Nelson Street – 700 block, south side

While the foreground has changed since this 1981 image was taken, the building further east are unchanged. On the corner of Granville and Nelson is a hotel, just rebranded from a Comfort Inn after extensive renovations. It started life at the Hotel Barron, designed by Parr and Fee for W H Forrest, and completed in 1912. We think Mr. Forrest was agent for the actual owner, Colonel Oscar G. Barron. In it’s new grey and pink paint job it will revert to another earlier name, the Hotel Belmont. Next door the shorter hotel is the Glenaird Hotel, built in 1910 by, and for, contractor Malcolm Griffith, and also designed by Parr and Fee.

On the right of the picture today is Fortune House which had a ‘Now Selling’ sign when the photo was taken, and only finally completed in 1988, seven years later. It was office space from the second to the 10th floors, with the top two floors as residential, but only eight years later the office floors were converted to condos. It hides the view of the back of the Royal Hotel, another Parr and Fee design for Dr. Robert Boyle and Lewercke, and completed in 1911.

In between Granville and Fortune House, on the corner of Granville and Nelson, are a row of single storey retail buildings. There was a store built on the corner here in 1901, designed by ‘Fripp’ (architect R Mackay Fripp) for Mrs. D Gibbons. In 1920 Honeyman & Curtis were hired by F T Andrews to design retail units on the back of three lots, designed to face Nelson Street. We assume Mr. Fripp’s earlier store on Granville was incorporated into the project. Today you can buy pizza from the corner unit, and the three on Nelson offer the choice of poutine, tacos or a drink in The Moose bar. Here they are as they appeared in 1981.

Mrs. Gibbons, who developed the corner, doesn’t show up in the 1901 census – or at least, not as Mrs. D Gibbons. However, Catherine Gibbons, a widow, was head of a household of five children: two daughters (one a domestic, and one a milliner) and three sons, one a clerk and two still in school. Going back to the 1891 census shows Catherine was married to David Gibbons; he was from Ireland, and she was an American, and there were three other older sons who had left home by 1901. The family had arrived in Canada in 1890, and all the children had been born in the USA. In 1901 they were living at 640 Harris Street (today’s East Georgia Street). David Gibbons was a contractor, and he started impressively by getting a contract to grade and plank a Downtown sidewalk in April 1890 – as soon as he arrived in Vancouver. He died in 1897 or early 1898, and Catherine stayed in the brick-built family home until 1912. It was built in 1894 by Irish-born bricklayer and contractor John Henry Freney, a relative of Mr. Gibbons.

Mr. Andrews, who built the Nelson stores twenty years later has proved more elusive – at least as far as census records are concerned. He had built a garage a couple of years before this building, further south on Granville, and in 1907 had been involved in a complicated land sale court case in connection with a Hastings Street lot that he sold to Angelo Calori, the owner of the Hotel Europe. (Mr Calori almost lost the hotel to Mr. Andrews, but the courts sided with Mr. Calori). He also developed another Granville Street property in 1913. The difficulty in tracking him down may possibly be because he seems to have spent quite a bit of his time out of the city. The land deal with Angelo Calori was all arranged initially by cable, while Mr. Andrews was ‘residing temporarily in Engalnd’, and the deeds for the property were in Toronto.

Frederick T Andrews was district manager for the Dominion Permanent Loan Co, based in Ottawa, in 1898. In 1908 he was inspector for the same company, based in Vancouver, but had spent the previous year in England. In 1912 the Province reported ‘Mr F. T. Andrews of this city has returned from a visit to England extending over eighteen months. On the return trip Mrs. Andrews remained over in St. Thomas., Ont., to visit relatives.” In 1913 he added a substantial three storey addition to the Palms Hotel on Granville, that he had also acquired, and he was living there in 1917 when we think he may have built another garage on Granville Street. In 1915 the Canadian Northern Railway bought one of his properties in conjunction with their arrival into the city. That was after another legal fight over the acquisition of the False Creek land by the railway company – who weren’t keen on compensating former owners in a particularly timely manner.

We think F T Andrews had family members in the city: Frank M Andrews, a salesman, also lived at the hotel in 1917, as well as J Andrews, a clerk. In 1921 Francis Andrews lived with his wife and baby on Commercial Drive, and was shown as having arrived in Canada in 1911. John M Andrews was living with his uncle, Frank T Andrews, and had also arrived in 1911 – so they would have been missed by the 1911 census. It would seem that F T Andrews wasn’t living in Vancouver in 1921.

Surprisingly, the single storey retail stores still stand today, although renewal and densification are starting to change this part of Granville Street.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-W03.05 and CVA 779-W03.04

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Posted April 29, 2019 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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