835 Beatty Street

In July 1911, the ‘Contracts Record’ publication announced that “Plans have been prepared by Wright, Rushforth & Cahill, 709 Dunsmuir, street, for a 6-storey mill constructed warehouse building to be erected on Beatty street, at a cost of $60,000, by the Anglo-American Warehouse Co. Tenders closed July 8th.” The architects were from San Francisco, but had opened a Vancouver office, and won a few commissions; one for a substantial West End apartment building, and a few houses. This was their first (and as far as we can see) only commercial building in Vancouver. Either the publication was badly advised, or the plans were very quickly altered. That same month the building permit was issued, designed by the same architects, but for a 2-storey brick warehouse costing $30,000 for the Anglo-Canadian Warehouse Company. As the company name was recorded inaccurately, it seems possible that the magazine (with a Winnipeg publisher and a Toronto head office) got the other details wrong as well.

Even reduced in scale, the market conditions of the early 1910s proved problematic, and the building didn’t appear in the street directories until 1914. William Napier Tofft was managing the warehouse business, and living in North Vancouver. He was born in Canterbury, in Kent, in 1878, and was still living in England in 1911, although he was shown as emigrating to Quebec City in 1907. We know he married Janet Thomas, and had at least two daughters, Joyce and Sybil, both of whom later married in California. William died in North Vancouver in 1968, and Janet in 1971. In the 1920s Mr Tofft was a manufacturer’s agent, and was briefly in partnership as Tofft & Peck with Tobias Lane Peck.

Harry Burritt Devine took over at Anglo-Canadian in the mid 1920s. He was Canadian, born in Vancouver in 1893. His father, also Harry, was English, Born in Manchester in 1865, but had arrived in Canada in 1884. He worked in Brandon, Manitoba as a photographer, becoming partners with J.A. Brock and coming to Vancouver together in 1886. The partnership dissolved a year later and Harry continued work as a photograph until 1889. He worked for ten years for the City of Vancouver as an assessment commissioner, but resumed work as a photographer, and was still recorded in that profession in the 1901 census. Some of the city’s most memorable images were taken by Mr. Devine, including one showing City Council holding a meeting in front of a tent “City Hall” and the ‘Real estate office in big tree’. He ran a successful real estate and insurance business in Vancouver, and died in 1938. In the 1920s both father and son lived near Deer Lake in Burnaby. H B Devine married Annie, from Liverpool, in 1920, and continued to run Anglo-Canadian until the mid 1930s. He stayed living in Burnaby, moving on to represent Ensign Products. His wife died in 1951, and when Harry himself died in 1973, in Langley, he had remarried to Dorothy.

Anglo-Canadian was known not just for the storage warehouse, but also for the cartage business, operating some of the city’s largest trucks and able to transport large items, like steel girders.

The trucks, and the company’s annual staff outing and picnic (seen on the right) were both recorded in photographs taken in 1925 and held by the City Archives.

By the late 1930s the building was occupied by a manufacturers agent, General Foods, and Coast Wholesale Grocers. A decade later Kraft Foods were using the entire warehouse, and in 1955 Pioneer Envelopes were here. By 1985 when our main image was taken there was a Design studio upstairs, a hairdresser, and Omni Glass, specializing in stained glass. Corporate Expositions Group were the most prominent tenant. Today there’s a law office upstairs, a gymnastics studio, a pet store and a ticket agency. It’s likely that a future development will add further office floors over the existing building.

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives  CVA 790-1839 and CVA 99-1311

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Posted January 28, 2019 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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