968 – 1004 Main Street

This 1985 image shows three buildings that were demolished many years ago, and replaced with a new non-market housing building in 2010. Designed by NSDA, it’s run by PHS Community Services, and there’s an office of an interior design company on the main floor.

The Archives caption says these were 968, 980 and 1004 Main Street. The slightly shorter building in the middle is the only one we can pin down a developer; the other two date from the early 1900s when the permits have been lost.

The building on the left was originally 966 Westminster Avenue, and first appeared in a street directory in 1909 as The Livingstone Rooms. A year later the main floor had a tenant; Philip Branca, who was a grocer. Filippo Branca moved his store a few doors to the north of here by 1913, to 622 Main (as it had been renamed). He had previously been in a building at 620 Main, later redeveloped as Tosi’s grocery store. His eldest son, Angelo, would go on to become not only the Canadian amateur middleweight boxing champion, but also one of Vancouver’s most celebrated lawyers who would eventually sit as a provincial Supreme Court judge. In 1920 the upper floors were vacant, and the British American Junk Co operated on the main floor. By 1950 the Waterloo Rooms were upstairs, run by Miss Cecelia Krips and the Advance Second Hand Store was on the main floor run by Moses Saperstein.

The similar two bay building two doors to the south was numbered as 1016 Westminster Avenue, and we think it appeared as a rooming house run by Mrs. P Murphy in 1906, with the Chinese Cascade Restaurant on the main floor. Alonzo Wilband took over the rooms in 1907, and Mrs Eva Thomas in 1908. The restaurant became home to the showroom of Walworth-Rolston farm implements in 1907,  until they moved to a new building immediately to the south in 1910. In 1920 the Oakland Rooms were upstairs (causing some confusion as there were also the Oakland Rooms on Richards Street). The Vernon Feed Co. were on the main floor. By 1950 the block had finally been renumbered in sequence, and we think this was now 1002, with the Victor Rooms upstairs and Gunnar Electrical Sales & Equipment on the main floor.

In between was 980 Main. The 1913 insurance map shows the Bonanza Rooms here, but that was inaccurate; those were actually three doors to the south, and we’re pretty certain this site sat undeveloped until 1921 when the Davis Junk Co hired Snider Bros to build a new store that cost a remarkably accurately estimated $9,949 to construct. No architect was listed on the permit.

Still in business in the city today, trading scrap metal, the company was started in 1909 by David Davis who initially dealt in horse hair for mats and sand bags for flooding. He was a Jew from Lodz, in Poland, and initially he investigated making a new life in South Africa. He was there for three years, leaving his wife and three daughters behind, before trying North America, initially in Winnipeg and then arriving in Vancouver in 1907. En route to joining her husband in Vancouver his wife, Dena, gave birth to her fourth daughter in Liverpool, and then another in Vancouver before a son, Charles was born in 1913..

According to his son David spoke a little English, Yiddish and Hebrew, Polish and a little German. Dena “if she did speak any other language, she never seemed to practice it; she probably only spoke Yiddish with a smattering of English” Main Street had several Jewish scrap and second-hand dealers, and Davis Junk was one that survived the longest. David negotiated bottle returns with Henry Reifel, who ran the brewery just to the south in Mount Pleasant, and that helped the business survive the depression. Charles joined the business in 1933 having attended Strathcona School and then getting a degree in commerce from UBC. In the early 1920 the company’s premises were on the opposite side of the street, with a wharf on False Creek (when it was larger than today).

This building was initially occupied by Schwartz Auto & Marine Salvage, but they moved out in a year, so it was vacant for several years until 1925 when Service Auto Wreckers moved in, owned by J Yochlowitz, another Polish Jewish escapee from the pogroms in Eastern Europe . As the company history recounts: “In 1912 after arriving with his family in Vancouver, Joseph Yochlowitz, began scratching out a living as a junk peddler and backyard scrap dealer. His sons, Daniel and Charlie, soon joined him in his labour and by the 1920’s the family business was established on Main Street as Service Auto Wrecking.

By 1935, 33-year old Daniel Yochlowitz was ready to invest in his own scrap metals shop, independent from his father’s. In 1949 he established ABC Salvage & Metal. In the following two decades, the company expanded to occupy multiple lots on Main Street, Prior Street and Union Street.” Today, ABC is also still in business, with 9 locations throughout British Columbia and Alberta, with facilities in both Burnaby and Surrey.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 790-0668


Posted 12 August 2021 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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