Archive for April 2020

Robert Clark – Carrall Street

This 1897 image shows Robert Clark’s Gents Clothing and Furnishings store. The furnishings were the sort men wore, not items around the home. The store was one listed as supplying Klondike clothing, an activity that generally ensured that the supplier became a lot more successful than most of the miners who bought their outfit. Mr. Clark was the subject of a profile in the Daily World on the last day of 1888:

“ROBERT CLARK is a Scotchman. He was born in the bright and prosperous County of Lanarkshire, and is proud of the fact, too. He left auld Scotia, for Canada, in 1871, and remained four years in Manitoba. Thence, in 1875, he came to this Province, which has since been his home. For some time he was engaged in business in Nanaimo and also for six years in Yale. The whole large block, at the corner of Carrall and Oppenheimer Streets, in which the clothing establishment of Gilmore & Clark is located, belongs to them jointly and is a fine property.

The firm is an old and reputed one. Just before the great fire, in 1886, which occurred in Vancouver and swept it for the time being into oblivion, the firm opened a branch business here, of which Mr. Clark had charge. They were “burnt out,” as everybody else was. Still they rose, Phoenix-like, from the flames mightier and stronger than ever. Robert Clark has represented Ward 3 during the years 1887 and 1888, and has now been re-elected for the year 1889, which fact is a sufficient guarantee that his worth is appreciated by the electors of that ward. He is also President of the St. Andrew’s and Caledonian Society; is an able speaker and keen debater; a good all-round business man, and owns property all over the city.”

We outlined Mr. Clark’s biography in an earlier post about this W T Whiteway designed building – built by Robert Clark with his Irish partner, Alexander Gilmore, immediately after their wooden store that was here burned down in the 1886 fire. They had lost a previous store in 1881 in Yale when that town burned down. Robert Clark was a grocer, and then shipwright in Glasgow, before heading to Toronto in 1870 aged 25. He walked to Winnipeg, where he built river steamers. He worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company, then in Grand Forks before heading via San Francisco to Victoria in 1875. He built steamers there, and in Alaska, before going into partnership with Alexander Gilmore in 1880, initially in Nanaimo, then Yale, and in early 1886 to Vancouver. Mr. Clark ran the store after 1890 when the partnership was dissolved. He was elected alderman in five different years between 1887 and 1892, and was on the influential Board of Trade. His extensive property interests were valued at a quarter of a million dollars when he died in 1909.

The building was torn down around 1963 and stayed as a parking lot until the mid 1990s when Carrall Station, designed by Kasian Kennedy, a 81 unit condo project with five floors of lofts was completed in 1997.



Posted 30 April 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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Granville Street – 1100 block east side 2

We looked at the southern end of this block in an earlier post, and at some of the buildings here in a view from Davie Street photographed in the early 1970s (like this picture). We didn’t examine the history of the three buildings seen here on the south side of Helmcken. Across the street is 1090 Granville, a 4-storey brick building developed by James Borland designed by Braunton and Leibert in 1912. Borland was a successful contractor turned property developer from Ontario, whose history we looked at in connection to his Maple Hotel on Hastings Street. There’s a modest single storey building beyond the Borland investment. It was developed in 1919 by Mary McQueen, who was the niece of Dr. James Whetham, a doctor who developed several important early Vancouver buildings, He husband James was also a developer, but several permits identify Mary as the developer of projects in the city.

The McQueen’s, who had been born in Ontario, also owned the site on the south corner of Helmcken, where the two storey green painted building was developed. In 1903 Mary Jane McQueen developed 2 frame dwellings, costing $2,000 on the lot, (which may have been on the Helmcken frontage at the back of the site). This was also where James McQueen obtained a permit for a $4,200 frame store in 1905, and we think he also had builder James Layfield carry out some alterations in 1910. This building may be the 1905 commission, or it may have been built a little later in a period of missing permits.

The two single storey retail buildings to the south were developed by R B Reilly in 1911, hiring Higman and Doctor as architects of his $2,300 investment. This appears to be R Buchanan Reilly, secretary to the Commission Agency, with a home on Davie Street. He was born in 1889 in Toronto (and he returned there in 1920 to marry his wife, Mary O’Connor). He seems to have moved to Michigan before the end of the first World War, as he seems to have been drafted into the US army there in 1918., and was still living there in the 1930s.

D Donaghy obtained the permit for the property next door in 1909, built at a cost of only $1,000. He had alterations carried out in 1919 and again in 1922. Dugald Donaghy was a barrister and solicitor with an office in the Flack Block and a home in the West End. Born in East Garafraxa in Ontario, he moved to the north shore, and was Mayor of North Vancouver from 1923 to 1925. He was elected as a Liberal MP for Vancouver North in 1925, and in the election the following year ran in Vancouver Centre and was defeated. Mr. Donaghy had an indirect connection to James Borland’s Maple Hotel, as he led the prosecution in 1928 against local brothel-keeper ‘Joe Celona’ (whose mother knew him as Giuseppe Fiorenza). Donaghy was particularly offended by the fact that Celona’s brothel at the Maple Hotel was frequented by Chinese men. He told the court, “There are no words in the English language to describe the abhorrence of white prostitutes being procured exclusively for the yellow men from China,” and was aghast “That these girls should be submitted to crawling yellow beasts of the type frequenting such dives”. Joe was sentenced to 22 years, reduced to 11 on appeal. He was out in five, but a public outcry saw him returned to prison, and he was eventually released after serving nine years. He immediately turned to bootlegging, managing to avoid further prison time, and died at the age of 57.

The buildings managed to survive to the early 1970s, when the unusually angled mass of the Chateau Granville hotel was developed.


Thurlow and West Pender Street – south side

This 1967 image shows an office building that today looks like it dates from the 1980s. 1112 West Pender and several of it’s neighbours developed in the ’80s were clad in red brick, but in 1960, when it was completed, The Fidelity Life Insurance building had a more contemporary look. The architects, McCarter and Nairne included angled vertical aluminum sunshades in front of the east facing windows – a device seen on contemporary buildings like the United Kingdom Building and the City Library. We suspect there may have been issues with that idea in our West Coast climate, as they didn’t survive very long on any of the buildings.

On the east side of Thurlow, closer to us, were three buildings from an earlier era. They were all demolished soon after this picture was taken. A new office building was developed here, completed in 1971, designed by Gerald Hamilton and Associates for Dawson Developments. That 12 storey building, with pre-cast concrete panel walls, was demolished in 2019, with an adjacent parkade, and is now the site for the construction of a new 33 storey office tower.

On the left were the Crosby Rooms at 1054 W Pender, with Coffee Time Café and Ivan’s Barber’s Shop. We’re pretty certain this was developed by Leonard P Newton, an English-born real estate broker. L P Newton obtained a permit to build a rooming house in 1910 at 1054 Pendrell, but the legal lot recorded was this one, and the rooms here were completed in 1911, so it seems likely that the clerk made an error. Mr. Newton and his family were shown in Vancouver in the 1911 census, with his son, married daughter and her son living with Leonard and his wife Agnes who was from Ontario. The name of the rooms may have reflected Mr. Newton’s origins; a Leonard Newton was born in Lancashire in 1856. As with most investment rental properties, the owner didn’t manage the rooms. Initially that was Louana MacDonald. Over the years the proprietor (who was usually not the owner) changed many times; in the 1950s the rooms were managed by Victor and Lorna Zbyryt.

Next door, the lot runs all the way back to Eveleigh Street, and there were several buildings constructed over the years. Here, we think there was a house on the street that was moved in 1911 to middle of the lot, and this new brick 3-storey building replaced it. The architect was C O Wickenden, and the permit says the project cost $7,500. The architects fees were probably discounted, as the owner was also C O Wickenden. A year later he spent a further $8,000 on the property, making alterations (and perhaps adding the retail units). He made further minor alterations in 1913, and in 1917. His home address was here too, all the way though to the 1920s. We think he may have occupied the house that was moved to me centre of the lot.

Charles Wickenden, who was born in Kent, in England, practiced architecture in Vancouver from 1889, but this wasn’t his first city where he designed buildings. He first moved to New York in the early 1870s before moving to New Brunswick in 1876, where his work included Acadian College in Wolfesville, Nova Scotia. He may have met his wife, Clara there, as she was from New Brunswick. In 1881 he had moved west to Winnipeg, where he had several prestigious commissions including court houses and the Hudson’s Bay Company. He announced he was moving to Victoria in 1888, but instead started designing a long list of significant Vancouver buildings in 1889, including Christ Church. He retired from designing buildings around 1914, and died 20 years later.

At the end of the block there was a single house in the 1900s and early 1910s, with this retail addition appearing later. It was owned in 1923 by Credit Foncier, who paid for some minor repairs.


Posted 23 April 2020 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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Japanese Hall – 475 Alexander Street

There has been a Japanese school here since 1906 when a new wooden building was constructed and a school established which taught the Japanese language and other general subjects such as math, history and science. In 1907 the windows were smashed in the anti-Asiatic riots, but the school continued in operation, although in 1919 the focus shifted to only teaching the Japanese language. The building became the focus of the community, and in 1928 this building was developed alongside, designed by Sharp and Thompson. The building served the growing needs of the school population as well as the Japanese Canadian community.  It was renamed, the Japanese Hall and Vancouver Japanese Language School to recognize its critical role as a community and cultural organization.

In 1941 there were over 1,000 students registered, but the hall was confiscated and the community moved to camps throughout the interior and Alberta. The armed forces took over the property through the war, and in 1947, the government sold half of the property and facilities to pay for maintenance expenses accumulated during the war.  From 1947 this building was rented to the Army and Navy Department Store until 1952.

Uniquely, of all the Japanese property confiscated during the war, this is the only building that was returned to the Japanese community. By 1961 it had been restored (after damage when pipes froze in 1950) and reopened. The adjacent site to the east, where the original hall had stood, was developed with a larger facility for the school opened in 1999. In addition to the Japanese language classes, Children’s World, a licensed child care and preschool facility operates here.


Posted 20 April 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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View from Harbour Centre Lookout south east

The before image here is from 1981, and the contemporary image was taken about 18 months ago, although very little has changed since. (That won’t be true in future, as the viaducts cutting across the image are due to be demolished at some point in the near future).

There are three landmarks, each over a century old. In the foreground is the top of the Dominion Building, developed by the Dominion Trust in the late 1900s and completed in 1910, designed by J S Helyer and Son, and replacing an earlier retail building called The Arcade. On the corner of Hastings and Cambie is the Province Building (once home to the newspaper of the same name) developed by the newspaper owner Francis Carter Cotton and completed in 1908. He also built the adjacent and linked building on West Pender Street that became home to wholesale fruit and vegetable dealer H A Edgett. A A Cox designed both buildings. Further up West Pender is the Sun Tower (the name coming from another newspaper) developed in 1910, designed by W T Whiteway and completed in 1912 for Daily World owner L D Taylor, who was mayor of Vancouver for several terms between 1910 and 1930.

Beyond those buildings, and the row of warehouses down Beatty Street, was a soon to abandoned industrial landscape. Once home to heavy industries, and heavily polluted with metals and chemicals, in 1981 there were a number of warehouse and shipping operations and at the ends of False Creek, a concrete batching plant. The viaducts were the second structure – the first so badly built that the plan to run trams over the bridge was abandoned as it couldn’t take the weight. The new viaduct was the only part of an ambitious plan to run a highway through and round Downtown from Highway 1. It would have cut through the early residential Strathcona neighbourhood, removed much of Chinatown and then replaced the warehouses of Gastown. Some versions of the plans added complex cloverleaf junctions and cut through the West End. Delays and changing governments (and priorities) ensured only the replacement for the structurally compromised existing viaduct was funded.

It crossed a landscape that changed significantly after this picture when Expo 86 was built on the land around the end of the Creek in the mid 1980s. Subsequently the land was sold to a few developers. Concord Pacific developed most of the site (and continue to do so today, over 30 years later), but two other developers were responsible for the residential transformation today. Between 1989 and 2007 Bosa Development built over 1,000 units at the end of False Creek, between Main and Quebec Streets. Five towers can be seen today, with a sixth the headquarters of the Vancity Credit Union which spans the tracks of the Skytrain. Closer to us is International Village, a complex of six towers and a supermarket, retail mall and cinema built over a similar period to Citygate by Henderson Developments, a Hong Kong based developer. The worst polluted soils were retained on site and capped, with Andy Livingstone Park built on top.


Granville Slopes from above

The area between Granville Bridge and Burrard Bridge on the Downtown side of False Creek is called, in City policy documents, Granville Slopes. Like much of the surrounding Downtown South area, until the 1980s the area was mostly low-density commercial buildings, with a few multi-storey structures.

Our before image was undated in the Archives, one of the aerial shots taken for the City by Gordon Sayles. It’s possible to estimate the date from the construction of the buildings on the left, by Burrard Street. Anchor Point, a series of mid-rise brick clad condo buildings was completed in January 1978, so this must be from 1977. Daon Developments were the developers of the Waisman Dewar Grout designed apartment complex, which was subsequently strata titled in 1982. Today developers are attempting to acquire each of the strata buildings for redevelopment, but have so far failed to persuade the number of owners that are needed to make that possible.

We estimate that today there are over,000 residential units (so about 25,000 people) living in the area of the picture. In 1977 it would have been a few hundred, at most. Our contemporary image was posted in mid 2019 by Trish Jewison, who flies in the BC Global traffic helicopter.

Image source City of Vancouver Archives, CVA 515-8 and Trish Jewison, twitter.


Posted 13 April 2020 by ChangingCity in Altered, Downtown

Richards and Robson Streets, south west corner

This row of single storey retail buildings has been here, on the 500 block of Robson Street, according to BC Assessment, since 1938. In fact only the western half of the building dates to 1938, the eastern half was built in 1925. The permit was to ‘Mrs Gagnier’, but we’re not sure who, or where she was. The only Gagnier in the city was Delore Gagnier, who was the foreman at the Coca Cola bottling plant, and who lived near here at 987 Seymour. Peter Tardif built the $4,000 investment of 4 retail units, which housed a real estate business, Crystal Confectionery run by D De Poulos, and the Gray Remedy Co (Manufacturers of Gray’s Balm, “The Wonder Healer” and Other Medicinal and Toilet Preparations” in the first year of operation.

The 1938 permit to R F Allan was for $6,500 built by G Galloway & Sons. It’s possible this was Robert F Allan, a ship designer for the BC fishing fleet and coastal ferry services, as well as the classic ocean-going motor yachts in the 1930s, Meander and Fifer, still operating today (as does the Robert Allan business).

The entire lot with six different businesses trading is only 3,000 square feet. To the south is one of two mysteriously undeveloped surface parking lots; one of the last examples in Downtown these days, and escalating in value as everything around is developed. The Hong Kong owners are said to be considering developing the sites with a project that is said to include a hotel and long-stay apartments.

In the 1981 image Ted Lucich‘s Teddy’s Café was at the corner of Robson and Richards. It opened as Teddy’s Snack Bar and lasted until 1987, when it became Cafe S’il Vous Plait, still with a 1940s diner appearance. The Cafe’s last owner, Kyung Wook Kim, took over in 1989, and closed in 2009. Since then it’s cycled through several different Japanese restaurants. Further down the block at 536 Robson, The Strand Barber Shop opened in 1929 and stayed until 1973. Today it’s the bricks and mortar home of streetfood vendor Japadog. In between “Shoe Renu” can be seen in this 1981 image; today you can chose between a Viet Sub, or Falafel. Where you could get a haircut a decade ago in Storm Salon, today (or at least in more normal times) you can chose between curry or a Japanese Cream Puff from Beard Papa’s.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-E06.10


Posted 9 April 2020 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

5 and 11 West Hastings Street

We looked at the history of both these buildings in earlier posts, but we’re revisiting as both have seen more recent restoration, and we’ve researched the buildings a little more. On the right, the Canadian North Star (as it was last known) at 5 West Hastings is slightly younger than the Beacon Hotel to the west. We know that from an image we saw in an earlier post about the Palace Hotel, that pre-dated the Merchant’s Bank built in 1912, and recently restored. This Vancouver Public Library dates from 1920.

The image on that post (on the right) dates from 1899 and shows a two storey wooden building where the North Star was constructed. The Beacon, on the other hand had already been built, as a 3-storey building. That supported our earlier conclusion that when the 1899 news reported that “G W Grant would supervise the construction of a four storey block for B.B. Johnston & Co”, this was the building in question. In 1913, it was called “Drexel Rooms”, a name it kept until the 1980s, then later renamed the North Star Hotel or North Star Rooms, a single room occupancy hotel. In 1978 the Province newspaper investigated conditions in the Downtown Eastside SROs. “The owners of the Drexel are very energy conscious. The lights in the halls are left off. Manager Lau Mack King turned them on the other day because he thought the visitor from The Province represented the provincial government.”

In 1999 the Carnegie Newsletter reported the building had been closed for maintenance and health violations. “Although there are at least 29 units in this hotel, few were rented out monthly and many were just plain unrentable. There were so many orders for repairs that it was impossible to count them all.” It was briefly squatted in 2006 in a protest about the lack of affordable housing, but was already in a dangerous condition. Soon after the back of the building collapsed, leaving the structure open to the elements.

In 2014 the Solterra Group applied for permission to renovate the building to provide 31 self-contained units, each with a bathroom and cooking facilities. Half the rooms are reserved for low-income residents (5 for tenants paying welfare rate) and another 13 rooms at the provincial rent supplement rate, locked in for 30 years

Harry Jones was almost certainly the developer of the Beacon Hotel, probably around 1898. His name is in the 1900 Street Directory as occupying the West Hastings Street building, and he was still paying for repairs as owner in 1922. Harry was from Liverpool, and was an early successful real estate developer. We don’t know when the fourth floor was added; he carried out $1,500 of work to a building on Hastings Street in 1905, but he owned several properties, so we can’t be sure which was involved, and the work probably cost more than that. The style adopted for the addition didn’t attempt to follow the Italianate curved windows of the third floor, but added larger areas of glazing. Initially the rooms upstairs were the Ramona Rooms, then the Pacific Rooms, and more recently (and notoriously), Backpackers Inn, “BC’s worst drug hotel”

The Beacon was one of a number of run down SRO hotels bought by BC Housing in the early 2000s, and has had two periods of restoration. Now run by PHS, it initially reopened in 2009 as a social housing building for individuals living with concurrent disorders. An array of programs are available to residents including regular community kitchen events, pancake breakfasts, and movie nights. The Beacon closed for renovations in August of 2014, and reopened again in September 2016.

Image sources: VPL and City of Vancouver Archives CVA 677-27


Posted 6 April 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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Powell and Gore Street – south west corner

This 1971 image photographed by Walter E Frost shows a number of buildings soon to be demolished to make room for a new lock-up. The new Provincial Courts were built on the other half of the block, and this site had a new remand centre completed in 1983. Designed by Richard Henriquez, the building was taken out of commission as it became unnecessary to hold enough prisoners on remand to warrant the cost of running the facility. In 2008 the bottom floors were converted to the Community Court, but the upper floors and their massive concrete pods remained unused. After a $21m makeover designed by Henriquez Partners, the building is now a 96 unit low cost and non-market housing project managed for B C Housing by the Bloom Group.

This block was still mostly undeveloped in 1906, with a few occupants at the western end, recorded as ‘Japanese’, with no further identification. By 1907 there were businesses at this end of the block; T S Maikawa, a fish dealer. K Higaki’s barber shop and the boarding house run by Asahiya & Co. were on the corner lot. John Wickham had obtained a permit for two houses on the lot in 1906, which we think were built just to the south, on the same legal lot but off the picture. He may therefore have developed the three storey building as well. There’s no sign of a John Wickham in the city around this time, although by 1911 John Wickham and his brother Alfred were running a restaurant not too far away on West Cordova. Mr. Wickham built a number of houses and apartments in the area, so his absence from the directories is odd. There was a successful accountant in the city called John Wickham-Barnes, and it’s possible he was the developer, but it looks more likely that he was a US restauranteur from Portland (born in England) who had a brief investment period in Vancouver.

Next door is a four storey building, constructed in two phases. The businesses here were almost always listed as ‘Japanese’, and the upper floor was “Jap Rooming House’, but the developers were Caucasian. Eligh and DePencier built the first phase in 1909, with ‘Bennett’ listed as architect. An additional two floors were added in 1911, costing the same as the first phase; $8,000. The Contract Record noted that the plans had been prepared – but not who drew them. ‘Eligh’ was probably Jacob Eligh, son of dairy owner William Eligh, both from Ontario. He was a policeman in the city in 1895, and later ran the family dairy business in South Vancouver. His brother, Hamilton died in 1894, and his father in 1901, so Jacob inherited the family wealth. His partner was almost certainly Henry DePencier, also from Ontario (from Burritts Rapids, Carleton County). He had been a lumber mill manager in Barnet, and would have known some of the residents of Japantown as half his workforce were Japanese. Henry was 52 in the 1901 census and his family roots were shown as German, but his wife Annie was Scottish, arriving in Canada in 1888. She was Henry’s second wife; his son, Theodore, an accountant, still lived with the family in 1901, ten years younger than Annie.

The 3 storey building to the west of the rooming house was developed by W Francey at a cost of $8,000 in 1909, and designed by A J Bird. It also appeared as ‘Japanese rooming house’. The only ‘W Francey’ in Canada was in Ontario, but Robert Francey, a Scottish civil engineer lived in Vancouver. He became the City Engineer a few years after the building was completed, and seems to have been the only person called Francey in British Columbia at the time the building was developed. The alternative is that it was William Francis, who was a real estate agent living in the city in 1909.

Before the war these were generally identified as occupied by (un-named) Japanese residents and businesses. Once the Japanese community were forced into internment camps some of the buildings in this area became an extension of Chinatown. However, the 4-storey rooming house became the Orange Rooms, run by Alfred Strom. Closer to us on the corner were the Ming Sun Reading Rooms, a reading room and social space for men from the Wong family clan who had immigrated to Canada from Hoi Ping (Kaiping) in China. By the 1950s the area was seriously run down. Many of the rooming houses had poor, mostly male, unemployed residents. The buildings were acquired by the Province, and cleared for the new court building in the 1970s, and subsequently the lock-up here.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 447-365


Posted 2 April 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone