Robson Street – 1100 block, south side (2)

Here’s another example of early houses on Robson Street transformed into a retail space. As with our previous post, this is the 1100 block, and here we’re midblock. The two storey replacement that has had CinCin Italian restaurant upstairs since 1990, was supposedly completed in 1974, and the ‘before’ photograph is dated from May 1974. Presumably there was construction soon after the picture was taken, but there were further major changes in 1985, which is when we suspect the restaurant space may have been remodeled.

By the mid 1900s the house that stood here was 1150 Robson (today it’s numbered as 1156). It was built around 1900, but the numbering in the early 1900s was completely confused (as they were not in numerical sequence) We’re pretty certain J T Wilband, a mechanic lived here from its completion, and was still here in 1906 when he was described as a contractor – so it’s possible he built the house himself, or had help in doing so. John Thaddeus Wilband was from New Brunswick, aged 38 in 1901 and married to Florence, four years younger. They had six children at home; their four sons each had unusual names; Burns, Hesson, Bellamy and Seward. (The girls probably had an easier time at school as they were Laura and Jennie). Three other siblings had died before they reached one year old. The youngest three children, starting from 12-year-old Hesson had been born in BC, the older three in New Brunswick. There were several other New Brunswick-born Wilbands in the city, including Simon, a carpenter (who we think was John’s brother) Charles and Ernest (both brothers – Ernest ran a successful sheet metal works on Richards Street) and Valentine (their father). When the 1911 census came round, the Wilband family had moved elsewhere in the city. John was living on Landsdowne Avenue, and Burns had his own home, and was a plumber. John Wilband died in 1937.

In 1910 the street directory showed Albert Lloyd, a teacher, living here, and in 1911 it was Frederick McPhail, a conductor on the BC Electric Railway. The 1911 census shows how quickly tenants moved, as neither of these were listed; instead it was Signor L S Auria, from Naples, and his daughter, Margerita who were living here, although they stayed in the city for such a short period that they were never recorded in a street directory. By 1955 the house was used as a rooming house, run by Mrs. F Hingston, with the Esquire Shop selling tobacco and Progressive Sales smoker’s supplies.

It’s an unusually long block, and it’s interesting to see that underneath the ‘Will Build to Suit’ notice was an access back to the lane. In 1974 there was an aquarium and pet shop, Noah’s Ark. The single storey retail building to the east (on the left) appears to have been constructed in 1921 at a cost of only $1,500 by Taylor Construction for D Murray. In 1974 it was home to Peacock’s Children’s Wear, and Oriental Marble House – ‘imports’.

One significant change in the past 40 years is the switch in emphasis of the stores, from generally local-serving to shops serving a much wider catchment. The small single storey building to the west, the Dory Shop, was selling quality used clothing in 1974, and Sketchers footwear today. It was built in 1957, and the Esquire shop had moved here, selling Gauloises cigarettes, was part of the same building, although today it has a more prominent façade, and is another shoestore. There was another house at the back of that lot too, in 1974. The house numbered initially as 1154 Robson no longer exists, as the building has also had major changes in the past 45 years. It seems to have been built around 1907, with Margaret Hyslop living here in 1908 and Coralina Chapman in 1909, clarified to Cornelia in 1910. She had moved by 1912, but fortunately was included in the 1911 census which tells us she was from Ontario, aged 55, and a widow. It’s hard to tell how big the house was, but it was full. Her sister, and niece, Ida and Ruth Purdy lived with her, as well as seven lodgers. It was still standing in 1955; Andrew Nesmith, a janitor in the Metropolitan Building lived here, as well as Ken Willoughby, (married to Lillian) who was managed of Photo Arts who occupied the retail unit on the street, where they specialized in portraits.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 778-343

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Posted November 21, 2019 by ChangingCity in Gone, West End

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