Davie Street – 1100 block, north side

Davie Street has seen a significant change since this 1928 image, when it was basically a row of houses, (with, on this block, one exception, the store at 1135 Davie). Remarkably, one of those houses is still standing today, which was all we had to line up the picture. Today it’s the Ghurka Kitchen restaurant upstairs (a use added in 2005), but as a house it was built around 1900, numbered as 1141 Davie (although soon after it became 1139 which it still is today), and it was a matching pair with 1137, the house to the east. They were the only two houses on this side of the block in 1901, although there were three more to the east, off the edge of the picture. A Davis, an engineer was in 1141 that year, joined by Captain Frank B Turner at 1137, later that year.

Archibald Davis was originally from New Brunswick, was aged 53, and married to Alice, who was 15 years younger, and they had three children. He was an engineer with the Canadian Pacific Railway, and he seems to have newly arrived in Vancouver when he moved into the house. He lived here until 1906, and a year later D A Williams of the Woods Hotel moved in.

Captain Turner was aged 41, lived with his wife Nellie, who was ten years younger, and he was captain of a steam boat. He was Irish, and Nellie was German, and they arrived in 1901. Captain Turner had previously been in Oregon, captaining The Wonder, a steamboat on the Columbia River used by the logging industry. He also captained the Bailey Gatzert, ‘the finest sternwheeler on Puget Sound’ when she was launched in 1891. Captain Turner, and his wife seem to have left Vancouver around 1903, and The Daily Oregon published two adjacent notices in 1904, announcing the birth of a daughter, on December 28th, and her death on the same day. In 1906, William Barnard, a jeweller was at 1137, but the occupant in 1904 (possibly tenant, given the turnover), was Irving Young, a clerk.

Alfred Wallace, a carpenter was living on a lot down the street, and a big house was completed in 1902, (1165 Davie was the only double width lot on the block), built by Thomas Hunter (for an inaccurately recorded W Wallace) and costing $3,000 – which was a lot of money tp spend on a house in 1901. Alfred was shown in the 1901 census as a shipbuilder, and had arrived in Canada from England in 1887. In 1891 he moved west and following his father’s profession, starting a small False Creek shipyard in 1894. By 1906 he had moved his business to the North Shore as Wallace Shipyards, and in 1921 as Burrard Drydock. His son Clarence took over the business on his death in 1929, and the Lonsdale yard became one of the largest shipbuilders in the province. The family continued to live on Davie after the shipyard had moved across the Inlet.

Four more houses were added to the block in 1903 – 1143 to 1157 were four almost identical houses, developed by ‘Mr. McGinnis’ at a cost of $8,000 and built by ‘C Mills and Williams’. The clerk who filled in the permit wasn’t too familiar with the builders, as they were actually Mills and Williamson. Charles F Mills lived two blocks from here in the early 1900s. He was born in Nova Scotia and arrived in Vancouver in 1888. It appears he lived and worked at Hastings Mill for a few years, but by 1894 was living in Fairview and had established his business as builder and contractor. By 1911 the Mills family had moved to West Point Grey, with five daughters and two sons at home aged between 3 and 16, his wife Jane and his sister, Margaret. Charles died in 1919. George E Williamson was from Ontario, and started as a carpenter before becoming a contractor. Mills and Williamson must have employed a sizeable workforce; in 1905 they completed 75 different building projects. The partnership lasted for several years, and Mr. Williamson then continued as a contractor on his own, and in 1914 built the new Main Street post office known today as Heritage Hall.

Their employer remains a mystery. John McGinnis was recorded by the census (although not by the street directory), and he was a ship’s carpenter, so is unlikely to have had $8,000 to commission four substantial houses. There was briefly a famer called McGinnis living on Robson Street around 1902, but we know nothing more about him, and he wasn’t shown in 1901. The other two McGinnises in the early 1900s were a moulder and a logger, so equally unlikely developers.

The house that was a store in 1928, 1135 Davie, was built around 1905, and initially Irvin Joyce, who was retired, moved in. He was still living there five years later, which suggests he may have had the house built for him. He was 57 when he moved in, and the 1911 census said he was a retired merchant. His wife Lizzie was twenty years younger, and they had two daughters at home. We can find Irvin in Tyendinaga, Hastings, Ontario in 1871, aged 27, with his Bible Christian family, led by his Irish farmer father, Valentine Joyce. We can’t trace the family before arriving in Vancouver, and they weren’t elsewhere in the city before moving in, but both Lizzie and their teenage daughters were born in Ontario. The Daily World recorded that ‘Irvine’ Joyce died in 1922, having moved to the city in 1904, and the death notice said he had been a contractor. In 1921 Irvin and Elizabeth were shown living on West 12th Avenue, and one daughter was still at home; in that census Arleyo Belden, who that year was described as his step daughter.

It looks as if the addition of the store took place in 1923, when 1135 was shows as vacant. Owner James Blackwood hired Gardiner & Mercer to design $2,500 of alterations to the building. In 1924 Louis Rosenberg was running a cleaning business at 1133 and Mr. Rose was living upstairs at 1135. The cleaners was still in business in 1928, when the picture was taken.

Today to the right is a drugstore, built in 1982 and set back on the lot with parking in front. The retail units beyond the Ghurka Kitchen (which was a rooming house in 1970) were built in the early 1970s. In the foreground is the street patio of Stepho’s Souvlaki Greek Taverna, converted from street parking spots.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Str N266.1

0911

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