Florence Court – West Georgia and Bute

 

Today it’s called the Banff, one of the very few remaining hundred year old apartment buildings in Coal Harbour. Built in 1909 at a cost of $58,000 by Dissette & Dean it was designed by H B Watson for J D Byrne. At the end of the year an extra $17,000 addition was permitted – it’s not clear what that would have consisted of – it could have been an additional floor as construction could have continued uninterrupted. In 1920 J W Byrne carried out $500 of repairs to the building.

In 1909 James D Byrne was living in a suite on Granville Street, working as a real estate broker with an office in the Dominion Trust Building. In 1911 he was shown as Irish, aged 53, living with his English wife Florence, (hence the name of the building) and a nurse, Helena Davis, who was Welsh. James had arrived in Canada in 1889, and shows up a lot in 1890s newspapers as he was an Assessor and Collector in the Court House, where he was often the Official Administrator of a deceased resident, a post he resigned in 1899.

He came from a distinguished family; born in County Wicklow. His father represented Count Wexford in the ‘Imperial Parliament’. He attended school in England, and on arrival in Vancouver was partner with C D Rand in his real estate business for five years. He was also  described as being ‘connected with’ the real estate department of Mahon, McFarland & Proctor for many years. His wife was the daughter of the owner of a Yorkshire woolen mill, and the couple moved to Mr. Byrne’s investment when it was completed. He was an active member of the Catholic church, and a Knight of St Columbus. He was the first President of the city’s Children’s Aid Society, a Catholic foundation, although it appears that the couple had no children.

In 1915 he was elected as an alderman – although the City’s website inaccurately records him as James D Byne. One odd item of knowledge we have about Mr. Byrne is that he seems to have enjoyed reading mystery stories – a copy of an 1888 book by John Charles Dent, ‘The Gerrard Street Mystery and Other Weird Tales’, is currently for sale for $500, bearing his signature.

The nurse in the household in 1911 suggested that perhaps Florence was ill; however, when she died in 1919 the newspaper suggested she had moved to Los Angeles for the health of her husband, only two months earlier. Florence was returned to Vancouver for her funeral, and in the 1921 census (when he was apparently recorded as James D Burne) James was listed as a widower. He was shown as having been born in Scotland, which is quite at odds with his biographic notes published a few years earlier. His last appearance in the street directory was in 1929, still listed at apartment 3 of his building. He may have maintained a Los Angeles residence; a James D Byrne died on 27 December 1929 in Los Angeles.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA M-11-58

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Posted June 7, 2018 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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