north shore in his sailboat, and so escaped the blaze. At the time Josephine was staying in Joe Manion’s hotel, but escaped the flames. Sullivan’s Hall was used for musical performances, union meetings and other civic and entertainment purposes. It was briefly used as a courthouse with Judge Begbie presiding.

In 1889 Arthur was the subject of a sensational court case when he, and a Dr Langis were accused of procuring and carrying out an abortion. This was the first time in British Columbia history that the charge had been laid, and both men were found not guilty by the jury. When the trial commenced, and some of the preselected jurymen failed to show up, there was a rush to the doors by the crowd waiting to watch the trial – but enough failed to get out fast enough to avoid being immediately pressed into jury service.  A married woman, Mrs. Amanda Hogg, was the woman involved, but her testimony at trial (reported in great detail over many days and pages of the newspapers), was inconsistent and unreliable. There seems to be some doubt about whether Arthur had a dalliance with the lady in question (who he had met in the Methodist church choir), and there was confusion about whether there was an abortion or a miscarriage as a result of a fall, and the description of the dead child implied that it was unlikely to have been fathered by Arthur (identified as Negro in the 1901 census, and spoken of negatively in that connection by Mrs Hogg’s husband, James). Mrs. Hogg’s attempt to obtain $2,000 from Mr. Sullivan probably didn’t help her cause.

It appears that the case didn’t adversely impact Arthur’s standing as the town’s leading musician and ‘most popular master of ceremonies’. He and his brother and their families continued to live on East Cordova Street, and were said to own several other properties. James Hogg seems to have stayed living only a block away for at least a couple of years, but Amanda Hogg, not surprisingly, seems to have left town. Josephine Sullivan died in 1893, and in 1901, Arthur, Annie and Arthur junior lived in the same house as Charles and Amy; the house in the picture. Arthur still had his store, and Charles Sullivan apparently made his living as a musician, playing the piano and later being described as ‘just a barroom thumper’. He drowned while getting on board his rowboat at Andy Linton’s boat house at the foot of Carrall Street in 1906. His widow, Amy, moved to the West End, and that year Arthur moved to the north shore. Although he disappears from the street directory, his son, Arthur G Sullivan continued to be listed, and his father, Arthur was living in North Vancouver, a widower aged 61 when he died in 1921.

Once it was demolished, the site of his home was used as a parking lot for the adjacent court building for many years, and in 1983 was redeveloped as a remand centre with a jail block designed by Richard Henriquez. The cells were taken out of commission in 2002, and in 2011 Henriquez Partners designed the conversion of the building to non-market housing, adding windows to replace the widowless cell pods.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Bu P73

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Posted April 19, 2018 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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