Archive for February 2021

West Cordova north side from Homer Street

Remarkably, all the buildings in this 1919 Vancouver Public Library picture are still standing today, almost unchanged in appearance in over 100 years.

We looked at the history of the big warehouse in the middle of this image in two earlier posts. On West Cordova it’s numbered as 401, while on Water Street it’s 342 Water Street. It was developed as a three storey building that later had two floors added. It was built in 1899 as The Burns Block, but became known later as the Buscombe Building. William Blackmore was hired by John Burns to build a three storey stone building, and in 1911 Grant and Henderson designed two additional floors at a cost of $13,500, which was executed in a grey Gulf Island stone matching the earlier phase of the building. We’re not completely sure which of two possible John Burns developed the building, but we suspect he was a Scottish born businessman who arrived in the 1890s when he was already in his 60s, and retired. His son, Fred Burns, was already in Vancouver, dealing in plumbing and engineering supplies.

To the left of the warehouse are two significantly older properties. The Jones Block was developed in 1890, and designed by N S Hoffar, who recycled his design (with an extra window on the top floor) for the McConnell Block next door, also in 1890. Most census records suggest Gilbert Smythe McConnell was born in Quebec around 1857, although his death certificate and the 1891 census said it was 1855. That Census has his name as Guibert, which is probably more accurate, before he switched it for convenience to Gilbert. An 1891 biography tells us much more about Mr. McConnell “Mr. McConnell was born in Argenteuil County, Quebec, in 1856, where he attended school. When fifteen years of age he entered the employ of Green, Sons & Co., of Montreal, wholesale dealers in men’s furnishings. He remained with this firm for seven years, when he received the appointment as Indian agent in charge of the Touchwood Hilt district, Manitoba, in which service he remained for about six years. At the breaking out of the rebellion in the Northwest, in 1885, he was appointed one of the transport officers on Gen. Middleton’s staff’. He returned to Woodstock after the rebellion had been quelled, and was married to the eldest daughter of Wm. Muir, of that town. Mr. McConnell came to Vancouver in 1886, shortly after the fire, and has since been actively identified with the city’s interests. He built about thirty houses, including a couple of brick blocks, and has been interested in various enterprises. He served for two years in the City Council. He started his present business, as a wholesale importer of gents’ furnishings, hats, caps, etc., about three months ago, and has already a very large trade. He owns and built the building he occupies, which is a three story brick, fronting on Cordova and Water streets.”

His wife, Nettie Agnes was from Ontario and ten years younger. They married in Woodstock, Ontario in 1886, and their children were born in British Columbia; William in 1888 and Florence in 1890. Gilbert died in 1934.

We haven’t found a contemporary reference to who the ‘Jones’ in the Jones Block was, but H A Jones had his offices here the year after it was completed. Harry Jones was originally from Liverpool, born there in 1851, and had been in Vancouver from before the 1886 fire. He developed several buildings in the city, and was married at least three times.

Running off the picture to the left is the Holland Block, completed in 1892 and designed by C W H Sansom for James M. Holland, an American lawyer. On the right of the Buscombe Building is the Homer Street Arcade which dates from 1912, designed by Stuart and White for the ‘Thompson Bros’ (actually Thomson), and built by the Burrard Construction Co for $30,000. It was an unusual building for Vancouver: an arcade linking Water Street to Cordova, with an entrance across the street from Homer Street, (which presumably explains its name).

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327 – 331 Main Street

This modest building has sat relatively invisible behind the Ford Building (once the Dawson Building) for over a century. It was developed in 1903, and designed by Thomas Arthur Fee (usually partnered with John Parr as Parr and Fee). His client was listed as ‘White, Stanley (Senator)’, who was also listed as the builder of the $9,000 building.

Quite why Mr. White was listed as a Senator is unclear. There was a Senator White in the Canadian parliament in 1919, but he was called Gelard White, and was from Ontario. All other records show the developer to be Arthur Stanley White (almost always known as ‘Stanley’), in business with his father selling men’s clothes from a store a block two blocks to the south. Benjamin and Stanley White travelled to Canada from Britain on the ‘Lake Huron’ in September 1897. Benjamin had sold his home and its contents and Stanley sold his business interests in Haverfordwest in Wales, and they set off from Liverpool to Quebec. Both Benjamin and Stanley were listed on the passenger list as ‘prospectors’, headed for the Yukon gold fields. Perhaps conversations with other passengers changed their plans; when they arrived in Canada 11 days later they were recorded as clothiers, and their destination as Vancouver. They established an outfitters store on Cordova Street, but only six months later sold the business to Donaldson Trading Company of Manitoba. Stanley White and Company opened almost immediately in the 500 block of Westminster Avenue, (now Main Street), selling ‘men’s furnishings’, notably hats and caps.

They obviously did well; Stanley developed this building in 1903, and a year later his father returned to England, via New York, for a four month vacation, and then again in 1905 to Wales, where he married Jane Evans, a widow. Benjamin stayed in Wales, but died less than a year after his marriage. In 1904 Stanley had taken a two month trip to the World’s Fair in St Louis, and in 1905 he was travelling to meet his father and his new bride, but was struck with rheumatic fever in New York, and didn’t reach Wales. On his return he auctioned off the contents of his house, on 9th Avenue, and a year later he got married to Eliza Chase. A month later he sold his clothing business. His health was still poor, and in August he took a trip to Europe following a period in the general hospital.

He isn’t listed in the city from this point on; his marriage ended in divorce, and he remarried to Maude Judd in 1909, in Seattle. His second wife gave birth to a son, also called Arthur Stanley White, in 1910, and they moved to California where Stanley was involved in real estate, living in a villa on the Santa Monica seafront. They had two more sons, in 1914 and 1919, and Stanley was still selling real estate in Los Angeles in 1950. Maude died in 1952, and Stanley in 1959, and they are both buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Santa Monica. (More details of Stanley and Benjamin White’s lives can be found on WestEndVancouver).

The White Block initially was home to The White Block Dining Room, run by Mrs. Frank Peterson, as well as a a tailor, a liquor store and a stationers. A few years later the second floor seems to have become residential, known as The Galena Rooms. For a while the Star Theatre (a movie house) was here, but it moved to a new location across the street in 1921. In 1925 this was listed as home to the Chinese Library, and the BC Public Market. In 1930 the rooms upstairs were known as The Togo Rooms, run by K Kagawa. Downstairs the market was between The Standard Importing Co (tea and coffee importers), and the Canadian Window Bakeries. After the war, all three businesses were still there, but the second floor was known as the Canada Rooms. In 1955 there was a fish market, a clothing store, and the home of Titan Chain Saws, as well as the Canada Rooms. Our 1978 image shows the Paris Restaurant, offering Canadian Chinese Cuisine, and the New Modern Barber Shop. Today the building is for sale and the vacant retail spaces have most recently been occupied as offices, while the second floor has a lawyer and a doctor’s office.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 786-49.29

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Posted 22 February 2021 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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1494 & 1496 Harwood Street

This is one of the increasingly rare houses in the West End. It’s actually a three unit strata these days, having been converted from a duplex in 1975. This 1985 image shows all three units for sale, suggesting it continued in a single ownership until then. It only occupies half the depth of the lot, although unusually there’s a narrow path at the back leading to the lane. Once celebrations can safely be held, the owners might want to hold a party, as the permit was approved in December 1919, so the house was completed just over 100 years ago.

The architects were Gardiner and Mercer, and the description in the BC Building Record for the $4,750 building (built by the Vancouver Construction Company) said “early English design, two-storeys, containing 7-rooms and will have every modern convenience”. The developer was F C Saunders ‘of 718 Granville’. That was the business address of Frank Saunders, a barrister, living on Jervis in an apartment in 1919. He moved into his new home at 1496 Harwood once it was completed. The 1911 census showed him living at 601 Bute, with his wife Pauline. He was 32, and she was two years younger. She was from Ontario, and he was Scottish, having arrived in Canada in 1888. From Pauline’s death certificate (in 1967, when she was 87) we know he was Frank Caithness Saunders, and that she came from Whidley in Ontario.

In 1904 Frank was a founding member of the Siche Light Company, who were in the acetylene gas lighting business – but there’s no sign of any company activity. However, it does tell us the Frank was a lawyer then, and living in Montreal. Mr. Saunders seems to have led an unremarkable life – or at least one that didn’t attract any coverage in the local press. He was President of the Stanley Park Lawn Bowling Club in 1919. Frank was only 59 when he died in 1933. His widow continued to live in this house until at least 1955, but it was obviously more than she needed on her own, and in 1940 the second address of 1494 Harwood appeared for the first time, reflecting a split into two units.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 790-1676

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Posted 18 February 2021 by ChangingCity in Still Standing, West End

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Downtown South and Yaletown from above

The image today wasn’t taken at quite the right altitude, so we’ve lined up the buildings along Burrard Inlet and haven’t tried to stretch (and so distort) the image to get the lower part of the picture perfectly aligned. In every other aspect, it’s a great match between 1982 and May 2020.

This is the part of Downtown Vancouver that has seen the greatest change. While Granville Street has been zoned (up to now) to restrict building heights, to allow the sidewalks to stay naturally lit and brighter, almost everything to the east in Downtown South has been allowed to go higher – although there are viewcones that cross the area restricting the height (and therefore density) of some buildings. There are also guidelines to limit shadowing of parks – which now exist, although from this distance they’re hidden by a sea of mostly residential towers. Yaletown – the original three street warehouse district of 1900s buildings also has height limits, and can be seen on the right.

Apparently on the waterfront, although actually a couple of blocks back, on West Hastings, the Lookout and revolving restaurant on the Harbour Centre stood out in 1982. It’s currently getting three close neighbours, with new office towers being developed a block to the west, and another controversially contemporary designed tower may be developed beyond it, much closer to Burrard Inlet. In the Central Business District we’ve reached the point where older offices up to 15 storeys high, and completed as recently as 1982, are now being replaced with new office towers at least twice as tall, with much higher standards of energy efficiency.

Image source: Trish Jewison in the Global BC helicopter, on her twitter account 5 May 2020.

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Posted 15 February 2021 by ChangingCity in Altered, Downtown

West Pender Street – 1100 block, south side

We saw the buildings on the north side of the block in earlier posts. Here are three buildings on the south side of the street in 1981. Two have been redeveloped since then, and the third has been approved for redevelopment.

On the corner was 1196 W Pender, a 1952 building. We haven’t been able to identify the architect of the modest building. To the east was an unusual 3-storey building, that dated back to 1955. The fully glazed office building was designed by McKee and Gray for James Lovick. Robert McKee was a Vancouver-born architect whose mid-century designs are now gaining wider recognition, and Percy Gray was an architect and engineer who co-operated with him in the design of a number of 1950s buildings.

Jimmy Lovick, their client, had been active in local advertising since 1934, and in 1948 set up his own practice. He opened James Lovick & Co. offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. A decade later Lovick & Co. was the largest agency in Canada, with additional offices in Edmonton, London, Ont., Halifax, New York and San Francisco. Rival companies stole some of Lovick’s business, and when he passed away in 1968 (having flown a million miles with Trans-Canada Airlines) the company was less prominent. It merged into New York advertising giant BBDO some years later. The two buildings were demolished in the early 2000s, replaced in 2008 by a 31 storey residential tower called Sapphire, designed by Hancock, Bruckner, Eng + Wright, with a childcare facility on the upper floors of the podium.

Next door is (for now) a 15 storey office tower designed by Charles Paine and Associates for Dawson Developments, and completed in 1974. Long the home of the Canada Reveue Agency, they recently moved to less central locations, and the building was acquired by developer Reliance Holdings for $71.4m in 2016. They have obtained permission for a replacement 31 storey office tower designed by IBI Group in Vancouver and Hariri Pontarini of Toronto.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-W14.34

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Posted 11 February 2021 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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Lost Gas Stations in Downtown Vancouver

We’ve seen a lot of Downtown and west End locations where there used to be gas stations – we think there were at least 99 of them in the past where they’ve now disappeared. Today there’s just one left – for now. On the corner of Davie and Burrard, the last remaining Esso station has been bought by a property developer. A block away there was a Shell station, developed in 1951, and seen in this image from the same year in the Vancouver Public Library photo collection. The garage structure is still there, with additional elements added as restaurants. The gas station had closed by the early 1980s, and became a Mr. Submarine store for a while.

Further south, at Seymour and Pacific, Imperial Oil had a gas station, seen here when it first opened in 1925. Townley and Matheson designed the structure, which was built by Purdy & Rodger at a cost of $6,900. The gas bar was replaced with part of the Seymour off-ramp of the Granville Bridge, completed in 1954. If the number of service stations seems low today, that wasn’t the case in the 1920s. This was 601 Pacific, and Imperial Oil had another Townley and Matheson designed gas bar at 740 Pacific, and Union Oil had another on the same block. By 1930 this gas station no longer existed.

In the background is the Bayview Hotel, later renamed The Continental, and in its later years operated by the City of Vancouver as an SRO hotel until it was demolished in 2015. In its early years the hotel was an expensive investment for Kilroy and Morgan, who spent $100,000 to build the hotel designed by Parr and Fee in 1911.

Finally (for the time being), there was a larger gas station on Robson Street, operated here in 1974 by Texaco. In 1985 it was redeveloped with a 2-storey retail building that includes a London Drugs store, and smaller retail units on Bute Street. Initially there were houses built here, but the motoring use of the site was over decades – in the 1930s Webber-MacDonald Garage was here, repairing and selling pre-owned automobiles, which became the Robson Garage a few years later. The corner however had a different building; the Bute Street Private hospital was here for decades. It became a rooming house, but was still here when Hemrich Brothers (who ran a garage on Howe, and then Dunsmuir Street for many years) were running the Robson Street garage in the later 1950s. The big new Texaco canopy, facilities  and forecourt replaced the buildings on the street until the 1980s redevelopment put buildings back along Robson.

Image sources: VPL, City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1399-530 and CVA 778-333

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Posted 8 February 2021 by ChangingCity in Altered, Downtown, Gone, West End

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Renfrew Lodge – Hemlock and West 10th Avenue

These days Renfrew Lodge is known as Hemlock Place, but the new name is really the only change in nearly a century. This picture was taken in 1928, a couple of years after the building was completed. It was one of over a dozen apartment buildings developed by a family of developers originally from Ontario, the Lightheart Brothers. (We’ve recently updated our information on the family on the Building Vancouver blog). There were seven brothers, all involved in various development projects. This one was developed by George Lightheart. Although many of the buildings were designed (and built) in-house by the brothers, in this case the $90,000 building had an architect – H H Simmonds.

George Lightheart had previously built a family house on Burns Street, and partnered with his brother Jacob on a number of groups of houses and apartments, but this was apparently the only apartment building he developed on his own. He was born in 1883, and only 46 when he died in 1930. The notice in the newspaper noted he had died in the General Hospital, and would be buried in the family plot at Mountain View cemetery, but no further details were given about the circumstances of his death.

He arrived in Vancouver in 1902 and married Mabel Cairns (from P.E.I.) in 1915, and they soon had a daughter, Margaret, followed by a son, Ralph, who was only 12 when his father died. In 1921 the family had two servants; Margaret Scott, who was Irish, and Hilda Johnston, who was Swedish. Mabel’s sister, Winnifred Cairns was also living with the family in George’s new $8,000 Connaught Drive mansion (that he had designed and built). Mabel died in 1954, and her sister Winnifred (who never married, and stayed in Vancouver) in 1960.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Bu N252

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Posted 4 February 2021 by ChangingCity in Broadway, Still Standing

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876 Granville Street

This is yet another of the Parr and Fee designed hotels at the southern end of Granville Street in Downtown; last known as the State Hotel. It was developed as an investment property by Evan, Coleman and Evans, who hired G E Williamson to build it for $46,000 in 1910. The developers built at least three other hotels in Gastown, owned a wharf and warehouses, a cement plant and a building supply business. They were two English brothers Percy and Ernest Evans, and their cousin, George Coleman. They arrived in Vancouver in 1888, and built up a business empire that they sold in 1910 to a group of prominent local business people including William Farrell and Frank Barnard, although they may have retained their interest in the hotels, which also included another hotel probably designed by Parr and Fee for them a year earlier, the Manitoba, on Cordova.

Initially this opened as the Norfolk Rooms, with two retail stores; 872 to the north and 878 to the south. The entrance to the Rooms was a narrow doorway in the middle of the block, numbered as 874 Granville. When the building opened, the London Cash Store occupied 872. This was a dry goods emporium; “Mr. West, the proprietor, fresh from his lengthy experience In some of the best known firms in the west end of London, makes it the study of his life to satisfy as well as please his growing connection; and It is not unreasonable to suppose that he will soon have one of the largest and best known stores of its kind In Vancouver.” Two years later Thomas West was no longer in Vancouver, and his store had been replaced by Edwin Galloway selling new and used books. 878 was home to McLachlan Bros, a hardware business run by Dougall J McLachlan. In the early 1920s Rennie’s Seeds store was to the north, and Bogardus Wickens occupied 878, selling glass, and paint. By 1925, 872 was home to the Commodore Cafe, (referencing the Commodore Ballroom next door) and 878 was home to the Cut Rate Radio Shop. two years later they had been replaced by the Womans Bakery, and by 1930 Edwards Jewelry Store.

The Commodore Cafe became the Blue Goose Cafe, in 1933, and in 1935 the business expanded to take over both units, and access to the Norfolk Hotel was moved to the southern end of the building and renumbered as 876. The fabulous art deco canopy and facade belonged to the Blue Goose, and W Wolfenden who ran that business probably installed the modern new look. In 1936 The Hollywood Cafe replaced the Blue Goose, as our Stuart Thomson photo shows. Harry Stamatis took over when it became the Hollywood (and also managed Scott’s Cafe a block to the north). The Blue Goose had a large dining room, as the 1935 interior shot (left) shows, and the new manager reduced the number of tables, but otherwise it stayed the same. Located between the Commodore and the Orpheum Theatre the restaurant only stayed in business for a year. The star of the show was the counter on the northern side of the building, seen on the right in 1936.

From 1937 the premises appear to have been split into two again. 874 Granville, the southern half, became the home of the Bon Ton Tea Rooms, which stayed here until the 1980s. The northern part, 872 had a series of restaurants. In 1937 it was the Commodore Grill, run by Nick Kogos (another Greek restauranteur), a couple of years later it had become Chris’s Grill & Restaurant, run by Chris Stamatis (Harry’s brother), and by 1949 the Good Eats Cafe run by Milton J Litras, who was almost certainly also from a Greek family. A year later three more Greek owners, (N Michas, N Girgulis and J Dlllias) were running the Olympic Cafe. By 1955 it had become The Neptune Grill run by John Michas (with an option of a consultation with the on-site palmist and tea-leaf reader).

Today the Cafe Crepe (with a retro 7 metre high neon sign) has just closed after 17 years in this location. The other retail unit has the most lineups of any Vancouver store; it’s one of only three Canadian locations of an Italian-based fast fashion business, Brandy Melville, who replaced an American Apparel store. The facade was restored in 2003, but the upper floors have apparently been unused following a fire in the early 1970s.

A development proposal is being considered to develop a large retail, entertainment and office building here, which would retain just the facade of the State Hotel.

Image sources, City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-4884, CVA 99-4768 and CVA-99-4883.

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Posted 1 February 2021 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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