1090 Homer Street

This five storey warehouse (six floors on Mainland Street) was built in 1910 by Leek and Co. William and Walter Leek were both steamfitters, operating one of the city’s larger plumbing, heating installation and engineering businesses. When the warehouse was built the company was run by William Leek and Walter jnr, his son. Walter Leek senior was William’s brother, and was also involved in the business. In the 1901 census William and Walter jnr. were both living at 1110 Davie Street, with business premises on Pender. There was also James Leek listed at the same address, a plumber, and John W Leek, also a steamfitter, who had his home at 1429 Georgia. The family had arrived early in the city’s history. They arrived in Canada in 1880 into Ontario, and by 1892 John Leek and his son William were running a plumbing business in Vancouver, and living on Richards Street. In 1893 William accepted the position of plumbing examiner with the City of Vancouver. They were still living on Richards in 1895, when Walter Leek had joined them; there’s a picture of Walter and William in 1894 outside a shack in the middle of the forest (E49th Avenue).

The family were originally from Harrogate, in Yorkshire, and their business specialized in installing power and heating systems using prefabricated parts. They designed and built the power plants for several large projects, including the steam heating system for the University of British Columbia. In 1910 William, Walter, Eleanor and Verna Leek all applied to buy land in the Cumberland mining district, no doubt part of the short-lived mining boom that so many of Vancouver’s more successful residents joined in. Leek also served as President of the Vancouver Exhibition Association and the Pacific National Exhibition for many years.

The building permit said the company designed the block. That’s quite possible as the family’s business meant they had the experience to draw up plans. They had designed their own 821 Pender Street premises in 1903, and in 1904 William Leek had designed and built his own home on Harwood Street. Walter also lived in the West End in the early 1900s, moving to Nicola Street. The company continued to occupy this building through the 1920s, and following William’s death, Walter ran the business. Several other younger members of the Leek family continued to work at a variety of trades in the company. By 1930 Walter was still in charge, but the business had crossed the street to new premises at 1111 Homer. This building was then occupied by The Canadian Westinghouse Co, who supplied power equipment for hydro electric projects, as well as manufacturing electrical apparatus for railway, industrial and domestic uses. They were still here when this 1943 Vancouver Public Library image was taken, operating their repair division, with several other businesses including a storage warehouse on the upper floors.

Today there’s office space on the upper floors, a bank on the main floor on Homer, and the Blue Water Café occupies the lower floor on Mainland Street, using the former raised loading dock as an outdoor patio.

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Posted September 12, 2019 by ChangingCity in Still Standing, Yaletown

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