310 West Cordova Street

These two small buildings are part of a block of very old (for Vancouver), and low-density buildings in what was once one of the most important city streets. On the extreme left of the frame Dr. Whetham’s Arlington Block can be seen, built in 1887. We looked at the building on the right, (home of the Frank & Oak clothing store today), in an earlier post. 314-316 W Cordova was developed in 1905 by R McLeod. We only have newspaper references, not a permit, so we can’t identify the architect, or which of several ‘R McLeods’ this might be. There was contractor called Rod McLeod, although we might expect him to build his own investment. Another possibility was Robert McLeod, an engineer in Victoria who had been married in Vancouver in 1900, and had an interest in a mining company near Nelson.

Next door to the east, (the left hand of the pair), is 310 West Cordova, which was initially numbered as 308. This is the Turner Block, originally designed by C O Wickenden for George Turner in 1889, so it’s one of the oldest buildings in the city. The Heritage Foundation’s website takes their information from the Heritage Statement for the building, that says it was built as a restaurant in 1914, but there’s no permit to support that, although it was altered quite early in its life. The building was vacant in 1915, but there’s an undated image that shows the Arlington Hotel and this building, when it had arched second floor windows. There was a single storey building to the west, so the picture was taken before 1905. It’s possible the upper floors were altered, or the building rebuilt when the Washington Cafe moved in. It opened in 1916, and that might be the source of the Heritage statement date, although we would expect a building permit for any major work, and there doesn’t appear to be one.

There was a George Turner in New Westminster who is well-documented; he was the provincial surveyor. This was a different George Turner; he lived at this address briefly in 1889, but by 1891 had rooms in the Leland House Hotel, where he was was listed in the street directory as ‘speculator’.

He was apparently missed in the 1891 census, but was listed in 1901 as a lodger at the Merchant’s Exchange Hotel, on Seymour Street. That record said he was aged 50, born in 1850 in the United States, and he was a miner who had arrived in Canada in 1886. His age records varied; when he died in 1914, in Savona, his birth date was 1846, and The Province published two obituaries, one citing each year, so it was unclear which was true. He died wealthy, but unmarried, and left his estate to two sisters, Katherine Meeker of Asbury Park and Mary Welles of Los Angeles. Katherine’s family tree shows a brother called George, one of seven children born in New York state, in 1848, so it appears he had a habit of adding or subtracting two years either way when saying how old he was.

It’s not clear what George did before arriving in Canada, but he was already a wealthy man (so perhaps he was a successful miner). He arrived in the city just as it became Vancouver, and acquired property very early, with at least three different lots allowing him to be on the 1887 voter’s list. (In those days, men who owned property could vote, irrespective of nationality). By 1889 he had $30,000 worth of property, and two years later it was worth $10,000 more. Biographies identify some of George’s fortune from mining in the Rossland, Slocan and Sandon areas, but we were wary of confirming that as there was at least one other George Turner (a Spokane judge and politician) who was associated with mining shares in BC, and who is not the Vancouver speculator, and there were three other George Turners with miners certificates. However, it appears reasonably clear that he was involved in both the Great Western Mine in Sandon, and the Two Friends Mine in Slocan in the 1890s where he was superintendent, and had a reputation as ‘an honest broker’. In 1897 he had rooms in Black’s Hotel in Sandon.

When he was in Vancouver he was a member of both the Vancouver Club and the Terminal City Club, and enjoyed playing chess – in 1892 he was president of the Chess and Draughts Club. His business interests outside mining included the early Street Railway company, their rivals, the Gurney Cab Co, and later a milling and grain business and the McLaren-Laurentia Milk Co. He acquired land in the San Joaquin Valley in California, where he established a ranch and was on a fishing trip to Savona in 1914 when he died.

A variety of businesses occupied the premises over the years. From 1916 it was home to the Washington Cafe, and the upper floor had been linked to the Arlington Block and was part of The Arlington Rooms. At the back was a separate 3-storey building that had been used as the Soldier’s Training School. Thomson and Stoess owned 310 W Cordova in 1926, but the repairs were to a workshop, factory and warehouse, so that was probably the building at the back. In 1930 Kydd Brothers occupied the space, and the Washington Cafe was still in operation in front.

Initially no owner was identified for the cafe, as it was ‘Chinese’ (and that was all you apparently needed to know). It had opened in 1911 in the Arlington Block, when it was run by Mer Wing. Two waitresses were wanted in 1911, when the wages offered were $9 a week. In 1922 John Ming Ching was listed (in the Chinese Section of the Directory) as manager. In 1931 Gin Gin was manager, and in 1935, the last time it appeared, Wong Do.

In 1936 the building was empty, and by 1939 a safe manufacturer, J & J Taylor, had moved in, with Sinclair Bros making confectionery in the building on the lane. That situation remained the same in 1955, the last year we can check directories online. A few years ago The Deluxe Junk Co had a clothing consignment store, then by 2016 Woodsons had their law office over a Versace Home store, and today Neumann & Associates, a law firm have their offices over the Indonesian Trade Promotion Centre

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives (copyright) CVA 810-21 and UCR California Museum of Photography 1996.0009.X4834

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Posted 2 June 2022 by ChangingCity in Gastown, Still Standing

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