646 Hornby Street

In the early 1900s Hornby Street was mostly residential, but further north there were some businesses, and City Archivist Major Matthews dated this image to 1907, when the Dixon Brothers livery stables was one of the pioneer companies in the street. He was mistaken about the date; the first year that Gordon and Robert Dixon and their business were listed was 1910. At the time they advertised as both a moving company, and a livery stables. (There was a stables here before Dixons, run by Robert Thorburn. The owner, J C Williams, hired R McKay Fripp to design a new concrete floor for the premises in 1909).

The woman and horse identified by the x’s are Mrs. Thomas Stewart and “Nellie.” Mrs Stewart was probably Mary, originally from Ontario, married to Thomas, a mine owner born in PEI. In 1911 they lived on Beach Avenue with their son, also Thomas. We have no idea who Nellie was.

The 1910 Street directory shows both Robert and Gordon Dixon living at 1023 Robson, as well as Silvester Dixon, their father, who was a carpenter. In 1911 they had moved to 1121 Pacific, and Gordon was still with his parents, Silvester and Jane, but Robert had moved out. They were initially hard to trace, as they were recorded as Dickson, (as they were in New Brunswick in 1881 where the family of three boys and four girls were living in Weldford, Kent, New Brunswick).

Robert Dixon was born in Ontario in 1867 according to his death notice, and was married to Edith Brenchley in Vancouver in November 1909. He was actually born in New Brunswick in 1868, and she was from England, arriving in 1882. Gordon was born in 1874, and we haven’t found any marriage, although he was shown as widowed when he died.

One of their sisters might have been the reason for the family chosing to move to Vancouver. Jessie May Dixon (two years younger than Gordon) married Henry Arendell Edgett in 1896 in Vancouver, had a son, Harry in 1904. Her husband was a successful businessman who had also been born in New Brunswick. He had a store and warehouse on West Pender Street at Cambie. Jessie died in 1911, soon after her brothers moved to the city, having spent some time in the Klondike.

Another sister, Mary, married Richard Coupland Spinks, a lawyer, in St Andrew’s church in 1903. His family arrived in the city in 1886, and his father was one of the pioneer land brokers. Richard signed up to fight in the war, and was killed in action in France in 1917, aged 53. In 1920 Mary was living with her brother, the third son in the family, William, who was foreman of the livery stable on Hornby. He died in 1920 after he was kicked in the head by one of the horses. He first arrived in Vancouver in 1912 when he was listed as a mining engineer, so he too had probably been in the Klondike. A third sister, Elizabeth, married Thomas Jardine in New Brunswick in 1885, and they also moved to Vancouver later in the 1900s.

In 1913 Dixon Bros entered both Dr. Savage and Lady Patrick in the Driving Club races at Hastings Park, while also advertising ‘All Kinds of horses for sale and hire’. Lady Patrick had been entered in races as early as 1910.

In 1915 the brothers both gave evidence at an inquiry into wartime purchasing, and featured in the local press when they accused the military vet of requesting (and getting) a $25 commission to examine and approve horses he was buying for the army. The first cheque they wrote was torn up, and another written that could be cashed (at the Ritz Cafe). In 1920 Silvester Dixon died.

By 1923 the brothers were owners of the Dollar Wood Yard on West Georgia, near Stanley Park. As Dixon Bros and Shultz, they had another stables on Lorne Street, and in 1925 they built new premises at the southwest end of Granville Bridge, and moved the stables from here.

Robert Dixon died in 1941, and his wife Edith in New Westminster just short of her 102nd birthday. Gordon Dixon died in 1955, apparently the last of the seven siblings. He was living on Pacific Street,

In 1926 this became the Maple Leaf Garage – which appears to have used the stables buildings (as no permits seem to exist for any alterations). It didn’t last long – there was a bailiff’s auction in 1927, and by 1929 the premises were being used by a bailiff, presumably to store items before an auction. Further garage uses followed in subsequent years. In 1940 it was home to the Hornby Garage, U-drive Ltd and the Hertz drive-ur-self System. In 1955 it was a parking lot run by BC Quick-Park Ltd. By 1981 almost the entire block was cleared, as this image shows.

We saw the building that would be built here from a different angle. In 1986 the new home for the Bank of British Columbia (and initially called Tower 885) was completed, soon be taken over by the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank. It was designed by Webb Zerafa Menkes Housden Partnership, a Toronto architect with a Vancouver office at the time.

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives Bu P529 and CVA 779-W05.17


Posted 17 October 2022 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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