Crown Building – West Pender Street

We have looked at the north-west corner of Seymour and Pender twice, seven years ago, and again in 2013. The building on the corner was the Delmonico Hotel, built in 1889 as the Windsor Hotel. It opened in September, described in the news as ‘a new and costly undertaking’. “On Monday next the Windsor Hotel will open for business under the management of Messrs. Brocklesby and Allen, both late of Hotel Vancouver. These gentlemen are thoroughly familiar with the business, and propose to run a first – class house. The table will be second to none in the city and the rooms, well furnished and comfortable, will he kept in the best style. The bar will be well stocked with wines, liquors and cigars, the finest that can be supplied, and no pains will be spared to make the Windsor the favorite resort of the permanent and transient public. Its close proximity to the railway station and the steamers is a great point in its favor, and one tired travellers will highly appreciate.” The partnership lasted all of two months; by November Mr. Brocklesby was in sole charge.

The building had been announced in 1888, and the Daily World identified the developer, the enterprising Dr. Whetham. He commissioned N S Hoffar to design another investment property in 1888, but we haven’t found an architect listed for the Windsor. He was a qualified doctor, but had abandoned medicine for real estate development before he arrived in Vancouver in 1887.

Next door to the west was the Crown building. It was six storeys of white glazed brick, with centre-pivoted windows, which was the signature design of Parr and Fee, who designed a series of almost identical buildings on Granville Street; most are still standing today. The Crown was built in 1907, and the Daily World reported the architects, and the cost of the building ($75,000), as well as the developers, Martin & Robertson. They were importers and suppliers of dried foodstuffs, and we looked at their history in connection with their Water Street warehouse, built a few years earlier than the Crown.

Robert Martin was born in 1851 in Ontario and in 1901 lived in Vancouver with his wife Lydia, who was English, with their four children, and their ‘lady’s help’, Caroline Watson, and Jin, the domestic. Arthur Robertson was a Scotsman who was seven years younger than his business partner, and looking after the company’s other warehouse, in Victoria. They had been in business from the city’s earliest days: in 1894 they were advertising in the Daily World as agents for JOHNSTON’S FLUID BEEF – which was claimed ‘Eclipses All Meat Extracts and Home-made Beef Tea’.

Their investment building was occupied in multiple small suites, with a wide range of professional services. Architect J H Bowman had his practice here in 1911. A year later the Canada Lumberman and Woodworker magazine was published from here, and contractor Walter Hepburn had his offices here in the same year. Robert Martin had a number of other commercial investments in the city, including one a block east of here.

When Ernie Reksten took this picture in 1968 the buildings were about to be demolished, to be replaced with a parkade (with retail units on the main floor). It was completed in 1969, and looks like it should pass it’s 50th birthday, although Downtown parkades are becoming valuable redevelopment opportunities, and it seems unlikely that it will last for many more years.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 2010-006.010.

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Posted December 13, 2018 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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