Richards Street – 1100 block, west side

This modest series of single and two storey commercial buildings were typical of the Downtown South commercial area in the 1980s. sandwiched between the earlier warehouse district built on CPR land in Yaletown, and the early ‘high street’ of Granville Street, the area started life as a residential neighbourhood but transformed into an industrial and commercial area from the 1920s. Many of the early houses were repurposed or replaced, but nothing was very substantial in scale, as these 1981 images show.

In the early 1990s a plan evolved to allow the area to transition to residential use. Initially mixed use was allowed, but very little development took place. Development took off once it became clear that this part of the area would be predominantly residential, with a retail layer added along Davie Street. The City of Vancouver identified the need to add parks and other public facilities, and this block was identified to be the largest, named as Emery Barnes Park after the first black politician in Canada to be elected Speaker of a Legislature, and a Vancouver resident. We’ve seen the final phase of the park in an earlier post; this corner represents the first phase, completed in 2003, with a fountain, stream, benches and planting. Funds to acquire the land were collected from Development Cost Levies on every development in the Downtown South area. Accumulated over time they have allowed the whole of the southern end of the block to be acquired and redeveloped as a park.

The buildings seen here at the southern end of the Richards side of the park all date from the industrial era of development. There were houses built here in 1901, and early on there was a laundry at the northern end of the block, but these buildings date from the 1920s to 1950 (on the corner). In 1930 several of the lots still had houses; Mrs Wright lived at 1179, although Vancouver Auto Cleaning was located behind her, on the lane (that no longer exists). Overwaitea Ltd had a warehouse next door, and S Miyauchi, a grocer was at 1191. There were two taxi companies based out of a building on the lane behind the corner lot, Eagle Taxi and Dollar Taxi. In 1955 the businesses in these properties were Gestetner duplicating machines, Tobac Jobbers, Con Jones’s tobacco distribution warehouse, J R Stratton, tires, H Cornfoot’s overalls business, Diwalt Sales who dealt in wholesale kitchenware and Canadian Car & Foundry auto parts.

By 1981 the car parts warehouse had become an Indian restaurant, and the other businesses sold sound systems, security products, ‘Western Offset Rebuilders’ and a business selling cash registers, liquor dispensing systems and electronic scales. There was a Service Club on the upper floor. Western Offset was run by a Dane, Kaj Jensen, who rebuilt printing equipment and repaired typewriters, helping people set up small print shops. Something of an entrepreneur, soon after he arrived in BC he traded 7 typewriters for a piece of land, and together with his wife Aase built a house in the forest by the Coquitlam River.

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-E07.06 and CVA 779-E07.05

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Posted April 26, 2018 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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