The Stadacona – 601 Bute

This early Downtown apartment building, completed in 1911, started to be built as half the building, and then saw a second half added to the construction contract. T R Nickson & Co were hired to build the first phase at 655 Bute for $22,000, closer to the lane, in January 1909 and at 601 Bute in May, for $23,000. J J Banfield was the developer, and he hired Parr and Fee to design the building, see here in a postcard just after its completion. (The Banff to the south, completed in 1911, and known then as Florence Court was still under construction).

John Joseph Banfield named the apartment block ‘Stadacona’ for the Indian name for Quebec City, where he was born. He was still there in 1871 living with his parents, William (listed in the census as a grocer) and Rebecca, and three siblings. In 1883 he married Harriet Oille, from St Catherines, Lincoln in Ontario, who was nine years younger. They were living in the same location in 1885 when their first daughter, Rebecca Mae was born, and were still there in 1890 when her sister Lois was born. John was here in the 1891 census, a lodger, although he was also recorded with his family in Ontario, where he was a real estate agent. That year the rest of his family moved west, and in 1897 a son, William Orson Banfield was born.

J J Banfield became a pillar of the Vancouver community. He was elected an alderman in 1896, and had the backing of the Province newspaper when he ran for mayor a year later, (but was beaten by William Templeton). “This is the season when candidates for the Mayoralty and civic honours (like the owl and the oyster) are with us. Alderman J. J. Banfield as yet stands alone before the electors of Vancouver as of the Terminal City aspirant to the position of Mayor. He is a strong local favourite and will prove a formidable rival to anyone who may come forward to oppose him in the forthcoming election.

He has given eminent satisfaction as chairman of the Finance Committee during the past year and a study of the present standing of the city speaks well for his administrative ability.

In 1898 he became a Director of the Golden Cache Co, a mining consortium. He was prosecuted for erecting buildings on False Creek that same year, but denied ownership and the case was dropped. (We assume he may have been an agent for whoever did construct the unauthorised buildings). He worked both as a land agent and a mining broker, offering interests in mines, and real estate, advertising both as J J Banfield and Co, and as John J Banfield’s List. He was also a Notary Public, and by 1908 when he sponsored the pocket guide map of the city, he also offered loans and insurance services.

He was one of the first members and the treasurer of the Tourist Association, and in 1912 he was elected treasurer of the Progress Club, a new organization dedicated to the creation of a Greater Vancouver. He was also vice-president and treasurer of the Hospital Board, and in 1914 Chairman of the Board. For many years he was chairman of the Vancouver school board. He was also a member of the Board of Trade, and an elder at St. Andrews Presbyterian church.

It was no surprise that Mr. Banfield chose T R Nickson to build his investment. Thomas Ralph Nickson married Rebecca Mae Banfield on September 9, 1908. In 1912 the Nickson’s briefly lived in the Banfield household at 644 Bute, a house across the street from the apartments. They had three sons, John, Allen and Rex, but divorced in the 1920s. Mae married again to Charles Cummings, who headed the Northern Construction Company. He had been married with children in Vancouver, but had also been divorced (in Reno, Nevada in 1928). He was on a business trip to Palm Springs, California, in 1933, to survey a contract to pipe water to Los Angeles, when he died unexpectedly at the age of 53.

(William) Orson Banfield went to local schools, served as a mule train driver in the First World War and, as a Trekker, graduated from UBC in 1923 in chemical engineering. (‘Trekkers’ were participants in the Great March of October 1922 that saw more than 1,000 students descend on the Point Grey peninsula to express their displeasure at the slowness of the government in building the university there.)

The Stadacona Block was first listed in 1911 at 645 Bute Street, with 22 tenants, although the census recorded it as 601 Bute. One of the tenants was James W Banfield, from Nova Scotia, with his wife Dorothy and their daughter. Like J J Banfield, he was in real estate, as was John Honeyman, another tenant. Other tenants included C Nelson Ecclestone, also in real estate, Walter Nichol, a bookkeeper with Molson’s Bank, George Black, a barrister and John J Tulk, manager of the Diamond Liquor Co. The Tulks were still living here ten years later when their son, John, a successful lawyer, died after a five year illness, leaving a widow and four children. A year later John Levin, a described as Winnipeg pioneer, and owner of the Norwood Hotel hotel moved in, and died just a few weeks later at the age of 65. A well-known member of the Jewish community, he had moved his family west for his health from Calgary, but his heart disease left a widow, three sons and two daughters.

In 1945 the building was sold for $60,000, and a year later Mrs. D Gunn, the owner, objected to a cabaret restaurant licence for a former car showroom “Mrs. Gunn, voicing the opposition of 70 of her tenants, because of possible noise, doubted the night spot would cater only to persons over 35, as advertised. Said she: “What woman ever admitted she was over 35?” By the 1950s the apartments were leased to ‘girls only’, with linen and TV provided and in the 1980s the apartments were still advertised for girls, and described as ‘individual rooms’ from $160 a month.

Today there are 26 suites, and the building can be seen in The Flash, and as Cisco’s Apartment Building in Supergirl.

Image source: the Langmann Collection, UBC.



Posted 12 December 2022 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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