De Beck Block – 366 West Hastings

 

This prominent corner of Hastings and Homer has a surprisingly modest building today, but earlier there were two more flamboyant buildings. On the right was the O’Brien Hall, where Professor William O’Brien taught dance (as we saw in the previous post). The one on the left was designed by W T Dalton for George Ward DeBeck. It was completed in 1898, when Mr. DeBeck was a partner in Mackinnon, Beck & Co, (real estate agents) and lived on Hornby Street.

He was born at Woodstock, New Brunswick in 1849, and after leaving school travelled to California, where he worked in sawmills. He later joined his family, who had moved to British Columbia. His father had moved to New Westminster in 1868, working as a logger, but died in a logging accident two years later. There were three other DeBeck brothers, and they collectively built the Brunette Saw Mills in Sapperton in 1874. In 1877 George was in New Westminster, working at the Brunette Sawmill Co where H L DeBeck was manager and Clarence DeBeck foreman. By 1881 the mill was cutting 50,000 feet of lumber a day, and employing 30 workers. Their lumber at the time came from a camp on Pitt Lake. George DeBeck had already tired of the lumber business – in 1880 he was running a hotel in Yale. In the census a year later his wife and two children also lived in Yale, but not at the hotel.

While a 1914 biography suggested Mr. DeBeck married in 1887, a later newspaper article clarified that it was in 1877, when his wife-to-be was only aged 16, and still attending a convent in New Westminster. Some references suggest she was the first white child born in New Westminster. Having hired a cab, and a tugboat, Mr. DeBeck spirited his wife-to-be away from her school Sunday morning walk, and hurried to Port Townsend in Washington where they married. To ensure there was no chase, it was reported that Mr. DeBeck arranged for the telegraph lines to be cut.

After the hotel in Yale the family moved south, with George working in the timber trade, initially in Washington. In 1883 the family were in The Dalles, Oregon, where Edward (“Ned”) Keary DeBeck was born. Two years later Leonora Alsea Debeck was born in Yaquinna, Oregon. The family moved on to Idaho, then in 1886 returned to Canada, and to Vancouver in 1891, where G W DeBeck was listed as a timber speculator. In 1895, a son, Ward was born. and two years later Viola, who would become one of the earliest women law students in British Columbia. At this point George had moved on again, and instead of lumber now held interests in mining. At this point he was listed as ‘broker’ – as he was involved in real estate as well as mining. He developed the West Hastings building which soon included tenants as varied as Vogel’s Commercial College, the French Consulate, and the local office of Imperial Oil.

George’s next adventure was a government appointment, as Indian Agent in Alert Bay on Cormorant Island, off Vancouver Island. He held the job for four years, then returned to Vancouver, and the timber cruising and logging business. At the end of 1939 George and Emma moved to Victoria, British Columbia to live with their son, Ned, but Emma died that year, on December 31. George returned to Vancouver, where he died in 1943. You can read far more about George, and his family, on WestEnd Vancouver.

When he died, his building (seen here in 1940 with the Pall Mall Café) had been demolished, replaced with the less ornate building seen today. There was a Bank of Montreal branch on the corner from 1928 and the replacement was built in two phases, with the bank occupying the eastern half (where the DeBeck Building had been) before moving into the western corner once the entire building was completed. We weren’t certain who designed the 1940 building, but the style is reminiscent of the buildings designed by Townley and Matheson for the Vancouver General Hospital around this time and in 1940 they designed a business block for Dr. Worthington at Homer and Hastings. Patrick Gunn dug out the 1940 permit, and it was indeed those architects for Doctor Worthington, who owned the Vancouver Drug Company. Today it’s part of the campus of the Vancouver Film School, suffering somewhat by the addition of an extremely brutal tubular canopy.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Bu N135

0877

 

Advertisements

Posted June 13, 2019 by ChangingCity in Gone, Victory Square

Tagged with , ,

%d bloggers like this: