West Hastings Street – unit block, north side

Surprisingly, we’ve only examined the history of one of the buildings on this part of the block. That’s the Strathcona Hotel, now renovated and turned into condos as the Paris Block. Long-time home of shoemakers Pierre Paris & Sons, it was designed by Hooper & Watkins and developed around 1908 by John Deeks, who had made money mining for gold in Atlin. He converted it to a hotel around 1910, with R T Perry designing the necessary  alterations.

To the west, the single storey retail units. They were almost certainly developed by real estate broker W A Clark, who had his office in the Deeks office building when it first opened. William Clark was from Ontario, and like many other Vancouver real estate brokers also developed property on parcels that they had acquired. In Mr. Clark’s case, he also built retail buildings on Granville Street, and a 5-storey apartment building there that cost $60,000, and another (still standing today) that cost $50,000. In 1904 he had W P Matheson design a $4,000 house on Broughton Street. It must have been quite full, as in 1911 he lived there with his wife Mary and five daughters, aged 10 to 19, and their Japanese servant. Over the years He paid for a series of alterations and repairs to these buildings as tenants came and went. The two building were erected in 1905, one by Mr. Clark, and the one to the west by McWhinney & Lewerke, although in subsequent years into the 1920s he seems to have owned both buildings. We don’t know who designed the buildings, but in 1905 the ‘Hardware Merchant Magazine’ announced “McWhinney & Lewerke, Vancouver intend erecting a three-storey brick block on Hastings street, adjoining the Rubinowitz departmental stores recently purchased by them.” As far as we know the project never proceeded.

In 1936 when our image was taken Model boots and shoes occupied half of one unit, and Westinghouse sold Electrical goods, lights and radios in the other half. Next door was the Thrifty Dress Shop and the Union Shoe Co who offered ‘Better Values in Novelty Shoes’. Model Express must be one of the longest-lived businesses in the city; they were still located in the same unit until a year ago, and are still in business two doors away today. Today they ‘are proud to be Vancouver’s #1 stripper store’ and specialize in ‘exotic’ footwear (heels can be over 8″) and matching lingerie.

The building dated back to 1903 when W T Whiteway designed the $10,000 build for B C Permanent Co. In the first few years it was occupied by the Rubinowitz Department store. Major Matthews, the City Archivist wrote about Mr Rubinowitz, and collected his portrait, taken in 1939. “Mr. Louis Rubinowitz came to Vancouver in 1892, took some interest in Jewish affairs, but never took an interest in civic or public matters; it is difficult to find what he did take an interest in – in a public way. He had a small general store at Steveston, and also one in Vancouver, both queer places, an assortment of goods scattered aimlessly about after the manner of a secondhand store. He was a very elderly man when he decided to contest the office of Mayor. He wore his hair in a most noticeable manner. A long flowing grey beard, almost to his waist, and the long, almost white hair of his head hung over his shoulders as far as his shoulder blades. Sometimes, on Jewish ceremonial days, he wore a long black morning coat and a “stovepipe” tall silk hat, and had a rather venerable appearance, somewhat akin to a Jewish patriarch. He presented an odd and eccentric appearance as he walked down the street.” Liebermann Louis Rubinowitz ran in both the 1926 and 1918 election, receiving around 200 votes (1% of the total) – in the elections.

In the early 1920s Olympia Confectionery occupied the corner; a few years later it was a drug store, The Cut Rate Drug Co. The 1936 image shows The Grand Union Public Market, which remained operating through to at least the 1950s when it had 16 different stalls, among them a butcher, a baker and an umbrella maker; a fruit stand, a branch of Cunningham Drugs, a magazine exchange, two egg stores and the Healthy Cocktail Bar, selling juices. Stong’s grocery were here too. In the early 1990s it was a Fields department store (no doubt hoping to borrow some of Woodward’s customers from across Abbott Street). Before it was demolished over 10 years ago it was a greengrocers, the SunMart Market. It’s still a parking lot today, but plans have been approved for a 10 storey rental building over new retail units.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-4889 and CVA Port P372

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