157 – 165 East Cordova Street

This single storey retail building has been around since 1912 when Purdy & Lonergan designed and built it for $12,000 – which seems a surprisingly high amount of money for the period. This is half the building; the other half is to the right of the picture and slightly higher (because of the grade change on this part of Cordova), and addressed to Main Street. The developer was recorded as E McGuinness. Nobody of that name appears in the street directory, but a Mr. and Mrs. Edward McGuinness had been living on Davie Street in 1906. The Daily World even reported their movements, so they were clearly known around the city: “Mr. and Mrs. E. McGuinness and family of Davie street have returned home from Seattle”.

They were still at 1121 Davie in 1907, but in October there was an auction sale of the contents of the house, and in 1908 Mr. and Mrs. Richard S Ford were receiving visitors at that address (on Tuesdays), according to ‘The Elite Directory of Vancouver’. (Richard was publisher of the ‘Saturday Sunset’ newspaper). The McGuinness family weren’t obviously in the city before 1906, or after 1907, and in both of those years Edward is shown as ‘retired’. We can’t even be sure that he’s the developer of these buildings, but there are no other obvious candidates.

In 1909 E McGuinness obtained a permit for a brick store on the corner of Pender and Howe, according to the Contract Record, designed by C F Perry. Mr McGinnis (sic) also developed eight houses on Davie Street in 1903, including the house where he briefly lived from1906. In 1909 Mr. and Mrs. E McGuinness sailed for New South Wales from Victoria.

There are a couple of possible people who might be the developer. E J McGinnis was listed in the Vancouver directory as the Canadian Pacific Railway’s agent in Seattle in the early 1890s, but isn’t obviously resident at any time in Canada. There is also Edward W McGinnis, who died in Vernecliffe, Bainbridge Island, just south of the border. He was a Real Estate Broker who was born in 1861 in Massachusetts, and he was in Seattle when he died. Whoever the developer was, he probably wasn’t a Canadian resident for any longer than the 2 years in the mid 1900s.

The four stores here were initially occupied by Polyjos, a restaurant run by Colombas and Dascales. Next door was C Y Song Hing, a shoemaker, then the BC Cycle Co and at 165 Albert Burns sold hardware. At the end of the war only Albert was still in business. two of the units were vacant, and the People’s Mission occupied 159.

By the mid 1920s the expanding Japanese community had moved west from their Powell Street hub; Moriyama & Co occupied 157-161 and S Matsumiya was in 163. A decade later Moriyama were still at 157, selling second hand furniture, 163 was the Sunshine Mission and the Pacific Trading Co sold brushes at 165. In 1942 Mrs Moriyama, who was still trading that year, was forced to move to an internment camp, and only one of the four units was occupied a year later, by the Sunshine Apostolic Mission. That year Rev. Barker from Toronto, billed as a former well-known organist and professional musician, lectured at the mission “When the lights go out on the road to hell.” The lights went out in the mission too, as subsequently the street directory couldn’t be bothered to list the occupants of any of the units other than the generic ‘Orientals’.

We’re fairly certain that the units were used as residences, although in 1948 the Scandinavian Baptist Mission occupied one unit. In 1951 Anthony Cappello was living at 159 when he was acquitted on drug possession charges. In 1955 there were five units, as there are today. At 157 Lin Lee lived here, 159 was occupied by J Payne, a tailor, 161 by Ko Yak Sing, 163 by Tai Lai and 165 by Young Chow, who was a typesetter. DERA, the early non-profit housing association had their offices here in the mid 1970s, but don’t appear to have been here when our 1985 image was taken.

Today there’s a sign maker, a Harm Reduction Consultancy, an art gallery and a Vintage Clothing store.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 790-2449

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

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