Howe Street – 600 block, west side

This row of houses was photographed before the street had been levelled. This remarkably clear image dates from around 1889, and shows two families out on the porches of their homes. (It also shows why reports of  injuries to people crossing the street at that time were probably not exaggerated.)

The houses would have been built on wooden piles hammered into the forest floor, and the sidewalk was built level on heavy timber posts. The street levelling often took a few more years to complete. Even today, it’s still sometimes possible to come across sawn-off stumps in the crawl-space underneath houses from the 1880s and early 1890s, with the house supported on wooden posts or short brickwork columns.

As best we can tell, these were on today’s 600 block; described as ‘between W Georgia & Dunsmuir’. In 1889 it was the 400 block, and these would have been the second of two identical houses, both (confusingly) numbered as 427 with 429 Howe Street in the middle and 431 beyond.

George DeWolf was managing Director of the British Columbia Smelting Co, living at 427 Howe. By 1891 he was in real estate, and had moved with his wife and three daughters to Georgia, on the corner of Bute. His wife Frances was English, but George was from Nova Scotia, and his eldest daughter Elsa would have been about six when the photo was taken. In 1890 the numbering had been sorted out, and George was at 425 (which would have been off the picture to the right).

J M Clute also lived at 427. He worked for J S Clute and Co, dry goods (and J S Clute lived next door at 429, as well as an otherwise unidentified Beasley family). In 1891 J M moved on to work in real estate, (although the street directory thought he was still in the dry goods business), and  J M Clute had moved to rooms in the Manor House Hotel. He was from Ontario, and his wife was American. They had two daughters, aged 13 and 9 when the picture was taken, which makes him a more likely candidate to be in the picture.

A Mr. Watson (occupation unspecified) was at 431 Howe, where there was a family party in the porch, and a boy wearing a sea captain’s hat (maybe a pirate?) apparently intrigued by the photographer. In 1890 Mr. Watson had moved, and been replaced by James Lacey Johnson, an insurance agent.

The houses didn’t last too long. As we saw in an earlier post, by the 1930s this was already a commercial street. The commercial buildings that replaced these homes were modest, and in turn redeveloped in 1984 by the Metropolitan Hotel, designed by Dalla-Lana / Griffin Architects for Hongkong Land. When it opened it was managed as the Mandarin Hotel, and was said to be the most expensive investment per room in North America, and designed on Feng Shui principals. That didn’t help turn a profit – the hotel lost millions in each of its first 3 years of operation, and it was renamed as the Delta Place (and at least one website exists that says it’s still called that, although it became the independently owned Metropolitan in 1995.) There’s a squash court among the hotel’s fitness offerings, as well as a swimming pool.

Image source City of Vancouver Archives CVA SGN 140

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Posted 14 July 2022 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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