1233 West Georgia Street

This 1918 picture shows a car dealership built in 1913 for H A Bowers and designed by William Dodd, built at a cost of $10,119. It wasn’t the first building here with that use; in 1909 T W Fletcher hired M D Campbell to design a $9,000 garage here, and two years later Mr. Bowers was the owner, obtaining a permit for $6,500 of work to add to a building here and reconstruct part of it. We’re not sure if he followed through on that idea, or whether it’s more likely that the Dodd building was built as a replacement. It closely matches an adjacent garage for McLaughlin, that was built in the same year, next door. It looks like the project was scaled back from an earlier version: The Pacific Coast Architect, an American publication had announced in 1912 that “Architects Doctor, Stewart & Davey prepared plans for a two-story reinforced concrete garage, for H A Bowers”, but those architects never obtained an permit.

Thomas W Fletcher, the developer, was shown in the 1911 street directory as retired, and had moved to a home in the newly built and up-market Shaughnessey sub-division, but he was only aged 43. The census said he was in real estate, but we don’t know if the garage he apparently built in 1909 ever had an occupant before Mr Bowers acquired it. In 1921 Mr. Fetcher had Mackenzie & Bow design a new home in Shaughnessey, and was shown as working again, as an adjuster. A year later McCarter & Nairne designed another house for him, on Minto Crescent.

Herbert Bowers was an American, aged 31, and only recently arrived in Vancouver. In 1911 he lived two blocks west of here with his wife Hazel and their three children, Robert, Alice and Herbert junior. They has recently lost another daughter: the Press Democrat of Santa Rosa, California reporting that year that “Mr. and Mrs H. A. Bowers, who removed from here to Vancouver, have suffered a sad bereavement in the death of their little daughter Doris, who is well remembered here by many friends both young and old. The child’s death was due to pneumonia, which occurred March 6.”

Herbert ran the Central Auto and Supply Co, and the family had apparently left Vancouver and returned to California by 1913. In 1922 Herbert junior died in perculiar circumstances in Vancouver. The Daily World reported “A coroner’s Jury, with Dr. Sutherland of Port Coqultlam as coroner, sitting this morning at Murchie’s undertaking parlors, brought in the following verdict on the death of Herbert Bowers, whose body was found on the Pipe Line road In the bottom of a ravine under an automobile on Sunday: “We find that the death of Herbert Bowers was accidental, he not being familiar with the road, which is dangerous at this spot.” Mrs. H. A. Bowers, mother of the dead man, and Mr. W. D. Woods, manager of the Barron Hotel, Vancouver, Identified the body. Mrs. Bowers stated that her son was 18 years of age. The family reside at Santa Clara valley, California, and were here on a vacation. She said that she had no idea how her son came to take the car. They had been staying at the Barron Hotel and he was away visiting friends In South Vancouver on Saturday night. She had four other children, who are at present at their camp on Howe Sound. Bowers had several letters on his person addressed to “My dear wife” and the contents were of a peculiar nature. The mother said that the initials that appeared in the letters were not those of her son. W. B. Dishman of Bellingham, who was driving the car at the races the day before, gave evidence to the effect that the auto was In good condition. He said that he had never seen Bowers in his life. In Richmond police court yesterday Dishman, charged with driving to the common danger after an accident in which Mrs. David Buchan was injured, forfeited $100 ball when he failed to appear. Oscar Olsen, also of Bellingham, has reported to the police that he also had never known Bowers nor knew how he came to have the car.” Herbert and Hazel Bowers was still living in Santa Clara in California in 1940, with their son Thomas, who was born in 1920 in California. The family’s new life wasn’t that of a garage owner: Bowers Park in Santa Clara is named for Herbert, a pear grower in Santa Clara who was also an organizer and director of the Santa Clara Pear Association. He also served on the Jefferson Union School Board in the 1920s and early 1930s.

The replacement garage operator was the Franklin Motor Company, who moved in by 1913 and manufactured a luxury vehicle in Syracuse, New York. The Franklin was very reliable, being air-cooled (and so unlikely to be frozen up in the middle of the night). It also had extensive use of aluminum in the body, and some models offered better gas mileage than some vehicles today. They moved out after two years, and had no showroom in the city until 1918 when a Franklin dealership opened on Granville Street.

In 1915 Dominion Motors briefly occupied the building. There’s an unidentified early 1910s image of this building in the archives that shows a Packard, Hudson and Baker Electric dealership. Those were all brands sold by Dominion, but the economy was in a bad way, and they went out of business in less than two years. In 1918 the Sigmore Motor Co Ltd, selling Studebaker cars were operating here. Studebaker of Canada moved into the building in 1917, and out again in 1923 briefly to West Pender, then back to West Georgia in 1923 to a new garage less than a block from here.

By 1925 Southard Motors (with the MacDonnell-Scott Garage and Vancouver Auto Towing Service sharing the address) were selling Essex cars here – a part of Hudson Motors of Detroit. In the 1930s they had relocated to Granville Street, where in 1938 they were selling Chryslers. For a brief period in the early 1930s this wasn’t a garage; the B C College of Arts were using the building.

From 1936 to around 1942 Walmsley Motors moved in, (seen on the right in selling Cord, Auburn and Willys. Soon after, like the adjacent garage, the building became used as the Canadian Government Ordnance Machine Shop. By 1950 Canada Dry were using the building as a warehouse, and by 1955 Maynard Auctioneers were here. Pictures from the 1980s suggest the buildings were still standing, although with a new façade.

Where 1233 West Georgia stood today there’s a condo tower called Venus, designed by Howard Bingham Hill and completed in 1999.

Image source City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-5332 and CVA 99-4851

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Posted November 7, 2019 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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