Archive for November 2022

Kensington Place Apartments – Nicola Street


This majestic Italianate styled building has stood in the West End for over 100 years. Completed right at the end of 1913 (when the picture was taken), it was designed by ‘P M Julian’ in 1912 for Robertson & Hackett. It has a Nicola Street entrance but used its Beach Avenue address for the permit. Philip Jullien, the architect, was from Washington DC where he learned the Beaux Arts style while working in several offices there. (He ended the 19th century trying to make his fortune in the Yukon goldfields, which might be how he became acquainted with Vancouver). He arrived here in 1910, and this was his biggest commission here, although he designed much bigger buildings on his return to Washington in 1916.

Ironically Robertson and Hackett made their fortune owning a sawmill at the south foot of Granville Street in False Creek, but they chose to build their $75,000 five/six storey investment apartments in brick & concrete. They had over 40 building permits over the years, but apart from this they were all for relatively minor changes and additions to their sawmills, or a few houses they seem to have owned elsewhere in Downtown.

David Robertson was a Scotsman, who established a construction business in England in the 1870s. He travelled to Toronto, then headed west, meeting James Hackett for the first time on the train when he joined it in Winnipeg. They formed a construction partnership responsible for building many of the city’s prestigeous early buildings. In 1891 they opened a sawmill, which they moved to False Creek in 1895, then added a sash and door factory, which burned down in 1906, (so they bought out a rival to continue operations).

James William Hackett was born in Truro, Nova Scotia, and arrived in Vancouver in 1888 after a decade in the construction business in Winnipeg. James was elected an alderman in 1897, and was an active member of the Board of Trade. After his death in 1918 his widow lived in Kensington Place apartments. His son, George Robertson Hackett became Manager and secretary-treasurer of the business, and David Robertson was president. In 1921 David, who never married, was living with his nephew, Alex, who was manager of the sash factory, Elizabeth, Alex’s wife, their 10-year-old daughter, and Elizabeth’s younger sister, who was a telephone operator with BC Phones. David was still at the same address when he died in 1933, aged 83.

The building started life as apartments – 22 huge ones. There are only four suites per floor, most with two bedrooms and two or three bathrooms. The first mention of the building is at the end of 1913, when F Bruce Begg, ‘of the Begg Motor Company‘ got married in Buffalo, New York, and on his return to Canada would be living here (on the top floor). While the seriously wealthy were building houses in Shaughnessy, those in society who preferred to rent were moving here. George Kidd, financier and comptroller of the BC Electric Railway had a top floor suite. Dr George Worthington, a prominent physician who later owned the Vancouver Drug Company was in suite 20. Norman Ridley-Shield who had been business manager of the Kelowna Opera House had a penthouse suite. A C Brydon-Jack, a well-known and well-connected lawyer lived here in 1916. From New Brunswick, he was the senior prosecutor in most crown criminal trials in the city. He organized the Dominion Trust Company. In 1915 only his wife Vera, was mentioned as resident (and presumably their children, aged 14 and 13). She was daughter of a New Brunswick shipbuilder. Arthur was living in the Main Hotel. Unusually, their divorce made the newspapers, in 1917, the year that Arthur remarried in Seattle. In 1919, Vera Brydon-Jack also remarried, also in Seattle.

Mr. and Mrs. Campbell Sweeny and their family moved from their flat in the Bank of Montreal Building. Mr. Sweeny arrived in 1887 as manager of the first Bank of Montreal branch in the city. Mrs Sweeny died soon after in November 1914, just before her son, Benjamin, was able to leave Europe to visit. He was in the Royal Engineers and had been wounded in battle. Shortly afterwards the remaining family moved to apartments in the Hotel Vancouver.

In 1916 the owners (still Robertson and Hackett), agreed to allow an auction of the valuable and recently acquired contents of Suite 32 ‘as the owner is going to the front’. Everything had been recently purcahsed from the Standard Furniture Co, ‘regardless of cost’ including Persian rugs that had cost $185 each. That same year Mrs. John D McNeill was visited by her mother, Mrs. J T Hightower of San Francisco. Her husband was managing director of a coal company that distributed ‘jingle pot coal’.

In the 1940s and 50s, the building was home to the celebrated Canadian novelist, Ethel Wilson and her husband. In the late 1960s the owners were planning to redevelop the building, but tenants led by Terry Devlin successfully bought the building, and in 1975 it was an early conversion to a strata building, and is also an ‘A’ on the Heritage Register. The new owners gradually updated the building, led by architect, heritage advocate and resident, Charlotte Murray. The exterior was restored; the cornice re-built, and the windows (almost certainly from a Roberrtson & Hackett factory) restored. Suites now sell for up to $3m each.

Image source: Library & Archives Canada 3259566



Posted 28 November 2022 by ChangingCity in Still Standing, West End

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1040 Hornby Street

This 1965 image of two Hornby Street buildings shows Barons’ Auto House in 1040 Hornby, a three-storey building that looks like it may have had a partial 1940s makeover. Underneath was an earlier structure, designed by Thomas Hooper in 1910 for Alex Mitchell. When it was built, the $30,000 building was home to the Stanley Park Stables.

Around 1900 Alex Mitchell took over the Georgia Street stables of Queen Brothers. He ran the stables with a partner, W Hill Peppard who also ran the Pacific Transfer Co. In 1901 he stopped working for Dunn’s and moved to Howe Street, and in 1902 took over the Stanley Park livery on his own. In 1905 he built a new stables on Seymour Street but was only there for five years before moving to this location. At one point Alex had 86 horses, 40 rigs, seven hacks and two tally-hos. Much of the company’s profits came from showing visitor’s around the city – including Stanley Park. By 1909, one of the Tally-hos was an automobile. (They were the largest carriage, carrying up to 20 passengers and drawn by a team of four horses).

The growing popularity of automobiles, and the effects of the war led to the stables closing in 1915. Alex kept his home four blocks north of here, and by 1917 was manager of the Ice Delivery Company, a job he retained for 20 years. His commute wasn’t too onerous – the company, initially managed by Charles Faucett, took over this building. They then moved to Homer Street, and by the 1930s to Richards and Davie. In 1920 the RCMP were using the building as a stables, but by 1923 they had moved, and Black Brothers Autos moved in

Black Brothers made automobile upholstery. Before moving here, they were on Homer Street, so the image of the interior of their works, dated c 1914 in the Archives is either inaccurate about the date, or the location. They were still here in 1930, but a decade later W T Tupper’s Auto House bodywork restoration business was here.

Auto House were still here in 1950, but sharing the premises with Meredith Motors and the Arrow Boat Works at the back of the site. They were replaced by Mendham & Robertson auto repairs by 1955.

1070 Hornby, the smaller building next door, was developed as an office building later known as Emerald House in 1952. In 1955 Trans Canada Airlines had an office here, as well as Marine Surveys of Western Canada and National Paper Goods. Previously there were residential addresses here, with 5 separate doors. Thomas Hooper had designed a $6,000 stable building for W H Gallagher, also in 1910, but we don’t think it was built. Instead, rowhouses were built here, although we haven’t found a permit to accompany their construction.

In 2000 The Canadian was built here, with 185 condo units in a Busby & Associates designed building for Wall. 44 more units are used as a time-share hotel.

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 319-26 and CVA 1403-4


Posted 24 November 2022 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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Stanley Park Livery – 601 Seymour Street

Alex Mitchell took over the Stanley Park Livery stables on Georgia Street from Queen Brothers in 1900, initially with a partner, W Hill Peppard, and then from 1903 on his own. In 1905 he moved to these new premises on the corner of Dunsmuir and Seymour, on a site that Hill Peppard had owned. (We saw the home of Mr. Peppard, also on Seymour, in an earlier post). We know Hill Peppard owned this property, because in 1900 he was required to attend police court for “Failing to place gulley trap at rear of Premises Georgia & Seymour St given to Sept. 7th to comply not complied with + dismissed by request of R.M.” 

Hill Peppard was born in 1870 in the US according to the 1901 census, and was shown with his wife, Mary, who was 3 years younger, from Ontario, and two daughters, aged two and one. Their marriage had been in December 1900, and showed Hill born in Arlington, Virginia, marrying Mary Russell from Barrie. Hill had been in the area for a while; he was in a teamster in New Westminster in 1891, when he was also shown born in the US. The odd thing is that in the 1911 census, (when he was lodging in the Hotel Vancouver), and his birth registration, Hill was shown born in Nova Scotia. (His parents were born there, but it’s unclear where he was actually born).

He was in partnership as a drayman with Herman Robinson until 1899. From 1903 he was delivering firewood from the Coal Harbour Mill as Peppard & Macdonald. Mary died in 1905, and in 1911 he was in real estate, on Granville Street. A decade later he had moved to Chilliwack, where he was listed as a farmer. His brother, Clarence, a building official from Minneapolis, visited in 1925. He sent a telegram telling Hill’s other brother, who lived in Langley, that he was visiting, but it was delivered to the wrong location, so nobody met him at the station. Clarence checked in at the Belmont Hotel on Granville and was never seen again. He supposedly set off on the train to Chilliwack, and there was sighting of someone who might have been him in Marpole, but it was nearly a year later that his body was found in the North Arm of the Fraser River. Hill remarried to Mary Ann Rohrabaugh in 1927, in Whatcom County. He died in 1943, and was buried in Mountain View Cemetery. His executors, on tying up his affairs, advertised a mysterious message in the press, saying Hill was also known as C W Moore. We have no idea what that refers to – a second family?

These premises were designed and built in 1904 by C Mills, with a $5,000 permit issued to ‘Mrs Roberts’. Exactly who she was, we still don’t don’t know, althouigh we know she was called Mary. Mrs. Mary Roberts was given permission to build a brick retaining wall at Mitchell’s livery, in 1904, and a few weeks later complained that because the dirt had not been filled in against her property, the basement had flooded.

John Roberts, a contractor, lived almost opposite here at 616 Seymour. It seems unlikely his wife would hire another contractor to build her stables. John Wesley Roberts, a teamster, lived very close, at 511 Richards, but it seems less likely to be his wife as he was widowed when he died in 1909, and William Roberts was a hostler living at 560 Cambie, but he worked for Mainland Transfer. In 1905, and 1906 A Mitchell carried out alterations and repairs, so presumably Alex bought the premises in 1905..

We looked at Alex Mitchell’s history in connection to his home on Princess (now East Pender). Born in 1867 in Huron, Ontario, he arrived in 1894, and married a year later. He started as a warehouseman for Thomas Dunn, but by 1900 had partnered with Hill Peppard to take over the stables on Georgia. They brought the Stanley Park Livery name with them – as far as we can tell the stables were never actually in Stanley Park, but you could hire horses and a carriage, and take a ride round the park (pausing to reverse into the Hollow Tree and take a photograph if you had the skill). This image is dated c 1910, but we think it may have been taken around 1906, when another was taken of Alex outside the stables.

By 1911 Alex had built another new building at 1040 Hornby, although this building was still listed as Stanley Park Stables. He was offering Boarding Stables, Nacks, Victorias, Surreys, Carriages and Tally-Ho, so he probably briefly filled both buildings. Gasoline powered cars were still relatively few and far between, and the city was growing fast, so business was good. In 1912 all the business was conducted from Hornby, and for just one year Bligh Stables operated here, run by Herbert Bligh. This building must have been demolished only seven years after it was constructed, because in 1913 The St Regis Hotel opened here, owned by Leon Melekov and designed by W T Whiteway. Unlike many of the local rival hotels from the era, it continues (without becoming a rooming house) to this day. Indeed, it’s one of the smarter and more popular boutique hotels in the city.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 319-12


Posted 21 November 2022 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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Queen Brothers Stables – Georgia Street

The Queen Brothers were from New Brunswick. The 1871 census shows Elsworth was aged 5, and the census clerk recorded some of the family as ‘Quinn’ and others as ‘Queem’ (all in the same household). (Their parents were from Ireland, and may not have been able write, so Quinn may well have been accurate, but the census clerk struggled with spelling as well). His brother, listed as Charls Quinn, was twenty years older, and there were seven other siblings in between. Three brothers eventually ended up in Vancouver, soon after the fire destroyed the city. The oldest, William, worked for the railway company.

The business known as Queen Brothers – Charles and Elsworth – ran the Stanley Park Stables from 1887. At first they were on Cambie Street (almost at Water Street), and around 1892 they moved west to a new location closer to the developing Granville Street strip, with a new stables at 606 Georgia Street. It took up half a double lot, with the Waverley Hotel on the other half of the lot, which they hired N S Hoffar to design in 1890.

Initially they had tenants running the hotel, but in 1895 Elsworth took over, while Charles L Queen was elected as an alderman in 1894 and 1895, and was running the stables on his own in 1898. In 1899 R B Dixon had taken over the stables, but that was short-lived, and Peppard and Mitchell took over in 1900. They were here until 1902, and then Alex Mitchell ran the stables on his own until 1904. A year later he’d moved his operation to new stables a block away.

There are two copies of this image in the archives, one dated 1889, and one 1898. We don’t think either is correct, as the stables wasn’t built on Georgia until 1892. The last year that both brothers were involved in the hotel and the stables was 1897. The image note says: ‘Photograph shows Frank W. Hart’s funeral hearse’. Frank was a serial entrepreneur; born in Illinois in 1856, he headed north and west, as an Indian scout and bronco buster, and then working in Walla Walla in his early 20s for a furniture and undertaking business. He walked from Semiahmoo to New Westminster and then came to Granville in 1885, setting up a furniture making business. In the fire the following year his losses were estimated at $13,000, but he rebuilt, and added the role of undertaker in the city, with a horse-drawn hearse. He also owned Hart’s Opera House – a relocated roller skating rink. In 1894 he sold up and moved to Rossland. Frank confirmed that the hearse was his in a letter to the City archivist. Built by Nash & Co, he bought it after seeing it in an exhibition in Toronto, where it had won first prize. He kept it at Queen Brothers’ stables, so that suggests the image is from the early 1890s.

Elsworth, (always referred to in print as ‘E P Queen’) moved to Atlin during 1898, where initially he ran the Leland Hotel, although he sold up in 1903. In 1899 E P and W Queen held a timber licence in Atlin. In 1903 he visited Vancouver to acquire some horses that he took back on the steamer ‘Princess May’. That year Charles took a holiday in Harrison Hot Springs, and in 1905 was in San Francisco ‘in connection with his Atlin mining interests’. By 1904 he had 20 acres in cultivation on a ranch just outside the town of Atlin, growing all types of hardy vegetables, oats, and hay, having no difficulty in selling everything locally. He visited Vancouver again in 1906, and seems to have effectively swapped places with his brother in 1910. Ellsworth Queen was listed living in Vancouver, with his older brother, William, (the only one of the brothers who was married, with a wife and daughter living at home), while Charles Queen was living in Atlin, listed as a mine-owner.

By 1913 both brothers were back in Vancouver, Charles at the Waverley and Ellsworth in his house on West 14th Avenue. By 1915 Ellsworth was spending more time in Alberta on a ranch he had bought there. He was listed living near Edmonton in the 1916 census, and was still ranching successfully in 1923, raising beef. He was listed again in 1926, and was selling pigs, and 2 teams of work horses in 1931 in West Edmonton ‘north of city limits’, but we haven’t found a reference to when he died.

In 1918 former alderman ‘Charley Queen’ was reported to have drowned when the Princess Sophia sailing from Skagway in Alaska to Vancouver, crashed into Vanderbilt Reef at a speed of about 11 knots. He had been ‘visiting his valuable Yukon mining properties’, and almost failed to secure a berth on the voyage. It’s likely the crew miscalculated the distance from the shore as there was heavy snow, fog and zero visibility. The ship stuck on the rocks for two days, with rescue boats unable to reach her because of the treacherous seas. After 40 hours the storm tore the hull adrift, snapping it into two, with all 353 passengers and crew lost. Eventually 150 bodies were recovered.

The stables weren’t listed for several years in the 1900s, but by 1910 the Royal Transfer Co were using the location. They were there for a few more years, managed by E C Davison. By 1915 they had gone, and in 1920 a large new theatre had replaced both the Waverley Hotel, and the stables. In 1975 the Vancouver Centre replaced the theatre, with the Scotia Tower on this part of the site.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Bu P84


Posted 17 November 2022 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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414 Princess Street

When this image was taken, (supposedly in 1897), the street was called Princess. Today it’s called East Pender, (and there’s a totally different Princess nearby – Princess Avenue, renamed from Carl Avenue). The house was home to the Mitchell family from 1897 when it was newly built.

Alexander Mitchell arrived in the city around 1894 (he was born in Stanley, Huron, Ontario) and married in April 1895. Before she married, Louisa Maria (‘Lou’) Richardson, (who was born in Point Edward, Lambton, Ontario), had been living in New Westminster with her family. They had arrived in 1889, and her father, who was born in Westminster in England, worked for the railways.

Alex was a warehouseman for Thomas Dunn, and in the 1901 Census he was still a warehouseman aged 35. His wife, Louisa, was nine years younger, and they had two daughters, Vera aged 2 and Marion, 1, a lodger, Thomas Leith, who was a teacher, and a 15-year-old domestic, Ellen Lush, from the North West Territories. As Vera was born in 1899, we suspect this picture was taken around 1900, with Louisa holding Vera in the doorway.

In 1900 Alex became associated with the Stanley Park Livery Stables in partnership with an American called Hill Peppard. The business was established by Queen Brothers on Georgia Street and was briefly run by Dixon and McRae. Later in 1901 the Mitchell family moved Downtown, initially to Howe Street, and a few years later to the 900 block of Hornby, which would remain the family home for many years.

By 1903 Alex was running the business on his own; in 1905 he had permits to build and then alter stables on Seymour Street. Alex was second in a family of nine children, and Lou was the sixth of ten, so it’s not surprising that by 1911 Vera and Marion had a sister, Clare, and two brothers, Wilfred and Elmer. The family domestic was now called Lillian Valley, from Finland. Here’s Alex in his buckboard in 1906.

In 1902 Matthew Barr, a plumber had moved into this house, and was here a year later when it was renumbered as 432. In 1904 W H Rogers moved in, a carpenter, who became a contractor, and was still here in 1908 when it became East Pender. We’ve written Mr. Rogers’ story in relation to a building he constructed near here, on Keefer Street. Born in Bristol, in England, he was in Vancouver before moving to Seattle, then here again from around 1904, before he moved to the West End, and later back to Seattle again.

When he moved out, the 1912 residents weren’t recorded – just listed as ‘Chinese’. That listing was unchanged through the 1920s. In 1931 the listing switched to ‘Orientals’, but by 1936 a name was published; Doe Heong. Louisa Mitchell became secretary of the Pioneer’s Association. She died in 1937, and Alex in 1948.

The area was marked for demolition and redevelopment in the 1950s, and the City voluntarily or compulsorily acquired all the property on the block. The plans for this block were for it to be sold to a private developer for market housing, and even though it was sold for a third of the cost to assemble it, the deal fell through, and after lawsuits the City eventually got the land back. Mau Dan Gardens was completed in 1982, developed by the Strathcona Area Housing Society, (a spin-off from the Strathcona Property Owners and Tenants Association – SPOTA – the community group that successfully opposed the comprehensive redevelopment of the area). It was designed by Joe Y Wai and Spaceworks Architects. Some of the units were intended for sale, but only a few sold and remain freehold properties. The remainder are a housing co-op, and the entire development has seen a multi-year renovation with new energy efficient windows and roofs, exterior walls, and new landscaping throughout the project.

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 319-19 and Bu P494.


Posted 14 November 2022 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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Windsor Apartments – 1924 Barclay Street

This relatively modest apartment building was approved for development in 1926. Costing $15,000, it was designed by W F Gardiner for A C Howard, and had six suites. The image in the Vancouver Public Library is undated, but the concrete looks very shiny, so we’re guessing it was taken around 1927.  The builder was listed as ‘day labour’, but Mr. Howard was a contractor, so he presumably supervised the construction. He built several houses for himself, which he also designed, so he probably had a pretty good idea of what he wanted built here.

We think Albert C Howard was born in Birmingham and was living in Yardley (these days a suburb of Birmingham) in 1901, with his wife Hilda who he had married in Solihull in 1900, and their daughter Nellie who was born in October 1900. Albert was a builder, and the family were living with his father, Charles, who was a coal merchant. Winnifred was born in 1905, in Birmingham, and Elsie in 1910, also in England. Albert John Howard was born in BC in 1916, and we believe there was a final daughter, Hilda.

Albert Howard first appears in Vancouver in 1911 as a carpenter, and a year later in the same employment but for J A Lund & Co. In 1916 Albert was on active service, and his military service was noted in the press. In 1923 he was vice president of the Grand Army of United Veterans, and from 1920 had been proprietor of Hotel Gifford on Robson Street. By 1927 he seems to have returned to being a building contractor. In 1929 he submitted the lowest tender for the addition to the University Heights School. In 1928 the family announced the marriage of Nellie to Archie Scotland, in 1933 the engagement of Winnifred to Robert Baldrey, and in 1936 of their third daughter, Elsie, to Frederick Woodward, of Edmonton. In 1943, Albert (who was in the RCAF) married Chesley Black.

Surprisingly, nothing had been built here before the apartments – this was the tennis court in the garden of a big turreted house on the corner of Gilford (to the left on this image), developed by (Henry) Harry McDowell in 1902. He arrived in the city immediately after the 1886 fire and established the first drug store. Partnering with another former resident of Milton, Ontario, he took McDowell and Atkins to one of the largest drug store businesses in the province. He was President of the Board of Trade, and an alderman, and retired at the start of the First World War at the age of 52. He got blood poisoning, which required a leg to be amputated, and he died in 1917. His former home was initially rented by his widow, Dell, and in the 1920s became a rooming house.

This version of the Windsor Apartments was here for only 38 years. The house next door was redeveloped as The Everest Apartments in 1960, (the year after both Albert Charles Howard and Hilda Howard died), and this site was developed in 1965 with a 42-suite building (still called Windsor Apartments) designed by Wilding & Jones.


Posted 10 November 2022 by ChangingCity in Gone, West End

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451 East Pender Street

This is one of the earliest houses still standing in the city, and our 1986 image shows it was in pretty poor condition when the picture was taken. Everything was straightened up and repaired in 1999, when it was rebuilt, extended, and turned into a 3-unit strata, designed by Alan Diamond Architects.

It started life in 1889, and was built for Joseph Cameron. It might even have been built in 1888, as the 1889 insurance map shows the house, although the street directory clerk only caught up in 1891 when Joseph Cameron was shown at 523 Princess (the name for East Pender then). In the census that year 31-year old Joseph, his wife, Jennie (a year younger), and their daughters, listed as Tillie, aged 4, and Olive, 2, were recorded, but Joseph’s profession has been obscured in the record. He was shown being born in New Brunswick, as was his wife, and her brother, James McIntyre a general labourer who was also living with them (and shown as a lumberman in the directory).

Joseph and Jeanette (as she was christened) had arrived very soon after the fire, as Tilly was born in Vancouver in February 1887. This was confirmed in an article when they celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary, and in an interview with Major Matthews, the archivist, in 1937. They arrived in November 1886, having been married in 1879. After farming for a while, Joseph had a carriage business in Dakota, then headed west via Winnipeg on the newly completed railway to Port Moody, and then on a paddle steamer into Vancouver. They managed to find an empty store on Alexander Street to rent, but their water came from a well at Main and Alexander. Tilly was born in the store, and they found a house on Carrall Street to rent, over the False Creek tide water. Not long afterwards they built the house in the picture, paying $200 for the plot..

Joseph was listed in 1888, working for the Royal City Mills (that despite its name was on Carrall Street). Olive’s wedding certificate said she was born in New Brunswick in 1889 rather than in the family home. The family had been in their house long enough that they had established a garden by 1890, which attracted the attention of a vandal.

In 1892 the home address was changed to 425 Princess. In the 1901 census the family were still here, and had added Grace, who was five and Gordon, two. Joseph’s obituary said he was associated with the Royal City Mills for 25 years, then was a partner with the W W Stuart Lumber Co. for eight years, before he joined the staff at the Provincial Court House as engineer, where he worked for 25 years. After over 25 years in the same house, the family moved to Bayswater Street in Kitsilano. The Province recorded a tea party at their new home in 1913, when Mrs. F Rolston helped her mother receive guests; that was Tilly. Olive Cameron married Francis Prior in 1907, and her sister Tilly married Fred Rolston in January 1909, and William was born in November that year. Audrey followed in 1912, and Ethel in 1914. Gordon married Zelda Hamilton in 1924.

Jeanette died in 1941, and when Joseph died, in 1944, his death certificate suggested he was 4 years older than all the census records, but may have been recorded inaccurately.

Mrs Fred Rolston, as Tilly was called in the press, moved away to Brandon, Manitoba in 1929, and then briefly in 1930 to Winnipeg. She had studied at UBC in 1909, and at the Normal School, and was a teacher until she married Fred Rolston and started a family. He would become the first president of the BC Motor Dealers’ Association, and was associated with the Mutual Life of Canada before he retired. Once her three children had grown up she looked around for a more active role in the city. She was already a Sunday School teacher and was involved with numerous community associations including the Vancouver Council of Women. She was particularly active in the Candian Society for the Control of Cancer. (Her sister, Olive, had died in 1936). She was also a Director of the PNE and the VSO.

Tilly was elected to the Parks Board in 1938 on the NPA ticket, and was the founding chairman of the Theatre Under the Stars in 1940. She entered Provincial politics as the Conservative member for Vancouver-Point Grey in 1941 at the age of 54. She was re-elected in 1945 (the year her husband Fred died, at the age of 60) and in 1949 as a member of the Coalition party. She had been diagnosed with cancer in 1951, but nevertheless stood, and was elected again in 1952 as a member of W A C Bennett’s first Social Credit government. In that same year, Bennett appointed her to the position of Minister of Education. She was British Columbia’s first woman cabinet minister to hold a cabinet portfolio (and also the first in Canada).

In her first year in cabinet, she had to defend a school curriculum guide entitled Effective Living, that newly published “contained instruction for teachers to discuss teen-age activities, such as “dating,” and “modern expressions and practices” – including blind dates, Dutch treat, going steady, petting, good night kiss, pick-up dates, wearing a boy’s (or girl’s) school or class pin, cost of dates, etc.” Many parents, (and some teachers) objected to the guide, but Tilly defended it, saying “We must be vitally concerned with the kind of person the pupil is becoming“. In March 1951 she made a motion in the BC Legislature that the prices of butter had become prohibitive and the  restrictions that controlled the colour of margarine should be removed. Her motion was defeated but she didn’t give up; she continued to campaign and in 1952 a bill was passed that ended all colour regulations for margarine. She voted for the Equal Pay Act, but was often heard saying ‘the woman’s place is in the home’ (which has a certain irony as it’s hard to imagine she had much time to see her own).

A 1952 Macleans article described her style: Tilly, an ebullient grandmother, stood out like a red sail. She liked a cocktail, smoked (and once set fire to her hat while lighting a cigarette at a civic meeting), administered her Vancouver home according to the tenets of an Esquire Handbook for Hosts, loved bridge, costume jewelry and making annual tours to just about every part of the world except Alberta”. Her death in October 1953 was a shock, although it was apparently obvious that her cancer treatment was taking a lot out of her.

She was the first woman in British Columbia to receive a state funeral, and in 2011 the City of Vancouver named a new Downtown street, Rolston Street, in her honour.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 791-1256



Posted 7 November 2022 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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The Chatelaine – 905 Chilco Street

This 1930 building, designed by W M Dodd was built towards the end of a wave of West End development, when family houses were replaced with multi-unit rental walk-up apartments. J W Fordham Johnson had built a house here in 1904, which by 1928 had been split into five suites. The contents were sold off in June 1930, and the new apartments were complete by April 1931. This Vancouver Public Library image was probably taken later that year.

While some buildings of the era were fairly simple, this block has a patterned brick facade, an ornate stepped brick parapet and a gothic arched entry. The Journal of Commerce confirms the architect, and said that a ‘local investor’ was developing the $62,500 project. The building permit confirms the identity of the builder, J Galloway, and also identifies him as the developer. John Galloway also developed and built the Kenmore Apartments on Gilford Street, as well another apartment building on West 14th Avenue.

John, and his son John jnr. lived on East 7th Avenue, and James L Galloway on West 27th. Fortunately for us, he had been living on East 7th a decade earlier, so we can find him in the 1921 census. John and Margaret were both shown arriving in Canada in 1888. In 1921 they were both aged 57, and John was listed as a builder, and they were both born in Scotland. John Galloway had married Margaret Logan in Lanarkshire in 1885, and they had eight children, five of them girls. Margaret, the eldest daughter was born in Scotland in 1885, Sabina, Mary and Jean were born in Quebec from 1889 to 1894. The family headed west for a while, with Jean born in Vernon. A Daily World news story shows the family had previously been in Vancouver – and why they might prefer big city life.

John Galloway, late of this city, but now a contractor at Vernon, had a rough experience last month. He left Granite Creek on Tuesday, May 14th, intending to make the west side of Okanagan lake that night. In endeavoring to make a short cut over the mountains he lost his way. On the following day while attempting to cross a canyon his horse fell with him. The animal got so badly used up that he was not able to walk, and In trying to get him to a more open part, he kicked out and broke one of Mr. Calloway’s arms, close to the shoulder. After wandering about he at last made Granite Creek on the Saturday, having to swim very deep rivers. He was without food all this time, and suffered untold pain from his broken arm. Dr. Sutton, of Nicola, happened to be at Granite Creek that day and set the limb, after which the plucky contractor secured a new horse and rode on to Vernon by way of Nicola and Grand Prairie.”

John, the oldest son (who joined his father in the contracting business) was born in Montreal in 1896, and Florence was born in Scotland in 1900. James was born in Vancouver in 1902, and the final son, William, in Scotland in 1905.

In 1932 the building was in receivership, at the request of Halifax Investors Ltd. In 1937 the ownership question got really complicated. The Sun reported “Judge Declares Property Deal “Conspiracy”. Declaring that the transaction was part of a conspiracy to defraud the creditors of Joseph Francis Langer, Justice Murphy, on Friday, dismissed the suit of Langer’s wife, Jennie Louise Langer, 3138 West Fifteenth Avenue, for an interest in the Chatellaine Apartments, 905 Chilco Street. Another action, in which Langer joined his wife, for a declaration that they are owners of the Chatelaine subject to a $39,000 mortgage, also was dismissed for the same reason. 

James Torrance Armstrong, broker, Armstrong & Laing: Halifax Investors Ltd., and Mrs. Armstrong, as defendants, were deprived of their costs because they, too, were parties to the “illegal transaction,” the Judge declared. In a Judgment, Mr. Justice Murphy referred to a $78,000 Judgment obtained against Langer in 1932 by McTavish Bros. He recalled also that Mrs. Langer won a decision from the Court of Appeal restoring to her the furnishings of her home after they had been seized by McTavish Bros, for costs in that case; that Langer placed mortgages totalling $31,000 on their Granville Street home; that he sold the Orpheum and six other Vancouver theatres, admittedly, at great sacrifice, for $110,000 cash; all before he left British Columbia on Dec. 26, 1931, not to return until this year to assist his wife in this litigation.

Langer testified at the trial that he sacrificed a fortune in South Africa to return to Vancouver. The Judge stated that not only did Langer invest $5,000 In a second mortgage on the Chatelaine in the name of Halifax Investors Ltd. in a plan to cover up his assets, but he and Armstrong carried out a scheme to defraud Mrs. Langer of money to which they both knew she was entitled. J. Edward Bird and Ronald Howard conducted the Langers’ case; J. A. Macinnes and Percy White appeared for the defendants other than Kapoor Singh and his wife, who were represented by W. B. Farris and Ernest Bull. The latter obtained a dismissal with costs at the close of the plaintiff’s case on the ground that they were innocent purchasers for $2500 of stock in Halifax Investors.

For decades this was the home of Percy Williams, an insurance agent. Percy was better known as the double gold medal winner at the 1928 Summer Olympics. On his return there was a homecoming parade, ending at Stanley Park where awaiting him was a new car, $500 in gold and a $1600 trust fund. In 1930 he set a world record in the 100 meters, followed shortly with the gold medal victory in the 100 yards at the first-ever British Empire Games. At the Olympics in 1932 he had an injury, and wasn’t as fast. He never liked the spotlight and later claimed he hated running. He never again attended a track meet, even as a spectator, from the day he retired until the day he died In 1982, following a decline in his health, including two strokes. He took his life in his apartment with a shotgun he received as a prize for winning the gold medals.

The Chatelaine, 40 years after his death, still offers classy apartments in what is now a heritage building.


Posted 3 November 2022 by ChangingCity in Still Standing, West End

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