Felix Apartments – 610 Jervis Street

This large residential investment cost $130,000 to build in 1910. The Felix Apartment was designed by Thornton & Jones for G E Greveson, who was also recorded as the builder. These days it has a different name, (The Banffshire) and the building is far less prominent in the landscape (although still imposing).

Mr. Greveson has proved elusive – and he almost certainly wasn’t the developer. There was a G E Grieveson who was in the street directory – although not with a street address. He was listed as ‘3rd Officer, Empress of China’. In 1910 George E Grievson acquired a lot in the Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida Gwai today). He obtained his Certificate of Service to sail Canadian Coastal waters in 1908, and the Report from the Harbour Commissioners of eastern ports identifies his original home as Sunderland, England.

A June 1912 article in the Province suggests our builder was Mr. G. R Grievson, but not the developer.

Mrs Frances Kensit Stops the Work on Sidewalk at the Felix Apartments

An injunction restraining Mr. G. R Grievson, a contractor, from proceeding with the work of pulling down the garage belonging to Mrs. Frances Kensit and adjoining the Felix apartments was granted by Mr. Justice Morrison in Supreme Court chambers today. His lordship made it clear to the applicant, Mr. Cecil Killam, that he granted the injunction at the plaintiff’s risk.

The trouble is alleged by counsel to have arisen owing to a sale of a three-foot strip of land by Mrs. Jane Nickson to the owners of the Felix Apartments. The strip was shadowed by the overhang of the cornice on the apartment house. The strip was a portion of the house and lot with garage previously leased to Mrs. Kensit. After purchasing the strip of land the owners of the Felix apartments proceeded to lay a concrete walk thereon. As Mrs. Kensit’s garage stood on a portion of the strip they proceeded, stated Mr. Killam, to tear down the garage.

“I don’t see why you should apply for an injunction. The parties are good for damages. Why not bring a damage suit?” said his lordship at first. “In the meantime my clients have no place in which to store their motor car,” said Mr. Killam. The application was granted, the writ being directed against Mrs. Jane Nickson, her son. Mr. John R. Nickson, and the contractor. Mr. G. R. Grievson. A writ has also been taken out by Mrs. Kensit’s solicitors claiming damages, or in the alternative a cancellation of the lease.

We can’t find any reference to who Mr Grievson was, or where he lived. As far as we can tell there was nobody called Greveson, Grievson, or Grieveson in the 1911 Census in Canada. The developers might be identified from 1912, when both the building’s janitor and the Vancouver Financial Corporation were handling the leasing. The corporation was led by Harry Abbott, the former CPR boss, turned property mogul. He lived on West Georgia just to the south of here. More confusing still, a 1924 profile of Walter Hepburn, BC’s motion picture censor describes his earlier employment as a contractor, responsible for erecting the Felix Apartments. He had been elected as an alderman on seven occasions, and had been chairman of the finance committee for two of them.

This wasn’t an ordinary apartment building – in 1912 an elevator boy was employed. The building offered 3, 4 or 5 room furnished flats, for long or short-term rental. In 1912 a 3-room flat was $35. A few years later the apartments were also available unfurnished. In 1925 the suites were advertised as ‘minutes walk from post office and Stanley Park’.

In 1928 a fire in the building caused considerable damage. The building how had 110 suites, and 150 ‘lightly-clad tenants shivered in morning air‘ as firemen removed everyone from the building and then tackled the fire in the basement. It damaged an apartment above, occupied by J. R. Ashdown to another above this tenanted by Lee Millar and his wife Verna Felton. Entering the basement with hose lines the firemen were met by a powerful gas, which overcame several of them. Thomas A. Wylle of No. 3 hall, was rescued with difficulty by his comrades, having been overcome and lost in the dense smoke. He was given first aid and was able to resume duty.” The fire had burned for some time, and the wires on the alarm in the basement were found disconnected, and the telephone wires damaged. Repairs were covered by insurance, and expected to cost over $3,000, and the police were able to secure the building ‘to prevent looting by prowlers‘. When the permit for repairs was submitted, it was for $7,000 of work, and the owner was identified as F T Schooley. He was manager of Royal City Soaps, and he lived in suite 46 here, and as a sideline seems to have developed several houses. Mrs F T Schooley was still resident in 1928.

In 1933 Cecil Ellis lived here. Accused as being the driver of the getaway car in an armed robbery on the Bank of Montreal at 4th and Alma, he was acquitted after identification testimony was inconclusive. During the robbery the bank staff and robbers exchanged gunfire, with the teller injured by a bullet. Ellis had a snapshot of one of the robbers in an album found in his suite, but that wasn’t enough evidence to convince the judge.

The building sold for $90,000 in 1946, two years after this Vancouver Public Library image was taken, and was generally known by its address from then on.

In 1959 Russell Walker, a 71-year old mining engineer who lived in the building was rescued at a gold mine 30 miles north of Tofino and flown by the RCAF to Vancouver to have a ruptured appendix operated on.

Today there are 51 apartments, and the building has recently undergone an extensive restoration. Tenants share a Facebook Group to ‘Connect with your neighbours, ask to borrow a cup of sugar, share events, building history, whatever!’



Posted 19 December 2022 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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