546 Prior Street

This is an unusual circumstance, where an apartment building has been replaced with a single family home. It was, admitedly, far from beautiful when it was demolished after a fire caused sufficient damage to make it not worth replacing. It was developed by Mary Parker in 1909, who hired McDonald & McLennan to design and build it at a cost of $5,000.

In this case the developer may once again been a convenient name for her husband to park his investment. Mary was the wife of Mandel Parker, and they lived three blocks from here on Prior Street. (Records don’t agree about his name; some have Mendel, others Mendall; we’re using the name on his death certificate). Once this building was completed they moved in, with two daughters aged 7 and 4 and a son who was 11. According to the 1911 census they had both emigrated from Russia in 1902, were Jewish, and clearly successful as they were both aged 31 and Mary’s husband was already shown as ‘retired’, although the street directory says he was a second-hand dealer, and he was running a store well into the 1920s. They seem to have genuinely been young, rather than shaving a few years off their real ages (Mandel was shown aged 72 when he died in 1950). They had arrived earlier than 1902, probably in 1899, as they were already in the 1901 census with their one year old son, Joseph.

Their daughter Esther married Harry Block from Seattle in 1904, when she was 18 and Harry was 21. In 1908 the Times Colonist reported on the formation of “The Congregation Sons of Israel Society of Vancouver. This is a religious society, formed for the purpose of furthering the Interests of the Jewish church. The names of the first trustees are George Simons, Zebulon Franks and Mendal Parker. These retain the position for twelve Months, and trustees will be elected annually by majority.” In 1926 Mandel and Joseph Parker were sued, and had $1,500 damages awarded against them, when a salesman fell down an trapdoor left open in their store. At the time they were running People’s Friend Clothing Store, 708 Columbia Street, New Westminster.

In 1948, the Jewish Western Bulletin carried a picture of the couple, with the caption “Mr and Mrs Mendel Parker, residents of Vancouver since 1899, recently celebrated their 50th anniversary with their children in Seattle and the homes of their son and daughter-in-law and of their daughter and son-in-law.” Two years later Mandel died, and was buried in Schara Tzedeck Cemetery. We have been unable to find details of Mary’s death.

Her apartment building didn’t stay as classy as it must have been when it was first built. In 1915 the listing said ‘apartments’, and the family still lived here, but by 1920 the Parkers had moved to a house on East 7th and it was listed as ‘cabins’. In 1925 there was a grocery store run by Moich Omae, but no mention of the upper floor. Five years later it was back to ‘cabins’. That’s how it was still described in 1938, so we don’t know who lived here, as the directory compilers didn’t try to identify the residents. One exception was Alfred Norris, “who suffered a fractured neck and other Injuries in a fall from a balcony at 546 Prior street, where he resided, on July 17, died In General Hospital at midnight Sunday. Coroner J. D. Whitbread Is conducting an enquiry.” In 1945 the rooms were managed by ‘Pete’ Pallanteri. He was actually Pasquale, and a few years later he ran a rooming house in north Vancouver. In 1950 he was still running this building, which was clearly undergoing something of a renaissance. It was described as ‘apartments and rooms’ – a step up from ‘cabins’. By 1955 the transformation was complete; there were 12 apartments, with named tenants.

A fire damaged the building some time after our 1978 image, but before the mid 1990s. It was abandoned, and eventually the owners stopped paying taxes, and the City became owners in 1998. The cleared the site and put it up for sale in 2000. In 2002 they finally managed to find a buyer, who paid $125,500 for the site. In 2004 a new single family house was completed on the lot.

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Posted 18 October 2021 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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