1399 Barclay Street

We’ve titled this with the street address today, but it had several different addresses over its early years. The house was built around 1897, and was sometimes just referenced as ‘Barclay, corner of Broughton’. Initially it was numbered as 1373 Barclay, but by 1901 it had become 894 Broughton. By 1905 it was back to 1373 Barclay. In 1914 it appears to have become 912 Broughton (although that block of Broughton was in the process of being renumbered, and some houses still had earlier numbers, and were not in numerical sequence). We haven’t identified an architect. It’s most likely to be Thomas Fee, who designed several houses of a similar style in the West End starting in 1896.

Rev. Harold John Underhill was from Staffordshire, and was the first resident listed here, although he was rector of St Paul’s church on Hornby Street in 1896. In 1898 the church was moved to a block from here, on Jervis at Pendrell. However, it was his brother, Dr. F T Underhill who requested for a sidewalk to be laid on Broughton Street to his residence (in December 1897), and who was mentioned in 1898 as having built a $4,500 house here, although at the time his medical practice was still in New Westminster. Both brothers were shown living here in 1898, but by 1901 Rev Underhill had moved to Nicola St, and in the census that year he was aged 49, living as a lodger with Benjamin Walker and his wife Sarah. In 1904 he moved to Alberni St, and in 1905, aged 52, he married Helena Ross, who was 19, and from Quebec (and before her marriage living with her family on Comox Street).

They moved to Pendrell, and he continued as rector of St Paul’s through to 1908, so he was rector during the period of the move of the original church from Hornby St, and the construction of the new church in 1905. The couple had three children; Helena in 1907, Harold in 1909, (while the family were living in Yale, where Rev. Underhill was chaplain of the school), and (Herbert) Stuart in 1914, a year before Rev. Underhill moved to become rector of St John’s, Maple Ridge. He remained only a short time before moving again to become rector of St Alban’s in Burnaby. He died in 1932, and his widow, Helena, 40 years later at the age of 86.

Dr. Frederick Theodore Underhill was from Staffordshire in England, born in 1858. He married Beatrice in 1885 and came to BC in 1894, having studied medicine an Edinburgh and practicing in Tipton, in the West Midlands. Initially he was in Mission, and New Westminster, before becoming the city’s first full-time medical health officer in 1904. Although his biography said his recreations were ‘all outdoor sports’, it’s surprising he had time as he had seven surviving sons and five daughters.

In the 1901 census Fred T Underhill was head of household, and aged 42 and a doctor. He arrived in Canada a year earlier than his brother, in 1894. His wife, Beatrice, was six years younger, and the rest of the household included seven children, a female ‘companion’ called Rixon and a maid, Conolly. The children’s names were recorded as they were used; for example, 8-year-old Jim was born in England, and Bill, who was five, in BC.

In 1906 Dr. Underhill helped create the Vancouver Medical Association. He moved to Westminster Road in 1908, and a year earlier had had a permit for $2,000 of alterations to 1373 Barclay. It’s possible the house was planned to be used in conjunction with the hospital that was built next door, but it looks like it was more likely remodeled, and became 912 Broughton

Dr. Underhill led the city’s fight against the 1917 flu epidemic; requiring people in public occupations to wear masks. His actions to order schools and places of entertainment closed in the fall of 1918 was a dramatic (and unpopular) move. By October 25 there were 1,300 hospital cases. Two days later, on average, one patient was dying every hour. Eventually there were only 778 deaths in the city – far fewer per capita than in many other places. He died in 1936, aged 77.

As 912 Broughton 1914 Charles McKeen, a shoe merchant lived here for a couple of years. He was followed in 1917 by William Arnott, a 76-year-old accountant, who arrived from England in 1873. He lived here in 1921 with Annie, his wife, who was 22 years younger, and their 2 sons Geoffrey and Clarence working as clerks, and 18-year-old Frederick, who was still a student. Four other children had already left home. The couple had married in Yorkshire in 1886, and then Annie had accompanied her new husband to their life in Canada. That year the contents of the house were auctioned off.

Next, Ethelbert Lecky Simpson was shown in the street directory to have moved in. He was a 53-year-old Irishman, but it was probably his wife, Alice who was here, running a rooming house. In 1921 she was head of household on Haro Street, with her 13-year-old daughter, a housekeeper, and 13 roomers. She was born in London, and her husband wasn’t recorded on the census, but died in Essondale, the provincial mental hospital, in 1925. In 1927 Samuel Holt was the last individual owner listed; that year the house was broken up into apartments (although really it was a rooming house with shared bathrooms), called Broughton Lodge.

The Museum of Vancouver have an image of the house before the veranda was filled in, they think from the 1920s, although we think it’s probably earlier.

When the house was photographed in 1972 it didn’t have too many years left. In 1980 Romses Kwan architects applied to build a 14 unit 6-storey condo building to replace the corner house, and its neighbours. The project wasn’t built, although the house was demolished around 1982. In 1986 a 3-storey condo building called the Westbriar was developed with 20 strata units. In 2004 the building had to have a new rainscreen, but unless there are future plans to allow larger buildings across a wider area of the West End than the recent plan permitted, it seems likely to stay as it is for many years.

Image source: with thanks to one of our readers, Dennis, and the Museum of Vancouver. Thanks too to Patrick Gunn, for research above and beyond.

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Posted 29 September 2022 by ChangingCity in Gone, West End

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