Archive for December 2019

Cambie Bridge looking north

This image isn’t lined up correctly with the 1904 picture. That’s because, when they replaced the Connaught Bridge over False Creek at Cambie Street, they built the new bridge parallel with the old, then demolished the earlier structure. As a result we’re a bridge-width-and-a-bit too far to the west. Here’s another Archives image from the early 1980s that shows the approach area for the new bridge being cleared alongside the old bridge (which the photographer is standing on). The rest of the waterfront here was still industrial, with the land once occupied by a railyard, a sawmill and lumberyard. On the other side of the bridge (the east side) was a cooperage.

We’re also probably at slightly the wrong elevation, as there was less clearance on the old bridge. Instead it had a swing span to allow shipping to navigate to the end of False Creek. That was necessary for many years because there was a concrete batching plant there until the land was used for Expo 86.

The sidewalk of the old bridge lined up almost perfectly with Holy Rosary Cathedral – although it was only the parish church until 1916 (designed by T E Julian). It had a second, lower, spire, long gone. Almost all the tall buildings in the city at the time were churches, and almost all of them are no longer standing. One tall building that wasn’t a church is a tower on the mid-left of the picture. It looks like a square church tower, but there wasn’t a church in that part of town, so it had us confused for a while. Poring over an early panorama, and the insurance maps revealed that it’s the hose tower of Firehall No. 2, designed by W T Whiteway in 1902, on Seymour Street, although the tower was at the back of the building, on the lane.

Even after the boom at the end of the first decade of the 20th century, not too many buildings stood tall on the skyline because the new office buildings like The Sun Tower and the Dominion Building were down the hill on the other side of Downtown, mostly near West Hastings. The Vancouver Block on Granville was at a higher elevation, along with the second Hotel Vancouver. By the early 1980s there were a cluster of taller commercial and office buildings marking the Downtown Business core, with a few others like the BC Electric headquarters, (and later the Nelson Square tower nearby on Hornby). In the years following Expo, and continuing through to today, Concord Pacific have developed thousands of condominiums along the waterfront former Expo lands, and other developers have filled in behind, so today almost all the buildings seen from here are residential, although in behind there are far more office and hotel towers in the Downtown Central Business District as well.

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives Br P25 and CVA 800-2878



Posted 30 December 2019 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

The West End and Stanley Park from above

Here’s another dramatic aerial view. There’s nearly a century separating the two images – the Archives image was shot in 1927, so there’s no bridge to the North Shore yet – and very little there if you did manage to cross on the ferry. The picture was taken by Pacific Airways, apparently for the Union Steamship Company.

The West End in 1927 was mostly houses, although the smart money had already moved on to the CPR’s relatively recently released Shaughnessy district, so many of the big old houses (twenty to thirty years old houses), were being divided up or used as guest houses and rooming houses. There were apartment buildings sprinkled throughout the area, and many more were being built in this period, replacing some of those earlier houses.

On the waterfront it’s possible to make out both Englesea Lodge that was right on the water’s edge, and nearby the Sylvia Apartments, both designed by Seattle architect W P White. Between them were two piers, the older (and longer) with a pavilion at the end. It was built around 1905 and demolished in 1938. On a holiday like today in 1927 a band would probably be playing here, and there might be another at the bandstand on the roof of the changing pavilion to the southeast.

Today’s West End has a mix of lower density buildings, some already built in 1927, and far more mid and higher towers, built for the most part (in this part of the area) from the 1950s to the 1980s. The relatively recent West End Plan has encouraged development in certain parts of the area, and in Trish Jewison’s image (taken from the Global News helicopter) it’s possible to spot a number of tower cranes on Davie Street near Denman. There are five new rental towers being built there. The picture was taken in the spring, so the Empire Landmark was still standing, although the revolving restaurant had already been removed; now there just a big hole in the ground, awaiting the construction of a pair of condo towers with social housing over a retail and office podium.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 374-181 and Trish Jewison on twitter.


Posted 26 December 2019 by ChangingCity in Gone, West End

East Pender and Main Street – ne corner

This is another corner where the building in our ‘before’ picture was built too early for us to identify an architect or developer. There was a 2-storey building here by 1889. It had furnished rooms on the second floor, and three retail units facing Westminster Avenue, (Main Street) running back half the depth of the lot (so sixty feet from front to back) along Princess, (East Pender today). The first space, on the corner, was shown as a Presbyterian Church, which was next door to a notions store and a dress maker. (The church notation seemed odd, as there was a church located nearby on Oppenheimer Street – todays East Cordova, but the 1890 street directory confirms the location, with J M McLeod as pastor). The dressmaker was Mrs. David E Shook, who was assisted by Miss Eliza Little and Miss Alice Adams. The notions store was listed as ‘fancy goods’, and was owned by Thomas Moorehouse. As both business owners appear to be new in town in the 1890 directory, we’re tentatively dating the building to 1889.

By 1901 the insurance map shows the upper floor used as offices, with a grocer where the church had been. That would be C F Foreman’s store – seen here in an 1895 image. His store had occupied the corner after 1891, and the census identified him as ‘Christ Foreman’. (That year the dressmaker was Miss Haywood, and W J Kidd sold dry and fancy goods). The 1901 census clarified C F Foreman was from Ontario and was Christopher Foreman. His wife Elizabeth, and their four children were all born in Ontario as well, and his daughter Lily was born in Toronto, so the family lived there at some point.

Mr. Foreman ran the City Grocery, a high class grocery store. Here’s a detail of the corner of the store, numbered as 432 Westminster in 1895 That year Miss Jane Dick was a dress and mantle maker in the northern store, and George Hobson (and Hobson Brothers) operated a boot and shoe store from the middle store. (By 1895 the numbering of the block had changed from the 200 block to the 400 block). George was a builder from Ontario, who sold footwear here from 1893 to 1896, and lived round the corner on Princess. The other brother, W D Hobson, was also associated with the footwear business, but didn’t stay in Vancouver. George switched to selling groceries on East Hastings in 1897, moving to the West End in 1901.

The painted signs noted that as well as importing teas and coffees, Mr. Foreman sold boots and shoes as well, and he supplied boots to the Klondike during the 1890s gold exploration. Mr. Foreman was elected as a School Trustee in 1894 and 1895, and to City Council as an alderman in 1900, and again in the next two years. In 1898 he had moved next door to the middle unit, was only selling boots and shoes, and McNair, Duke and McNair had taken over the City Grocery, with the Hastings Shingle Manufacturing Co sharing the address (presumably in the upper floor offices) for several years. Summers and Orrell were in the first store, selling millinery; Miss Bell Summers and Mrs. Jane Orrell shared the business.

As is often the case, the street numbering and the businesses had almost all changed again by 1901; these were 440 to 450 Westminster Avenue. Foreman’s were still in business, but had moved a bit further north towards East Hastings. The City Grocery was still in business, but the middle unit had been subdivided and occupied by a jeweler, a butcher and a piano dealer, while a tailor and a real estate dealer shared the first store.

The building today, according to the Assessment Authority, dates from 1901, but a glance at our comparison shows it was effectively rebuilt, and as their records only start in 1901, it is probably the building seen in the picture as far as structure and internal walls are concerned. The remodeling took place before the 1980s, and today, as it has been for many years, it’s home to the Chinatown branch of the TD Bank.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Str P265



Posted 23 December 2019 by ChangingCity in Altered, East End

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500 block Seymour Street – west side (3)

We looked at the building on the right in a much earlier post. Today it’s Malone’s bar, with the confusingly named Cambie Hostel Downtown upstairs (some distance from Cambie Street). The corner building opened as The Clarence Hotel, run by Frank Foubert, in January 1893. There had been a wooden hotel, the St Charles, built here soon after the 1886 fire that destroyed the city, but it also burned down in 1892, and the Clarence was built of fireproof brick by the owner, the Marquis of Queesnberry, a Scottish nobleman. (He hired Mr. Horrobin as contractor, and architects Fripp and Wills). It had a further addition to the south (up the hill) some time after 1900, and before 1913. It’s most likely  that the addition was built when the building permits have been lost – in the mid to late 1900s.

In 1913 it was owned by J K Sutherland, who hired architect A J Bird to design $1,200 of alterations. In 1918 William Holden owned the property and had Thomas Fee design another $600 of changes, and in 1921 A Gignas did some more minor improvements. In 1922 Crowe & Wilson owned the building and spent $750 on alterations.

Next door, across the lane to the south and up the hill, is the Seymour Building. This was developed (according to the permit) by the Yorkshire Building Co and some images refer to it as the Yorkshire Building. Technically the clerk was shortcutting – the developer was “the Yorkshire Guarantee and Securities Corporation Ltd” – an English based organization. They built a portfolio of interests in the city, and Dominion Construction erected the $250,000 investment in 1913, which was designed by Somervell & Putnam.

William Farrell moved to Vancouver with his wife in 1891 as the first General Manager of the Yorkshire Guarantee and Securities Corporation. The company was backed by wealthy woollen merchants in Huddersfield in Yorkshire, and they had extensive interests in early Vancouver, including a controlling interest in the Vancouver Loan and Securities Corp., and the city’s street railway. Farrell also acquired the city’s telephone system, acquiring rival small companies to create the BC Telephone Company Limited in 1904.

Richard Broadbridge photographed construction of the new building, which had a concrete rather than a steel frame. It has been suggested that there was a delay in completing the building because of the war, but in fact it was almost fully leased and occupied by 1914. The new tenants were a ‘who’s who’ of Vancouver business, looking to impress in a new building. There was a building society, notaries, land agents and brokers. There was Fruit and Farm magazine, a Grain Exchange, a steamship agent, timber agents and insurance agents and adjusters. There was a surveyor, engineers, architects and real estate agents. Near the top of the building there was a dentist, and an artist, and BC Fisheries. The artist, Thurman A Ellis had ‘quietly married’ Miss Lillian Smith in 1913, and seems not to have made much of a mark on Vancouver society, leaving the city by 1915.

Over the years hundreds of tenants have come and gone, but the building still offers small offices in a convenient part of town in a recently restored building.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-E01.33 and LGN 553.jpg



Davie Street – 1200 block, north side

As in another 1928 Davie Street picture, the 1200 block was once a street of houses, but by 1928 several had already been altered to add commercial frontages. As some of the houses were set back quite a way, with front gardens, the stores projected forward to the sidewalk. None of the houses on this block survive today – there’s actually just one property here, addressed as 1150 Jervis, with a residential tower over retail, built in 1970.

Behind the Capitol Grocery and Fruit Market, at 1253 Davie were two houses, built in 1902 by M C Griffith (according to the permit) costing $1,650 and $1,600. Malcolm Griffith, a contractor, lived at 1249 when it was built, as did Arthur Griffith, also a contractor. In 1902 only Arthur was listed, living three blocks away, on Davie (and invariably, and apparently inaccurately, the street directory listed them as Griffiths). That year there were four other Grifffiths in the city, every one of them either a carpenter or contractor.

M C Griffith had acquired a series of lots in this area, and he designed and built several other houses on this block. We’ve looked at the family history in connection to an earlier post that looked at the investment hotel he built on Granville Street in 1911 at a cost of $55,000. His 1902 home on Davie coincided with his marriage to Annie Montgomery, from Peebles in Scotland (which may be why he was temporarily missing in the street directory). Malcolm and his father, Arthur, were from Quebec, and had arrived in the city in the 1890s.

In 1911 the houses were addressed as 1243 and 1249 Davie, occupied by Walter Stark and Henry Stone. Calvin Grey was in 1243 a year later. It looked like Dr Seager might have been the owner of the building in 1915 when the retail unit was built – he paid $300 to H Elphick to add a single storey addition, although no retail use was apparent in subsequent street directories. That year 1243 was occupied by Charles Bell and 1249 was St Mark’s Theological College, associated with Dr. Seagar. Although it shares a name with a later Catholic college at UBC, this was an Anglican training facility. The theological college remained here until 1920 when it merged with Latimer Hall, to become The Anglican Theological College of British Columbia and moved to the Latimer Hall building on Haro Street. In 1921 Milton Clay lived at 1249 Davie, and it was vacant in 1925, and the Capitol Grocery opened a year later, run by Tim Lee, with P Ecker living at the back. In 1928 when the picture was taken it was still T Lee, with G Chan.

On the far left of the picture, Peter Tardiff altered the house at 1263 Davie in 1913 for Philip White, who lived here into the 1920s. We were not sure what he did; the directory doesn’t mention his occupation, and the census entry was impossible to read. However, Philip lived here before the alterations, and earlier directories show him to be a miner. He was obviously a successful one, as he built an investment block on Granville Street in 1905, and another in 1911. Philip was from Quebec, as was his wife, Charlotte, but the 1921 census shows his three daughters and son had all been born in BC.  In the 1928 image the house was occupied by the Toc H (Talbot House), an international Christian movement founded in World War One.

Today the ‘Your Independent Grocer’ store occupies the site of the Capitol Grocer, and the West End Community Policing Office is located where Mr. White’s home once stood.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Str N266.2


Posted 16 December 2019 by ChangingCity in Gone, West End

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Robson and Hornby Street – south east

This image, from May 1965 shows, according to the Archives record, “the Clement Block, Danceland, Crystall Lunch, C.K.N.W. and Black Top Cabs office”. There’s also a bakery, and Triangle Books on the main floor of the two storey and mansard building dating from 1922. It was developed by Herbert S Clements, and designed by A A Cox in two stages; Cameron Construction built the initial $12,000 structure, and then a year later E Cook & Sons carried out another $6,000 of ‘Miscellaneous; Repairs/Alterations; Banquet hall’. Those were by no means the total costs.

A complex legal case from 1927 told the story of the new building. In 1920 W H Sproule, President of the National Mortgage Company, and H S Clements, a director, bought a building on this corner. W G Harvey had owned the building in 1909, and sold it that year to Maxwell, Le Feuvre, Passage and Tomlin for $85,000. There were various mortgages and payments that are far too complex to list here, and Maxwell and Le Feuvre sold their interests, but eventually Passage and Tomlin agreed to sell the site to Mr. Sproule. He had difficulty paying for the building, and Mr. Clements helped him out, and they ended up owning the building with a small mortgage. Mr. Sproule at around the same time moved to Winnipeg leaving Mr. Clements in charge of the decrepit building, which was ordered demolished by the City in 1922. The replacement cost at least $88,000 in total to build, and the land was assessed at $50,000, and in June 1924 he sold the building seen here for $125,000. Mr. Sproule sued to try to get more than his half of the sale proceeds, and a judge awarded him an extra $3,085. Mr Sproule wanted more, and Mr. Clements didn’t think he was entitled even to that amount, so they ended up in the Court of Appeal. The judges sided with Mr. Clements: one of the judges noting “Real estate at the time in question in the City of Vancouver was of very uncertain value and holders thereof were looked upon as speculators. The defendant by the exercise of great skill and judgment was able to, in the end, make a profit by the sale of the land after the erection thereon of a suitable building, and he must be allowed all outgoings in respect thereof; the plaintiff cannot obtain the profits and leave all the losses with the defendant.”

Herbert S Clements had been a Conservative MP, initially in Chatham, Ontario, where he was born, representing West Kent from 1904 until 1908 when he moved to British Columbia. He set up a real estate company with George S Heywood which continued to operate through to the early 1920s. His partner was also from Chatham, where he was still living in 1901. When they were in partnership, they both occupied apartments in the same building, 859 Thurlow. At the same time, from 1911 until 1921 Herbert represented the British Columbia ridings of Comox-Atlin and then Comox-Alberni. His obituary, in 1939, said he retired both from his real estate business and politics more than 15 years before. That would coincide with a court case where Mr. Clements sued John J Coughlin for $5,000 to be paid for helping Mr. Coughlin sell his interest in a government funded drydock in Burrard Inlet. Mr. Clements was involved because of his ‘influence’ in Ottawa, but unlike two other lobbyists, he was never paid.

Herbert Clements was an old-school conservative. While representing Chatham it was noted that he “Strongly advocates more protection for agricultural interests of Canada and believes in equal tariff with U.S. on all national products affecting Canada.” When he stood as a conservative for Comox Atlin in 1911, the local Prince Rupert newspaper, the Daily News described him as a ‘carpet bagger’, and backed the liberal candidate (a local). The Omineca Miner newspaper seemed happier with him, and carpetbagger or not, Mr. Clements was elected. Today his attitude to former eastern Europeans are still remembered, especially Ukrainians, interned during the first war. In March 1919 he said “I say unhesitatingly that every enemy alien who was interned during the war is today just as much an enemy as he was during the war, and I demand of this Government that each and every alien in this dominion should be deported at the earliest opportunity. Cattle ships are good enough for them.”

The new building on the corner was leased out, with the entire second floor going to a dance academy called the Alexandra Ballroom, with the entry on Hornby Street. It had draped windows, a stage, a small lounge and a kitchen. The wooden, sprung dance floor had bags of horsehair laid under the floor, and later, overhead fanning boards were added. All this made for a very classy venue, a rival to The Commodore.

In 1929 a radio station was established on the third floor by Sprott Shaw College. In 1954 radio station CKNW moved into the space, but owner Bill Rea, sold CKNW and took over The Alex, downstairs. He changed the name to Danceland and created a new upbeat venue. Adorned with oversized neon signs, Danceland began to attract some of the big names of the day. Red Robinson recalls the venue playing host to Ike & Tina Turner, The Coasters, Bobby Darin, Roy Orbison and many other R&B and early rock and roll bands. A new owner took over Danceland and continued to promote the venue as a Rock and Roll dance hall. It could accommodate up to 600 people, and coaches sometimes could be seen parked outside having brought dancers up from the USA. It was noted that bouncers did routine patrols looking for booze under the chairs.

The city bought the building for a civic centre that never materialized, and the Province took over and initially cleared the site for a parking lot in 1965. The new Courthouse, designed by Arthur Erickson was built here many years later, although this corner is really part of the site’s extensive landscaping, designed by Cornelia Hahn Oberlander.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 447-351


Posted 12 December 2019 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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Northern Electric – Robson Street

In the summer it’s impossible to be sure that this 1928 building is the same as it was in the picture, photographed in this Vancouver Public Library image a year after it was built. Nothing much has changed externally, although it was added to in 1947 with a matching element. To the east (left of the picture) there’s a former gas station that’s been a bar for many years. The architects for the Northern Electric building were McCarter Nairne, with Northern Electric’s Montreal based architect, Joseph Onesime Despatie. The building was basic, but there are a few modest Art Moderne / Classical touches at the entrance.

Northern Electric started life in the mid 1890s as the manufacturing subsidiary of Bell Telephone of Canada. Before they developed here they occupied a building on Water Street. During the 1920s, as well as the core telephone and related business, Northern Electric made kettles, toasters, cigar lighters, electric stoves, and washing machines. The Vancouver buildings were warehouse space, with a showroom, but manufacturing took place elsewhere. The company name was truncated to Nortel many years later, and eventually saw a spectacular bankruptcy in 2009. They had long abandoned this building, which had been purchased in 1958 by the Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver for use as their Catholic Centre, containing their offices and the Catholic Men’s Hostel with over 100 beds on the third floor. A new office building was built some years ago on the site of the former St Vincent’s Hospital, and only the hostel occupies the building for now.

In 2018 City Council approved the development of a 29 storey residential tower here. It will sit above the restored facades of the Northern Electric Building, and there will be a hotel in the restored part, on four floors, with an adjacent new six storey building to the east. The oldest part of the heritage warehouse will have a restaurant on the main floor, and there will be a coffee shop in the 1947 addition. The Catholic Hostel is moving initially to St Paul’s Hospital, and will need another new home once that is redeveloped in a few years time.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Bu N279.2


Posted 9 December 2019 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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Robson Street west from Hamilton

This undated image was taken, we’re reasonably certain, in the early 1980s. This part of Downtown was in transition: the area had started out in the late 1890s as a residential neighbourhood, complete with churches and corner stores, conveniently located for the original city centre to the north and the new CPR city to the west, emerging around Granville Street. By the 1970s the move to commercial use had been significant, but odd houses still remained, like the one on the left of the picture. It was first shown in a street directory in 1892 when Amelia Vesey moved here, probably with her family. She was recently widowed, born in Nova Scotia and previously married to Joseph Vesey. In 1911 she had moved to live with her son, Charles, an accountant living in the West End.

Just to the right of the billboard is the BC Hydro headquarters, over half a kilometer away and standing tall in a neighbourhood of modest buildings.

The building that helps us date the image is the big, gold, office building in the distance. Designed by Eng and Wright it was completed in 1983. Beyond it, one and a half kilometers away, the Sheraton Landmark hotel occupied a prominent spot on Robson Street. The ‘after’ shot was taken earlier this year (before the street trees were in leaf to hide most of the buildings), but the Landmark was already shorter, on its way to be demolished for a pair of strata and non-market housing towers that will replace the hotel. Between the camera and the Landmark nearly 1,000 residential units have been added – always over a commercial podium of several floors of retail and office. Closest to us is Eight-One-Nine, designed by Rafii Architects for Bosa, and completed in 1998, and next door The Galileo by Hamilton Doyle Associates, completed a year later. There are two more condo towers beyond that, completed in the 2000s.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 800-2945


Posted 5 December 2019 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

Ormidale Block – West Hastings Street

For decades this building has been wrongly attributed. The architect has never been in doubt; it was G W Grant, a designer with an eccentric architectural style. While many architects attempted to achieve perfect symmetry, Grant was quite happy to throw in a variety of design elements, in this case stacked up on top of each other on one side of the façade. There’s an oriel window on the top floor, over two floors with projecting bay windows, over the elaborate terra cotta entrance, with an arched doorway.

The Heritage Designation of the buildings says: “Built in 1900 by architect George W. Grant for R. W. Ormidale, the building housed the offices of several wholesale importers.” With a carved terracotta plaque saying “Ormidale RW 1900” above the oriel window, it seems an appropriate attribution, although quite who R W Ormidale might be was never made clear. There are no records of anybody in the city with that name, (or indeed, in Canada).

An entry in the Contract Record, and an illustration in the 1900 publication ‘Vancouver Architecturally’ solve the mystery. The brochure, which was a promotional booklet put together by several of the city’s architects, shows a sketch of the building, but identifies it as the ‘Walker Block’. In 1899 the Contract Record announced “G. W. Grant, architect, is preparing plans for a four-storey block, 48×120 feet, to be built on Hastings street by R. Walker.”

This confirms that the developer was a Mr. R Walker – hence the ‘R W’ and a 1900 court case clarifies that the developer was Robert Walker. Mr. Walker signed off on a payment owed to a builder in G W Grant’s office, for the ‘Robert Walker Block’. So we can be certain our developer was Robert Walker – although we still have no idea which one that might have been.

There was only one Robert Walker resident in the city in 1899. He had arrived around 1890, with his wife Susan. He was from the Isle of Man, and a carpenter, and she was born in Quebec. They were still in the city in 1901, living at 1921 Westminster Avenue, and he was still a carpenter, and the family had grown to four, with two children at home. He designed and built a house at the same address in 1904 for $650. In 1911 Robert had become Clerk of Works for the City of Vancouver. Home was now renamed as 1921 Main Street, and the house must have been pretty full as the Census registered 22 lodgers, fifteen of them from the Isle of Man. It seems unlikely that he had the funds to develop this building in 1900 on his carpenter’s wages, although he is the only person with the right name in the street directory.

However, an 1898 list of eligible voters identifies another Vancouver resident – Robert Walker, miner. He was living in the Pullman Hotel. (The list shows there were seven Robert Walkers in BC, including a blacksmith and a missionary living on Lasqueti Island). The adjacent building, the Flack Block, was developed in 1899 by another successful miner, so it’s quite possible that the Ormidale Block was developed with the proceeds of the Klondike gold rush, perhaps by someone with Scottish roots (if the Ormidale name is significant).

There was a 25-year-old American gold miner called Robert Walker in Rossland in 1901, who had Scottish ancestry. There was also a 61 year old Scottish sawmill engineer with the same name. A Robert H Walker (born in England) died in 1912 aged 55, and was buried in the Masonic Section of Mountain View Cemetery, but we haven’t found anything to confirm he was the developer here. There was a Robert H Walker in Victoria. He was Robert Hampton Walker, from Ontario with Scottish roots, but as a policeman with a family, he makes an unlikely developer.

There’s also Robert Gile Walker. While he’s unlikely to be our developer, he was successful in the Klondike. Between 1897 and 1901 he made five trips in search of gold. After his fifth and final exploration in Nome, Alaska, Walker returned to Tacoma, where he married in 1901 and continued to run a successful real estate business.

Our developer has been identified as Robert Henry Walker, from Ormidale in Scotland, but we can’t find any records of his birth – or anybody else with the name Walker – in that part of Scotland. A Robert Henry Walker (of Tacoma) was married to Edith Davidson of Detroit in 1908 at the First Presbyterian church manse. He was 39, had been born in Clinton, Ontario, and was widowed, and his new wife was the same age, and unmarried. In 1907 he had become a United States citizen.

(It’s probably a coincidence that in 1885 Robert J Walker, a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, lived in a house called ‘Ormidale’, in Leicester, England.)

The façade of the Ormidale block has recently been repaired and returned to its asymmetrical splendour, with a brand new office construction behind. It uses an unusual construction system; a hybrid structure consisting of an innovative wood-concrete composite floor system supported on steel beams and columns. This floor system allows for exposed wood ceilings throughout the office floors, a nod to the heritage aspect of this project, while achieving increased load-carrying capacity and stiffness by compositely connecting the concrete slab to the wood panels. At the back there’s an entirely contemporary skin consisting of rusted corten steel, and there’s also a green rooftop patio. Our top ‘before’ picture was taken in 2004, and the lower only five years ago, when the building was probably in its worst state. The bay windows had been removed many decades ago, although we’re not exactly sure when as the last image we have that shows them is from 1941.


Posted 2 December 2019 by ChangingCity in Altered, East End

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