Ceperley residence, 1116 West Georgia Street

This 1888 picture shows the newly completed home of Henry Ceperley, born on Oneonta, New York, in 1850. (Henry was obviously a popular name in Oneonta that year; future railway baron Henry Huntingdon was born in the same small town, in the same year). He went to school locally, and then became a local school teacher before moving to Minnesota at age 21 and starting work in the produce and commission business. Five years later he moved to New Mexico, where he worked as a cashier and bookkeeper for a company that was building the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad. He married in 1881, back in Minnesota, and in 1883 he moved to Livingstone, Montana, where he stayed for about three years. He worked in the cattle ranching business, and also set up an insurance agency. He arrived in 1887 in Vancouver with his young family, and by 1888 was living in the new house in the picture. It was still the only house on this part of the block in 1891. In the picture Henry’s daughter, Ethelwynn, was aged four, and son Arthur was two. His wife, Jennie, was 13 years younger than Henry.

Ceperley partnered with A W Ross to form the real estate business of Ross and Ceperley. Arthur Wellington Ross came from a very similar background to Henry Ceperley. He was born in a farming township in Ontario in 1846, trained as a teacher, and taught in Cornwall in Ontario, impressed the trustees there so much that in 1868 they hired him as headmaster of the high school. He continued to study, to become a lawyer, and moved to Winnipeg in 1877 with his younger brother William, who was already qualified. He was called to the Manitoba bar a year later, and quickly established real estate as a specialty, and as a business. By 1882 his real estate assessment was around $210,000 and he had the eighth highest individual assessment in the city. He speculated in Métis scrip, lands owned by the Hudson’s Bay Company, town lots in Brandon and Edmonton, and various rural properties, apparently using inside information to acquire the best deals. His land speculation – and his fortune – disappeared in 1882 when the land bubble burst. He was trapped between his creditors, most notably the HBC, which relentlessly demanded payment, and his customers, many of whom were also speculators (on a smaller scale) who were prepared to walk away from their investments and obligations. In 1878 he added an interest in politics, and became a Liberal MP. He became associated with the promotion of the Manitoba and North Western Railway and served as its vice-president. He opposed the Canadian Pacific monopoly in 1880, favouring a rival bid. He won election again in a different riding; Selkirk, and in 1884 when the Canadian Pacific were trying to secure additional funds to complete the railway, Ross surprisingly switched to supporting their case. That paid off – by the late summer of 1884 he was in Vancouver acting on the CPR’s behalf to assemble land for its western terminus at Granville. Ross also was ideally placed to speculate himself and he purchased town-site lots from the CPR. In 1886 he opened a real estate business, which was run for a short time by his brother-in-law, the city’s first mayor, Malcolm McLean.

In 1888 the Lady Stephen Block became the Post Office, and also home to Ross and Ceperley who became one of the most active real estate promoters in the city. By now Ross was only a part-time resident in the city; he had rooms in the Hotel Vancouver, but in 1887 he had been reelected, with a little help from the CPR, as a Conservative in a Manitoba riding, so divided his time between Vancouver, Manitoba and Ottawa.

By 1891 Henry Ceperley had moved out of the house, which was now occupied by Isabela McLennan, and J C Keith, the manager of the Bank of British Columbia. He had dropped his partnership with Ross (who moved back to Manitoba in 1891), and was now Managing Director of the Vancouver Loan, Trust, Savings and Guarantee Co, with offices on Hastings, in what was then known as the Thompson-Ogle Block, and he had moved house to Burrard Street. He was absent for much of the year; his wife was ill, and ended up back in Winona, Minnesota, with her parents. She seemed to be recovering, so Henry returned to work, but rushed back when she got worse, and died in 1892. His bookkeeper, Francis (Frank) Rounsefell had worked for Ross and Ceperley. He had moved to join his father, a real estate promoter, from Brandon, Manitoba. Frank kept the business going in Henry’s absence. In 1894 Henry married again, to Grace, another American, who claimed to be 12 years younger than Henry, but was actually only nine years younger.

By 1896, Henry Ceperley had established a new company called Ceperley, Loewen & Campbell, Ltd., which acted as insurance and financial agents. Their offices were in the Inns of Court Building at 300 Hastings Street. In 1898 the company applied to change the company name to Ceperley, Mackenzie and Rounsfell Ltd, and by 1902, the company was called Ceperley Rounsefell and Co, with offices on the second floor of the Molson’s Bank Chambers at 597 West Hastings Street, and Frank Rounsefell as managing director. In 1910, Henry Ceperley retired from active participation in the company, although he stayed on as president. Frank took over the control and management of the business. Henry was also the managing director of the British America Development Company and was one of the provisional directors of the Bank of Vancouver, which started business in 1910.

Henry’s house was apparently replaced with two houses before 1912. They in turn were redeveloped with two car dealerships around 1920. More recently, in 2008, the 62 storey Shangri La Hotel and condominiums was completed here Where the house and car dealerships stood is part of the development: an Urban Fare store to the west and an art instillation location curated by the Vancouver Art Gallery with regularly changed site-specific artworks.

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives Bu P290

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Posted March 21, 2019 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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