Archive for September 2020

From Granville Bridge (2)

Like our previous shot, this is an undated view from Granville Bridge. We think it was taken on the same day, probably around 1978. The 1974 tower at Pacific Centre can be seen down Granville Bridge, and the Scotiatower is behind the lamppost, dating from 1976. The dark TD tower can still be seen, but a condo tower that replaced the Capitol Theatre on Seymour Street hides the Vancouver Centre from this spot today. The pedestrian illustrated warning of the approaching crosswalk has, over 40 years, become either a little more athletic, or bent over.

Here’s a slightly more distant version of the same view. From here it was possible to see that the railyards that were developed in the 1980s as the Expo ’86 World’s Fair, and since then as a new residential area built by Concord Pacific. Today the two buildings on the right are part of their Beach Neighbourhood, with Icon, from 2006 on the tight and Park West, the taller tower two years earlier. The development agreement required land to be available for the City to develop non-market housing, and some time this view will change with the addition of a new tower to the east (right) of the bridge’s offramp. It’s planned at 54 storeys with condos in the tower over a podium of 152 non-market apartments to be given to the City of Vancouver. There’s another potential non-market site closer to us, currently vacant as well.

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 800-3261 and CVA 800-3260



Posted 28 September 2020 by ChangingCity in Altered, Downtown

From Granville Bridge (1)

The Vancouver Archives have a series of images taken looking north from Granville Bridge. They’re undated, but we think they date to around 1978. Although apparently taken on a foggy day you can just make out the angled tubes of the 1974 CBC bunker off in the distance, with the Sun Tower behind. The 1976 Sandman Hotel is the solid block to the east.

In between there were dozens of small commercial businesses in a mix of converted houses and simple one and 2-storey concrete or stucco boxes, many of them related to motoring. On the left the orange sign is for Buller’s Glass, who occupied the former gas station where today the final phase of Emery Barnes Park is located. In the distance Trev Deeley’s cycle business was still operating on the edge of Yaletown. On Pacific, on the right in the foreground, the 1936 gas station was still operating, although a few years later it became Carlos n’ Bud’s Tex-Mex restaurant.

Here’s a slightly different view from the bridge. The same cars are parked, so we think it was taken on the same walk over the bridge. The 1976 Harbour Centre, and the Vancouver Centre’s Scotiatower are both visible on the left.

Today there’s a series of residential buildings – in this view there are market rentals, non-market housing and condominiums. On the right is The Mark, a 41 storey condo tower with a childcare on the roof of the podium. Next door are the orange panels of Karis Place, completed in 2011, a non-market housing project developed by BC Housing on a site provided by the City of Vancouver. The building has an underground geo-thermal heating system. On the far left is 600 Drake, a 193 unit market rental project developed in 1993. The grey tower with the blue frames is another condo tower called Space, completed in 1996. 89 of the 211 units are double height lofts.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 800-3254


Posted 24 September 2020 by ChangingCity in Altered, Downtown

Granville Street – 500 block, east side (2)


We saw the building in the middle of this 1899 picture in its original incarnation as a building almost certainly designed by W T Dalton for Hope and Fader Co., Granville Street, ‘next to the Imperial Bank’, in 1898. The intricate design was replaced, or covered, with a windowless box to house British departmental store Marks and Spencer, and more recently has been given an even more featureless façade with the store offering (until its recent closure) Loblaw’s clothing brand ‘Joe Fresh’. That’s the Marks and Spencer incarnation below, seen in 1981.

The Imperial Bank was the building to the north – still standing today, and designed in 1898 for W H Leckie, the Vancouver arm of John Leckie’s dealership in salmon nets, rubber boots and oilskin clothing. We looked at the history of that building in an earlier post. It was designed by G W Grant in a rather more restrained style than his later designs. The Imperial bank was replaced by the Quebec Bank, and by the early 1910s the building was known as the Mackechnie Building. In 1913 the upper floors held a variety of office tenants, among them real estate offices, a judge, two doctors, a dentist, a barrister and a broker. Persistent rumours suggest an office tower will be proposed above the restored heritage building.

To the south (in the top picture) is a fifty feet wide building. Today it has a 1909 façade, designed by Parr and Fee for owner Harry Abbott. The building dates back to 1889, when it was designed for Abbott (the Canadian Pacific Railway official in charge of the west coast) by the Fripp Brothers. In it’s earlier incarnation it had a brick facade with smaller sliding sash windows.

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Bu N422 and CVA 779-E02.01


Posted 21 September 2020 by ChangingCity in Altered, Downtown

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20 East Hastings Street

Some of the buildings in this stretch of the Downtown Eastside are in a bad way, but few buildings show the decline of the neighbourhood in recent years more than 20 East Hastings. Built in 1911, it started life as retail stores and a billiard hall. More recently it was home to one of the city’s best pieces of neon art, for the Only Seafoods restaurant. If the owners had sold ‘only seafoods’ they would have been fine, but the restaurant was closed in 2009 with the health inspectors forcing the closure when the trafficking of drugs from the premises were deemed a health hazard.

At that point it was said to be the city’s longest surviving restaurant in the same location. It changed very little over the years with the original ornamental tin ceiling and a full-length wall mirror. There were seventeen chrome button swivel chair-stools and two tiny booths at the back, so only 25 people could pack in. The restaurant was cash only and patrons were given a rude awakening if they were too drunk to sit up. (The area hasn’t changed that much over the decades – just the nature of the substances available).

When it opened, there was the Mexican Jewelry Palace and John Bogress, a boot black on the main floor, and the Brunswick Pool Rooms (which immediately closed down for a while). L W Sauter took over the jewelry store in 1915. A year later it became a restaurant; the Vancouver Oyster Saloon. In 1918 it was bought by Greek brothers Nick and Gustave Thodos, (although the 1918 street directory thought he was Gustave Tohodar, and for many years they were listed as Thodas). Although born in Greece, in 1910 the family were living in Shasta in California. Although it’s said that the restaurant was ‘immediately’ christened ‘The Only’ , the name ‘Only Fish and Oyster’ doesn’t appear in street directories until 1924.

That year City Council moved in next door. They converted The Holden Block (to the west) into a new City Hall, and continued to occupy the premises until 1936.

The $27,000 building was designed by H A Hodgson for Con Jones, who initially leased the shops out, although he also ran the billiards hall. Jones was an Australian; an ex-bookie who was successful in Vancouver in the tobacco trade. He carried out repairs several times over the years; he was still owner in 1925. He had another billiard room on West Hastings in 1921.

We have a 1936 picture of the building with a tobacco shop that had opened in 1930. Con Jones had a seizure while watching a soccer game in 1929 at the sports facility he developed; Con Jones Park. He died five days later, aged 59, leaving a wife and five children. His tobacco business was run under the slogan ‘Don’t Argue’ – completed by the often missed text, ‘Con Jones sells fresh tobacco’. A year after his death the business added a store here, next to The Only – which was now so well known that it appeared in the street directory as ‘Only, (The)’ The Thodos brothers made their modest premises the go-to for fish; especially clam chowder. The arrangement with the Fishing Co-op that they’d only ever receive fresh caught products ensured their food was better than any other restaurant, even after they ceased to be the only fish restaurant in town.

In 1950 Constantine Thodos, known as Tyke, took over from his father. The ‘Don’t Argue sign was replaced with a huge neon sign commissioned from Neon Products. The seahorse (which was never on the menu) had a tail that curved the wrong way, and at night the eye glowed an alarming red, but despite the steady loss of importance for the area, the restaurant still did well for many years. (Our main picture shows the building in 1985). The family decided to quit in the late 1990s, and it looked like it would close, but waitress Mary Wong took over and continued for over a decade, although the continued decline of the area made things difficult. The presence of dangerous drugs beneath the till was the last straw. The sign was removed a year later – either to safe keeping with Neon Products, or to new owners who planned to reopen the cafe one day. A decade later the increasingly derelict building shows no sign of renewal.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 790-1902 and Bu P56 (detail)


Posted 17 September 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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Guinness Tower, West Hastings Street

The UK economy in the 1930s was hard-hit by the world economic downturn. Some wealthy investors took the opportunity to find bargains; the Anglo-Irish Guinness family turned their gaze (and a little of their wealth) to Vancouver. In 1931 they paid $75,000 for 4,700 acres of land in West Vancouver known as the Capilano Estate, which they renamed as the British Properties. To access it they built the Lion’s Gate Bridge. Their Vancouver agent, Fred Taylor also helped them pick up a bargain office tower, the Marine Building, which they paid $900,000 for in 1933, although it had cost $2.3m to build only a couple of years earlier.

The building sat on a larger parcel of land, and in the early 1960s they hired Charles Paine and Associates to design an international style office tower on the adjacent part of site. The architect was practicing in Calgary in the early 1950s, and designed a modernist complex in Calgary in the late 1950s for the same developers. Almost nothing has been published about Charles T Paine, who is often described as a ‘British architect’. In 1967, when the construction of the Guinness building commenced, the Vancouver Sun confirmed he had moved to Vancouver. (He had his office on the 17th floor of the Marine Building).

“23-storey Guinness Building will tower over Vancouver harbor after completion in early 1969. Work on $8.9 million office structure at 1055 West Hastings designed by city architect Charles T. Paine is due to start next month.” It appears that the building might initially have been planned to be even more significant. An earlier 1967 article noted “Tenders have been called by one of the Guinness brewing interests, for a downtown 29-storey office tower which will also. have two penthouse and four “basement levels. Specifications prepared by architect Charles T. Paine for British Pacific Building Ltd., one of the Guinness family companies’, indicate a structure that would cost about $10 million. The building is to be erected at 1055 West Hastings on a frontage of about 330 feet near the University Club. Guinness interests also own the Marine Building at the adjacent corner of Hastings and Burrard. Financing has been arranged and as construction permit has been obtained from the city. Tenders will be received until noon, Aug. 11. – The building will Jut 362 feet above the level of the Canadian Pacific Railway tracks between it and the harbor, and occupants of the penthouses will look out above the Marine Building. Entrance to the building from Hastings Street will be through a plaza”. Like the tower, the lobby of the building has a restrained design. It features an enormous ceramic basrelief mural depicting marine life by artist Jordi Bonet.

Paine designed a three-legged observation tower planned for the 1300 block of West Georgia for the Guinness real estate business in 1971. It included a revolving restaurant with seating for 340, a night club, cocktail lounge, coffee shop and souvenir shop. “According to Paine the tower would be the tallest structure in Canada and the observation tower would be the highest on the continent. It would be built on three legs and would be completed in I5 months. Glass-encased elevators would travel on the outside of the structure. Paine stressed the view of the mountains from the observation platform but according to the technical planning board the development “would prejudice Vancouver’s natural mountain setting.” A few years later Paine and Ching designed Oceanic Plaza, on the opposite side of West Hastings, again for the Guinness family development company. In 1981 the Calgary offices – the tallest in the city when they were built in 1957 – were given a makeover by British Properties, and Charles Paine supervised the work.

For many years the Guinness Tower was in the ‘front row’ with an unobstructed view of the north shore. In the late 1980s, when we think our ‘before’ shot was taken, (Jim Muir clarified the date by spotting the Advanced Cab, that stopped operating in the late 1980s), and through to the 1990s it stood alone. James Cheng’s office and residential Shaw Tower (for Westbank) was completed in 2004, and the Fairmont Pacific Rim, a condo and hotel tower by the same architect for the same developer alongside in 2010. Portal Park, alongside the Guinness Tower, has a quirky postmodern design that seems increasingly dated. The park sits over the north entrance to the CP Railway tunnel, which was opened in 1932 to move freight trains across the downtown peninsula, and is now used by SkyTrain. The Guinness Tower is now a designated heritage building, associated with the development of the MNP Tower squeezed in behind the Marine Building and completed in 2015.


Firehall #2, Seymour Street

Fire was one of the biggest concerns in the new City of Vancouver. Having seen almost every building burnt to the ground weeks after incorporation in 1886, the new City Council quickly bought fire fighting equipment and required fire-proof construction, (although the need to rebuild quickly meant that initially new buildings were often still wooden). Firehall #1 was on Water Street, the centre of the original settlement which was known as the Town of Granville for nearly 20 years before the city was created. The second firehall was built on Seymour Street in 1888, in the middle of pretty much nothing, except cleared forest, and ambition. It was also wooden, surrounded by the new city quickly developing with wooden houses in new residential neighbourhoods here, including on either side of the firehall. It was soon replaced with something larger, and more solidly built; in 1902 W T Whiteway was hired to design this handsome replacement, and he got the permit in 1903 for the $29,000 development. It had a castle-like hose tower at the back, on the lane that was quite prominent on the skyline. Whiteway also designed an almost identical replacement for the Water Street hall, on a new site on East Cordova a couple of years after this one.

This 1907 Vancouver Public Library image shows that the firehall had three floors, with a hose tower on the lane. The tower looked like a church from a distance. This building remained in use until 1950, when a new Firehall #1 was opened on Hamilton Street, and the East Cordova firehall was renamed as Firehall #2.

This site was swallowed up into BC Telephone’s expanding footprint. In 1975 they added a huge new automated exchange on Seymour to the north in a building designed by McCarter, Nairne and Partners. This new BC Tel building was apparently built in two phases, as the 1961 image on the left shows a new building where an earlier BC Tel building was located, and the site of Firehall #2, (which was still standing in 1957). In the past couple of years the interior of the Telus building has partially been repurposed as office space, and additional equipment and earthquake proofing added. The entire structure had a glazed skin added, over the top of the original structure. A similar new skin was added in 2000 to the 1948 William Farrell Building , on the corner of Seymour and Robson, sold by Telus to Avigilon Security Systems a few years ago.


Posted 10 September 2020 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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Above Stanley Park looking east

Here’s another aerial shot of Downtown with a nearly 50 year gap. The black and white shot was taken by William Roozeboom in 1972, and Trish Jewison in the Global BC helicopter took the 2020 version, publishing it on her twitter feed on July 27th. The change is less obvious than in some of the aerial comparisons we have published in the past couple of years. That’s partly because the West End was already home to many residential towers by the early 1970s, almost all of them still standing today. Today, development has crossed West Georgia, and now the Coal Harbour towers line the street. In the 1970s there was just the single tower of the Bayshore Hotel poking up from low-density industrial uses, many already closed by the early 1970s.

By 1972 there was already a cluster of commercial towers in the CBD, but today that’s much denser. The total Downtown office space in 1972 was just under 10,000,000 square feet of leasable space. Today it’s almost exactly three times that – there are over 30 million square feet of office space Downtown – and there’s an additional 4 million square feet under construction. If we had another shot looking down on the CBD there would have been a sea of surface parking in 1972; today there are almost no vacant or significantly under-utilized sites.

Beyond the West End the residential towers of Downtown South have added as many new residents as are in the West End, but there were very few residents in 1972. Off in the distance whole new tower cities have appeared in the neighbouring municipalities, clustered along the transit lines that didn’t exist in the early 1970s. And despite the devastating windstorm in December 2006 that saw over 10,000 trees toppled, Stanley Park still offers one of the finest urban forests to be found anywhere in the world.

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 23-08, William Roozeboom, copyright, and Trish Jewison, Global BC.


Posted 7 September 2020 by ChangingCity in Altered

701 Campbell Avenue

This corner, like many in older neighbourhoods, was once a retail store. Today it’s still offering reasonably priced apartments, but the corner store and butchers seen in our 1978 image have gone. Developed in 1913, it had classy architects for such a simple structure. Owners Smith and Keats hired Honeyman and Curtis to design their $7,000 investment.

There was only one Keats in Vancouver in 1913, and Albert Keats was an electrician. There were thousands of Smiths, and none who would obviously know Mr. Keats, so that didn’t really get us anywhere. The only ‘Smith and Keats’ we have found were grocers in North Vancouver after 1919, but we couldn’t be sure there’s any connection to this building. The street directory that year identified F J Keates as running the Model Grocery. The 1921 census shows Frederick Keats was from Staffordshire, England, aged 35 and arriving in 1906 with his younger wife Lillian. We found F J Keates running the Lonsdale Supply Stores in North Vancouver in 1912. In 1913 he was working with Richard Smith, a grocer. Richard was already aged 64 in 1911, and although the store was in North Vancouver, Richard lived on Alberni Street in Vancouver. He had also arrived in Canada in 1906, and in 1911 was living with his wife, Jane, who like Richard was Irish. They had five children at home aged 21 to 32, (one also called Richard).

During the war years Frederick Keates appears not to be in Vancouver, or North Vancouver, so we assume he fought in the war. It’s quite possible that this was an investment that both men intended to operate as a grocery, and then the war intervened. The North Shore Outlook recently reported Fred and Lillian’s wartime wedding. “On June 7, 1916, Lynn Valley’s wedding of the year at St. Clements joined not only Lieutenant Jimmy Hewitt and Gwen Neate but also Gwen’s younger sister Lillian and Fred Keates. The front-page story in The North Shore Press noted, “After the ceremony a reception which later resolved itself into a dance was held in the Institute Hall.” The Province’s lead social-page story reported the church “was crowded to its utmost capacity… while many were unable to obtain admission.” Jimmy Hewitt was killed at Passchendaele in 1917, and Gwen never remarried. Lilian Keates was only 44 when she died in 1938. The last time Fred Keates is shown in North Vancouver is 1945, and we think he may have moved, possibly to Haney.

When the building was completed in 1914 David Sutherland sold dry goods in the corner unit, and the second store was vacant. A year later it was occupied by the Modern Grocery, and the Modern Meat Market. James Shaw was the baker at the grocery, and George Skinner who lived in the store ran the butchers. In 1916 Mrs Annie Wheeldon ran the Modern Grocery which now had expanded to take in the former dry goods store and included Sub Post Office #2, and the meat market had closed.

After brief uses as a beauty store, and a gospel mission, the right-hand store (at 894) became a butcher’s shop during the war. Antonio Negrin opened the Handy Meat market in 1942, and ran it until 1973. Art Grice photographed the store in 1972. The Negrin’s retired to Sardis, and Tony Negrin died in 1977, aged 59. Our 1978 image shows the butcher’s shop continued for several more years, but today there are no retail uses here, but several additional residential rental apartments.

Image source City of Vancouver Archives CVA 677-920