Robson Street – 300 block, north side (2)

This row of six identical cottages appear on the 1901 insurance map. We know they were built from east to west, because the 1900-01 Street Directory only shows four of them, one so recently built that the occupant is unnamed. The house at the far eastern (right hand) end of the row, 331 Robson, was occupied by contractor W L Campbell, and it’s possible that he built the houses. William Campbell was from Ontario, aged 35, and living in 1901 with his American wife Rosa, and their children aged 7 and 1, and their American domestic, Lina Wallace. It would seem that they didn’t stay long in Vancouver, and even less time in the new house. In 1902 and 1903 a carpenter called William Campbell was living on Westminster Avenue, and nobody of that name was in the city in 1904.

At 335, CPR engineer William Coughlin moved in with his wife Elizabeth and their two children. In the 1901 census Margery was 14 months old and Lorne was only 2 months. They also seem to have left the city by 1902. John Danagher, a tailor was at 339, changing jobs by 1902 to become a commercial traveler, and moving to Eveleigh Street.

In 1902 O L McCullough had moved into 331. D Buie, a carpenter had replaced the engineer next door, W Beavis, a blacksmith was at 339, Mr Alltress, a driver was next to him, D L Gauley a painter lived next door and another contractor moved into the end of the row; J P Matheson. John Matheson was first listed in 1894 as a carpenter living on Oppenheimer Street, and a year later as J P Matheson at 231 Georgia. Born in Wheatley River, Prince Edward Island, he moved to New Westminster in 1890 and then to Vancouver about two years later. He was initially a contractor, as he was listed in the 1901 census, when he and his wife Jane lived with their sons Robert, who was 14, daughter Ruby who was 12, and Gordon who was only two years old.

The Matheson family lived here for several years, until by 1908 they had moved to the West End, with J P Matheson listed as contractor and builder. Son Robert moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that year to study architecture at the University of Pennsylvania under the leading American architect Paul Cret. A school friend Fred Townley joined him at the school. On his return in 1911 his father invited him to form an architectural partnership and Robert probably supplied the architectural part in the design of several important commissions in the city. John P. Matheson died in Vancouver in 1917, and two years later Robert formed a new partnership with Fred Townley, and their partnership designed many city buildings, including the modernist design for the Vancouver City Hall. Robert Matheson died in Vancouver after a long illness at the age of 48 on 30 June 1935, before City Hall was completed.

Over the decades that the houses stood, hundreds of different people lived in them. In 1955, the last year we can access street directories online, Mrs Louise McGowan was at 331, Mrs. K Alice Beesley (a widow) at 335, Mrs M Eluk lived next door at 339 with Walter Eluk, a warehouseman, John Farrar, who was retired, at 341, Russell McGowan, a steelworker, living with his wife Elaine at 347 and Glyn Morgan, a welder, living with his wife Kathleen at 351. A year later our image was taken, and some time before 1981 the houses were cleared away. Today the plaza of Moshe Safdie’s ‘not the colosseum’ public library, completed in 1995, is on the corner of the block.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Bu P508.83



Posted 18 October 2018 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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