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.

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Posted 27 May 2021 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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