733 Keefer Street

The building built to the sidewalk on Keefer Street in residential Strathcona dates back to 1908, when it cost $3,000 to build. (Alongside it to the west, and almost hidden from this angle, is a tenement building from the same year that only cost $2,000 to build). Rogers & McKay were the developers of the building, and William H Rogers signed the permit.

William was born in Bristol in March 1862, christened in May in St Philip and Jacob church there, and was married in August 1881 in St Bede’s Bristol to Lilly Skuce. (It looks like she really was Lilly (with two Ls), and her family name was probably Skuse). She was also born in 1862, and before her marriage was a staymaker (a corset maker). She had been born in Gloucestershire, but her family had moved to Wales and then to Bristol.

The marriage was timely; their son, William Henry Rogers (junior) was born in Bristol in January 1882. Their second child, Lilly Florence Gertrude Rogers, was born in Lucknow, Bruce, Ontario in June 1885. Understandably, she was known as Florence. By 1891 the family had moved to Seattle. Their third child, Edward E Rogers (‘Eddie’ in the 1911 census), was born there in February 1895. William was working as a contractor, but in the 1900 US Census he was a superintendent on the Street Railroad. William jr. was already working, as a machinist.

The family moved north, back to Canada, in 1903. William Rogers, a machinist had rooms on Powell Street that year. In 1904 he had moved to Gore, and was identified as W H Rogers jr, because his father, W H Rogers, a carpenter, was living at 432 Princess. (Lilly) Florence Rogers was 19 when she married James Blackmore Jolly, a 24 year old engineer, from Moonta Mines, South Australia in 1904 in Vancouver. The wedding took place at the family home on Princess Street. The couple went on to have two children, Harold in January 1906, and Gwendoline in 1918. Their family of three were living with William, Lilly and Eddie, as well as Albert Rogers, a nephew (and also a carpenter) in the 1911 census. By then they had moved to 1201 Harris, (East Georgia today), and in 1912 they moved to 1169 Pendrell in the West End.

William had at least 22 house-building projects as a builder working on his own, and several other larger buildings in partnership as Rogers and McKay. The partners owned property in Chinatown that they sometimes hired other builders to repair. We’ve still not confirmed for certain who Mr. McKay was. There were several carpenters, and at least one finance and real estate broker, and one who owned a sash and door business, but the most likely seems to be Thomas Masson McKay who was a timber broker. In 1911 he lived with his brother, William who was a lawyer, on Alberni Street and they originally came from Ottawa.

William Rogers returned south in 1916. In 1919 he completed a Naturalization Form to allow him to stay in the US. As requested, he confirmed he was not an Anarchist, or a Polygamist, he was 57, (born in 1862) from Bristol, and he had grey hair, was 160lbs and stood 5′ 10″ tall. He was a building contractor, living in Tacoma. In 1926 he completed another form (they were good for 7 years). The details were the same, and William’s children were listed. William Henry was born in 1882 in Bristol; Florence in 1885 in Canada and Edward in 1895 in Seattle.

William Henry jr was an inch taller and 20 pounds heavier than his father when he submitted his Naturalization papers in 1917. He was already living with his wife, Catherine, in Seattle, whom he had married in 1902, and he first entered the US in 1888 He was aged 52 and working as a wood preserver when he died in Seattle in 1932. His brother Edward was married to Margaret and aged 57 when he died in Vancouver in 1952.

As an investment property, the tenants here changed regularly. Wilson and Sugden, a bakery was first here, with Harry Wilson living ‘over the shop’. Quite quickly the building was divided, with a grocery store run by Peter Torrance and a bakery run by William Reynolds and Peter Callow. In 1915 the grocery was shown run by Quan Tsang, but not for long, and the property remained empty until 1920. From 1921 to 1928 the building was used by Russian-born merchant immigrant Louis Halperin who ran a fish-canning business called BC Distributors Company Ltd. That business moved to Alexander Street (and expanded to Saskatoon) in 1929, and briefly a Broom and Brush manufacturer was located here.

Through the remaining years of the 1930s it was either vacant, or occupied by unidentified ‘orientals’, until 1938 when it became home to a Japanese Bhuddist temple. That was also short-lived, as they were forced to leave the coastal area in 1942, and a Pullman Porter called Robert Harris moved in. In 1945 it re-opened as a store, with Charles Creer running a grocery, taken over in 1946 by brothers Joseph and H. Comtois, and then a year later by Quong Wing. In 1949 it was ‘Betty’s Light Lunch, run by Chee Kew Wong until 1954. After that it became a home, initially occupied by Chinese residents, several of them farmers. Our 1978 image shows the storefront no longer in use. More recently it has been home to a photographer, who used the storefront as a studio.


Posted 6 January 2022 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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