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1090 Homer Street

This five storey warehouse (six floors on Mainland Street) was built in 1910 by Leek and Co. William and Walter Leek were both steamfitters, operating one of the city’s larger plumbing, heating installation and engineering businesses. When the warehouse was built the company was run by William Leek and Walter jnr, his son. Walter Leek senior was William’s brother, and was also involved in the business. In the 1901 census William and Walter jnr. were both living at 1110 Davie Street, with business premises on Pender. There was also James Leek listed at the same address, a plumber, and John W Leek, also a steamfitter, who had his home at 1429 Georgia. The family had arrived early in the city’s history. They arrived in Canada in 1880 into Ontario, and by 1892 John Leek and his son William were running a plumbing business in Vancouver, and living on Richards Street. In 1893 William accepted the position of plumbing examiner with the City of Vancouver. They were still living on Richards in 1895, when Walter Leek had joined them; there’s a picture of Walter and William in 1894 outside a shack in the middle of the forest (E49th Avenue).

The family were originally from Harrogate, in Yorkshire, and their business specialized in installing power and heating systems using prefabricated parts. They designed and built the power plants for several large projects, including the steam heating system for the University of British Columbia. In 1910 William, Walter, Eleanor and Verna Leek all applied to buy land in the Cumberland mining district, no doubt part of the short-lived mining boom that so many of Vancouver’s more successful residents joined in. Leek also served as President of the Vancouver Exhibition Association and the Pacific National Exhibition for many years.

The building permit said the company designed the block. That’s quite possible as the family’s business meant they had the experience to draw up plans. They had designed their own 821 Pender Street premises in 1903, and in 1904 William Leek had designed and built his own home on Harwood Street. Walter also lived in the West End in the early 1900s, moving to Nicola Street. The company continued to occupy this building through the 1920s, and following William’s death, Walter ran the business. Several other younger members of the Leek family continued to work at a variety of trades in the company. By 1930 Walter was still in charge, but the business had crossed the street to new premises at 1111 Homer. This building was then occupied by The Canadian Westinghouse Co, who supplied power equipment for hydro electric projects, as well as manufacturing electrical apparatus for railway, industrial and domestic uses. They were still here when this 1943 Vancouver Public Library image was taken, operating their repair division, with several other businesses including a storage warehouse on the upper floors.

Today there’s office space on the upper floors, a bank on the main floor on Homer, and the Blue Water Café occupies the lower floor on Mainland Street, using the former raised loading dock as an outdoor patio.

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Posted September 12, 2019 by ChangingCity in Still Standing, Yaletown

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National Garage – Nelson Street

This $5,000 building was developed in 1918 by Henry Hoffmeister – who we seem to run across building garages all over Downtowen Vancouver over many years He designed, as well as developed the property. There were two houses developed here (on the corner of Nelson and Howe) in 1901, built by M A Farrell, but they lasted less than 20 years. In 1919, when G Kilgren had finished building it, P Shackleton and J Smith ran the National Garage. This 1918 image must have been taken as construction was wrapping up.

There had also been houses next door as well, on the corner of Hornby, but they had already been redeveloped into Trafalgar Mansions. The National business didn’t last very long; by 1922 the service station was operated by Dodge Brothers, (although there didn’t seem to be anybody called Dodge associated with the business, so more likely it sold Dodge Brothers vehicles, built in Hamtramck, Michigan). By 1925 it had become the Independent Garage run by G C Leach. In 1928 it was Beaver Motors run by A A H and C T Weston, and by 1931 Frost & McLaren Ltd were based here. A year later it became the Nelson Garage run by A L Evans and S K H Laughton. They lasted just a year, and the building was vacant in 1934, and a year later reopened again with H Gardner running the service station and Williams Auto Metal Works (run by E C Williams) sharing the property. We haven’t checked every year of the directories, but this business seems to have changed hands more than many others. By 1939 the Oke & Duke garage run by C C Oke was here, and remained here through the war, although A J Duke ran the business in the 1940s. Changes continued; in 1950 it was the Transport Service Garage, but Mr. Duke was still running the business, until 1952, which is the last time the building appears in the directory.

In 1982 a Hong Kong developer built Nelson Square, designed by Romses Kwan and Associates. The top 5 floors are residential; the rest of the 25 floor building is offices with retail and restaurants in a slightly sunken plaza.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-690

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Posted September 9, 2019 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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Nelson Street – 1100 block, north side

Sitting across from Nelson Park, this block was first developed in the early 1900s. The apartment building, which sat roughly mid-block, was the Nelson Court Apartments. Developed by O H Bush, it was designed by Grant & Henderson and built by C F Perry at a cost of $38,000. Oakley H Bush lived in a house here before the project was constructed. Oakley Halden Bush was recorded in the 1911 census, living with his sister-in-law, Rosella Mary Bush, both of them born in Ontario. In the previous census, in 1901, he had been living with his wife, Mary, and their two sons (one also called Oakley, and his brother Herbert) in Alberta, where he was shown as a farmer. In earlier census records he was in Ontario; in 1871 aged 19, still living with his parents and eight siblings in Medonte, Simcoe. George and Mary were both born in England. Oakley Bush and his family first show up in Vancouver in 1908, and he died in 1932.

His death notice in 1932 (when he was 80) showed him (accurately) as Oakley Hallen Bush, and mentioned a daughter as well as his sons, also living in Vancouver. In 1926 he had become a shareholder in the Bush Petroleum Corporation, with his son Oakley Beaumont Bush, who was described as a mine owner. He appears to have later moved to California.

There were two houses on the lot to the west, the first built in 1904 by John Parks who had Purdy and Lonergan build the $2,400 structure. The others in this 1966 picture were all built around the same time, late in 1904 or early 1905. Those are in the ‘lost permit’ period, so we don’t know who built them, although both 1155 and 1157 Nelson (one of which was built by Mr. Parks) appeared in the 1905 directory, as did the two houses beyond them, 1161 and 1171. Robinson McMorran, a canner, lived at 1155, William Whitmayer, an engineer, at 1157, Alexander J McPherson at 1161 and Hector Mackenzie, who worked in insurance at 1171. Charles Nelson, who owned a drugstore on Granville, was in the last house on the block that dated from the turn of the century.

Today there’s a brutalist 1969 concrete rental tower on the right of the image, called Nicholson Tower. Developed by CMHC and designed by Arthur Erickson and Geoffrey Massey, it is set in extensive grounds, which are all that can be seen from this angle. Beyond it is a 1985 strata tower designed by Oberto Orberti, next to a 1975 strata designed by Lort and Lort.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-415

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Posted September 5, 2019 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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Downtown from above

Only 17 years separate these two oblique angled shots of the Downtown peninsula. Since our 2002 image was taken, over 26,000 residential units have been added Downtown and in the West End. That’s around 140 additional buildings of 10 or more storeys. Thousands more units are under construction and in the development stream, and even then the peninsula is by no means ‘built out’ – although sites are fewer, and harder to find.

There’s still a gap on the far right, on the waterfront, where the Plaza of Nations, and further Concord Pacific sites have yet to be built. There are a number of sites reserved for non-market housing inland behind and between the condo towers built by Concord on the former Expo lands, and a recent deal should see over half developed as non-market, with others returned to Concord for more market development.

On the left of the image Vancouver House is nearly complete, (so Trish Jewison, who photographed the 2019 shot from the Global BC News helicopter took the picture recently). From this angle the twisting taper of the building is almost invisible. In the middle of Downtown, the Wall Centre’s upper floors were reclad almost as dark as the bottom, so the distinctive two-tone effect in 2002 has been lost. From this distance the Empire Landmark wasn’t so obvious in 2002, but in 2019 it’s gone, and the replacement condo towers will be shorter. The Shangri La and Trump Hotel and condo towers almost line up from this angle, so only one tall tower appears in the distance.

Over on the right, the BC Place stadium has its new(ish) retractable roof, surrounded by new towers, with the distinctive rust red of the Woodwards Tower behind. The original ‘W’ was still in place in 2002 – now it’s down on the ground, and a replacement revolves in its place. Not too many new office towers have been added to the Central Business District, but that’s changing. Ten office buildings are currently being built, the most office space ever added to the city at one time, and much of it already leased. The biggest building is the Post Office, getting a pair of office towers added on top, with the huge building (that fills an entire city block) changing to office and retail space.

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Posted September 2, 2019 by ChangingCity in Altered, Downtown

West Hastings Street – 100 block, south side (2)

We saw the buildings to the east of this part of the 100 block of West Hastings in an earlier post. We’ve also looked at most of these buildings in greater detail over the years. The tallest building in the group is the Stock Exchange Building, an 8 storey steel-framed building on a 25 foot wide lot, costing $75,000 to build and designed by J S Helyer and Son in 1909. The two storey building to the east (on the left) is The Province Building, which we revisted in a second post. It started life in 1898 as the offices of the Province Newspaper, Walter Nichol’s Victoria newspaper that moved into Vancouver. It was given a new lease of life in the 1920s as a retail store known as ‘The Arcade’, and today’s façade is Townley and Matheson redesign for that purpose. Both the Stock Exchange, which today is non-market housing, and the Province building have been given a recent make-over, with furniture store Structube moving into the retail space. Our 1981 image below shows that it was a furniture store in a previous incarnation. In 1940 (above) there was Singer sewing machine dealer, and the office building had become The Ray Building.

The black and white almost matching three storey buildings to the west are 152 and 156 W Hastings. The westernmost is older, built in 1901 for Jonathan Rogers, and costing $10,000. It was designed by Parr and Fee. 152 West Hastings, next door, was built in 1904 and designed by William Blackmore and Son. It cost $8,000 and the developer was E Rogers – Elizabeth, Jonathan Rogers’ wife, who had married Jonathan in 1902. Long the home of the Trocadero Grill, today it has office space over retail.

The one building we haven’t researched is 150 West Hastings, and we don’t know who designed or developed the building. It’s the 3 storey building between the Stock Exchange and Rogers buildings. It’s been cleaned up – in 1979 the brickwork had been painted over and the store was ‘Save-On Surplus’. It was repaired in 1920 by Cope and Sons, who hired Gardiner and Mercer and spent $2,000 on fixing it up, and the same owners carried out more repairs in 1916. In 1911 the Vancouver Electric Company added an electric frame sign, but we don’t know who that was for. In 1903, when it was supposedly built, T Grey, a tailor had a store here, as well as Ernest Easthope (senior), who repaired bicycles. (His son, also called Ernest, was a teamster). Today there’s a yoga studio, with offices upstairs.

Image sources City of Vancouver Archives CVA 586-2574 and CVA 779-E16.21

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Police Station – East Cordova Street (2)

If the 1913 police station on East Cordova was relatively short-lived (from being built in 1913 to demolition in 1956), its predecessor fared even worse. It was built in 1903, and was on the same spot that the 1913 building was constructed. As far as we know there was nothing actually wrong with the earlier building (seen here in 1910), but the city grew dramatically in the early 1900s and a larger building was needed very quickly.

It was designed by Dalton & Eveleigh and had cost a not insubstantial $38,000. It included the Police Court and jail, and was on the same block as the fire hall. It wasn’t a foregone conclusion that it would be demolished once the decision was made to build a new facility; initially some on the City Council favoured using a Powell Street site that the City had finally obtained title to, after a long court battle. It was where the first City hall had been built, immediately after the fire. After some debate it was decided the existing location was a better choice. We’re not sure what the part of the building to the west side was – perhaps the coroner’s laboratory, but the design is surprisingly similar to the 1978 Kiss and Harrison police station that sits on the site today.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 371-2129

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Posted August 26, 2019 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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Police Station – East Cordova Street (1)

This 1956 image shows Firehall #1 on the left, (still standing today as the Firehall Theatre). Dating back to 1905, it was designed by W T Whiteway. Next door was the Coroner’s Court, which today houses the Police Museum. Designed by A J Bird, it was converted to the museum in the early 1980s, but was built in 1932.

Next door today is the concrete East Wing of the police station (hidden by trees in the summer), built in 1978 and designed by Harrison Kiss Associates. In this 1956 image an earlier (and taller) police station stood on the same spot. Built in 1913, The East End police headquarters cost $250,000, was built of ‘concrete and stone’ and designed by Doctor, Stewart & Davie. Initially it was shown as costing $175,000 in 1912 (and on Powell Street, which was an earlier intended location). An extra $70,000 was approved in 1913. The Beaux Arts style building had a cream terracota and stone façade over the concrete frame.

Surprisingly, for such a substantial investment, the building didn’t last very long. In 1956 Ernie Reksten photographed the building being demolished. Earlier that year the Vancouver Sun had reported the intention of clearing the site “to call tenders for demolition of the historic building on Cordova near Main. A survey of the old building, built in 1914 and located behind the new station on Main, shows It is good only for light storage purposes. Aldermen decided not to put the building up for sale as the land it occupies is urgently needed for the parking lot and possible expansion of police facilities. The heating plant has been removed. The elevators are cranky antiques and all electrical services require replacement. “It would cost a tremendous amount to put the old pile back into any reasonable shape,” said Alderman George Miller, properties committee chairman.”

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 447-63 and CVA 2010-006.170 (flipped)

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Posted August 22, 2019 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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