Archive for February 2020

Nelson’s Laundry – 2300 Cambie Street

Although this 1936 image shows Nelsons Laundry (started by Nels Nelson in 1931), the building was constructed in 1928 as the Metropolitan Laundry and Dry Cleaners Ltd. It was a new company, with a significant building designed by Gardiner and Mercer, with references to the Mission Style popular at the time. It was a hybrid construction, with a reinforced concrete frame and a wooden roof, built by Adkinson and Dill, filled with the most up-to-date laundry equipment of the day. Nelson’s took over three years later, and the name continued for many years, although the company was purchased by A.B. Christopher in 1939. Lawrey Nelson was president, living on West Georgia, and Nels Nelson was the vice-president of the company, living in New Westminster. The Nelson family was Danish, but Lawrey had been born in BC. Nels was Lawrey’s father, a prominent New Westminster brewer. He was one of the first in Canada to use glass bottles sometimes instead of beer kegs or barrels. During the great fire of 1898, Nels quickly brought out fire hoses and used brewery water to protect modern new machinery while the building burned around it. He had Gardner and Mercer design his ‘prarie style’ home in 1913. During Canadian prohibition between 1916 and 1921 the Westminster Brewery was allowed to continue operating, supposedly sending the production for export – although much of it never left New Westminster. Nels sold the brewery business in 1928, and eventually it became part of the Labatt’s empire, before closing in 2005

In 1935 The Vancouver Sun ran what was undoubtedly a promotional article which said “Beauty and utility are cleverly combined in the Nelson Laundries, Ltd., plant on Cambie Street at Seventh Avenue. Most especially is this true in the dry cleaning unit, housed in a building that is a dream of modern architecture come true. This building, 20 years in advance of its time, is marked by the simplicity of its design, Great windows across the front of it add to its attractive appearance and assure a bright and cheery atmosphere within, so different from the dry cleaning plants of a generation ago, LATEST EQUIPMENT Not only is it bright and airy within, but it is the last word in dry cleaning establishments as far as machinery is concerned. There is a double Zonic garment cleaning unit. A weighing machine nearby assures that standard loads will go in each of the huge torpedo tubes. The machine is so arranged that everything in it is kept sterile. Silk, satin and velvet garments come out with their lustre restored and absolutely free of any oily filament. Another feature which sets this up as a 1935 cleaning plant is one noticeable by its absence. That is odor. In the old days garments returned from the cleaners reeked with the odor of gasoline. There’s none about those which come home from Nelson’s. They’re as fresh and sweet as if they’d just been taken from a wash line. CARE IN IRONING The pressing section of Nelson’s has not only the up-to-date electric pressors, but the good old-fashioned ironing board and steam irons. Some of the finest of the ironing has to be done by hand and skilled workers use care that could not be surpassed by the most careful housewife. Here all rayon and celanese garments are done by hand to prevent scorching. “Nelson’s clothes stay pressed.” That’s the slogan of the pressing department. A crease that is put in a pant leg stays there. Old trousers that come in baggy at the knee and very disreputable looking, have a way of going out almost new in appearance. 0ld coats, too, are reshaped to look like new. Turning from the pressing department, the visitor to Nelson’s comes to the rug cleaning department. Thousands of dollars are represented in the massive machinery.” The article continues in similar form over several more paragraphs. Our favourite line is “And at Nelson’s especially every care is taken with every article no matter how small and cheap.”

By 1954, the company was the largest laundry and dry cleaning enterprise on the Lower Mainland. It expanded by purchasing the Imperial Laundry in Nanaimo, the New Method Laundry in Victoria, the Pioneer Laundry in Vancouver and the Royal City Laundry in New Westminster. In 1964 the company moved its headquarters and production plant to the ex-Pioneer building on West 4th Avenue. Christopher sold the company to the Steiner American Corporation in 1968, although he stayed on in an executive capacity for several more years. This site was developed with a car dealership – before it closed in the early 2000s it was home to Dueck Downtown, who had replaced Paul Fong’s GM dealership, which in turn replaced a Ford dealership (seen here in 1989).

Dueck moved to Terminal Avenue, and in 2008 Grosvenor Estates developed The Rise, a multi floor retail building designed by Nigel Baldwin, with Winners above a Home Depot, over Save On Foods, smaller retail units round the edge, and three storey rental townhouses around a courtyard on top.

Image source, City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-4978 and CVA 772-370



Posted 27 February 2020 by ChangingCity in Gone, Mount Pleasant

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East Georgia Street – 200 block, north side

This 1960s image by W E Graham shows very little change in this part of Chinatown over sixty years. On the right hand edge of the picture are the Arno Rooms. Completed in 1912, they were designed by E E Blackmore and S B Birds for Leon Way Co. When they opened in 1913 they were called the International Rooms, but they closed within a year, and didn’t reopen again until 1916 when they were called the Sunnyside Rooms. Two of the stores were vacant that year, but a Chinese grocer, Wing Sun Co occupied the corner. There’s no contemporary sign of a ‘Leon Way’ in any document other than the Development Permit, and it’s possible that it was a Chinese name that was recorded by the clerk as he heard it.

Next door is 271 E Georgia, which dates back to 1905. There’s the original house structure set back behind the store front. The next two-storey buildings were built in 1938 and 1936. The three storey building to the west of these was developed by A Urquhart in 1911, and designed by Stroud & Keith. It cost $20,000, and Allan Urquhart was also listed as the builder. He had added to a house further down the street to the west as early as 1903, and in 1909 was in partnership with Roderick McLellan in a liquor wholesaling business. There were apparently three Urquhart brothers, all born in Ontario. Hugh, John and Allan were in partnership from around 1891 to 1911. In 1912 the main floor was a Chinese grocer’s Kwong Chong Co, with the Urquhart rooms upstairs.

Stuart & White designed the four storey building for someone recorded on the building permit as M K Nigore. The building cost $30,000 and was built by Dominion Construction Company, also in 1911. The street directory identifies this as the home to the Japan Rice Mill, owned and operated by K Negoro. There were two people with that name in the city in 1901, both arrived from Japan, one in 1898 and the other in 1911. As neither seem to have been identified in the 1911 census (at least not with that spelling), we don’t know whether it was either of them, and if so which one ran the Rice Mill. There’s a 1906 advertisement for the Rice Mill located on the opposite side of this block; the business got its rice from the Sam Kee Company’s wholesale rice importing business.

Beyond that, one of the oldest houses on the block has recently been redeveloped. 245 East Georgia was replaced with a nine storey rental building in 2018. Beyond it, in 2002 the Lore Krill Co-op replaced a warehouse designed by E E Blackmore in 1910 for T T Wallace, and home to Ah Mew’s produce business

Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1135-34


Posted 24 February 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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1176 Hornby Street

This 1911 building was reported to be designed by the owners, the Richmond Dairy & Produce Co., Ltd. and built by J T Herritt & Co at a cost of $25,000. The foreman of the business was John Glasgow. He left in 1918, and the Vancouver Sun reported “A pleasant ceremony took place last night, when John Glasgow was presented with a handsome set of pipes by the boys of the Richmond Dairy & Produce Co., Ltd., on the occasion of his resignation from the staff. Mr. Glasgow had been the foreman of the concern for the past seven years, and was held in highest esteem. His resignation will be regretted.

That suggests he had been in this location from when it opened, although he had arrived in 1909 and in 1911 was a carpenter, from Scotland. In that year’s census he was in lodgings, but a year later he was listed as a checker at the dairy, with rooms in the Tourist Hotel. The manager of the new premises was Earnest Sherwood. Before moving to this location Richmond Dairy & Produce were managed by Alfred Mason, and were in premises on West Pender and Abbott Street. In 1918 there were changes in the dairy, which might explain Mr Glasgow’s decision to move on.

While early dairy farms supplied Vancouver from Richmond, the opening of the electric railway interurban to Chilliwack allowed competition from the dairy farms located in the Fraser Valley. Fierce competition for markets, unreliable customers and high freight rates ensured that farmers were making little profit. In 1913 new legislation allowed the creation of a dairy marketing co-operative, which by 1916 covered 97% of milk production. As markets stabilized, the question arose of what to do with surplus milk. Three properties were leased to deal with the milk, in Sardis, Chilliwack, and the Richmond Dairy Company on Hornby Street. In 1926 the Port O’Van Ice Cream Company was formed, which in 1938 became the Arctic Ice Cream and Dairy Co. By 1936 when this picture was taken the business was operating in the converted house to the north as well, and the Arctic name was already in use. Operation continued into the 1950s as Dairyland, a business that continues today as part of Saputo Foods.

The Ice Cream plant (and Diamond Ice) continued to operate here through the 1960s, but production had moved to Burnaby in the early 1970s. The Swan Wooster Building, designed by Romses Kwan and Associates was completed in 1984, incorporating the site of the Elcho Apartments on the corner of Davie as well.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-4857


Posted 20 February 2020 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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Yaletown From Above

Here’s another aerial image paired with a recent shot – the more recent one taken in 2018 from CTV’s helicopter. The historic Yaletown district can be seen clearly as three streets of relatively low buildings, surrounded by more recent residential towers that the real estate industry has attached the Yaletown name.

The historic area was developed in remarkably short order between 1909 and 1913. When the original building permits were issued, many of the buildings didn’t have a street address, and the legal description was ‘CPR Reserve’. The railway company released the land for new development of warehouses in 1908, when Water Street’s storage buildings were oversubscribed. Household names like Otis Elevator had buildings here, later joined by Ford and Heinz, but the majority of developers were local businesses expanding their warehouse space. Woodward’s Stores, Mainland Transfer and Empress Manufacturing all built new storage or manufacturing premises here. The name was brought from Yale, where the CPRs original maintenance facility was located, before it was moved to Vancouver. (The roundhouse, just above David Lam Park, still stands today, now repurposed as the area’s community centre).

The area remained a mixture of storage and manufacturing buildings, with high rail loading docks on the downhill side of the block, and tracks running down the street. During the 1980s and 1990s this gradually changed; a few restaurants and retail stores opened in the area, and then as industry moved away and adopted different (often container based) freight handling, the are saw hugw changes. Residential and office conversions were carried out; the rail docks became extended covered patio space for a surprising number of restaurants, and developers looked to add additional storeys as buildings were converted and upgraded. A couple of buildings were in such poor condition that only the façade was retained, and one warehouse burned down and was replaced with the Opus Hotel, whose dimensions replicated the warehouse that was lost.

Our before picture dates to 2001 so there were already plenty of residential towers that had been built in the 1980s and 90s, including many built by Concord Pacific as they commenced developing the land they acquired from the Province following Expo ’86. The first towers were built on the north side of Pacific Boulevard, but in 2001 they were well on the way to complete West One, the first tower of the Beach Crescent neighbourhood (in the foreground) which even today has a couple of yet-to-be-developed non-market housing sites. The eight Concord towers in the picture developed since 2001 added over 1,100 units, and once complete the whole neighbourhood, clustered around George Wainborn Park, will have over 2,000 apartments, including non-market rental.

While much of the rest of Downtown South (to the north of the Concord lands) has been built out, one large tower is still under construction next to Emery Barnes Park, another on Smithe Street, and there are a few more infill sites left. The greatest potential change in this picture will occur when the 1948 Hudson’s Bay warehouse (today an office building on an entire city block) gets redeveloped – undoubtedly into residential towers.


Posted 17 February 2020 by ChangingCity in Altered, Downtown, Yaletown

800 block Gore Avenue – east side

Although the houses seen on the right look (kind of) old, these are all recent buildings, replacing some seriously old ones on the left. This part of Gore Avenue was initially developed early enough that we don’t know who built the buildings, only how some were altered over the years. To the north of the lane (on the left) were 802 to 808 Gore – that’s 808 in front of the car; 806 set back and peeking over the top, and 804 on the left. To the south were 830, 834 and 836 (two addresses sharing a sub-lot), 840 was the house on the right and beyond it, off the picture to the right, was 848 Gore.

The earliest permit we have for the block was for William Main spending $200 in 1902 on an “addition to frame dwelling”. In the street directory he had already moved, but in 1901 he lived at 840 Gore, the house on the right. William was a laborer, so he’d done well to own a house and have $200 to add to it, presumably before selling it and moving on. We’re reasonably confident that several of the buildings on this half block were here in the 1890s, but were initially numbered as 810, 812 and 814. They were occupied in 1895 by Alex Main, John McPherson, and David Main. Even earlier, in 1891, William Main was listed – but no numbers had been assigned to the street at that point. He was a seaman, aged 30, living with his wife Margaret (30) and two other relatives, James Main (a cousin, who was a carpenter, aged 21) and Alexander Main, also a seaman, 24, all born in Scotland.

They had arrived in 1889; in 1890 William was living on Prior Street, so the house looks to date from around then, and was the first on the block. In 1901 William was 42, a sailor, Margaret was 35, and they had two nephews living with them, Robert and James, aged 8 and 6 (both born in BC), and a lodging couple, Archibald (a tinsmith) and Jennie Bell, from Ontario. By 1911 the family had moved to Manitoba Street: William and Margaret added (or admitted to) a few more years – he was 57; Margaret was 51 and his brother, David was with them, as well as three nephews, and their daughter, Elizabeth, who was 15 and shown born in Scotland.

The next building to the north, 830 Gore, appeared as a house in 1895, with John McPherson, a carpenter, living there. In 1900 it was Edward Downing, a gas-fitter and in 1902 Harley Wylie. That suggested it might have been a rented property, but Harley owned it in 1911 when he added a $50 addition to the frame house that was here. Harley was from the US, and lived with his mother and sisters in 1901, when he was a 21 year old bottler, which was what he was still doing in 1911, working for the Pacific Bottling Works, run by William Quann, not too far from here, on Railway Street. In 1922 Ben Gerdo was here, but in 1923 R Leonard carried out $1,200 of alterations to the property – although there doesn’t seem to be anyone with that name in the city. By then there were Chinese residents on the block, and the directory tended to put either ‘Occupied’ or ‘Chinese’ – on properties, including this one, which after then had two addresses, so presumably two units.

802 Gore, which was a store, disappeared from the directories some time in the 1910s, (probably readdressed to Union Street) but the other three houses were here for decades. All the houses first appeared around 1901, and were probably approved just before the records we can easily access.

The houses gradually disappeared after this 1958 image. By 1962 the ends of the block had been demolished, and by the 1970s 806 had also gone. By 2003 only the two houses on either side of the lane were still standing, and in 2008 the three new houses to the south were developed, designed by Intarsia. In 2012 a second strata with five houses were built to the north of the lane, designed by Weidmann Architectural Design.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Bu P508.52


Posted 13 February 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

700 Bute Street

This 1974 image shows two houses on the 700 block of Bute Street. The more obvious house dated back to 1898, while the one on the edge of the picture (on the corner of Alberni) was a year older. The numbering was initially thouroughly confusing; the house on the left was numbered as 744, and on the right (which should have a higher number) as 740. That would change around 1902, when it became 748.

Both houses were probably built by their initial occupants, who stayed in them for many years. The 1897 house on the left was home to Colonel Thomas H Tracey, the city engineer, while the slightly younger was home to W R Angus, described as a ‘traveller’.

In 1891 Tracy resigned his position as City Engineer of London (the smaller, Ontario version), in order to accept a similar post as City Engineer of Vancouver. As well as overseeing the construction of sewer and water supply systems throughout the city he designed public buildings like the West End School. In 1901 he was shown as aged 52, with his wife Sarah, who was 10 years younger. He was born in Ontario, but she was American. A daughter, S Louise, and a son, Thomas L, were at home with them, as well as Lilian Graves, who was 25, born in India, and unusually, listed by the census taker as ‘friend’.

Colonel Tracy was reported to have been dismissed from his City post in February 1905, possibly because he was already moonlighting, designing sewer systems for several other municipalities. He continued to work privately as a consulting engineer, advising on the design and installation of waterworks systems in Revelstoke, Kamloops, Vernon, Nanaimo, Ladner and other B.C. towns. He later served as an alderman on Vancouver City Council in 1921, and held the post of Chairman of the Civic Water Committee. This portrait was taken while he was a council member. He died on 31 October 1925 and was buried at Mountain View Cemetery.

William Angus was a little younger than his neighbour; he was 41 in 1901, and his wife Lizzie was 32. He was from Nova Scotia, and she was from New Brunswick. Their 3-year-old daughter was born in Ontario, and William’s brother-in-law, William Matthews lived with the family, as well as a domestic servant, Alice Major, who was from England and only 14 years old. Mr. Angus was variously described as a travelling salesman, and commission agent (which was effectively the same thing). In 1905 he had an office at 336 West Hastings, (which was the De Beck Block), and sold clothing. His employers were the Campbell Manufacturing Co of Montreal, who had a multi storey factory making men’s clothing “in sanitary conditions”.

The 1911 census shows William, Elizabeth and 13-year-old Muriel, Gordon and Stanley (who were eight, and presumably twins), Margaret Adams, their domestic, Irene Matta, his niece and Mary J Howard, a lodger. In 1913 the Daily World announced “Mr. W. R. Angus, 748 Bute street, one of Vancouver’s pioneers, died at the Bute street hospital this morning, after an illness extending over six weeks. The body has been removed to Center & Hanna’s undertaking rooms, and the funeral will be held Thursday afternoon from the family residence. Mr. Angus came to Vancouver thirty years ago, when it was hardly more than a clearing. He continued to live here until his death. He was a man of fifty – four years.” There’s no sign of him in the city before 1897, when he was living on Hornby Street, but he may have been a travelling salesman with only occasional visits to Vancouver. In 1871 he was aged 11, the fourth of Jeremiah and Catherine Angus’s ten children, in Pugwash, Cumberland Nova Scotia, but we haven’t found him in the 1881 or 1891 census records.

The Angus family occupied the same house for 40 years, but in 1938 the newspaper reported the death of “Elizabeth Ann, widow of the late William R. Angus in her 70th year”. During the war, Valerio Bissonnette lived in the Angus home, running it as a rooming house with his wife, Marguerite. In 1950 Cesidio Angelucci, who lived on East 7th, was running 744 as a rooming house, and Mrs. Helga May was running 748 as a rooming house. Miss Ella Stern, who was in charge of the fountain display at Purdy’s Café also lived here. In 1955 Leo and Dorothy Pierron, who also lived elsewhere, ran the rooming house at 744, while Mrs Helgo Gross, a widow ran apartments and rooms at 748, with Mrs. Paluline H Anderson (also a widow) in number 1, and Miss Joyce Carter, a clerk, in number 2.

Today there’s a 1980 office building that had additional retail space added in 2011, home to a large B C Liquor store.

Image source City of Vancouver Archives CVA 778-36


Posted 10 February 2020 by ChangingCity in Gone, West End

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Hamilton Street – 1000 block, east side

This 1981 image shows Yaletown warehouses when the area was still mostly used for industry and storage. The building on the corner of Hamilton Street however had already transitioned to office space – with the sign offering individual offices and basement storage space. The building had been developed in 1910, designed by James W Keagey for the McClary Manufacturing Company, and costing $35,000. McClary’s made stoves in London, Ontario, and had already developed an earlier property on Water Street in 1897. Keagey had moved from Ontario around 1909, and won the competition to design the Rowing Club clubhouse, still standing today in Stanley Park. He was also an artist; two of his paintings made in Egypt in 1917 are in the National Gallery. Today the warehouse is a bank, and upstairs, although it’s not obvious from this angle, is a Keg steakhouse with a relatively recently added rooftop patio.

Next door to the south is a warehouse that we looked at several years ago. It was designed by an Italian born architect, Raphael A Nicolais, for Buckley and Baker. During the 1920s it was home to Consolidated Exporters Corporation, whose history we didn’t look at in the earlier post – but we should, as they have a fascinating history. The company was something of a ‘marriage of convenience’. In 1922, when Prohibition was enacted in the US, Canadian brewers and alcohol suppliers quickly established supply lines to illegally move alcohol into the US. The Canadian Government made very few moves to limit this increasingly profitable trade. (Imports of alcohol into Canada were all legal, and sometimes even paid duty, although it wasn’t required if the goods were for re-export. They took the view that re-export was none of the concern of the government). The one token gesture to placate the Americans was a move to increase the cost of an annual export licence from $3,000 to $10,000. To circumvent this additional cost, fifteen companies (brewers, distillers and agents) formed a liquor export conglomerate, and paid for just one licence for the Consolidated Exporters Corporation. There were several other affiliated businesses that weren’t listed, including United Distillers whose manufacturing plant was located in Marpole.

Over a short time it became apparent that joint operations had other significant advantages. As well as a shared warehouse, the new business quickly established a fleet of ‘mother ships’ that theoretically were heading to ports in Central America, although almost always didn’t quite make it that far. Instead they ‘hung out’ off San Francisco, beyond the US 12-mile limit, (and later off Ensenada, slightly further south). They would carry anything up to a million dollars worth of alcohol –  for example Federalship, crewed by Vancouver residents, flagged in Panama but owned by Consolidated was seized in 1927 (illegally, the US courts would later determine) carrying 12,500 cases of highest quality whisky and wine, imported from Glasgow. Supposedly headed for Buenaventura in Columbia, the boat was arrested (after being hit by the Coastguard cutter’s guns), in international waters 270 miles off San Francisco.

By the mid 1930s Goodyear Rubber were in the lower warehouse, and Consolidated continued to operate from the other building, but sharing with Davis Liquor and Canada Dry Ginger Ale. By 1940, once prohibition was over, Consolidated no longer operated, and a variety of manufacturers agents and storage companies used the warehouse. That was still the case in 1955, with Goodyear continuing to use the warehouse on the corner.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-E14.05


Posted 6 February 2020 by ChangingCity in Still Standing, Yaletown

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62 East Hastings Street

Today there’s a vacant site, used temporarily as a Downtown Eastside market, but in 1985 there was a substantial building still standing next to the Shaldon Hotel (built in 1909 for H D Wright of Seattle). The first permit for the lot that the taller building stands on was in 1904 for a $4,000 designed by J Young (who was actually a builder) for A Clemes. The first building mentioned in the street directories here was in 1906, and it was probably the one in the picture. It had cost quite a lot more than the initial permit. (Strangely, this entire block of East Hastings was still vacant in 1903). It’s likely that the 1904 permit was for an initial smaller building on Market Alley, the lane at the back of the property.  Another prtmit was issued to A Clemes for a $20,000 building on East Hastings was issued in 1905.

While we don’t know for certain whether it was Art Clemes who developed the building, it’s very likely. A few years later he developed the Regent Hotel down the street, (designed by Emil Guenther) and also the former Pantages Theatre there as well. He had built an earlier investment in 1903, so was in Vancouver and developing real estate in the early 1900s. In late 1905 James Young advertised in the Daily World that he had just completed the Clemes Block on East Hastings. A year earlier the same newspaper reported the acquisition of an East Hastings site: “Later Mr. Clemes will erect a handsome block on Hastings street. While this is the top price paid for unimproved property on that part of Hastings street, the purchase is considered by real estate men as a first class investment.” The design could also be by Emil Guenther, who designed the Eagles Fraternal Lodge on Hastings in 1902, although we haven’t been able to locate that building.

In 1906, when it was first complete, E S Knowlton had his drug store here, Minnie Olson had a rooming house, and Joseph Barss sold confectionery. A couple of years later the B C Concrete Block & Brick Co and Green and Melhuish’s real estate office had replaced the drugstore, and the Hastings Rooming House (run by Charles Mohr) was upstairs.

By 1918 the building was owned by the Palmer Land & Investment Company. The company was almost certainly run by Russell H Palmer, a contractor who came from PEI and had arrived in BC from the Yukon around 1907. The 1921 census shows his household consisting of Russell, aged 54, his younger sister, Gertrude and two sons; one aged 15 born in the Yukon, and one aged 13 born in BC. In 1912 he was sued with Palmer Brothers, and the Palmer Land & Investment Co, which we think establishes his connection to the investment company. His brother Arthur was a partner in the contracting business, and for a while so was Peter Henning. In 1918 the Investment Company hired builders Dixon and Murray to carry out $1,000 of repairs; ‘New marble base front installed & interior of bldgs. being given general overhauling’. The company ‘ceased to transact business’ in 1920.

The site, and the Shaldon Hotel are both going to be redeveloped as a new First Nations non-market housing building with 111 new apartments.


Posted 3 February 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone, Still Standing

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