Archive for December 2020

Granville Street looking north from above

We’re pretty certain our before image was shot soon after Expo 86 was over, but before anything had been developed on the land acquired by Concord Pacific from the Provincial government. Our after shot was taken earlier this year, and is a very close match, although the helicopter’s elevation was slightly different to the 1980s shot, so the perspective is very slightly different.

To the west of Granville Bridge the Admiralty condos were completed in 1986, and further west Seawalk South in 1987, so that’s probably the accurate date, as the 1988 Granville House, next to the bridge, hasn’t started construction. The biggest building up Granville street is the Chateau Granville Hotel, (from 1977, built at a 45 degree angle to the street), and further north the Vancouver Centre with the Scotia Tower was completed a year earlier. The lone dark tower on the eastern edge of Downtown is 401 W Georgia completed in 1984. Next door is the Post Office, now getting two office towers added to the renovated heritage shell.

Today the Harbour Centre, with the rooftop viewing platform, still has a waterfront view, but the Marine Building is now almost lost in a sea of office and hotel towers. The cluster of early 1900s warehouses built on CPR land and known as Yaletown is still standing, with a few buildings having added a couple of floors, but the surrounding residential district has been given the same name and has seen dozens of residential condo and rental tower. The image captures almost all of the Downtown Local area. (Everything to the west of Burrard and south of W Georgia is the West End). In 1986 there were just 5,910 people living here; in the last census, in 2016, there were over 62,000 people, and there will be several thousand more likely to have been added in the recently completed towers, including the surprisingly colourful Charleson on Richards and Vancouver House next to Granville Bridge.

Image source: Trish Jewison in the Global BC traffic helicopter, published on twitter on 25 July 2020



Posted 31 December 2020 by ChangingCity in Altered, Downtown

Gilford Street north from Comox

The title of this 1965 picture in the Vancouver Archives is ‘[View from Comox] Street [in the West End showing] trees’. Fortunately there hasn’t been so much change that it’s impossible to work out where, from Comox Street, the image was taken. It’s looking north on Gilford, and the Park Gilford, the 13 storey rental tower on the left, was completed in 1962, designed by Anthony Debicki.

Beyond that was a house, that is no longer standing. It was replaced in 1982 by Gilford Mews, a 15 unit strata building which we think was designed by West Coast Modern architects Robert Hassell and Barry Griblin. The decision to keep some of the landscaping means that the trees have grown much bigger over 50 years, and hide the building in summer. The townhouses went on sale in 1982, priced between $170,000 and $189,000 each. The trees today almost hide the 1959 rental building to the north; Four Winds is 10 storeys, with 37 units.

The house had first been developed in 1908, although by the 1960s it was an apartment building. We know who developed the building. Christopher W Ford obtained a permit to build a house costing $8,500, and four years later added a garage. The design of the house is similar to a number of others designed by Parr and Fee – especially the corner turret and cupola, which were a feature of Thomas Fee’s first house on Broughton Street. Photographs of the house in both the Vancouver Public Library and Archives collections (wrongly) identify this as the Fee House.

C W Ford was born in Morrisburg, (now part of Dundas), Ontario in 1856. He married in 1878 and by the late 1880s he was running a general store in Morewood, Ontario. Around 1894 he sold up, and moved to Vancouver, starting as a druggist’s clerk, and living on East Hastings. He opened a grocery store in 1900, and by 1904 had moved on to manage the grocery department in Woodward’s Department Store. In 1906 he was a director of Woodwards, but was also involved in real estate with another Ontario grocer, John Jackson. He established his own real estate firm, and in 1910 he developed The Princess Rooms on Granville Street, a $55,000 project designed by Parr and Fee. Christopher and Mary Ford had three sons, Harry, Clarke and Grant. Harry became a Vancouver physician and married Georgie McMartin, from New York, and they had a daughter, Mary, in 1909. He died in Jervis Inlet in 1910 of exposure, having been separated from the hunting party he was with. Georgia and her daughter moved in with her father-in law. Clarke trained as a lawyer, but worked for a firm of safe manufacturers, and was married twice, and Grant was a dentist, marrying three times.

Christopher’s wife, Mary, died in 1912, and two years later Mr. Ford remarried to Ethel Holland, a widow, and music teacher, originally from England. They moved out of the West End to a house he had built in North Vancouver. Christopher Ford died in 1945, and Ethel in 1955.

The house was occupied for short periods by different residents until 1920, when Harold Idsardi moved in, and stayed until 1948. He was a civil engineer and land surveyor, who arrived in Vancouver in 1910 and had married Loulie Aylett K. Fitzhugh, (born in Fairfax Virginia) in Los Angeles in 1912. He managed to have a mountain, and a valley on Vancouver Island named after him. They had three sons, none of whom stayed in Vancouver. In 1949 the house was split into 8 apartments and named the Elphege Apartments, and by 1978 the building was called the John Penrice Apartments.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-48


Posted 28 December 2020 by ChangingCity in Gone, West End

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English Bay from Above

Here’s one of the earliest aerial images we’ve been able to match to a contemporary picture. It’s an undated image, but is likely to be from the mid 1930s. The Marine Building is the tower on the left, completed in 1930, and the new Hotel Vancouver (the third) is standing to the left of its predecessor. The second hotel was completed in 1913, abandoned as a hotel in 1939 and demolished in 1949. The structure for the new hotel was completed in 1932, although it was another seven years before it was completed internally and brought into use. We think the block to the left of the new Hotel Vancouver must be the Hotel Georgia opened in 1927. The chimney, to the right of the second hotel was the hotel’s power plant, located behind the York Hotel which was originally an annex of the second hotel, completed in 1911.

On the waterfront, next to a jetty, and before the pier, was Englesea Lodge, and across Beach Avenue just to the east is the Sylvia, which was apartments before it became a hotel. Both buildings were designed in the early 1910s by W P White, a Seattle architect. In the 1930s the residential West End started just to the west of the Hotel Vancouver, and the mix of houses and apartments reached to the edge of Stanley Park. Even Burrard Street (which didn’t lead to the bridge until it was built in 1930) was predominantly a residential street outside the commercial core.

The shorter pier, originally built in 1907, was demolished in 1938. In a 1936 letter to the Vancouver Sun, W M Elgie Bland wrote “It looks like a cheap industrial wharf landing, unsightly eye-sore, ruining the whole aspect of English Bay and the fine view of West Vancouver and the mountains. I should have thought every West End resident would have jumped for joy at the prospect of its removal, the quicker the better.” Mr. Bland didn’t mention that he lived in Englsea Lodge, so had a personal benefit from the pier’s removal. The longer pier started out as a two-storey tearoom built in 1923 on shore by Llewellyn G. Thomas, who lived with his wife in rooms below. He built a 50- foot extension in 1925 with a Winter Garden dance hall, and the next year added a pier which extended 337 feet into English Bay. Thomas sold the business in 1927, and by 1932 the operation was bankrupt. New owners added attractions; in 1937 Dal Richards and his orchestra played there every Wednesday and Saturday and in 1938 a Hammond electric organ was added to  the Winter Garden and it became a roller skating rink for the next two years. After the war Theatre Under the Stars used it as rehearsal space and offices, but by the late 1950s the pier had been removed. Local residents opposed the idea of a replacement pier in the mid 1980s.

Our before image was taken by the RCAF, and is in the University of Washington Photo Archives. The contemporary view was published by Trish Jewison on 27 September 2020, who shot it from the Global BC traffic helicopter.


Posted 24 December 2020 by ChangingCity in Altered

Granville Street 600 block – west side

This side of Granville Street was demolished to make room for the extension of Pacific Centre Mall northwards. At the far end of the block in this 1953 image was the Colonial Theatre, a cinema converted in 1912 from an 1888 office building. We looked at its history in one of our early posts over 8 years ago. It was originally designed by New York architect Bruce Price for Sir William Van Horne. President of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Since then, the 1981 office tower that replaced the cinema has been reclad to a lighter colour, with double glazed widows.

Closer to us, just showing on the left of the picture was 679 Granville, a 1910 3-storey building designed by Dalton & Eveleigh for Henry Bell-Irving. In 1953 Purdy’s chocolate store was here, with the Devon Cafe. Next door, at 665 Granville, D’Allaird’s lady’s clothing store had obscured the facade of their building. It appears to have been built in 1904, with the St Louis rooms above retail, initially occupied by R J Buchanan’s crockery store, and Cicero Davidson’s jewelers. We think the site was owned and developed by Jonathan Rogers, who applied to build a $24,000 building on the three lots here in 1904 – described (somewhat inaccurately) as a ‘frame dwelling’. The whole building included both the D’Aillards lot and the building with mis-matched windows to the north. (It’s hard to see in the image, but one has a curved cornice, and the other a shallow pyramid). Mr. Rogers was a builder and identified himself as the architect too (although the mismatched window style is how G W Grant liked to design buildings). D’Aillards Blouses Ltd carried out work to 651 Granville (just to the north) in 1925, so had been in this area for many years.

The next building appears to have two identical facades, but was developed as a single structure, also in 1904. It was designed by Parr and Fee for ‘Mrs. Northgroves’, and cost $15,000. We’re not completely sure who she was. She doesn’t appear in any street directory, or census, although she was listed as attending a function with many other women in 1913. The most likely was Miss Alice Jane Northgraves, who lived on ‘income’, with her sister (and her sister’s husband, William Walsh, who was listed as a ‘capitalist’ under occupation in the 1911 census). In 1905 and in 1908 Mrs. Walsh and Miss Northgrave left the city to spend the winter in Southern California. Mr. Walsh developed a number of properties in the city, including some designed by Parr and Fee. Miss Northgraves died in Vancouver in 1922, aged 63.

The building with the four Roman arches beyond also dates from the early 1900s, and we’ve failed to identify the architect or developer. In the early 1920s it was owned by B. Holt Fur Company, who spent over $5,000 on repairs and alterations. In the 1910s P W Charleson carried out repairs to 641 and 657 Granville on several occasions, and ‘Charlson & Abbott’ to 665 Granville. (Percy Charleson also owned 800 Granville, two blocks to the south). Fraser Hardware also paid for alterations to 641 Granville in the mid 1910s, and were tenants here. Brown Bros appear to have owned the properties in the mid 1920s.

Down the street, the narrower four storey building was approved to be developed as an apartment building in 1912. Charles Williams of Acroyd & Gall claimed to be developer, architect and builder of the $29,000 project. This was one of very few building lots that had originally been developed before 1901 (when the only other building that had been developed was the 1888 office on the corner). Richards, Ackroyd and Gall were an Insurance, Finance and Real Estate agency and there was a civil engineer called Charles Williams who might have managed the development. It’s not clear if the project was for the company, or whether they were representing a client when they submitted the plans.

Next door, there’s a modest 2-storey building. It was developed in 1910 by W F Huntting, who hired Thomas Hooper to design the $13,000 investment. William Foster Huntting was the wealthy president of the Huntting-Merritt Lumber Company, and he had a Shaughnessy mansion built in 1912. He was born in Iowa in 1879, and was successful in business at a young age, founding his lumber company in 1902, the year he arrived in BC. He died in 1930.

There’s another small building to the north, designed by W T Dalton for Edward Bros, who spent $7,000, hiring E Cook to build it in 1902. Beyond that, (just before the cinema), is a building on two lots. It has a shallow bay window on the second floor, and was apparently called The Bower Block in 1907, when it was developed by G Bower, who hired Hooper and Watkins to design the $15,000 investment. George Bower built other Granville projects including a much larger investment on the next block to the north two years later, using the same architects.

Image source: Leonard Frank, Jewish Museum LF.00308


Seymour Street – 700 block, east side

These four buildings were swallowed by the BC Tel (now Telus) data centre, which these days is mostly office space. The BC Telephone Company were already here in this 1947 image. They had developed the tall 8-storey building almost on the right of the picture. Although the company claimed, on the building permit, to be architect and builder of the project, we know that J Y McCarter designed the 1913 structure, because his drawings for it are in the Vancouver Archives.

Next door is Firehall #2. It was built in 1903, cost $29,000 and was designed by W T Whiteway. The small building to the north, (738 Seymour), with the unusual pediment, was designed in 1925 by W F Gardiner for Rose, Cowan & Latta Ltd. They were printers and stationers, and also sometimes publishers of information booklets, commemorating events in the city. In 1925 R R Rose was company president, (but may not have lived in Vancouver), John B Cowan was company secretary, living on W37th, and Edward F Latta lived in North Vancouver. The company were still here in 1947, with the Seymour Cigar Store in the retail unit, with Miss I New and G Hicks offering vocal training at the same address, presumably in an office upstairs. The building replaced a house built here in 1901. It cost $1,000, and the developer was Mr. Morton, possibly one of two carpenters called Morton who lived in the city at that time.

The two storey building to the north (with the protruding ‘button’ sign) was Smith’s Button Works, The Button Works first appeared in 1929, and before that in 1928 it looks as if there was a house here. Smith’s actually did much more than supply buttons, as this directory entry shows. London & British North America Co. Ltd were the developers, and the architect was Philip P Brown. Baynes & Horie built the $15,000 investment.

724 Seymour on the edge of the picture was home to the Quadra Club in 1947. The building seems to have been built around 1932. It housed the Vancouver Little Theatre Association that year, and Paul Pini was running a restaurant in 1934. By 1936 that had become the Old Dutch Mill Cafe, with the Bal Tavern Cabaret, run by Mrs. E Yaci. The cabaret to see 1936 in advertised “BAL TAVERN CABARET NEW YEAR’S JAMBOREE dance to the Delightful Music of CLAUDE HILL AND HIS RHYTHM BOYS Gay Entertainment by MARIE MACK JACK GORDON AND A HOST OF OTHERS” The club had gone by 1937, replaced in 1938 by the Musicians Mutual Protective Union, and the Hotel & Restaurant Employees Union in 1940. There were other tenants – Sills and Grace, who sold hardware, and Technocracy Inc. They were an organisation that proposed replacing politicians and businesspeople with scientists and engineers to manage the economy. They were closed down in 1940 as they were perceived as being anti-war, but allowed to reform in 1943 when it became apparent that they favoured total conscription. They were replaced, briefly, by the National Spiritualist Association of Canada, but around 1942 the Quadra Club moved in, and stayed until the early 1970s.

Curiously, the Archives title for the picture also identifies the ‘Stock Exchange Bldg’, but that is clearly not here. Shell Oil apparently commissioned the photograph from Don Notman’s studios, but the reason isn’t obvious. In the late 1950s BC Tel replaced the Firehall and their 1913 building with a new much larger and more conemporary building, extended north in 1975 with a huge new automated telephone exchange designed by McCarter, Nairne and Partners. (They probably designed the first phase in the 1950s as well). In the past two years the building has been overclad with a glazed screen. Space no longer needed for equipment has been repurposed as offices, and the Telus headquarters is now here, and in the new Telus Garden office added a few years ago at the end of the block. A complex energy saving system has been introduced, recirculating the excess heat from the company’s computer servers.

To the south next to the BC Tel building, the 1940s Farrell Building (just being built in 1947) had an extra skin added in 2000 to improve energy efficiency, and more recently has been sold by Telus as a separate building, now the headquarters of Avigilon security systems, part of Motorola since 2018.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 586-7266


622 Granville Street

We’re seeing a 1925 store in an 1888 building on Granville Street. The Crewe Block (later recorded as the Crews Block) was one of a number of building developed along Granville Street by CPR Executives. Rather than trying to find local architects, most of the designs were drawn up in New York, in the offices of Bruce Price, who also worked on CPR commissions like the Opera House. The intent was to drag the city’s business district away from where it was founded, in Gastown, and closer to the CPRs new landholdings that ran southwards from their station on the waterfront at the foot of their new street, recently carved out of the forest.

Originally the building had sash windows, but some time later the second floor windows were slightly widened, and altered to centre-pivoted units. This is often a sign of the work of Parr and Fee, who favoured glazed white brick and pivoting windows in the many buildings they designed elsewhere on Granville. In 1925 Saba Brothers hired Townley & Matheson to design a $25,000 makeover of their premises. (The second floor windows had been installed before that renovation, as they can be seen in this earlier post which has an image from 1921, when Con Jones had one of his ‘Don’t Argue’ tobacco stores here).

Alex and Michael Saba who ran the store here were Christian Lebanese immigrants who were living on Vancouver Island before they moved to Vancouver. Michael arrived from Beirut first, and Alex joined him nearly a decade later in 1900 when he was only 17. He learned English by selling door-to-door, with a suitcase full of underwear, handkerchiefs and notions. By 1911 Alex was aged 28, had a 20 year old wife, Adma, a baby son, Edgar, and a home on Barclay Street that the family shared with Adma’s mother, Katherine Hashim. In 1921 Michael and his wife Freda were living on Pendrell Street, and the record shows Michael had arrived in 1891, and Freda (who was also Syrian, and 9 years younger than her husband) in 1893. Alex (recorded bizarrely as Axel) and Adma now had three sons, with Clarence and Arnold joining Edgar, and Catherine Hashim was still living with them on Balsam Street in a home that Alex had built in 1914 at a cost of $6,500. Alex was now managing director of the business, and various other Saba family members worked there.

The Saba Brothers sold ladies clothing and fabrics, especially silk, although they started out by selling a broader range of ‘Oriental Goods’. The History of Metropolitan Vancouver noted the importance of the business. “Saba Brothers opened on West Hastings  in November 1903. Two years later, the store moved to the 500 block Granville. By 1940, Saba’s was the largest retail house in Western Canada specializing in silks. Although hit by shortages in WWII, the business survived. In 1942, there was a riot when 500 women stampeded the store to buy 300 pairs of nylon stockings (no one was hurt)“. By the 1930s the store here was twice as big, as they expanded north into 628; in 1925 that was Hunter Henderson’s Paint store. In 1947, the company built a new five-storey $250,000 store here, designed by Sharp, Thompson, Berwick & Pratt. In 1954 they opened a Victoria outlet. Alex’s three sons, Edgar, Clarence and Arnold, later managed the business.

Today the loaction is part of the Hudson, a 400 plus unit condo tower developed in 2006 with retail and office space in the podium. Stores have generally been successful here, but the effects of the COVID pandemic has seen the closure of Swimco, the Calgary-based swimwear chain, and the unit was for lease in 2020.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1399-527


Posted 14 December 2020 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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Vogue Theatre – Granville Street

Kaplan and Sprachman didn’t have a complete monopoly on theatre design in Canada, but it was close – they’re estimated to have designed three quarters of all the theatres built over a 30 year period from 1920. Their architectural practice was in Toronto, where they also designed apartments, commercial buildings and synagogues. It probably wasn’t a Jewish connection that brought them to Vancouver though; their client, George Reifel, claimed to be Methodist, although over a very successful business career, authorities in both the US and Canada identified him as far from encouraging a teetotal lifestyle.

Heinrich Reifel (known as Henry in Canada), came to Canada from Bavaria (via two years in Portland and Chicago) in 1888, and briefly established a brewery near Westminster Avenue in Vancouver, known as the ‘San Fransisco Brewery’ that failed very quickly. Henry decamped to Victoria, and then Nanaimo, where he was a head brewer of the brewery there. He married Annie Brown, originally from San Francisco, although more recently in Barkerville, in September 1892. Annie was four years younger, at 19. Nine and a half months later George Reifel was born, followed by Henry Frederick (known as Harry) at the end of 1895 and Florence in 1898.

Henry, and his two brothers, built a brewing empire starting in Nanaimo, and then incorporating the Vancouver Breweries business. Both his sons studied brewing in the US and returned to work in the family business. Some histories say the arrival of prohibition in Canada saw Henry and his sons head to Japan in 1916, where they helped establish the Anglo-Japanese Brewing Company, making malt from rice. (As originally a German family, British Columbia wasn’t a great place to be during the war). George had recently married Alma Barnes in St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Vancouver, and in time they had three children.

In the 1921 census only Conrad Reifel, Henry’s brother, was listed living in Nanaimo (as a brewer), but the street directories show Henry, George and Henry F Reifel all living in Vancouver from 1914 onwards, and despite prohibition starting in 1917, involved at BC Breweries as foreman, managing director and advertising director throughout the war years. In the early 1920s, with production once more legally able to be sold in Canada, the family owned a variety of liquor-related businesses. They were also involved in organising Consolidated Exporters, supposedly shipping locally produced and imported beer, wine and spirits past the US in a variety of freighters, but often returning empty without ever having reached their South or Central American destinations (although the ship’s paperwork often told a different story). The Reifels owned the schooner Lira de Agua (registered in Nicaragua) through their Northern Freighters business, and the Ououkinish, a former halibut schooner, through their Atlantic and Pacific Navigation Company. Their City of San Diego was probably the first ‘mother ship’ to set off southwards, in 1922.

By the end of the 1920s the family were awash with cash. The brothers each built an extravagant mansion near the Marpole BC Distilleries plant. ‘Vested Estates’, the family development business run by Harry built the Commodore Ballroom in 1930, and the family sold their entire brewing operation in 1933, when his father, Henry, retired. In 1940, despite the wartime economy, George commissioned the The Vogue, a 1,300 seat movie house with a stage designed to also allow live performance. The cinema operation (part of the Odeon chain) closed in 1987, and the theatre’s future looked uncertain. Acquired by a development company, it was restored and reopened sporadically in 1992 with a few live performances every year. Another change of ownership, and further repairs in 2009 has seen the theatre operating with around 200 events every year, including live music, comedy, and cultural performances.

Image source: Jewish Museum and Archives, Leonard Frank, LF.00217


Posted 10 December 2020 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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Commodore Ballroom – Granville Street

The Commodore Ballroom has been around for 90 years, and looks pretty much the same as it did when it opened. Here it is in 1967, before there were any residential towers on Seymour Street popping up over the roofline. The building was designed by H H Gillingham in a contemporary art deco style for developer Vested Estates, run by Harry and George Reifel. When it was built it had a sprung dancefloor with horsehair lining, that supposedly absorbed some of the impact of dancers’ feet.

It opened as the Commodore Cabaret, and then the Commodore Ballroom in 1930. Over the years thousands of acts have performed here, which has capacity for just under 1,000 patrons. The list of well-known bands who haven’t played the venue is probably shorter than the list of those who have. In its early days there was a resident swing band, led by Charlie Pawlett, who broadcast on CJOR Radio. The venue, like all the others in the city, couldn’t sell liquor. Patrons brought their own, carefully hidden whenever the band struck up ‘Roll Out the Barrel’ to indicate a visit from the authorities. That was appropriate behaviour for a venue funded by a well-known rum-runner.

Henry Reifel was president of Brewers and Distillers Ltd, owning Vancouver Breweries and the B.C. Distillery, and his sons, George and his brother Harry, worked for the organisation as well. During the 1920s when US prohibition was in place, their export operation was huge; they owned several ships capable of carrying thousands of cases of liquor. The ship’s papers would indicate the exports were heading to a port in Central America, but the ships would actually anchor in international waters off the US and be met by a fleet of much smaller fast delivery motorboats who would deliver the booze ashore, often at night. In 1934, after prohibition had ended, US Authorities sued Henry Reifel and his son George for smuggling $10m of alcohol and avoiding an additional $7.25m of duty. The press reporting the case said “At least one (of the boats) was equipped to throw out a smoke screen to shield speedboats, which ran illicit cargoes ashore. The complaint charged the fleet was directed by wireless from British Columbia.” The case was dropped in 1935 after they agreed to pay a $500,000 fine and forfeit the $200,000 bail they had to put up to get back to Canada.

George and his brother Harry built two of Vancouver’s landmark mansions, Casa Mia and Rio Vista, as well as the Commodore and the Vogue Theatre. Today the Commodore is run by Live Nation, but the building is now owned by local investors and developers Bonnis Brothers, who have recently replaced the storefronts and awnings to a simpler and consistent design. Under previous ownership the ballroom closed for renovations in 1996, and reopened in 1999 after extensive structural repairs and with a new hardwood floor. In the basement, the Commodore Lanes has one of the city’s few remaining bowling alleys.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-51


Posted 7 December 2020 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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East Hastings Street – west from Columbia

We saw a 1905 image down the middle of this stretch of East Hastings in an earlier post. Until the mid 1900s there was very little built on the south side of the street. Here we are looking at a similar view a few years later, showing the south side. The Holden Building is the large office building – a tower in its day – completed in 1911. Next door is the significantly smaller Desrosiers Block, which was one of the few buildings in the earlier post as it was built before 1901. At the end is the Woods Hotel, today known as the Pennsylvania. It was built in 1906 and designed by W T Whiteway who also designed the Holden for William Holden. The Desrosiers Block was developed by Magloire Desrosiers, a tinsmith, who would have designed the elaborate decoration on the building (which recently received a much-needed restoration of its facade), but the architect is unknown.

Closer to us there’s a vacant site next to the Holden. That was developed at the end of 1911 by Con Jones as a billiard hall, with retail below, designed by H A Hodgson. The image therefore must date from the early part of 1911, when the Holden was complete, but before the vacant spot was developed. The lower floor of the building later became famous as The Only Seafoods restaurant.

The 2-storey building to the east was built after 1903, (when the insurance map shows the site as vacant) and before 1911, when it had been developed. There’s a 1904 building permit for the building. It was developed by Yip, Yen C and designed and built by Mr. O’Keefe. Michael O’Keefe was a Victoria based builder, who was more than capable of designing straightforward brick buildings, and Charlie Yip Yen was the nephew of Yip Sang, who ran the Wing Sang Company. The 1920 insurance map still shows a 2-storey building with ‘rooms over’ and a Chinese laundry on the lane.

Next door, the single storey building (with a hoarding on the roof for William Dick’s clothing store) was developed in a similar timeframe, and in 1920 was another billiards hall. It was built in 1910, designed by Sharp & Thompson for Brown Bros & Co, who also constructed the $7,000 investment. They were florists and nurserymen, and they developed this as their city store. Their greenhouses were at Main and 21st Avenue. There were four Browns involved in the business, William, Edward (who was company treasurer), Alfred (who was a florist, and lived near the greenhouses) and Joseph, who lived in Hammond. Today the site once occupied by Yip Yen’s building and the single storey billiard hall were replaced twenty years ago with a non-market housing building called The Oasis, with 30 units designed by Linda Baker for the Provincial Rental Housing Corporation (known today as BC Housing).

Across Carrall Street the original car barn for the Interurban has been demolished, but the new building, still standing today, which included the headquarters for BC Electric on the upper floors had yet to be built. Designed by W M Somervell it was completed in 1911. As the Holden Building was completed in the same year, this confirms the picture should be from early in 1911 when the Holden was complete, and the new BC Electric Headquarters was under construction, but not yet visible.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA M-11-52


Posted 3 December 2020 by ChangingCity in Altered

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