Callister Block, 30 West Cordova Street

The Callister Block, to the right, is the newest structure in this picture. The Dunn-Miller Block to the east was completed in 1889, and the McIntosh Block to the west, completed soon after. (The part of the Dunn-Miller block seen on the left of this image became a hotel in 1907, the Crown Hotel. Clarke and Stewart, stationers, occupied the main floor. in earlier years. It’s possible that Mr. Callister hired N S Hoffar to design the building.

John Callister arrived in Vancouver in April 1885, settled in the town of Granville, and a year later lost everything he owned in the fire that destroyed the city. He was born in Ballaugh in the Isle of Man and emigrated to the States and was a builder in Chicago and San Franscisco. In 1891 he was aged 40, a carpenter and builder. He never married, and was sufficiently successful to part own the Ellesmere Rooms in 1887, and to build this building around 1890. The earliest tenant on the main floor was L Davis, who ran a clothes house here in 1891. It appears the upper floors were initially a hotel, the Dufferin House, run by Miss Kearns.

For a few years the main floor were occupied by a furniture store owned by Sehl Hastie and Erskine Co, employing a cabinetmaker and an upholsterer, and by 1895 C Hach, who took over the business and also lived here. James Stark had his dry goods store here in 1898, moving on to new premises in 1904, replaced by Alexander Ross and Co, another dry goods merchant. Upstairs James Thomson & Sons were manufacturers agents for Stewart & McDonald of Glasgow, but in 1908 they moved to Water Street and two unions moved in: the Brotherhood of Painters Decorators and Paperhangers, and the Lathers Union.

A couple of years later they were replaced by the Apostolic Faith Mission from 1913 until around 1935. The other tenant was the Industrial Workers of the World, a radical labour union started in Chicago and often referred to as ‘The Wobblies’. In 1912, when Vancouver authorities tried to ban street demonstrations, the Wobblies started and won a spectacular free-speech fight. Still operating today, the IWW’s website notes that “After building mass workers’ power, the arrival of the First World War saw the IWW declared a banned organization by the Government of Canada from 1918 until 1923, which debilitated the union for many years afterwards”.

The building was purchased by the Army & Navy Store in 1960. Initially it was used as the Outdoor Store (seen in this 1965 W E Graham photograph), but a remodeling of the building in the 1970s saw it incorporated into the main retail store, with new construction behind the preserved facades.

John Callister, seen here in the early 1900s, didn’t live in the city. He acquired land and built his home in a forested area covering about three blocks in 1904 at Hastings Townsite, some kilometers to the east, across from today’s PNE location. Upon his death Callister, a bachelor, left his property to two nieces. One of the sisters died and Mrs. Ada M. Stevenson inherited all of the property.

In 1920, sports promoter and tobacconist Con Jones entered into an agreement to purchase “lot 5, Town of Hastings, Suburban Lands” for $10,000 from Stevenson. According to the Vancouver city archives only three payments of $1,000 were made. In the space of a year, Jones supervised the building of a grandstand and field and Con Jones Park opened in 1921. Later the field was acquired by the City of Vancouver, and renamed as Callister Park.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1135-55 and Port P600

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Posted February 7, 2019 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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