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.

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Posted 14 November 2022 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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