326 West Cordova Street

We know that this building had been significantly altered before this image was taken in the 1960s. That’s because it was first built in 1903, it had a different facade. It was developed by T Simpson who hired Thomas Hunter to build the $9,000 investment designed by Parr and Fee. It was the second design for the double lot site – a $12,000 version had been submitted a year earlier.

The image on the right is a part of a 1932 picture showing West Cordova, and our building is the two storey structure in the centre of the picture, next to the tall building (which is the Mercantile Building on the corner of Homer).

Although there were two Thomas Simpsons in Vancouver in 1903, neither developed the building here; one was a clerk in the Tiny Dog store, and the other a grocer. The T Simpson who developed this was Theodore Simpson, (confirmed by a paragraph in the 1903 Contract Record, which reckoned the costs had stretched to $15,000). Mr. Simpson’s choice of Thomas Hunter as the builder wasn’t in the least surprising. In 1892 Jennie Simpson, Theodore’s daughter, married Thomas Hunter.

At the end of 1902 the Province reported that “Work was started this morning on the demolition of the buildings formerly occupied us the Rustic and Golden Tip restaurants, to make room for the erection of a handsome new brick and stone block. The new building, which will be of two stories, will measure 50 by 120 feet, and is being built for Mr. Theodore Simpson of this city. The estimated cost of Its construction is not made public, but is understood to be in the neighborhood of $15,000. The architects of the new block are Messrs. Parr & Fee and the plans show a handsome structure of brick with a cut stone front. It Is understood that the lessees of the new block will be the wholesale clothing firm of Mackay, Smith & Co., who at present occupy premises further along Cordova street.”

Theodore Simpson arrived in Vancouver in 1891, but was apparently missed by the census. He soon had a problem that required the attention of the City Council “the contractors who deposited stumps etc on the property of Theo Simpson on the corner of Melville and Thurlow Street, be notified to have same removed or buried.” In 1892 he was living on Seymour Street, but by 1894 he was already shown as ‘retired’ and living at Melville and Thurlow. Thomas Hunter was the head of household there in the 1901 census, with Theodore and his wife, Isabella, living with Thomas’s family. Theodore was 62, and from England, shown arriving in Canada in 1845, and Isabella was six years younger.

Their daughter, Thomas’s wife, (Jane, Jannie or Jennie), had been born in Ontario, and that’s also where Isabella came from. Theodore was 25 when he married Isabella Day, aged 19, in Newmarket, Ontario in March 1864. In the 1871 census he was listed there as ‘baker’ – the same as in Vancouver in 1901, (although he was never associated with any work in Vancouver, and was described as ‘gentleman’ in the 1898 voter’s list, suggesting he was already retired with investments). In 1881 the family (Theodore, Isabella, and Jane, born in 1865) were living in Summerside, in Prince Edward Island.

In the spring of 1902 the family had a shock when Isabella passed away. Theodore submitted plans for this location soon after. He died in 1925, and was buried in Mountain View Cemetery with Isabella, and Jane Day, who was born on the same date as Isabella, (so presumably her twin sister) who had died in 1912.

This building was significantly  altered, and given its contemporary appearance, in 1955. That year Lounge Fashion Clothes (manufacturers) occupied the building, with Braemar Clothiers, Fletcher Lock & Safe in the middle unit and CanaDay’s Apparel (men’s wear) in the third. Fletcher’s had been in the building since at least the 1920s, and in 1925 a wholesale trunk and bag company were here too, the Langmuir Manufacturing Co.

Today Sphere Communications are here, buying and selling pre-owned cellphones, alongside Gastown Printers and Indigo Sutra, a home furnishing store specializing in items made with sustainable and natural fibres from around the world.

Image sources City of Vancouver Archives CVA 810-246 (copyright) and extract from Str N14

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Posted 20 June 2022 by ChangingCity in Gastown, Still Standing

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