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

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