Author Archive

Homer Street – 800 block

We’ve noted in many posts that there were gas stations everywhere in Downtown – and here’s another seen in 1981. This is on the south east corner of Homer and Robson, with a 1971 office building (developed by the Dynamic Development Corporation in 1971) still standing to the south.

The gas station was a relatively short-lived entity but  we’re not really sure exactly how long it lasted: it wasn’t here in the mid 1950s, and was gone in the 1990s.  In 1999 The Galileo, a 16 storey, 97 unit, condo building (with retail and office) was completed here, designed by Lawrence Doyle Architects. Before the gas station was developed there was a row of houses here, built around 1901 and demolished fifty years later (seen in our previous post).

(Jim comments – The southwest corner of Homer and Robson was the headquarters of Yellow Cab until about 1983-84 – I was hired as a driver there in 1981 and changed over to Blacktop when Yellow moved to Vernon Drive. The Chevron station was “The Pumps” and administration offices were above the garage, along with a rooftop parking lot.)

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives  CVA 779-E12.10

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Posted April 4, 2019 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

Robson and Homer Street, southeast corner

This row of houses on the south side of Robson Street looks similar to several others that were built in this area, including a row on the opposite side of the same block of Robson. This picture dates to 1941, when we estimate the homes had been standing for 40 years. When they first appeared they were numbered 332 to 348 Robson, but only four of them appear in the 1901 street directory, so we think the two at the left hand end of the row were still being built. Arthur West of the Dominion Express was in 334, H A Lyttleton, a watchmaker at 340, Captain Waters at 344 and H V Chatterton a traveler at 348. A year later, all six were complete, although one was vacant, and all the previous residents had moved on. Now W P Lockwood of the Great Northern Railway was at 332, Ben Joyce, a mariner at 334, F W Halton of the CPR was next door, D Brooks, a contractor at 340 and J Hewitt at 346.

In 1903 we find three of those residents still in the same homes. Now 332 had H C Benson, a linotype operator, next door to A Henderson, a jeweller, Frederick Halton, a bookkeeper, D K Brooks, still a contractor, and Charles Hewitt, mysteriously identified as ‘manager’ – but with no indication of what he managed. It’s unlikely that Mr. Brooks built the homes; he built a spec house in the West End in 1904, and several large, expensive houses in the city for clients like George Walkem and Mrs J J Burns, but these houses pre-date that activity. In 1902 he was shown for the first time in the city as an employee of R.C.P.M – the Royal City Planing Mills. Because he wasn’t in the city for either of the 1901 or 1911 censuses, we haven’t been able to find anything more about Mr. Brooks. That’s also true for Mr. Hewitt, although we know he was manager of the Dominion Dental Manufacturing Co. Alexander Henderson worked as a jeweler for the Davidson Brothers, whose store was further west on Robson.

By 1911 J J Brown, Ernest Dean (a brakeman for the CPR), Angus Graham, manager of the City Meat Market (owned by Pat Burns), Charles McNicholl, a clerk in W C Stearman’s hardware store and George W Williams, a carpenter were living in the houses. The tenants continued to change on a very regular basis. In 1921 Sharples & Sharples owned 332 and 334, carrying out repairs. (They owned other property, including the Mackinnon Block on West Hastings at Granville Street). The houses were apparently torn down in 1952; that’s the last year they appear in the street directory. No even numbered properties exist on the 300 block of Robson in subsequent directories, although the site was used in the meantime; initially to sell used cars. In 1999 the Homer Development Corporation built ‘The Galileo’, a 97 unit 16-storey condo building here, with office and retail space in the podium, designed by Lawrence Doyle Architects.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Bu N518.

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Posted April 1, 2019 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

Robson Street west from Hornby

This 1986 image shows changes to this part of Robson Street have been subtle, and minimal over 33 years, but that’s about to change. The trees have grown bigger, so fortunately these are winter shots, although despite that the Blue Horizon Hotel on the right in the distance now disappears behind the tree trunk. The most obvious change to come has already started in the middle distance. This ‘current’ image is already out of date – The Empire Landmark Hotel (once a Sheraton) is steadily being demolished to be replaced by two condo and non-market rental towers, with new retail and office space in the podium. There are more towers underway further down the hill as well.

On the right of the picture the First City Trust Building was completed in 1969, designed by Frank Roy with Thompson, Berwick Pratt and Partners. Now known by its address, 777 Hornby, in the 1990s it received a makeover that included redesigning the podium glazing. Before it was built the Richmond Apartments stood on the corner. Mayfair House, on the left, completed in 1980, still looks the same.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 800-2672

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Posted March 28, 2019 by ChangingCity in Altered, Downtown

West Hastings Street, east from Hornby

This 1910 image shows two recently built buildings, the R V Winch office building, and the adjacent Post Office. The Winch Building was completed in 1911, and the Post Office opened a year earlier. It was designed by David Ewart, the Government’s Ottawa based head architect of the day, while R V Winch hired local architect Thomas Hooper, and then spent a reported $700,000 to complete the project – the most expensive in the city at the time it was built. The Post Office contract was first approved in 1905, and took some years to complete. The building is faced in granite (more precisely, Kelly Island grandiorite) while the Winch Building’s honed grandiorite came from Fox Island at the mouth of Jervis Inlet.

Both buildings are still standing today, part of the federal government’s Sinclair Centre. To the west were houses. On the corner of Howe was 801 West Hastings, initially the home of Harry Abbott, designed in 1887 by T C Sorby, and when the photograph was taken occupied by Richard Marpole, also general superintendent of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Next door was 815 West Hastings, the home of A G Ferguson (later renumbered to 837). The Ferguson house was the first to be demolished, replaced soon after this picture was taken, for the Metropolitan Building. Mr. Ferguson commissioned a new home at Fir and West 17th in 1912. The house on the corner lasted longer; it appears to have been demolished around 1912, not redeveloped until 1923 with the Merchant’s Exchange, developed by A Melville Dollar.

The Metropolitan Building was redeveloped in the mid 1990s, and replaced with the Musson Cattell Mackey designed Terminal City Club which has a club, hotel, offices, condos and retail space. The Merchant’s Exchange was redeveloped in the early 1970s, replaced by an Eng and Wright designed nine storey brick-clad office building.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Str N118.2

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Posted March 25, 2019 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

Ceperley residence, 1116 West Georgia Street

This 1888 picture shows the newly completed home of Henry Ceperley, born on Oneonta, New York, in 1850. (Henry was obviously a popular name in Oneonta that year; future railway baron Henry Huntingdon was born in the same small town, in the same year). He went to school locally, and then became a local school teacher before moving to Minnesota at age 21 and starting work in the produce and commission business. Five years later he moved to New Mexico, where he worked as a cashier and bookkeeper for a company that was building the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad. He married in 1881, back in Minnesota, and in 1883 he moved to Livingstone, Montana, where he stayed for about three years. He worked in the cattle ranching business, and also set up an insurance agency. He arrived in 1887 in Vancouver with his young family, and by 1888 was living in the new house in the picture. It was still the only house on this part of the block in 1891. In the picture Henry’s daughter, Ethelwynn, was aged four, and son Arthur was two. His wife, Jennie, was 13 years younger than Henry.

Ceperley partnered with A W Ross to form the real estate business of Ross and Ceperley. Arthur Wellington Ross came from a very similar background to Henry Ceperley. He was born in a farming township in Ontario in 1846, trained as a teacher, and taught in Cornwall in Ontario, impressed the trustees there so much that in 1868 they hired him as headmaster of the high school. He continued to study, to become a lawyer, and moved to Winnipeg in 1877 with his younger brother William, who was already qualified. He was called to the Manitoba bar a year later, and quickly established real estate as a specialty, and as a business. By 1882 his real estate assessment was around $210,000 and he had the eighth highest individual assessment in the city. He speculated in Métis scrip, lands owned by the Hudson’s Bay Company, town lots in Brandon and Edmonton, and various rural properties, apparently using inside information to acquire the best deals. His land speculation – and his fortune – disappeared in 1882 when the land bubble burst. He was trapped between his creditors, most notably the HBC, which relentlessly demanded payment, and his customers, many of whom were also speculators (on a smaller scale) who were prepared to walk away from their investments and obligations. In 1878 he added an interest in politics, and became a Liberal MP. He became associated with the promotion of the Manitoba and North Western Railway and served as its vice-president. He opposed the Canadian Pacific monopoly in 1880, favouring a rival bid. He won election again in a different riding; Selkirk, and in 1884 when the Canadian Pacific were trying to secure additional funds to complete the railway, Ross surprisingly switched to supporting their case. That paid off – by the late summer of 1884 he was in Vancouver acting on the CPR’s behalf to assemble land for its western terminus at Granville. Ross also was ideally placed to speculate himself and he purchased town-site lots from the CPR. In 1886 he opened a real estate business, which was run for a short time by his brother-in-law, the city’s first mayor, Malcolm McLean.

In 1888 the Lady Stephen Block became the Post Office, and also home to Ross and Ceperley who became one of the most active real estate promoters in the city. By now Ross was only a part-time resident in the city; he had rooms in the Hotel Vancouver, but in 1887 he had been reelected, with a little help from the CPR, as a Conservative in a Manitoba riding, so divided his time between Vancouver, Manitoba and Ottawa.

By 1891 Henry Ceperley had moved out of the house, which was now occupied by Isabela McLennan, and J C Keith, the manager of the Bank of British Columbia. He had dropped his partnership with Ross (who moved back to Manitoba in 1891), and was now Managing Director of the Vancouver Loan, Trust, Savings and Guarantee Co, with offices on Hastings, in what was then known as the Thompson-Ogle Block, and he had moved house to Burrard Street. He was absent for much of the year; his wife was ill, and ended up back in Winona, Minnesota, with her parents. She seemed to be recovering, so Henry returned to work, but rushed back when she got worse, and died in 1892. His bookkeeper, Francis (Frank) Rounsefell had worked for Ross and Ceperley. He had moved to join his father, a real estate promoter, from Brandon, Manitoba. Frank kept the business going in Henry’s absence. In 1894 Henry married again, to Grace, another American, who claimed to be 12 years younger than Henry, but was actually only nine years younger.

By 1896, Henry Ceperley had established a new company called Ceperley, Loewen & Campbell, Ltd., which acted as insurance and financial agents. Their offices were in the Inns of Court Building at 300 Hastings Street. In 1898 the company applied to change the company name to Ceperley, Mackenzie and Rounsfell Ltd, and by 1902, the company was called Ceperley Rounsefell and Co, with offices on the second floor of the Molson’s Bank Chambers at 597 West Hastings Street, and Frank Rounsefell as managing director. In 1910, Henry Ceperley retired from active participation in the company, although he stayed on as president. Frank took over the control and management of the business. Henry was also the managing director of the British America Development Company and was one of the provisional directors of the Bank of Vancouver, which started business in 1910.

Henry’s house was apparently replaced with two houses before 1912. They in turn were redeveloped with two car dealerships around 1920. More recently, in 2008, the 62 storey Shangri La Hotel and condominiums was completed here Where the house and car dealerships stood is part of the development: an Urban Fare store to the west and an art instillation location curated by the Vancouver Art Gallery with regularly changed site-specific artworks.

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives Bu P290

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Posted March 21, 2019 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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Looking north from Cambie Street

The City’s viewcones, that protect views of the mountains from selected spots, get a negative review from some of the city’s architects and developers. Buildings have to be shorter, or their shape altered to avoid blocking parts of the view. The most extreme example was the Trump Tower, that was designed to twist out of the way of the viewcone. Here’s the view north from Cambie at West Broadway. The picture is from further down Cambie than from where the view is protected, but the same mountains are involved.

The before picture is dated somewhere between 1960 and 1980. Off in the distance is the tower of Granville Square, completed in 1972, and on the left is the concrete bunker of the CBC Building, completed two years later. Although the Harbour Centre is now a very obvious element of the city skyline from this spot, it’s not showing in the image. It was completed in 1976, so we can pin the picture down to around 1974 or early 1975. That’s the older Cambie Bridge, on a slightly different alignment, replaced in 1985 with the new box girder structure.

This bonus 1976 image shows that the view of Downtown from the east sidewalk (nearly at 12th Avenue) has almost completely disappeared when the trees are in leaf – here in in the fall. That’s the VanCity office building, (now owned by the City of Vancouver), under construction, with a steel frame. Although that type of construction might suggest greater seismic performance, the building has recently had a comprehensive retrofit with angled steel bracing on the outside to improve its seismic rating.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-275

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Posted March 18, 2019 by ChangingCity in Altered, Mount Pleasant

999 Seymour Street (2)

In 1926 (or thereabouts) a new car service and parts building designed by Swinburne Annandale Kayll was developed by Boultbee Ltd. Later Clarke Simpkins, owner of the city’s largest Ford dealership, took the building over and used it as his parts and a service facility. By the early 1960s that use had ceased, and in 1963 the building took on a new life as Seymour Billards, owned by Edmonton restaurant operators. Inside there were large charcoal drawings of famous pool players on the walls, with a small snack bar at the back. It was a big space, with 36 full-sized, 6 x 12-foot Brunswick round-cornered tables. Outside was one of the city’s fabulous neon signs, with three sequentially lit ‘9’ balls (to signal the address) above a revolving ‘Seymour Billiards’ name.

By 1981 when these pictures were taken there were fewer patrons for the hall. A Ford dealership (Dominion Motors) was still on the block, but in the former Vancouver Motors building to the north. That too converted to a different use more recently, as Staples office supplies, with office space on the upper floors. The billiards use eventually closed in 1999, and after a period as a parking lot, a new condo building designed by Acton Ostry Architects was completed in 2014.

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-E03.06A and CVA 779-E03.05A

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Posted March 14, 2019 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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