Archive for November 2018

Dunsmuir and Howe – ne corner (2)

We looked at the Hambro Building that was built here in 1920s. Like much of Downtown, today’s commercial district started life as a residential neighbourhood, and in this 1899 picture the Japanese Consulate was on the corner. Previously the consulate had been at 730 Burrard Street, With Tsugoro Nosse as Consul. (He moved on to run the Consulate in Chicago). From 1898 it was Hon. S Shimizu, and this new location had been the Consulate for a little before the change of consul, probably starting in 1897 A year earlier the Consulate had placed a wanted ad in the Daily world “WANTED – NEW LARGE HOUSE, suitable for office and residence, near Hotel Vancouver or Vancouver Club.” We think the Consul when the image was taken was called Seizaburō Shimizu, who had been Consul in Hawaii, and moved on to be Japanese Consul in Ottawa in the 1920s.

At the time the image was taken, the consul was kept busy writing to the Federal Government, objecting to the discrimination against the Japanese in British Columbia shown in Provincial legislation like the Alien Labour Bill to which assent has been given in 1898. In turn he was consulted by the government over a number of years about the Japanese voluntarily restricting migrants from moving to British Columbia, where hostility to Asiatic employees was building as the economy faltered. He had moved on by 1902, some years before the Japanese response to the anti-Asiatic riot that broke out in 1907, causing significant damage in Japantown (centred on Powell Street). At the time about 8% of the population of the city were Chinese, and several thousand Japanese from a population of around 100,000. The riots served their purpose: Japan agreed to restrict the number of passports issued to make labourers and domestic servants to an annual maximum of 400 under a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ enacted in Canada in early 1908, the year the consulate moved to the newly constructed ‘Imperial Block’ on West Pender.

Once the Japanese had moved, the new occupant of the former consulate was D’Auria Francesco D’Auria ‘vocal teacher’. He was, as his name suggests, an Italian, born in Naples, and a successful composer and orchestral conductor. He had founded the first, shortlived, Toronto Symphony Orchestra in 1890, moving on to Winnipeg in 1895, and then Minneapolis before arriving in Vancouver in 1904.

Today the final 1990 phase of the Pacific Centre Mall is here, with an office building designed by the Zeidler Roberts Partnership.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Bu N429

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Posted November 29, 2018 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

33 East Hastings Street

We looked at the history of the Dodson Hotel (the five storey building) in an earlier post. It was built in 1909 for Joseph Dodson (from Barrow in Furness in Lancashire) and designed by Sharp & Thompson. Joseph arrived twenty years before it was built, starting out in Vancouver as a labourer, then becoming a butcher before he turned to baking, operating Dodson’s Bakery here with his sons, and retiring in 1910 at the age of 68.

Next door to the east was a more modest two-storey structure that was only very recently demolished. It was developed by C E Robertson, and built by the Vancouver Construction Co., Ltd at a cost of $12,000 in 1909. There were dozens of Robertsons in Vancouver in 1909, but only one C E Robertson; Charles E Robertson associated with G E French’s tugboat company in 1909, and lived on Beach Avenue near Stanley Park. He was still there in 1911, so we can find him in the census, identified as a lodger in George French’s Parr and Fee designed West End mansion, aged 46. Despite being younger than his landlord, who was aged 58 and listed as a master mariner, Charles was shown as retired, living off income (presumably in part from this investment property) and having been born in Ontario.

Charles Robertson and George French jointly owned some of the French towing business, but there was a greater connection. The Sea Lion was built at Charles Robertson’s shipyard on Burrard Inlet (at the foot of Cordova Street) in 1904, and she was launched in 1905. We wrote about the 120′ tugboat in greater detail when we looked at the home occupied by her captain.

Previously Charles had been employed at the electrical power house in the city, presumably as an engineer, although the census recorded him as a cabinet maker in 1901, already lodging with the French family at their home on Alexander Street. They all moved to the West End in 1908; the location of their previous home had become a little less attractive (although perhaps more valuable) after the ladies of Dupont Street moved en masse to Alexander Street in the early 1900s.

In 1921 Charles was still living with the French household, but he was no longer retired; he was working as a shipwright with B C Marine. Two decades later he was still at 2001 Beach Avenue, having retired again before 1931. George French had died in 1930, but his widow, Cynthia, still lived in the family home until her death in June 1941, aged 82, with Charles there too. Charles Robertson then moved to an apartment on West 10th Avenue, where he was living when he died in December 1943.

The building was replaced in the spring of 2018 by Olivia Skye, a 13-storey housing building designed by IBI Group for Atira. It has 198 units of rental housing, with a mix of market, subsidized and welfare rate apartments.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-3886

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Posted November 26, 2018 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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Mah Society – 137 East Pender Street

This Chinatown society building is one of the best-preserved, and now   looking even better after a recent makeover. The work included restoring the elaborate pediment, and the top floor balcony that had been lost many years before 1985, when our ‘before’ picture was shot. The building was constructed in 1913, and while it was located in Chinatown, it was developed by William Dick, (possibly William Dick junior, who ran a successful clothing company, owned British Columbia Estates, a local real estate development company, and later was a Conservative Member of the BC Legislature for Vancouver City, elected in 1928). He hired H B Watson to design the $30,000 apartment rooms, with a commercial space on the main floor, built by R G Wilson & Son. When it was first built this was a four storey building, and if you ignore the top floor, it looks like many other buildings of the era, and had no discernible ‘Chinese’ character.

Because it was located in Chinatown, the first tenant was Chinese. Mr. Dick spent another $400 in ‘repairs’ (but probably really the fitting out of the commercial space) built by the Kwong Fong Co only six months after the initial building permit. Kwong Yee Lung Company, a grocer, occupied the main floor while the upper floors were the Ming Lee Rooms. with thirty nine rooms on the other three floors where tenants shared bathrooms and kitchens. There were various changes to the building, including a 1917 alteration designed and carried out by W H Chow.

In 1921 the Mah Family Society raised $45,000 to buy the building, and a further $5,650 was spent to add the fifth floor (although the permit was for $7,000). This was built by Chen Yi, but the Mah Gim Do Hung hired English born architect E J Boughen to design the addition. The Society, one of a number of branches across Canada and in the US, moved their offices out of the building before 1960, and today the Mah Benevolent Society Of Vancouver occupy premises on East Hastings. The upper floors still have 36 SRO rooms which in the image were the Ah Chew Rooms and more recently have been known as the Asia Hotel. The fifth floor still houses the society meeting hall. The main floor in the picture was the Kwangtung Restaurant, later becoming a Buddhist vegetarian restaurant, and today houses the Jade Dynasty, one of Chinatown’s remaining Cantonese dim sum restaurants.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 790-2382

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Posted November 22, 2018 by ChangingCity in Chinatown, Still Standing

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City Market – Westminster Avenue

The City Market was an ambitious investment, that proved to be a bit too out of the way to succeed. Built on Westminster Avenue (today’s Main Street) it was located on the far side of the bridge that crossed the False Creek Flats, so was effectively ‘out of town’. It was fabulously ornate and state-of-the-art , with a cast iron façade and a lot of glazing; seen here in 1910.

Opened in 1908, the market operations replaced an earlier city building that was re-purposed as City Hall. This building was an unusually decorative design by W T Whiteway, who supervised the site preparations in 1907, reporting to the Council Market and Industries Committee that “the market wharf had been completed by the B. C. Contract Co. in a very satisfactory manner. He had seen no traces of toredoes when examining it. He had examined other wharves near there and found that toredoes did not seem to in that part of False creek. It was decided to charge the cost of the roadway approaching the market to the board of works.” Bayfield and Williams successfully bid to build the market at a cost of $25,233. (Toredoes – shipworms – are the marine creatures – actually a type of saltwater clam- that live on wood, and tunnel into underwater piers and pilings causing damage and destruction to submarine timber structures).

The market opened in August 1908, and the Daily World reported the first day of operations. In passing it referenced what must have been the city’s first green roof, and a rather innovative way of attracting customers. “When the door of the new building with the imitation moss – covered roof, at the southern end of Westminster avenue bridge, were thrown open this morning there were many women present, for it had gone forth that the woman wan made the first purchase at the opening of the market would have, the honor of declaring the market open and also receive, as a premium, a leg of mutton. Besides the women who wished the honor and the mutton there were several hundred spectators, mostly of the male persuasion, who cheered the fair contestants. “All ready,” shouted the clerk. “All ready,” repeated the caretaker, and the echoes had not been caught up from the back walls before the rush was on“. The newspaper carried several columns of details of the competition for the mutton, won by Mrs. Allen of Columbia Avenue “A pyramid of boxes of plums foil over to the stairway and the crushed fruit mude the ascent more perilous. One lady fell and the othes rushed unchecked over her prostrate body, knowing that the plum would make a cushion to save her from injury, even if they did stain her frock“.

Despite attracting 3,000 customers on the first day, the market was soon a failure, with few residents having any other reason to travel so far out of the city in that direction. It closed in the early 1920s, and was leased to a variety of industries, including a wire works, poultry dealer and a fish ball manufacturer. In 1925 it burned to the ground; all the firefighters could do was save the lives of some of the chickens.

The site was reused by a variety of industrial companies, including Excelsior Paper Stock and Spicer’s Asbestos Ltd in the 1930s. Today it’s a surface parking lot owned by the City of Vancouver, awaiting a future development as part of South East False Creek.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-89

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Posted November 19, 2018 by ChangingCity in False Creek, Gone

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898 Seymour Street

Here’s Fred Cheeseman’s shiny new gas and service station on the north east corner of Seymour and Smithe, seen in this 1936 Vancouver Public Library image. Fred had built a new car dealership and service centre on Howe Street a a few years earlier, and the business was actually run by Francis G Cheeseman, Fred’s son. If the dates on these Frank Leonard pictures are correct, they didn’t hang around in the 1930s where construction was concerned. The image above dates from July 1936, and the one on the right from June of the same year. The new premises were known as Cheseman’s Safety Service Garage.

The service station lasted barely 20 years, and the Cheeseman family were no longer associated with it. In the mid 1950s Green and Weston ran the tire and parking part of the business, while D G Dunn operated the gas station.

In 1957 a parking garage replaced this building, joined a year later by another identical structure on Richards Street, linked at the upper level across the lane. In 2009 Vita, a 29 storey residential tower was completed here, joined a year later by its Symphony Tower cousin, at 32 storeys. They both sit above two parkades; one underground for the strata residents, and one above grade forming most of the building’s podium, offering public parking for Downtown visitors and in particular those attending the Orpheum Theatre across Seymour Street (with an entrance also on Granville Street).

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Posted November 15, 2018 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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1147 Howe Street

This 1933 image by Stuart Thomson shows Fred Cheeseman’s car dealership on Howe Street. Fred had garages in other locations; in the 1920s F G Cheeseman was owner of the Strathcona Garage on West 37th Avenue. In 1936 he built a new reinforced concrete garage in an art deco style on Seymour Street. Fred’s dealership was first here on Howe Street in 1931, as Cheesrman-Franklin, with Francis G Cheeseman shown as manager; Fred Cheeseman had already retired, and either died or moved away after 1930. We haven’t been able to find anything to tell us where Fred came from. Although he was working for Begg Motors from 1917, he seems to have been missed in the 1921 census.

Franklin was the make of cars they initially sold; before this they had been sold at Pacific and Granville. There were 253 North American automobile manufacturers in 1908. That had fallen to 44 by 1929, principally through mergers. Eighty per cent of output by 1929 was by the ‘big three’; General Motors, Chrysler and Ford. Auburn cars, sold here in 1933, hung on a bit longer – production ceased in 1937, along with Cord and Duisenberg Motors, controlled by the same company. Based in Auburn, Indiana, the art deco manufacturing plant is now a museum of the company’s production.

We know what the garage looked like inside; that was photographed as well. The ramp on the right has rollers and a gearbox under the rear wheels showing that it is a Bendix-Cowdrey brake testing machine.

By the late 1930s Oxford Motors had taken over these premises, agents for Morris, M.G, and Flying Standard cars, all built in England. Today the Pacific Cinemathique is here, an art cinema built in 1985 as part of a 13 storey office building designed by Eng & Wright.

CVA 99-4337 and  CVA 99-4336

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Posted November 12, 2018 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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Hunter Block – West Hastings Street

We caught a glimpse of this building when it was on an early hand-coloured postcard. It was lost in 2004, (the same year that we shot the ‘before’ image) after a fire destroyed the structure. The building dated back to 1890s, developed by the Hunter Brothers who also built a smaller building on Granville Street in 1892. Samuel and Thomas Hunter (and not James, as some surprisingly inaccurate official records suggest) were contractors and developers. Samuel arrived first, in 1891. Thomas was here in the same year, and in 1892 he got married. As the Daily World reported: “Wooed and Married. In Homer street Methodist church on Thursday evening Thos. Hunter, of Hunter Bros., contractors, was married by Rev. Robert R. Maitland, assisted by Revs. E. Robson and J. F. Betts, to Miss Jennie Simpson, daughter of Theodore Simpson, Seymour street. The groom was supported by his brother Sam and Jonathan Rogers“.

The wedding record shows that the brothers were from ‘Wilfred’, (actually Wilfrid, near Brock) Ontario, and Jennie had been born in New Market, also in Ontario. When she died in 1937, she was recorded as Jane Maria Hunter, and census records also record her as Jane, although her marriage certificate and the newspaper report called her Jennie. The 1911 census found the family headed by Jane’s father, Theodore Simpson, (born in England) and Jane and Thomas with their 17 year old son who was named after his grandfather.

Samuel was a year older than his brother, and they had been part of a large family headed by William, from Nova Scotia and Elizabeth, who was Irish. At 15 Sam was already working as a labourer, and when he first arrived in Vancouver worked as a machinist. Only a year later the brothers were building a modest commercial building on Granville Street for a local landowner, John Twigge, and a year later partnered with Jonathan Rogers (who was at Thomas’s wedding) on a commercial building on Powell Street. By 1896 only Thomas is listed in the street directory, and it would seem that Samuel (who would have been aged about 30) may have died in 1895; there’s an 1896 newspaper report that says ‘the heirs of the late Samuel Hunter of this city, received $2,000’ in an insurance payout.

The building was therefore only associated with Thomas Hunter. There’s a permit approved in 1902, designed by Blackmore and Son, costing $15,000 to construct. Thomas was the builder, and he stayed in Vancouver, and continued to act as a contractor and builder for many other projects. Several were investments built for his own portfolio, including about a dozen frame houses and an apartment building on Nelson Street in 1909. He also built a Parr and Fee designed commercial building on Cordova for his father-in-law in 1903, and there was a Parr and Fee commission for a three storey block in 1906, also on Hastings (and it’s possible that the Blackmore commission was never built, and this was a Parr and Fee building).

In 2004 we photographed the building early in the year, only a couple of months before the local press reported the fire that destroyed the building: “The three-alarm fire raged through a two-storey building at 311-317 West Hastings, gutting the Blunt Brothers, a marijuana-oriented cafe that billed itself as “a respectable joint.” Smoke from the blaze on the edge of Gastown could be seen as far away as White Rock.

Vintage clothing store Cabbages and Kinx was also destroyed, as was Spartacus Books, a long-standing left-wing bookstore.”

As historian John Atkin noted at the time: “The building that has major damage [311-317 West Hastings] is a wonderful building with an amazing sheet metal facade to it, lots of pressed tin.  It was very rare in Vancouver because the original overscale pediment that sat on top of the building was still intact.  Those are one of the first things to fall down in windstorms or whatever, and here it was intact.”

Today the site remains one of the most obvious redevelopment opportunities, with some parking, and the odd movie shoot occupying the space.

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Posted November 8, 2018 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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