Barclay and Thurlow Streets, ne corner

This picture dates from 1887, and is in the Uno Langmann Family Collection of Photographs at UBC. It was taken by a Montreal photographer, William Notman, who took a trip across the country on the new railway, taking photographs of scenic views on glass slides that he then turned into postcards on his return. This sepia print has faded a bit, but the McCord Museum (who have had Notman’s photographic archive since 1956) have made a clearer print.

We’ve enlarged part of the McCord image to show how we can locate the location of the two trees. That’s the First Hotel Vancouver off in the distance, apparently still under construction. The gentleman in the picture is actually sitting in a buggy, so there’s presumably a horse hidden by the left hand tree. Notman titled the image ‘Douglas Pines’, but they were actually Douglas Firs; there is a tree called Douglas Pine but it only grows to 150 feet, and it’s a native of Mexico. These trees could have been approaching 400 feet tall.

It’s not at all clear why they were still standing. The area between where the picture was taken (which Major Matthews, the City Archivist estimated to be where Barclay meets Thurlow today, and the hotel, had been cleared by two different contractors. “The forest on District Lot 541, or “C.P.R. Townsite” was felled in the spring of 1886 by Boyd and Clandenning, who, under contract, received twenty six dollars per acre for slashing and felling, and two dollars extra for cutting the limbs off; $28.00 in all.

The forest on District Lot 185, or “Brighouse Estate,” adjoining to the west of Burrard street, was felled to about Nicola street, in the spring of 1887 by John “Chinese” McDougall, and his employment of Chinese in preference to whites was the cause of the Chinese Riot of Feb. 1887. For some reason not known, solitary trees were left standing. These are two of them. 

Later, Boyd and Clandenning were paid three hundred dollars per acre for close cutting and clearing everything off the “C.P.R. Townsite” so that fire could not run through it again as it had done on 13 June 1886.”

This site was soon built on – there were two houses here by the turn of the century. One was part of a row of homes running down Barclay, and another was built at the rear of the lot, facing Thurlow. The Barclay house, from 1896, was home to Charles Wilson (Q.C.), a lawyer with Courbold, McColl, Wilson and Campbell from 1894. The Thurlow house seems to have confused the directory clerks (the number probably got altered in the early years of its existence) but by 1901 it was numbered as 908 Thurlow, home to Cortes Corydon Eldridge, born in Quebec and the first customs appraiser in the city.

Mr. Wilson was so well thought of as a defense lawyer that he travelled to Vernon to defend Euphemia Rabbitt, a 25 year old married woman who had shot and killed James Hamilton, a miner who had had threatened her, and who was described at her trial as “erratic and most abominable in his speech, especially about women”. Wilson’s cross examining of witnesses was so successful that Mrs. Rabbitt was found quilty of ‘justifiable homicide’ after only 20 minutes of deliberation by the jury, and she left the court a free woman. In 1899 it was suggested he might be appointed attorney general of the province, but in 1900 he stood for election in the Provincial election as part of the Liberal-Conservative Party of Canada. Technically this was the last election held without party affiliations; in practice most candidates identified their support. Mr. Wilson was not elected.

In 1992 Aquilini Investments built a 36 unit strata building here, on 7 floors, called Barclay Terrace. Enough owners were willing to sell to a developer that a 47 storey replacement, designed by ACDF Architecture of Montreal has been proposed, with 270 condos and 91 non-market rental units.

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Posted 21 October 2021 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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