Homer Street – 1100 block (2)

We looked at the other end of this block in a post from a few years ago. This 1981 view shows some of the warehouses constructed on CPR land near their freight yards and roundhouse, in the area known as Yaletown. Many of the buildings have heritage designations these days, although none are used as warehouses or for manufacturing any more. The third building down the street from Helmcken is the Frank Darling warehouse, built in 1913 by Irwin Carver and Co for Frank Darling, an electrical equipment supplier. Honeyman and Curtis were the architects of the $40,000 structure.

The two and three storey buildings closer to us were both designed by the same architects for the same client, although two years apart. The Empress Manufacturing Co commissioned the lower building in 1909, with Grant & Henderson designing the $20,000 structure, built by Smith and Sherburne. Two years later they designed the three storey neighbour that cost $29,000 and was built by Barker, Campbell & Whipple. Yaletown was created because the warehouse district along Water Street in Gastown was full.

Walter Taylor was the founder and managing director of the Empress Manufacturing Co., Ltd., which dealt in imported coffees and local jams and jellies and one of the early successful local food supply companies. He also built a five storey building on Water Street in 1911, (with Edward C Taylor, his son), hiring Grant and Henderson to design that too.

Empress sold their jams and jellies under the Empress label, spices as ‘Seneca’ brand, with a sailing ship on the label, and Beverly brand peanut butter. Walter Taylor had been an early business leader in the city, and the family first appeared in 1890, living at 1006 Nelson street (where they stayed for several years). Walter was initially manager of the Vancouver Fruit Canning Co; a newly established business in 1890. It appears that the business also operated as the B.C. Fruit Canning Co and were based at 1107 Homer Street (across the street from here).

All the Taylor family were born in Ontario; Walter, his wife ‘Elisa’ (on the 1901 census, although she was actually Eliza), son Edward and daughter Ethel. In 1901 their household also had two of Elisa’s sisters living with the Taylors, Louisa and Theresa M Eastwood. Edward was a bookkeeper, and no one else in the household had an occupation shown. Walter was 55, and Elisa was 52. The previous census in 1891 showed Walter aged 44 and his wife was shown a year younger aged 43. Their marriage certificate shows Walter was 29 when he got married in 1872, and Eliza was 24, so it appears that Mr. Taylor felt the need to shave a few years off his age in both census records. (His 1915 burial record in Mountain View Cemetery confirms he was actually born in 1841). They were married in Lloydtown, in York, Ontario, and Mr. Taylor was a merchant in Albion. When Edward was born in 1873 and Ethel in 1876 the family were in Bolton, Peel, Ontario. Two other children born in 1880, and in 1881 (Francis, in Toronto) but they apparently didn’t survive.

Edward, Walter’s son, had joined BC Fruit Canning Co by 1904 as secretary to the business, and he retained that role when the company was established as the Empress Manufacturing Co in 1905. Walter was manager of the BC Fruit Canning Co, and had the same role at the Empress business. In 1914 a biography of William Hunter, president of the Empress business that year claimed he had moved from Ontario and founded the business in 1900, but he wasn’t in the city in the early 1900s, so that seems to be an attempt to overlook the Taylor family role in the company. A 1912 history of the company acknowledges that it was founded by Walter Taylor (with Edward Lindsay) but inaccurately puts that in 1880, (Walter was still an Ontario merchant in the 1881 census). It explained that “the original capital of $20,000 was increased to $100,000 to enable the firm to cope with the business. At that time their manufactures were mainly canned fruits and vegetables, jams and jellies, and imported coffees and spices, which were put up in suitable form for the market. Later the firm began to import teas and a few other commodities, but the maximum of development was not reached until 1910, when the business was sold to Messrs. Hunter & Son, and was formed by them into an incorporated company with a capital of $250,000.” So the two Empress buildings were constructed by different owners of the same business.

Unlike so many buildings we look at, this one continued to be occupied by the same company for decades. Empress were still using the building in 1955, although in 1939 the business had been acquired by Safeway Stores. Today, like almost all of Yaletown, the buildings house restaurants and retail spaces.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-E12.36

0909

%d bloggers like this: