2005 Comox Street

The Topley Studios were not the only photographers drawn to the new homes at Comox and Chilco, in the West End. George Barrowclough took this image for a postcard some time soon after 1908, when the house on the corner was completed. Next door was the home of Charles Douglas, that we saw in the previous post, developed in 1906. Charles was born in Wisconsin, but his wives; Annie, who died in 1908, and Elizabeth, who he married in 1909, were from Ontario, as was their new neighbour, who developed this house in 1907.

Edwin Caton Mahony was from Hamilton, gratuating from the Ontario Agricultural College in 1882 at the age of 18. He went into the lumber business, moving to BC in 1890 working for the Royal City Planing Mills in New Westminster as a tallyman. A year later he married Clara Hill, from  Smithville, Ontario. They moved to Vancouver, and by 1894 Edwin was foreman of the Hastings Mill. He briefly left the city after the mill burned down in 1898, becoming the first postmaster in the mining district of Atlin, in northwest British Columbia.

By 1901 the family were back in Vancouver with Edwin as manager of the Royal City Saw and Planing Mills living in a house at the Hastings Mill site. As well as Edwin, who was 36 and Clara, 30, there were two daughters: Edna, nine, and Ida, seven. There was also a lodger, Nathanuel Hill, Clara’s father, who was working as a planer.

In 1904 Edwin took out a patent for “portable wall-section for house-building”. “My invention relates to the construction of knockdown houses especially designed for the use of settlers in a comparatively new or undeveloped country, and is intended to meet the requirements of such a class by providing a framed house the erection of which does not require the service of skilled carpenters or tradesmen, but that can be put together by the settler himself in less time than it would take to build one in the usual manner and that when finished is superior in its weather resisting qualities, appearance, and comfort to the best class of house as usually built by farmers or miners.

Many “BC Mills” system buildings were built in the next few years, and can be found throughout western Canada. The company also offered kits for schoolhouses and churches. Mostly the houses were understandably modest, but for his new family house, Edwin had J H Bowman design a fancy craftsman style home that used his patented panels in its construction.

The family lived here until 1924. Edwin signed up with the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the war. Ida was married in 1914 but Edna never married, and was a clerk at the Bank of Commerce, living at home. Edwin was a freemason, and in the Knight’s Templar as well as a member of the Vancouver Pioneers’ Association.

In 1925 the family sold the house and moved into the 7th floor of a nearby apartment building on the waterfront, Sylvia Court. Edwin’s title changed that year from ‘lumberman’ to ‘broker’. He died in 1930, and his body was transferred to the family plot in Hamilton. Clara died in 1943, and Edna was living in Victoria when she died in 1977. Ida had died seven years earlier, in Vancouver, having been a widow for eighteen years.

W L Martin bought the house in 1925 and carried out repairs and added a garage built by C S Gustafson. He was the general manager at Evans, Coleman and Evans, one of the city’s largest suppliers of building materials and also coal merchants, towing and pile driving contractors, with a portfolio of commercial properties.

By the late 1930s, as with so many of the large old houses in the West End, this had become a rooming house. Architects Arthur Erickson and Geoffrey Massey lived in the house in the mid 1950s, which by then was owned by an Egyptian developer. Erickson was working at Thompson, Berwick, Pratt, having recently been fired
from McCarter and Nairne, but ‘off the books’ he and Massey designed a replacement apartment building for the site in 1956, living rent-free rather than receiving a fee.

The white concrete 7-storey building was christened ‘The Residency’, and nothing really distinguishes it from any of the other mid-1950s apartments that proliferated in the West End. In a 2009 Vancouver Magazine article Erickson said “There wasn’t much we could do. Make the façade as simple as possible, have as many windows and as much floor space as possible“.  It was initially offered as ‘self owned suites’ – there were no such things as condominiums at that time. However, that never happened, (maybe the developer wasn’t willing to wait and see – he left for Egypt leaving his huge American car with the architects to cover their remaining fees).

It became a rental property, with a rooftop garden, and is still standing today. Massey’s comment in the same article is a fair review “It’s pretty nice compared to the others. At least it’s not leaking.”



Posted 31 January 2022 by ChangingCity in Gone, West End

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