Dunsmuir and Beatty – nw corner

We saw the building on the left of the image in its first incarnation as The Vancouver Athletic Club. By the 1980s when this picture was taken, it had been messed about with a lot, and no longer used as an athletics club. Probably designed and built by Albert Cline in 1906, it was remodelled in 1919 by the Navy League of Canada who spent $15,000 on the work, with further minor changes in 1925 designed by Honeyman & Curtis. The military continued to use the premises through to 1945 in various guises, ending up with the Navy League Seamen’s Club.

For a while it was the BC Institute of Music and Drama (in 1950) with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers having their offices here. From 1951 it was known as the Dunsmuir Auditorium, and by 1955 a whole series of unions were also based in the building – the International Union of Mine & Smelter Workers, the Association of Heat & Frost Insulators & Asbestos Workers, the Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 213, (who owned the building in the early 1960s), the Police Federal Labor Union Local 122, the Union of Operating Engineers Local 115, and the Pile Drivers, Bridge Wharf & Dock Builders Union.

The auditorium was used for plays, a billiards championship, a broadcast of the Hebrew Christian Hour in 1956, showing films about Mexico in 1959, and Japan and France in 1960. The hall became the home of the Vancouver Opera Association in 1969; in 1971 auditions for ‘The King and I’ to be performed at Malkin Bowl were held here. In 1982 the site was sold (by expropriation) to BC Transit for $1.75 million so that the SkyTrain tunnel could be build underneath. The building still had a basement with showers and a swimming pool (filled with files, props and stage sets). It was probably a welcome move, as the Opera Association had an awful 1977 season with poor attendance and sizeable cost overruns, leading to a significant deficit.

Next door Hall & Wallace hired Bedford Davidson to design and build a machine shop in 1909 at a cost of $21,000.  (The permit said $4,000, but the newspaper report noted the larger sum). They were a wagon company, with an earlier carriage works at the corner of Pender and Abbott. The company built an earlier $2,000 carriage shop on Beatty Street in 1905, probably on this property. They were frequently advertising for blacksmiths, carpenters and carriage painters. James A Wallace had the Columbia Carriage Works at 50 East Hastings in 1900, and James W Hall was partnered with John Alexander McRae in a rival business at 38 West Hastings, two of perhaps seven or eight carriage building businesses in the city at the turn of the century. By 1910 there were just two remaining, and Hall & Wallace was one of them.

According to the 1901 census James W Hall was born in 1864 in Ontario, although in 1911 he admitted to 1861. His wife Margaret also said she was 37, but a decade later became 51, and had been born in 1859. They had three sons, Howard, Percy and Ralph, (the only one born in BC, in 1895). James had married Margaret Dixon in Albion in Peel in Ontario in 1886, and Howard was born in 1888 in Sandhill, in Peel District (and died in Mission in 1981). Percy was born in the same place three years later, and his mother was shown as Margaret Dixon when he died in Victoria in 1961. Ralph died in Vancouver in 1975.

In 1909 the ‘gasoline launch’ Ariadne caught fire in Coal Harbour and burned to the waterline, “severely injuring her owner, J W Hall”. James William Hall was 88, and widowed when he died in 1950.

James A Wallace was listed as a blacksmith in 1901, aged 33 (born on January 1 1868) and also from Ontario. He was married to Maria, who had come to Canada in 1879, when she was aged 4, from Cuba, West Indies. They had a 1-year-old son, William B Wallace. The 1911 census showed William was also 3 years older, born in 1865 (and still a blacksmith). There were two more children in the family, Lester and Melvin. When they married in Vancouver in 1898 Maria’s birthplace was listed as Corratillo, Cuba, and her full name was Maria Esperanza Augustina Reed, (showing her mother’s name, Elizabeth Reed rather than her father, William Dane). It looks as if James was in Lytton in 1891, working as a blacksmith.

James Alexander Wallace died in 1944, when his birthplace was listed as Bonville, South Stormont, Stormont Dundas and Glengarry, Ontario, and Maria was 83 when she died in Burnaby in 1958, (where curiously, he father was listed as William Reed, and her mother as Joan Clarkson).

Hall and Wallace shifted from building carriages pulled by horses to making bodywork for vehicles. In 1913 they were advertising the bodies they were supplying on ‘Indiana’ truck chassis, and in 1917 they showed a picture of a hearse built for S Bowell of New Westminster.

In 1920 it was announced that the business had been sold to F W Lott of Seattle. He was described as an experienced paint and varnish expert. It looks as if the sale fell through: the business name didn’t change name, and ran an advertisement in 1922 when drivers switched from the left, to the right hand side of the road.

The company had their safe broken open in 1927 when ‘amateur criminals’ found a small sum of money inside. The firm advertised for someone experienced in fender straightening in 1928, and not long after there was another break-in when an electric drill was stolen. That year the directory had “HALL & WALLACE, AUTOMOBILE WORKS. Jas. W. Hall, Jas. A. Wallace. Auto Bodies, Truck and Delivery Bodies, Painting and Duco Finishing, Wrecked and Damaged Cars Repaired.” Percy Hall was the accountant in 1929, but wasn’t listed in 1930, and his brothers Ralph and Melvin appear to have had jobs as drivers.

The business had closed by 1930. James Wallace became proprietor of Broadway Confectionery, and James W Hall was retired. In 1936 he was proprietor of the Rockcliffe Apartments on West 10th, and James Wallace had apparently also retired. The motor works was home to the Catelli Macaroni Products Corporation – as a packing line and warehouse. There was a strike in 1948, and soon after the business moved out. The office of the National Employment Service opened later in 1948, and in 1958 Ernest Bird, no fixed address, tossed a rock through the window, and then gave himself up to the police. He was granted the winter accommodation he had been looking for (after more five similar offences) and was sentenced to six months jail. He had done the same thing a year earlier, telling the arresting officers he had no job, no money, and nowhere to sleep. He got a six month sentence that year, as well. In 1963 it was announced that the Employment Office would move to the new Federal Building at 125 East 10th Avenue. The building was offered for lease, and Kelly’s Records moved in, with their warehouse and mail order centre here, and seven stores around BC.

In 1994 the site was redeveloped as the HA Simons Building, which morphed into the Seimens Building and then the Amec Building, and now Wood Canada, as the engineering business were taken over and amalgamated into ever-larger companies. It is also home to architect Stantec Consulting, who took over the building’s designers, Aitken Wreglesworth Associates. The corner cantilevers out to allow the building’s foundations to miss the tunnel for the SkyTrain which angles across the site from the station on Beatty Street, and picks up the abandoned Canadian Pacific rail tunnel further west. The tunnel was originally cut in 1931, and allowed the trains from Waterfront Station to be moved to the Drake Street railyards to be cleaned, supplied and made ready for the trip back to the east. Before it was built, full scale steam trains could block the Downtown streets they crossed for up to 20 minutes. Eventually CP’s use ceased in 1979.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 772-117



Posted 20 October 2022 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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