Archive for May 2018

Pantages Theatre – East Hastings Street (2)

We looked at the story of Alexander Pantages, whose name graced Art Clemes East Hastings Street theatre from its opening in 1908 for about a decade in our previous post. The theatre was built in a hurry – the developer was fined $10 for covering up the foundations before they could be inspected by the city’s engineer. George Calvert managed the theatre when it opened in January 1908, seeing a range of vaudeville acts revolve through the stage door, playing several houses a night as the management sought to charge lower prices than rival theatres, but still extract a profit from the operation. They ranged from musical comedy to animal acts, (Madam Lucretia with her leopards and panthers), whistlers, acrobats, a quick change artist (Mlle Fregolia, the first popular woman to perform Quick Change with prepared costumes), blackface and boxers (Bob Fitzsimmons, the ‘Famous Freckled Fighter’ from Cornwall, the lightest heavyweight champion). Alexander Pantages checked the theatre out in November 1908.

In 1909 Miss Nada Moret of Australia offered charming high-class songs, with a ‘dainty’ operetta as the headlining act. That contrasted with Sullivan and Kilrain who fought America’s last-ever bare-knuckle prizefight in 1889, and continued to cash in on it twenty years later. In 1910 Hamad’s Arabs appeared – not horses, but acrobats: “Abou Hamad’s Arabs, nine in number, said to be the best troupe of sons of the desert, will be on the bill. It is one of the best of foreign acts.” The Daily World reported “Eddie Martin, playing at the Pantages this week, will be seen in a specialty song and dance act that is one of the best in the business. Mr. Martin has the reputation of being one of the finest clog and fancy dancers in vaudeville”. Earlier that year The Great Pauline had been the attraction, “the wonderful French scientist and physician, whose demonstrations of the superiority of mind over matter have been the talk not only of the vaudeville votaries of the States and Europe, but also of physicians and psychologists in every city that he has appeared in.” This description might not make it obvious that Pauline was a male hypnotist and mind reader – one of the highest paid performers in vaudeville. He was French only if you had been hypnotized to believe that Rochester, New York, was in France. In October “an abundance of laughter will prevail during the turn of Chas Allen and Jack Lee who have the reputation of being the funniest pair of Jew comedians ever sent over the Pantages circuit.”

A year later, in August the Three Marx Brothers appeared for the first time in Vancouver in “Fun in Hi Skool”. Groucho played as a Dutch-accented schoolmaster and alongside his brothers his Aunt Hannah was one of the pupils. That year there were two attempts to break into the theatre’s safe. The Marx family returned again to play a week’s residency in 1913 as The Four Marx Brothers, and didn’t return to Vancouver again until 1918, when they had transferred their allegiance to the rival Orpheum circuit. It continued to operate throughout the war, adding drama to the roster of performances, including Arizona Joe’s Cowpuncher’s performing ‘Pastimes of the Plains’.

Once the new larger Pantages theatre opened a couple of blocks west, the old theatre continued under new owners, although Pantages had to sue to prevent the old name continuing in use. It became the Theatre Royal in mid 1918, and the owner, Mr Royal, chose a pink and gold redesign which could still be seen when the theatre was closed in the 1990s. Touring dramatic performances continued to provide most of the bookings, initially provided by Jim Post and his Musical Comedy Company, who worked up and down the west coast. There were still hypnotists and mind readers, and the occasional visiting songstress, but business was clearly falling off, and by the early 1920s the theatre was sometimes dark, and sometimes was showing films. Kelly’s Comedians performed here, but they moved to another theatre near the new Pantages.

In the late 1920s the theatre was converted to a movie house. In 1933 it survived having a bomb being thrown into the building, destroying the projectionists booth, and a car parked outside on the street. The aftermath damage is shown in our 1933 VPL image. Surrounding businesses including the Balmoral Hotel and the Dawson Building had their windows blown out, and discovered their insurance didn’t cover bombings. It was supposedly carried out by a Russian-born Chicago mobster and extortionist known as ‘Willie The Pimp’ working for union interests trying to create a monopoly union. (Years later, in 1955, having ratted out his gangland partners and despite being given a new identity by the FBI, Willie Bioff was killed when his car exploded in his Phoenix driveway).

Later it became known as the State, the Queen, the Avon and City Nights. As the Avon, in 1953, it saw a police raid in the middle of a live theatre performance of ‘Tobacco Road’. Five members of the regular cast were taken to jail, charged with taking part in an indecent performance. The play was an adaptation of Erskine Caldwell’s book about life, love, and poverty in the American South. Despite having run on Broadway for 8 years and being turned into a film, the VPD viewed the performance as “lewd and filthy”. It turned out that the raid was prompted by complaints from the production team to generate the response, and hence free publicity. It paid off; the cast returned after 90 minutes to complete the performance, and the play sold out for the rest of the run.

It last operated as the Sung Sing, a Chinese-language theatre, which closed in 1994. Several attempts were made to resurrect the theatre by community based groups, but holes in the roof started to see significant damage to the decorations. An appeal to the City of Vancouver to purchase the theatre was rejected, and the property developer owner was allowed to demolish the structure and the single storey retail buildings to the west. He built a woodframe condo building that was supposed to offer low cost home ownership over revitalized retail with a courtyard. However, the courtyard is gated, and locked, and the ownership model does not ensure the relatively low initial costs of apartments are maintained in subsequent sales, so units have been flipped to new owners at higher prices. The one tangible benefit are 18 units on non-market rental. The new Downtown Eastside plan wouldn’t allow a condo building in the area in future.



Posted 31 May 2018 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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Pantages Theatre – East Hastings Street (1)


The Pantages Theatre stood on East Hastings for over a century. It was built in 1907 and was the Vancouver base of Alexander Pantages and his Seattle managed vaudeville circuit, and was the oldest surviving Pantages Theatre in Western Canada, and until its demolition one of the earliest purpose built vaudeville houses remaining in North America. It’s seen here in a 1910 postcard in the Vancouver Public Library collection.

Alexander Pantages had only a loose affiliation with accuracy when it came to recording his history (not least because he was effectively illiterate, so kept few records, although he could speak six languages). He was possibly born on the island of Andros in Greece as Pericles Pantazis, probably in 1867, and he almost certainly ran away from home (in Cairo at the time) at the age of nine and travelled around the globe as a deck hand. He headed to north America (after a stint digging the first attempt at the Panama Canal) in the early 1880s. His 1910 census record said he arrived in the US in 1881; in 1920 he said 1883, and in 1930, 1885. (His year of birth shifted as well, from a probably inaccurate 1872 to an even less accurate 1874).

He settled initially in San Francisco where he worked as a utility boy in a vaudeville theatre, as a waiter and as an unsuccessful boxer. By 1896 he owned a restaurant and in December of that year he was arrested for smuggling 185 tins of opium. He was found not guilty after he established that at the night of the alleged crime he was training for a prize fight. An incidental detail in the case revealed that he had a surprisingly healthy bank balance for the owner of a small restaurant. Like many others he headed for the Yukon Territory during the Klondike Gold Rush in 1897 or early 1898, ending up in Dawson City. As other successful Klondike entrepreneurs, Pantages found there was more money to be made from the miners than from mining, especially if you’re only five feet six and would rather avoid digging in sub-zero temperatures. He worked as a waiter in Charlie Cole’s Saloon, which became a dance hall. He became business partner (and lover) of a Kansas native, and step-daughter of a Spokane judge, dancer and singer Kate Rockwell, (later to be known as “Klondike Kate”). Her specialty act, developed at Dawson City’s Palace Grande Theatre in 1900 involved wearing a red sequined dress spinning around in 200 feet of red chiffon cloth as if she was on fire. With Kate’s financial help he acquired and operated a small, but successful vaudeville and burlesque theatre, the Orpheum.

(There was another, and less flamboyant Yukon citizen known as Klondike Kate, with a Vancouver connection. Katherine Ryan was from New Brunswick, and in the late 1890s was set to marry her boyfriend, and when he decided instead to become a priest, Kate headed west and became a nurse in Vancouver. Tales of the goldrush led her to Whitehorse where she ran restaurant for many years. Eventually she ended up living in Vancouver again, where she died in 1932).

Unlike other female dance hall employees, as a named headliner on the vaudeville bill Kate Rockwell would not have been expected to ‘be available’ to patrons, but she would be expected to help relieve them of their money by drinking with them after the show. Champagne was $20 a bottle, and the girls were reimbursed for every cork they collected. Kate was successful as a dancer and entertainer – although not top of the bill – and she apparently saved money – although almost certainly nothing like the $150,000 that some sources suggest. She also didn’t stay the whole time in the Yukon; in 1899 she was part of a large vaudeville company that visited Victoria for a week and in 1900 she was on the bill as a dancer at the Savoy Theatre on Cordova Street. She briefly left for the States, and returned with an infant that she claimed was an orphan of a destitute mother. It’s possible that ‘Lotus Rockwell’ was the outcome of her affair with Alex.

In 1902, as the easiest gold had been found, Pangages headed south, and settled in Seattle. He rented a store on Second Street, fitted it out with hard benches, bought a movie projector and some film, hire a vaudeville act, and opened the Crystal Theatre. The funds he used included some of Kate Rockwell’s savings.

Kate was still touring; she was in Victoria at the Orpheum in 1903 ‘performing her beautiful electric serpentine dance’ and in Washington state in 1904, billed as a ‘spectacular dancer’, and had still been sending some of her earnings to Pantages. She was listed as the proprietress of the Orpheum in Victoria in 1903, having bought it for $350. Within a year she sold the theatre for $1,500 and returned to Alaska. Alex had been dictating regular love letters to Kate in which he expresses concern that she was drinking a lot, and in 1904 Kate returned to Seattle. She performed at the classier Alcazar Theatre, as Alex couldn’t afford to pay the salary she could command as a performer. She headed to Texas, which was going through an oil boom, and Alex bought yet another theatre, The Strand in the Skid Row area.

Kate understood that they would be getting married and settling down, so she wasn’t at all happy when A Pantager (sic) married Lois Mendenhall, a violinist from Oakland, in 1905. (Lois solemnly swore she was eighteen years or older – she showed her age as 25 in the 1910 census, but only 31 in 1920. She generally maintained her 1888 birthdate after that, suggesting she was actually only 17 when she was married.)

In 1905, while she was performing in Spokane, Kate heard from Alex that he was married, in a letter sent four days after the ceremony. In the summer she sued for breach of contract for $25,000. After effectively winning the suit, she settled out of court, and although some reports suggest she got $5,000, a contemporary newspaper report said she only got $800. She had to head back to Alaska and then out on the vaudeville circuit again, appearing in Vancouver with her Comedy troupe in 1907. She eventually settled in Oregon, was married at least three times, and became increasingly famous with the stories she told of her days in the Yukon – although the name ‘Klondike Kate’ appears not to have been used until 1929. She died in 1957.

Alex opened the first Pantages Theater in Seattle a few years after the Crystal, and in 1906 the even larger (1,200 seat) Lois Theatre. A year later the Vancouver theatre opened, designed by local architect E E Blackmore. Costing $100,000, it was bankrolled by local developer Art Clemes, who would go on to build the Regent Hotel next door to the theatre a few years later. Alexander supplied the acts, developing a circuit which saw his shows and acts constantly touring, always starting in Winnipeg. At the peak of his career in the 1920s, Pantages owned or controlled more than 70 vaudeville theaters, virtually all under his direct personal management. He and Lois had three children, and he moved to Los Angeles, living in a mansion. A second daughter was living with the family in 1920, Marjorie Nelson. A friend of the Pantages’ daughter Carmen, Marjorie was orphaned and adopted by the family. She later became Dixie Pantages, an actress who often doubled for her friend Carole Lombard in movies.

In the 1930 census Alexander and Lois Pantages were living apart. Lois and her children, Rodney, Lloyd and Carmen were living with her mother, Elvira, and four servants. Alexander’s census record identifies him as an inmate in San Quentin jail. 1929 had been a devastating year for the family. In June Lois caused a car accident that left a man dead and several others injured. In August, Alexander was arrested and tried for raping a 17-year-old woman named Eunice Pringle. Found guilty in a jury trial, Pantages sought a retrial, and finally in 1931 was found not guilty of the charge. The legal battle, however, exhausted a large part of his personal fortune. He had sold all but his flagship Broadway theatre to other owners, including RKO Pictures whose controlling investor, Joseph P Kennedy has been suggested to have been involved in framing Alexander on the charge. Paid in stock, rather than cash, the family fortune declined even faster as the market collapsed. Alexander Pantages died of heart failure in 1936. In Vancouver he had built a new, larger Pantages theatre which opened in 1918, and the old theatre continued under a new name and different management, finally to be redeveloped a few years ago.


Posted 28 May 2018 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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West Georgia Street west from The Bay

Here’s a bonus Hotel Vancouver shot – one built from 1912 to 1916, on the left, which cost the best part of three million dollars to build, designed by Painter and Swales, and the one still standing today, started in 1928 and designed by Montreal-based architects Archibald and Schofield, but not completed until 1939.

The newly installed canopy on the Hudson’s Bay building entrance isn’t an exact replica of the original, but it’s a vast improvement on the heavy steel canopies that were added later than this 1931 image shows. The third Hotel Vancouver was at this point just a shell – it was sealed up to ensure water didn’t get in, but no interior work was carried out as the depression in the economy dragged on during the 1930s. It was only the prospect of a Royal Visit by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to the city that finally prompted the completion of the new hotel. It was opened during the royal visit in 1939 having cost $12 million.

Once the third hotel was opened, the second was decommissioned, but was used to house returning war veterans during the late 1940s. It was torn down in 1949; a sad fate for an impressive structure. The site sat vacant as a parking lot for many years, until construction of the Pacific Centre Mall started in the early 1970s. This part of the site is home to the TD Tower, designed by Ceasar Pelli & Associates in bronze tinted glass, reflecting Cathedral Place and the Royal Centre across the street

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 260-226


Imperial Opera House – West Pender Street

This was one of three Opera Houses in early Vancouver – if you include Hart’s house, which only had canvas walls. The CP Railway built the fanciest a long way from the city’s residents in the heart of their Granville Street territory, next to their hotel, opening in 1891. The Imperial pre-dated it by at least two years and was much located closer to the original city, which started life along Water Street as the Granville township, and spread out from there. The Imperial only lasted in business for about five years; Major Matthews, the city’s Archivist recorded that “in 1898 the Imperial Opera House was still in use, but as a Drill Hall.” This image shows the building already in use as the Drill Hall – although the major recorded the use as ‘Drill Shed’. The Imperial had closed in 1894, leaving the CPR building for a while as the sole attraction.

The Imperial opened in May 1889, only three years after the city was newly named and rebuilt after the fire destroyed almost every building. It was initially owned by Crickmay and Robson, who had arrived in 1888, and were both engineers, in partnership in business. They undoubtedly designed it themselves; William Crickmay sometimes described himself as an architect as well as engineer. John Robson returned to England in 1890, but William Crickmay, at the age of about 60, continued to run his engineering business while trying to run the Opera House. While operatic offerings were few and far between, the theatre was initially the only substantial structure to offer plays, visiting performers, the Athletic Club, a skating rink and local events including the Caledonian Society’s ‘Concert, Ball and Celebration’. In August 1889 C Norris appeared with his ’30 educated dogs’. In 1890 The Lacrosse Minstrels performed, John Robson, (not the same John Robson who had built it – this one was Premier of British Columbia) gave a speech, and Miss Agnes Knox, renowned Canadian elocutionist a dramatic recital. A year later the CP’s larger and superior Opera House opened, and bookings at the Imperial slumped. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was performed by the New Orleans Company, and Miss Olof Krarer “The Little Esquimaux Lady” gave a performance with stories of “Life in the Frozen North”.

Miss Krarer, a dwarf, described herself as coming from the remnant of a small tribe of blue-eyed blond people called the Angmagsalik from the east coast of Greenland. Clothed in her “native costume” of a polar bear skin parka, she spoke about her people and their customs and sang native songs. Her face was “peculiar, and almost impossible to portray” and her arms bowed, which she claimed was due to her people’s custom of keeping their arms folded at all times to ward off cold. All people of her race, she stated, were of similar height and build. The Esquimaux, she explained, lived without laws or government, the only distinction being that between rich and poor: the rich were those who had flint to strike fires, and the poor were those who did not. Nearly all the information she gave in the 2,500 lectures she gave in North America was made up, uninformed, and just plain wrong, but no one at the time disputed her facts.

Mr. Crickmay hoped his salvation might come with the creation of the Imperial Stock Company, formed in conjunction with John E Rice of the Belmour-Gray Company, the first attempt at establishing a BC touring circuit. John F Cordray of Seattle was involved, and soon after the refurbished Philharmonic Hall in Victoria joined in . Plays were performed across a number of different venues, carrying the scenery and props with them. Audiences were unpredicatable, and often performances were better attended in small towns than in the bigger cities. A smallpox outbreak in 1892 in Victoria put the circuit out of business. That year ‘Handsome’ Jim Corbett (later ‘Gentleman’ Jim) fought an exhibition bout in the Opera House, but business was thin. It was closed in 1894 and a year later the Imperial was leased by the Provincial Government as a Drill Hall. William Crickmay died on December 24 1900. His sons, Alfred and Fred continued in business in the city as Crickmay Bros; warehousemen and customs brokers.

The building was replaced in 1911 by the Duncan Building, developed by Howard J Duncan and designed by H L Stevens and renamed in 1925 as the Shelly Building when it was acquired by Cora Shelly.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Mil P5



Posted 21 May 2018 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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West Pender Street east from Cambie

Sometimes we notice that the most obvious buildings have been overlooked on this blog. Here’s one of the most glaring examples; the World Building, today known as The Sun Tower. These days, from this angle, the lower part of the building is hidden by the street trees, but in 1920, when this Vancouver Public Library image was shot, it was clearly visible. The triangular piece of land fronted by Beatty and West Pender was part of the old City Hospital grounds, but the buildings were set further south, with land reserved to allow Pender to continue to Beatty, although the road was never actually built.

Newspaper mogul L D Taylor hired W T Whiteway to design his new office building in 1910, and it was completed in 1912. The Vancouver Daily World was the city’s biggest paper of the day, and the World Building the most prestigious offices, with a claim when completed (published on postcards of the time) of being the tallest building in the British Empire – although the Contract Record only acknowledged it as the tallest in Vancouver. Whiteway was an experienced and busy architect, and he had also received the commission for the warehouse (originally described as a business building) also clearly visible in 1920, next door on Beatty Street for Storey and Campbell, completed in 1911 and built by Snider & Bros for $60,000. G L Sharp, in an interview recorded in the 1970s, claimed that the design of the World Building was actually his, and that he was paid $300 and Whiteway given the design to complete. Another source suggest E S Mitton also collaborated.

L D Taylor had arrived in Vancouver from Ann Arbour in Michigan in 1896, escaping his failed bank and abandoning his wife. He reinvented himself in Vancouver without mentioning many details of his past life – especially the fact that he was wanted by Michigan authorities in connection with the bank failure. Failing to find work in a depressed economy, he tried gold mining in California, then the Yukon, and ended up back in Vancouver in 1898 with 25c in his pocket. He worked at the Province newspaper running their distribution and circulation, and ran successfully for election as a Licence Commissioner in 1902, although he lost in 1903.

In 1905, having persuaded various financial backers to help, he took over the World newspaper, the Province’s rival, and set about boosting its sales. He ran for mayor (coming second) in 1909, and winning in 1910 aged 53, and again a year later. By the start of the Great War there was a new rival paper, the Sun, rising newsprint costs and falling advertising revenue. These caused the World to face a financial crisis. In 1915, Taylor ran and won as mayor again, on the same day a judge ruled that the paper had to be sold to pay its creditors. Taylor lost his paper fortune with the buy-out, and the new owners of the paper abandoned it’s building overnight, although Louis Taylor was no longer associated with the building’s owners, the World Building Company. In 1916 he married the newspaper’s former business manager, Alice Berry, (and a year later got round to divorcing his first wife in California).

Louis Taylor hadn’t personally develop the tower; the World Building Company was initially organized by Taylor, and they planned to spend $375,000 to develop it. On the permit they claimed to be building it themselves, but actually it was Smith and Sherborne, and the final cost was $560,000. It had a “class A steel frame; reinforced concrete floors; materials, stone, brick and terra cotta.” An added detail not shown on the original design were nine barely clad maidens, designed by Charles Marega, who graced the top of the 8th storey pediment. Financing proved difficult, and L D was accused of bending the rules by negotiating with J J Hill’s Great Northern Railway (as Mayor) for their new terminus station while at the same time persuading Hill to loan funds to the World Building Company.

Once the World was out of the building in 1915, it became the Tower Building. A variety of office tenants continued to occupy the building, including architect E E Blackmore. After the war the Pride of The West Knitting Mills were located on the second floor where the newspaper had once been produced. After coming second for three elections in a row, L D Taylor was elected mayor again in 1924, and was re-elected two more times. He lost in 1928, after 2-year terms had been introduced, but won again in 1930, when the Tower Building had become the Bekins Building, owned by Bekins Moving and Storage. Taylor was re-elected mayor again for the last time in 1932, at the age of 74.

The Vancouver Sun was published in the building between 1937 and 1964 and left its name with the tower, so that today it’s still known as ‘The Sun Tower’. It’s still an office building, despite most of the rest of the Beatty Street commercial buildings converting to residential uses.



West Georgia and Richards – ne corner

We posted earlier on the first building to be constructed here; St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. It was demolished in 1937, and yet another gas station and car dealership replaced it a few years later. In 1940 the St Andrew’s Wesley Community Centre was demolished on Richards Street (the original Sunday School building) and this location became home to the Georgia Imperial Service Station run by G T Peverley. In 1942 it was renamed as the Georgia and Richards Service station run by J O Betts. In 1937 Townley and Matheson designed the service station for Imperial Oil.

In 1947 a Ford dealership was added, Black Motors, run by George Black. We’re not sure if the service station always had a sales building on Richards, or was remodeled to add the showroom at the back of the site in a matching style. According to their directory entry the dealership sold “Mercury, Lincoln, Meteor and English Ford Passenger Cars; Mercury Trucks”, and were “Wholesale Parts Distributors for All Ford Products.” It was a big operation; there are over 20 employees listed in the 1948 street directory.

In 1948, when our Vancouver Public Library image was taken, Black Motors also had another location; a paint shop on Seymour Street, and in 1949 they added another on the corner of Dunsmuir & Homer. The Ford dealership was competing with Stonehouse Motors across the street who sold GM products. (In 1949 Black Motors provided the Mercury car that ended up on stage at the Strand Theatre as part of a promotion).

By 1953 the Dunsmuir and Homer location (which was on the same block as this location) was the main business address for Black’s Motors. There was a used car lot on Kingsway and another on Main Street for new and used trucks, and this was listed as the service station. 686 Richards, the former parts department was now listed as Black’s Restaurant, with Mrs A M Oliphant as managing director. That situation remained true in 1955, the last year we can see street directories online. Vancouver As It Was has more on the conversion to a restaurant.

In 1974 the current 10 storey BC Turf Building office was completed. Designed by Zoltan Kiss for the Diamond family and built by Dominion Construction, it has recently been remodeled on the main floor to house the Post Office and the Bank of Montreal, both relocating from nearby. Since 2001 Saskatchewan artist Joe Farfad’s sculpture of “Royal Sweet Diamond”, a bull, stood here. The site was bought from Gulf Oil, who last operated the gas station as a British American station, in 1968. Originally the plan was for a 26 storey hotel, but an oversupply of hotel rooms and tight money supply changed the plans. Originally TD Bank were tenants on the ground floor.

George Black Motors Ltd relocated to North Burnaby, and continued operating there in the 1960s and 1970s.


Posted 14 May 2018 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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Homer Street north from West Georgia Street

This modest almost suburban street doesn’t look like the heart of a busy metropolis, but in 1948, it was. The clue that you’re in a city is in the background, where the Hotel Alcazar can be seen on Dunsmuir Street. At the far end of the block on the corner of Dunsmuir was a single storey retail building. The tallest building on this block is a three storey building about two thirds of the way down. 632 Homer Street was built in 1912 as three-storey brick & concrete printing shop by Gustav Roedde, who claimed to have designed and built it himself. He also moved the 1904 house built by F H Donovan on the adjacent lot to the north, presumably to allow construction of his building. There had been a house built on the lot in 1901, designed by Bedford Davidson for Mr. Goldstern. Mr. Roedde was a bookbinder who was born in Germany, worked his way from Cleveland to San Francisco to Victoria, and eventually settled in Vancouver in 1888. He started work at the News Advertiser, was briefly based on West Cordova, and then in 1892 moved to premises on Cambie Street. His building here was renumbered to 616 Homer in 1948, but was still the home of G A Roedde Ltd, printers.

To the south, also in 1901, R M Fripp designed a house for Robert Mee. In 1948 it had been redeveloped (or altered) as a single storey building on the street, home to the BC Journal of Commerce. The two storey building at 622 was the home of Smith Marking Devices, as well as printers Cornell & Burroughs, and as the bus poking from the archway shows, it was also the Greyhound Bus Company depot.

Closer to us is a house that had been built in 1902 by the Church of England as a mission, designed by W T Dalton. The house to the south of the mission, extending forward to the sidewalk by 1948, was built by Fred Melton in 1910. By 1920 it was home to another printing firm, Trythall & Son, run by Wm J, Wm T and E Howard Trythall. The family were living on Nelson Street in 1921, and William and his wife Minnie were both shown aged 50. William had arrived in Canada in 1888, and Minnie in 1909. They had a six-year-old daughter, Marjorie at home, and a governess and lodger. William Trythall, William’s father lived next door, as well as their son Ernest, (known by his middle name, Howard) who was also a printer. They appear to be living with William and Ernest’s sister and her husband, George Peake. Fred Peake worked for Trythall and Son as well, living in the West End. In 1948 It was still a printer’s: J A Kershaw.

The buildings to the north, closer to the camera, predated the turn of the century as owner J H MacNab carried out repairs costing $300 in 1901. Next door to them, to the north, was another house that was built before 1901 (666 Homer) that had repairs carried out in 1915 for the Chinese Trust Co. In 1948 both houses were listed as vacant. The site was probably in process of being acquired for redevelopment. The new General Post Office, which takes up the entire block was completed in 1956. Designed by McCarter and Nairne, it is now a heritage building that will be repurposed as a retail and office project, with new towers above the restored 1950s structure.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Str P256


Posted 10 May 2018 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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Hornby Street – 600 block, west side (1)

In 1981 this block of Hornby had a parkade and an office building – today there’s an office building and a public space with an art gallery. The parkade in part served the Devonshire Hotel that was up on West Georgia Street and would be off to the left hand side of the picture. The office block was the Georgia Medical Dental Building – we’ve seen the back of it in an earlier post. It was designed by McCarter & Nairne, and imploded in 1989. Across Georgia is the third – and current – Hotel Vancouver. On the right hand edge of the picture is the entrance to Gary Taylor’s Show Lounge, Piano bar and restaurant.

The food wasn’t why anybody went to the club. Local music historians record that Gary had started out as a drummer; he was in the CBC house band, The Classics, in the 1960s filmed ‘Let’s Go’, the Vancouver segment of Music Hop, the CBC’s version of American Bandstand.  In the late 1970s and early 80s he was running his club on Hornby Street. The main floor hosted touring international acts in the Rock Room upstairs (including Johnny Thunders, who apparently had to be talked into the country by Gary after showing up at the border in 1981 to play the Rock Room with only his New York library card for identification). Up and coming locals like DoA, The Dishrags and the Pointed Sticks also got to play the room, while downstairs there were strippers.

The club had started on Granville Street, and Gary had run into problems in 1973 when he was charged with presenting an ‘obscene performance’ at his show lounge. In a rather unusual form of defence the five performers who were charged re-enacted the performance at the Show lounge with police, the crown prosecutor and Judge McGivern in attendance – they must have been good as Gary won the case.

The parkade and office building were replaced by Cathedral Place. Opened in 1991, Cathedral Place was developed By the Shon Group, headed by Ronald Shon, through a joint venture with Sir Run Run Shaw of Hong Kong under the company name of Shon Georgia Investments Ltd. The Shaw Group were Hong Kong’s biggest media company; founder and noted philanthropist Sir Run Run Shaw died in 2014 aged 106.

Paul Merrick designed Cathedral Place in a post-modern art deco style, borrowing the roof design from the chateau design of the Hotel Vancouver opposite. The building incorporates casts of the original nurses from the earlier 1930s building, although medical uses are no longer associated with the contemporary building. The office is still owned by Shon Group Realty.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-W05.05


Posted 7 May 2018 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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524 Homer Street


From 1925 to 1927 the Canada Garage was at 428 West Pender Street. From before the 1900s to 1925 there were houses on this Homer Street lot, but from 1926 the Pacific Garage run by M Balmer  and R H Lampman was shown here in the street directory. The odd thing is that there’s a photograph in the Archives of this building dated 1925 and showing it as the Canada Garage (seen on the right). One possibility is that the owners of the Canada Garage intended to move, or duplicate their operation on Pender but then thought better of it, and the Pacific Garage was opened here instead.

One of the first owners of the Pacific Garage also didn’t stay around: Murray Balmer wasn’t listed in the city in 1924, or by 1927. He seems to have been born in New Brunswick, and was in Chase before he moved to Vancouver, and died in Princeton in 1951. Robert Lampman however had been repairing cars on Pender Street in 1924, and was still in the city as service manager of Fordyce Motors in 1927, when J O, A P and R L McLean had taken over the garage. A year later N MacRae had taken over the business. In the 1930s the building was also the office and terminal for Maple Leaf Stage Line.

The 1925 permit to demolish the house that stood here was issued to Homer Garage, but the $30,000 construction permit for the garage was to J H Todd & Sons Ltd, with the building being designed by Townley & Matheson. The owners almost certainly built the garage as an investment. J H Todd & Sons were a Victoria-based fishing canning company. Jacob Todd had built his first cannery on the Fraser River in 1882, having run a wholesale grocery business in Victoria. He was originally from Brampton, Upper Canada, of Scottish stock, and had worked his way westwards, operating as an itinerant trader in the Cariboo, and in Barkerville (losing $10,000 including his building and stock when it burned down), before settling down in Victoria. His canneries produced ‘Horseshoe’ brand salmon, and eventually he owned five locations before the business finally amalgamating with B C Packers in the 1950s.

A variety of different owners ran the Pacific Garage: by the 1950s it was N M Crosby, and by the 1970s it had become the Marine Garage. It was still standing in 1981, as can be seen in this earlier post, but was replaced in 1992 by BC Hydro’s new office tower, designed by Musson Cattell Mackey.

Image source City of Vancouver Archives CVA 778-197,  and  CVA 1399-529.


Posted 3 May 2018 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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