Archive for May 2021

West Pender Street – 300 block, south side

There has been one building replaced since this 1975 image was shot by W E Graham. On the right is the Victoria Block, (today part of the Victorian Hotel). designed by W F Gardiner in 1909 for the National Finance Co. Next door, the miniature temple is the British Columbia Permanent Loan & Savings Co’s premises. It was designed by Hooper and Watkins in 1907, and was one of the first reinforced concrete structures in the city, costing $40,000 and built by A E Carter. On the outside it has a sandstone skin, while inside there’s marble, elaborate plaster ceilings designed by Charles Marega, and a gorgeous Tiffany-style stained-glass skylight, featuring leaves and fruit. The decorative castings were the work of Fraser and Garrow, who advertised themselves as being “perfectly at home in any manner of work that makes for the embellishment of interiors or exteriors.”

The developer was a local finance house whose founder was Thomas Talton Langlois, originally from Gaspe in Quebec. He arrived in in BC in 1898 when he was 31, and already a successful businessman. Here he organized the British Columbia Permanent Loan Co.; was president, of the National Finance Co. Ltd., the Prudential Investment Co. Ltd. and the Pacific Coast Fire Insurance Co. He also developed an Arbutus subdivision which had pre-fabricated craftsman style houses built in a factory on West 2nd Avenue, and then re-erected on site.

The building was completed at the point where the developer was facing a minor problem. The Times Colonist advertised “A REWARD OF ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS. A reward of $100.00 will be paid to any person furnishing evidence which will lead to the conviction of the person who has started or any other person or persons who are spreading a report to the effect that the British Columbia Permanent Loan & Savings Company is losing or liable to lose money through its connection with any subsidiary, company. The B. C. Permanent has absolutely no connection with any other company, either in the way of investments or loans, except a balance of one hundred and twenty-five shares, being one-twelfth of the Issued capital stock of the. Pacific Coast Fire Insurance Company, This investment was authorized by unanimous vote of the shareholders some six years ago and has proven an exceptionally profitable Investment. For confirmation of these facts we would refer any person to the company’s auditor, Mr. W. T. Stein, C. A., Vancouver.”

Thomas Langlois, like many successful Vancouver business people, retired to California. He moved in 1916, and died there in 1937 and was buried in Inglewood Park Cemetery. From 1935 the building became home to the Bank Of Canada. In 1979 it was altered to office space and renamed Park House, and in the past few years has been repurposed as an event space called The Permanent.

To the east is a former printing company building, which has been redeveloped with the adjacent site for Covenant House, a not-for-profit organization that supports street youth. The 1929 building was designed by J S D Taylor for McBeth & Campbell. The facade was renovated in 1948 by architect W H Birmingham. It was given Neo-classical treatments including a decorative cornice installed below the original corbelled brick parapet. In 1998 it was redeveloped and the facade tied into the new 50 bed hostel, designed by Nigel Baldwin.

The small brick building to the east (that looks like small houses) was redeveloped for the 1998 scheme, and had originally extended to the 1929 building site as well. It was developed by ‘National’ (Presumably the National Finance Co), designed by W F Gardiner and cost $7,000 to build in 1909.

At the end of the block Hooper and Watkins (again) designed the $25,000 I.O.O.F Hall, and Lyric Theatre in 1906. The main floor space these days is a furniture store.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1135-17



Robson and Howe – south east corner

‘Infinity’ is a rental residential block over a substantial retail podium, built in 1998. Designed by Musson Cattell Massey for PCI Group, it was home to Chapters bookstore for over 20 years, before they downsized to a new store and it was refitted for SportChek, who added the bright red ‘swoosh’ to the tilted box on the facade.

In 1968 Bob’s market sold flowers, grocery and meats until 2am from a somewhat run down single storey building. The building permit shows W A S Richards (an obscure architect with very few commissions) designing a $6,000 brick store here in 1910 for Mrs E Gould – almost certainly Emma Gold, who later hired builders to carry out repairs seven times between 1916 and 1923. Emma was the widow of Louis, and together they ran The Gold House on Water Street, one of the city’s earliest hotels. Louis arrived in the early 1870s; he was born in Poland, and was in Kentucky for a while. He initially leased a store from Jack Deighton, selling pretty much anything in the first Jewish-owned business in the area.

Emma followed a little later, and was a trader independent of her husband. She was born in Prussia (later she said Germany) somewhere between 1830 and 1835, and was probably christened Fredrica. She ran the Royal City Shoe and Boot Co in New Westminster in the late 1880s, and from 1892 referred to herself as a widow, although Louis didn’t die until 1907, in Kamloops. In 1901 Emma and her son Edward were living in Vancouver, where Edward was listed as a commercial agent. Emma was an active developer in the city; she had property on Water Street as well as this lot. Emma was 91 when she died in New Westminster in 1929, so was in her 80s when she commissioned the various alterations of this building through the 1920s. She was buried with her husband, Louis, in Mountain View Cemetery.

Here’s a 1948 picture of the same corner. The image shows the earlier version of the building, before a stucco ‘modernization’. Alongside on Robson Street in both pictures was a two storey frame building with residential bay windows over stores, dating back to 1903. It was developed and built by David Evans at a cost of $3,000. In 1921 Maclure & Lort were hired by the then ‘owners’, Sharples & Sharples to carry out $3,000 of alterations to remodel the two store fronts and create a separate entrance to the top floor. Sharples and Sharples were agents, who represented absentee owners like Edward Farmer who was in the US, in Forth Worth, but hired them to look after his building next east on Robson, on the corner of Granville.

David Evans was shown in the 1901 census aged 50, born in Wales. His wife was 41, and they had a 2 year old daughter, Joy.  We know he was a merchant tailor, and the reason we know he’s the correct D Evans is because he moved his business here from Homer Street when it was completed in 1904. His father-in-law, Peter Awrey and Peter’s wife Rachel were living with the family. Peter died aged 83 in 1905, after a fall while looking at a construction site from the uneven wooden sidewalk.

David was shown in 1911 aged 60, having arrived in Canada in the early 1870s. He wasn’t shown as having employment. His wife Martha was from Ontario, was nine years younger, and their BC born daughter was aged 12. David died in 1916, and was buried in Mountain View Cemetery. His infant son, Caradoc, was the first burial in the cemetery in February 1887, and the headstone shows that Martha was known as Nellie.

The Daily World reported “Mr. David Evans, 65 years of age, died at his home at 1235 Tenth Avenue West at 11:30, after a lingering illness. Mr. Evans came to Canada 43 years ago, and has been a resident In Vancouver for the past 30 years. He was a native of Carmarthenshire, South Wales, and leaves a widow and one daughter to mourn his loss. Mr. Evans was a retired merchant tailor, having retired from business about six years ago. He was the first bandmaster in this city, and was cornet soloist In the first regimental band formed In this city.”

In 1921 Martha Evans and her daughter Joy were recorded in the census living on West 17th, with Joy shown as a civil servant. Later Martha moved to Seattle, but she returned to the Pioneer’s Picnic in 1939, when she recorded aspects of her family history.

“Mr. David Evans came to Vancouver before I did; he came before the Great Fire, June 1886; I came November 16th 1886. The planks on Hastings Street were not laid at that time; afterwards they planked the centre of it. I remember that, once, Mr. Evans and I went for a walk up Granville Street; the Hotel Vancouver was building; they had more than the foundations finished. Mr. Evans and I stopped and stood in the stumps, about Robson Street somewhere south of Georgia Street; the stumps were all around us, and Mr. Evans said to me, ‘I wouldn’t be at all sure but there will be business on this street some day, but it won’t be in our day.’

“The first burial in Mountain View was my little son, Caradoc, about ten months old; February 1887; the date is on the headstone. At that time Mountain View Cemetery was just a little clearing in the forest; the fallen trees lying about everywhere as they had fallen.” Martha Evans died in 1948 aged 87.

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 447-341 and Str P258.


Posted 27 May 2021 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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Downtown from Above (3)

Here’s another of Trish Jewison’s helicopter aerial shots, matched as closely as we can to an Archives image. This was on her Twitter feed in July last year. The before image is really early for an aerial image – it’s from 1926. We recently used the same 2020 image (more tightly cropped) to compare with a 1980s before image.

Burrard Street, on the extreme left hand edge, didn’t have a bridge at the end. It was a wide boulevard with houses and churches, in an area with mostly speculative houses along Howe and Hornby. Between Burrard and Hornby there’s a large building that takes up a whole city block, and interrupted the lane. That was the West End School, (later the Dawson School) which had a building facing Helmcken, and another on Burrard.

Granville Street, running from Burrard Inlet to False Creek, takes a jog to the south. That’s because the road crossed on the second Granville Bridge from 1909, replaced in 1954 with the structure we have today, which was built on the line of the first 1889 bridge. Today’s forest of residential towers in Downtown South (often called Yaletown by realtors) fill the space between the warehouse district of Yaletown and Granville Street. The lower form of the early 1900s Yaletown warehouses can still be clearly seen. Concord Pacific’s redevelopment fill the waterfront railyards that were briefly home to Expo ’86. The heavy industries located along False Creek created significantly contaminated ground, and the post-expo plan created a series of parks that capped the worst contaminated sites, avoiding the potential problems associated with removing them.

In the distance the first Georgia Viaduct can be seen following a parallel line to today’s pair of roads. The original was so poorly built that it wasn’t considered safe to run streetcars into Downtown from the East End. Beyond it the East End, as it was known, still has a significant concentration of buildings from the earliest years of the city’s development. We have featured hundreds of them over the past decade, as well as some that have been replaced. Along Burrard Inlet the port has seen major growth and redevelopment, with the Centerm container facility still being expanded to the west, and Vanterm to the east. Centerm occupies the site at the foot of Heatley Avenue that was the location of the first significant development of the future city, the Hastings Mill. It opened in 1865, and closed two years after this picture was taken.

Image source: Trish Jewison in the Global BC traffic helicopter, published on twitter on 25 July 2020 and City of Vancouver Archives Van Sc P68


Posted 24 May 2021 by ChangingCity in Altered

Swedish Lutheran Church – Dunlevy Avenue

This was the first Swedish Lutheran Church built in Vancouver, seen here in 1904, the year it was built, photographed by Philip Timms. It was built on the north-east corner of Princess (today that’s East Pender) and Dunlevy and was known as The First Swedish Church. There had been a house on the lot in 1903, and it looks like it was relocated next to the church, on the north side, and then altered and moved again in 1909, closer to the lane.

This building was founded by a visiting Augustana Lutheran, Pastor G A Anderson, whose congregation was in LaConner, in Washington. The newly established church had 34 members in 1903, and a year later the Rev. C Rupert Swanson organized the construction of the building that seated 100. It was 25 feet by 38, and cost $595 to erect. The census tells us that there were a number of Swedish carpenters in the city, and it’s likely that the cost was mostly the materials rather than the labour. The congregation grew, and in 1910 there was a new church that could seat up to 1,000, built a block away to the east.

This building was listed for several years into the early 1920s as ‘Miner Hall’, but there are no records of it being used, or any events associated with it. By the mid 1920s it was once again being used as a church – a Chinese Presbyterian congregation moving in, but by 1930 the address was no longer listed. However, the United Church Chinese Mission were based at a Dunlevy address from 1929. We think the new church was the ‘United Church Chapal and Seminary designed by H S Griffith in 1930. (The Chinese Presbyterians also built a new church on Keefer near Gore in 1930).

This new, larger building extending slightly further east. There was also a Christian Education Centre, and for nearly 70 years the mission relied on the Board of Home Missions and the Woman’s Missionary Society for financial support and leadership, and was known as the Chinese Mission, United Church of Canada. It achieved full self-support in 1955, and became known as the Chinese United Church.

Today the Chinese United Church Lodge provides 29 units of non-market housing, almost hidden by the landscaping. It was completed in 1993 and designed by Joe Wai Architects. The Chinese United Church joined congregations with the Chown Memorial United Church, and they jointly retain ownership of the land, which is leased to the Housing Society.

Image sources: VPL and City of Vancouver Archives CVA 786-50.01




Posted 20 May 2021 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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Swedish Lutheran Church – Princess Street

Some readers will know this as the former St Francis Xavier Church, but that’s not how it started life. In 1910 the Swedish Lutheran Church, whose congregation were in a more modest building a block to the west of here, hired J G Price to design a $30,000 ‘brick veneer’ church on a site that had been acquired for $15,000. It had stained glass windows, oak pews made in Sweden, and could seat over 600 people, and up to 1,000 for special occasions.

This Vancouver Public Library image shows it in 1912, when it had just been rebuilt, but before the Arlington Rooms were built next door. An overheated furnace started a fire in January 1912 that gutted the interior of the church, and saw the roof collapse. The press report stated “In addition to the roof, the pulpit and adjoining parts were burned outright, while the remainder of the building was destroyed by water.” Fortunately the congregation had taken out insurance, and Mr. Price was still around to design the $8,000 rebuild.

The street names here have changed in confusing ways. East Pender was originally Princess, and today’s Princess was Carl Avenue. The church has always had a Princess address, but not on the same street. We had trouble lining up the images because the top of the steeple didn’t match. Then we realized those have been rebuilt, and are slightly shorter today.

It looks as if this building was the first to be built on this lot; the entire block was still vacant in 1903. It may have been owned publicly, as the block to the south of Strathcona School (which is across the street to the south) was also vacant, although the rest of the neighbourhood had been built out.

The church has evolved through many denominations over 109 years; the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church moved out in 1944, and it was subsequently St. Stephen’s Greek Catholic Church until 1968, St. Mary’s Ukrainian Greek Church, St. Francis Xavier Chinese Catholic Church, the Korean Foursquare Church, and now the independent Strathcona Church, owned by The Chin Wei Family Foundation and used by a number of different Christian congregations.


Posted 17 May 2021 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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Arlington Rooms – East Pender Street

This beige rooming house with a diamond red pattern of brickwork seems to advertise the architects from the design. The diamond pattern was the trademark of Townsend & Townsend, a British-born father and son partnership with considerable success in the five years they were in the city. The exact same pattern was on the Rialto Hotel on Granville, and 322 Water Street among many others. However, that’s not what the 1912 permit says. It says that P J Bennett was the owner, and the builder, but E Beam, contractor designed it. That’s very odd, as Mr. Beam designed a few houses, which he usually built, often for himself. This is the only apartment building he was shown as having designed. Mr. Bennett is also an unlikely builder – the only P J Bennett in the city at the time was a Main Street barber called Peter J Bennett who lived at 549 Jackson. He was almost certainly the developer, as he was involved in a court case in 1913 related to this lot, between Peter John Bennett and Dominion Tobacco.

While it’s possible, but seems unlikely, that Mr. Bennett learned how to build, it looks as is Mr. Beam ‘borrowed’ Townsend & Townsend’s signature design of brickwork. That would mean Mr. Bennett was the developer and Mr. Beam the contractor and designer. (The ledger of Building Permits is pretty clear on that). We can find no evidence that the Townsends were involved, and they left Vancouver in 1913.

Peter John Bennett was from Sweden, and would have been about 45 when this was built. He had arrived in 1891, with his wife, Lena, and they had a daughter, Agnes, in the year after they got here. We found him successfully in the 1901 census, but he was more of a problem in 1911 because he was listed at John P Bennett. All the other details about the family remained the same; for once none of then tried to shave a year or two off their age.

Although the rooms were built in 1912, they don’t show up in the street directory until 1914. There’s a 1912 advertisement for them in the Vancouver Sun, and in 1913 Patrick Meagher was shown here – ‘bartndr’ at the Europe Hotel. They were called the Norden Rooms, run by Helen M Whitten in 1914, The Liverpool Rooms in 1915 (with no named proprietor). In 1918 identified as ‘Chinese’. Downstairs the Chinese Independent & Presbyterian Mission occupied the storefront until the early 1920s. In 1921 the owners Griffiths & Lee carried out $1,000 of repairs, and the Chinese Mission made minor changes in 1925.

The address in 1924 continued to say ‘Chinese’. In 1926 there a new proprietor, J McIntyre, and a new name; The Star Rooms. The name stuck around, although Mr. McIntyre didn’t; by 1929 the description had switched to ‘Japanese’. It must have been confusing at times, as there was another Star Rooms on Main Street, and a third on Powell Street. That confusion continued into the early 1930s, when all three rooming houses had Japanese proprietors. In 1932 this one was run by T Nishi, clarified as T T Nishikawa later in the 1930s.

Once the Japanese were forced to leave the coastal parts of British Columbia two of the three Star Rooms had Chinese proprietors; in this case Wong Hung took over. In 1949 there was new proprietor, and a new name – the Arlington Hotel, run by Paul Chubocha. Within a couple of years Max and Peter Nelson of Haney had taken over and renamed the building as The Arlington Rooms. In 1957 the main floor was advertised as ‘warehouse for rent with front office’. Our 1978 image shows almost no differences from the appearance of the building today, when the Chinese Community Library Services Association occupy the main floor and basement, and there are still 30 rooms with shared bathrooms on each floor upstairs. The property was offered for sale for $2.8m and sold in 2018.


Posted 13 May 2021 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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East Pender Street – 200 block, north side

This view of Chinatown dates from 1972. It’s only down the street that things have changed (with a new building hidden by the street trees). At this end the buildings are the same – although there was more activity fifty years ago than there is today, and more businesses have closed now that the COVID pandemic has affected the area.

Closest to us on the right is the East Hotel. It was designed by S B Birds for Lee Kee, a Chinese merchant, and opened in 1912 as the Hotel Reco. Beyond it down the hill are two 25 foot wide buildings; BC Assessment think 279 E Pender was built in 1928, although the permit is from 1922, when Bedford Davidson was hired by Baxter and Wright to build the $4,500 investment. 275 is from 1949, although its design suggests it’s older. The building that was here earlier was probably part of Carl (or Charles) Schwan’s estate; a hotel owner and part of a prominent family of bar and hotel keepers, he died in 1915. He owned a building a little further to the west, 265 E Pender, in 1914. The 1972 image shows that it had started life as a house, with a shop front added when Dupont Street (as it was then) changed from a residential to a commercial street. There was also a house on 269 E Pender, the lot with a single storey retail unit in 1972. Chinese merchant ‘Sam Kee’ (the name of the company run by Chang Toy) owned 275 E Pender in 1924.

Beyond those stores are two more narrow buildings redeveloped in the 1970s. We looked at them in an earlier post – they were developed in the period where new structures were adding ‘Chinese’ design elements like green glazed tiles.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-448


Posted 10 May 2021 by ChangingCity in Altered, East End

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Robson and Howe, looking west

We’ve had to wait to post this view of the 800 block of Robson for the completion of the new plaza, replacing a temporary closure that was tested over the past couple of years. Now paved with stone to match the Art Gallery plaza to the north, (although without the busy pattern), it’s reopened just in time for the summer.

The ‘before’ shot is dated to somewhere between 1980 and 1997, but we can pin that down better. The frame of the building under construction is 800 Burrard, designed by Eng and Wright Partners and completed in 1983. That would suggest this was taken around 1981.

In front of the office tower is Mayfair House, from 1980, and the two mid-rise buildings to to south are the Wedgewood Hotel from 1964, designed by Peter Kaffka, and Chancery Place, completed in 1984. On the right is 777 Hornby, designed by Frank Roy and completed in 1969. We’ve seen it in an earlier post looking north on Hornby, on the far side of the plaza. He’s a relatively obscure architect, and we assume based in a different province, as Thompson Berwick Pratt and Partners were supervising architects. He got his architectural training at the University of Manitoba, and his degree in 1950. The Archives have a 1967 brochure for the building, which is the only way we know the designer.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 772-929


Posted 6 May 2021 by ChangingCity in Altered, Downtown

Unit block – West Pender Street north (2)

The Arco (on the left of the picture) started life as The Patricia Lodge. It’s a six storey building developed by John Walker, who hired Braunton and Leibert to design it in 1912. J F Langer (who lived on Woodland Drive) built the $53,500 investment, with a reinforced concrete frame. We looked at the buildings on this block in an earlier post, but at that point hadn’t worked out who John Walker was. We think we have pinned him down now, having sifted out a series of John Walkers who were labourers, farmers and other unlikely candidates for an investment like this.

John was born in Clarksburg, Ontario in 1873. He appears in Vancouver in 1903 as a clothing merchant, with a store on West Cordova and living in rooms on East Cordova. He added a second store for a while on West Hastings in 1904, and he lived on Melville, then in rooms at the Board of Trade (probably above the saloon of the same name). In 1906 he returned to Clarksburg to marry Carrie Hartman who was 7 years younger. The western provinces were obviously a little unfamiliar to the registrar, who identified John as a merchant in Van Couver. The couple moved to a house on Nelson Street in the West End and John had just one store again at 74 W Cordova.

In 1907 he branched out into a new line; real estate brokerage. Like many other merchants, he opened an office, initially as Walker and Dresser, and in 1909 with Daniel Campbell. That year his clothing store was taken over by David Hunter. Business must have been good during the 1910 – 1912 boom years; John invested in this building and Daniel Campbell built his own rooming house in the same year on East Cordova. However, like many other real estate businesses, things went badly for Campbell-Walker as the Great war added to the recession that had already hit the economy. The 1915 Government Gazette lists a number of lots where they had failed to pay the appropriate taxes, and where they were in arrears. John appears to have moved out of Downtown. His family was growing; a son, John, was born in 1914 and a daughter, Kathleen, in 1916 (whose records seem to end at some time after the 1921 census).

In 1920 John appears to have been in a partnership with Adam Wallbridge. John Walker represented the owners of the Princess Mines, a copper deposit on Texada Island. In 1921 the family had returned to the West End, to the Felix Apartments, and John was listed as a partner in Walker and Robinson (with George Robinson) on West Pender. This was a return to familiar territory; a high-class tailoring business in ‘The Store with the Yellow Front’. John had survived the war years well enough to move to a $7,000 house he commissioned on Angus Drive, designed by W M Dodd in 1921. The family lived there until 1939, when they moved to Surrey. At the age of 66 John and Carrie moved to Newton, in Surrey, where Walker’s General Store was established. Carrie was 89 when she died in 1970, and John was just short of his 102nd birthday when he passed away in 1975.

The Patricia Lodge opened in 1913, with Mrs L E Pomeroy running the operation. Several long-term residents moved in, paying $3 a week. Travelers could stay for $0.75 a night. Unusually for a Vancouver hotel, there was no bar.

In 1921 there was considerable damage to the building following a fire. The manager, M S Cot, dropped a key down the elevator shaft, and went down to the basement to retreive it. Lighting a match to see his way, there was a large explosion. Water leaking into the basement was mixed with gasoline coming from the Central Garage to the west.

In 1936 the new (and current) name was adopted; the Arco was initially run by A B Janousek, and during the war by Bill Chan and Wong Oak-Laing. The Arco became a typical run-down rooming house over the years, with the Two Jays cafe on the main floor (featured in two different episodes of the X-Files). In 2007 BC Housing acquired the building, and it was closed for a while for renovations and repairs, reopening as welfare rate non-market housing managed by Atira.

The large Wosk’s furniture warehouse in our 1978 image was initially a clothing factory operated by the Original Blouse Co. Built in 1950, there’s an approved scheme to turn it into office space with two added floors of residential rental units, but the devlopers have put the building on sale rather than construct the project.


Posted 3 May 2021 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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