Nicola Street north at Robson

This image is already out of date, because the building on the right in our ‘after’ shot has just been demolished. It’s the end of the Empire Landmark Hotel; now a big hole in the ground as two new condo and rental buildings replace it. This 1958 image shows a house where the hotel would be built, and another across Robson Street. We know who built that one, and the owner. It cost $3,500 in 1904 when J J Dissette built it for A Ferguson. This was Andrew Ferguson, a mining promoter according to the street directory. He retained that employment for many years, moving from here in the mid 1910s to 1 Fir Street. He was in partnership with Adolphus Williams, developing the ‘Union Jack Fraction’, ‘Corasand’, ‘Great Fox’ and “Emmadale” in the Lillooet Mining District in 1913. In 1916 they developed the ‘Sunset’, ‘East Pacific’ and ‘Clifton’ claims. A history of the mine tells us that in 1911 Peter and Andrew Ferguson, Arthur Noel, Adolphus Williams and Frank Holten bought the Bralorne mine from Fred Kinder for $26,000. Subsequently Noel and Holten sold their shares to the others and, in 1915, Pioneer Gold Mines Limited was incorporated. Between 1914-17 the partners built a small mill and power plant and produced about, $135,000 in bullion. In 1921 a Vancouver syndicate headed by A H Wallbridge and A E Bull bought controlling interest; within two years they, too, after investing a further $50,000 suspended operations.

In 1932 an almost destitute Andrew Ferguson, who, with his brother Peter and others had bought the Pioneer sued Pioneer Gold Mines. He charged that, “From January 1921 to July 1924, the defendants, being in full control fraudulently conspired to refrain from mining and producing gold so as to bankrupt the company.” Pioneer Gold Mines, which had sold out in 1928 for $1 1/2 Million, had never paid him the agreed upon asking price of $50,000, he said. Ferguson, after losing the first suit, carried his case to the Appeal Court of British Columbia, which ruled that the defendants were guilty of a deliberate breach of faith. However, because Ferguson had not sought to set aside the 1924 sale, the defendants were not held liable . The Privy Council in London subsequently dismissed the suit on the technicality that Ferguson was not the proper party to bring the action, but allowed a new trial. A settlement, details of which were never revealed, was finally reached in 1937, while the latest action was before the British Columbia courts.

An unnamed lawyer who became involved in the case told the Vancouver Province that Ferguson gained little from his legal battling. “When I knew him during the case, he was a little man, meek and mild. The life had been squeezed out of him. He was not bitter, though there had been a battle and he hadn’t won it. It was the 1924 option and sale to the new company that squeezed out the original shareholders.” Ferguson became a recluse in a tiny upstairs suite in Kerrisdale, and died at the age of 81. In the summer of 1934, midway through his fight in the courts, it was reported that the Pioneer Mine had yielded well over $1 million dollars in profits in a six-month period.

On the right, the large house at 800 Nicola has eluded our search for a developer or architect – it’s too early. The first resident was Charles Stimson, who probably developed the building around 1900. He owned a wharf at the foot of Abbott Street, and in 1901 was aged 59, living with his wife Linda and their Chinese cook, Wong Ching. The Stimsons were from Quebec, and an 1896 profile of Mr. Stimson said he had arrived five years earlier from Montreal. He started as a commission agent, representing a number of eastern businesses in the fast-growing Vancouver. They included the St Lawrence Starch Company, the Montreal Rolling Mills (steel manufacturers) and the Bell Telephone Company of Montreal. for the first couple of years in the city Mr. Stimson had rooms in the Hotel Vancouver, before moving to an address on Robson Street, and then here around 1900. In Montreal Charles had been a leather merchant., and in 1891 his wife was recorded as Mary. 1906 is the last directory that Charles is included; his death (aged 64) was in May, and the death notice tells us he was from Compton, Quebec. For three years from 1907 Mrs M Stimson was shown living here, ‘widow of Charles’. The 1908 ‘Elite Directory’ tells us that Mrs. Charles Stimson received visitors on Tuesdays. In 1911 Alexander McRae had moved in; the manager of Fraser River Lumber Company.

The 34 storey Empire Landmark opened in 1974 as The Sheraton Landmark, and across Robson a condo building called The Colonnade was completed in 1983. The Georgian Tower beyond was completed in 1955, three years before this picture was taken.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Bu P508.47

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Posted May 28, 2020 by ChangingCity in Gone, West End

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