819 Prior Street

The recent sale particulars for this 12 unit apartment building said it was built in 1901. Usually we find buildings are actually older than current records suggest, but in this case it’s the other way. This building was actually given a permit in 1910. The owner / builders,  Gwillim & Crisp hired architects Campbell & Bennett to design their $7,000 investment. The company name might suggest a building partnership, but actually they were a law practice.

Frank Llewellyn Gwillim was from Herefordshire in England, born in 1870. He came to Manitoba in 1882, and in 1893 was called to the bar of the Northwest Territories, and in 1897 in Manitoba, and then in the Kootenay district of BC. The partnership with Frederick George Crisp was formed in the Yukon a year later, where Frank was the first public administrator of the Yukon territory. He left to come to Vancouver in 1906, and Frederick Crisp stayed in Alaska for two years before rejoining his partner in Vancouver in 1908.

Fred Crisp was was born in 1877, in Ingersoll, Ontario, and in 1898 moved to Dawson City and became a lawyer in the Yukon. He married Annie Gow, born in Manchester, England in 1877, who had arrived in Canada in 1884. We haven’t traced their wedding, but they had a son, William, in 1904 in Dawson City. Frederick Dawson Crisp followed in 1907, also in the Yukon, and having moved to Vancouver, Allen Gow Crisp, in 1909.

It’s safe to assume neither of the owners ever lived here. Fred Crisp moved around the West End three times between 1908 and 1913 before settling in Shaughnessy on Balfour Avenue. ‘Following an operation’, Frederick died in Vancouver in 1924 aged 48. He was buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Vancouver. Annie remarried in 1925, to George Clark, a farmer, but he died in 1934. Annie lived to 86, dying in Vancouver in 1963.

Frank Gwillim lived on Barclay Street in the West End from 1906, and then on Robson Street, Downtown, before moving to Balfour Avenue in 1912. He wasn’t there long; at the outbreak of war in 1914 he signed up, and went to war at the age of 44. Lieutenant Frank Llewelyn Gwillim of the 29th batallion of the Candian Infantry died ‘of sickness’ in 1916, and was buried with his nephew, 2nd Lt. Drummond of the Black Watch, in St Giles churchyard in Mansell Gamage in Herefordshire. His headstone was paid for by Fred Crisp.

The apartment building has six units on each floor, each with two bedrooms in around 500 square feet. Since our 1978 image it has been clad in cedar shingles, and it’s now on the Heritage Register (although not protected with a Heritage Agreement). There’s no real open space, just a paved yard with parking spots. The sales brochure ominously mentioned ‘Rents are very low and can be substantially increased with some upgrades to the building’. It was offered at $3.3m, slightly below its assessed value.

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Posted 24 March 2022 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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