Archive for the ‘Downtown’ Category

Robson Street – 300 block, north side (2)

This row of six identical cottages appear on the 1901 insurance map. We know they were built from east to west, because the 1900-01 Street Directory only shows four of them, one so recently built that the occupant is unnamed. The house at the far eastern (right hand) end of the row, 331 Robson, was occupied by contractor W L Campbell, and it’s possible that he built the houses. William Campbell was from Ontario, aged 35, and living in 1901 with his American wife Rosa, and their children aged 7 and 1, and their American domestic, Lina Wallace. It would seem that they didn’t stay long in Vancouver, and even less time in the new house. In 1902 and 1903 a carpenter called William Campbell was living on Westminster Avenue, and nobody of that name was in the city in 1904.

At 335, CPR engineer William Coughlin moved in with his wife Elizabeth and their two children. In the 1901 census Margery was 14 months old and Lorne was only 2 months. They also seem to have left the city by 1902. John Danagher, a tailor was at 339, changing jobs by 1902 to become a commercial traveler, and moving to Eveleigh Street.

In 1902 O L McCullough had moved into 331. D Buie, a carpenter had replaced the engineer next door, W Beavis, a blacksmith was at 339, Mr Alltress, a driver was next to him, D L Gauley a painter lived next door and another contractor moved into the end of the row; J P Matheson. John Matheson was first listed in 1894 as a carpenter living on Oppenheimer Street, and a year later as J P Matheson at 231 Georgia. Born in Wheatley River, Prince Edward Island, he moved to New Westminster in 1890 and then to Vancouver about two years later. He was initially a contractor, as he was listed in the 1901 census, when he and his wife Jane lived with their sons Robert, who was 14, daughter Ruby who was 12, and Gordon who was only two years old.

The Matheson family lived here for several years, until by 1908 they had moved to the West End, with J P Matheson listed as contractor and builder. Son Robert moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that year to study architecture at the University of Pennsylvania under the leading American architect Paul Cret. A school friend Fred Townley joined him at the school. On his return in 1911 his father invited him to form an architectural partnership and Robert probably supplied the architectural part in the design of several important commissions in the city. John P. Matheson died in Vancouver in 1917, and two years later Robert formed a new partnership with Fred Townley, and their partnership designed many city buildings, including the modernist design for the Vancouver City Hall. Robert Matheson died in Vancouver after a long illness at the age of 48 on 30 June 1935, before City Hall was completed.

Over the decades that the houses stood, hundreds of different people lived in them. In 1955, the last year we can access street directories online, Mrs Louise McGowan was at 331, Mrs. K Alice Beesley (a widow) at 335, Mrs M Eluk lived next door at 339 with Walter Eluk, a warehouseman, John Farrar, who was retired, at 341, Russell McGowan, a steelworker, living with his wife Elaine at 347 and Glyn Morgan, a welder, living with his wife Kathleen at 351. A year later our image was taken, and some time before 1981 the houses were cleared away. Today the plaza of Moshe Safdie’s ‘not the colosseum’ public library, completed in 1995, is on the corner of the block.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Bu P508.83


Posted October 18, 2018 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

Helmcken Street – 400 block, north side

This is one of our favourite images of Downtown Vancouver in the Archives collection. Shot over 50 years ago, in 1966, the residential nature of much of the Downtown South area was still very much in evidence, but off in the haze in the distance the headquarters building for BC Electric show that indeed, you are Downtown. Remarkably, three of those houses on Helmcken Street are still there today, and perhaps more remarkably there are now five houses here, (hidden among the dramatically expanded tree cover).

Originally Wellington Brehaut built five identical houses here in 1907. They were probably initially leased rather than sold off, although over time they became freehold dwellings. By 1966 two had been lost, but as part of the condo tower built on Richards Street, two houses from further up the street (1062 and 1080 Richards) were relocated around the corner to complete the row. We looked at the history of those buildings, and the ‘hold-out’ owner of one of them, Linda Rupa, in an earlier post.

Wellington W Brehaut was a contractor who lived in the West End, in a house he shared with the builder of the house, D M Fraser. They were also partners in their contracting business. He was a carpenter from PEI, and seems to done well, from being a lodger in a rooming house in 1901 to owning his own home (still standing) on Nicola Street by 1908. He was married in 1904, to Florence Morrison, who was four years younger, from London, Ontario. Her death was recorded in the newspaper in 1911, and Wellington died in 1916 aged only 45 while in Los Angeles, although he was buried in Mountain View Cemetery. He was obviously a well respected Freemason; the Daily World reported that “An emergency meeting of the Lodge will be held in the Masonic Temple, corner of Seymour and Georgia Streets, on Thursday, May 11 at 2 p.m., for the purpose of conducting the funeral ceremonies of our late Bro. Wellington W. Brehaut”.

Another piece added a fascinating detail to Mr. Brehaut’s relatively short life story: “Some fifteen months ago Mr. Brehaut went to California in the hopes of improving his health, but without permanent results, and his many friends in this city will learn with regret of his decease. The body Is being brought to this city for interment, the funeral, which will be under the auspices of – Cascade Lodge, A. F. & A. M , of which the deceased was a member, being held on Thursday afternoon next. The late Mr. Brehaut was a popular member of the Terminal Club. Some six years ago Mr. Brehaut was the central figure in a sensational hold – up case in the city, he being held up by an armed man, with whom he grappled. His assailant was sentenced to a long term which he is at present serving.”

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-41

Posted October 15, 2018 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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West Georgia and Homer Streets looking south

We’ve noted in other posts how parts of Downtown in the early 1980s were like the early clear-felled forest – except used as parking lots. The earlier buildings in this part of Downtown had been cleared away, but the replacement buildings took many years, and in some cases decades, to appear. There wasn’t a lot more development on the other side of the street, either.

Amazingly, we haven’t seen a view of this block, where the new central; branch of the city’s Library was completed in 1995. Architect Moshe Safdie has always denied any intentional reference to Rome’s Colosseum, and the design was the public’s preferred winner after a 1990 design competition. At the time the City’s biggest investment, the federal government supported the project by leasing an office tower and the upper floors of the internal library ‘box’. The top floors have just been returned to the City, and repurposed as stunning new rooftop gardens and meeting rooms.

Image source, City of Vancouver Archives CVA 772-829

Posted October 11, 2018 by ChangingCity in Altered, Downtown

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Robson Street – 400 block, north side

We looked at the block to the east of here in the previous post. This block in 1981 was as empty as the 300 block. The 1970s saw a lot of clearance Downtown, but redevelopment took longer, and there was a sea of surface parking for many years.

Today there’s a strata hotel (rooms are owned by different owners as investments) and a residential tower with two floors of retail, including a supermarket.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-E09.27

Posted October 8, 2018 by ChangingCity in Altered, Downtown

Robson Street – 300 block, north side

In 1981 this part of the Downtown was noticeably empty. The area started life as a residential neighbourhood, but gradually switched to commercial uses, although there were still plenty of houses nearby in the 1950s. By 1981, when this picture was shot, sites had been cleared and were used as parking lots. There was no rapid transit, and inadequate bus service to the rapidly growing Downtown office and retail core, so workers drove here. There were some parkades, and a few new offices had underground parking, but there were also blocks and blocks covered in cars during the day.

This image was taken on the corner of Hamilton Street, and the first large building that can be seen on the north side of Robson is the BC Telephone building on the corner of Seymour. The trucks parked in the lot here are mostly unmarked, but appear to be Canada Post trucks. (The Canada Post building was a block north of here). There’s another parking lot beyond this one, and a low parkade attached to the BC Tel building.

Today the city’s Central Library, designed by Moshe Safdie and completed in 1995 is here, with Lawrence Doyle’s design for a tower in the shape of a grand piano that became the Westin Grand hotel, completed in 1999, beyond it.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-E12.06

Posted October 4, 2018 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

West Pender Street – 500 block, north side

These four buildings were all replaced by a building called Conference Plaza, completed in 1996. They had stood for over 90 years, and are seen here in 1968. The first building, on the corner of Seymour, on the 1912 insurance map was the Mahon, McFarland & Proctor Building. The investor partners built several projects in the city, and we looked in detail at their background in an earlier post. When it was first completed in 1908 it was known as the Imperial Block, designed by Parr and Fee, and it was developed by ‘Martin, Nichols & Gavin’, and built at a cost of $54,000 by Mills & Williams.

There’s no reference to any business or partnership named Martin, Nichols & Gavin, so our best guess is that it was a consortium including Robert Martin (of Martin and Robertson), and perhaps Duncan Gavin who ran a candy business, and whose son worked for Martin and Robertson. The ‘Nichols’ was most likely to have been John P Nicolls; of Macaulay and Nicolls; his real estate business carried out repairs to the building, designed by T E Parr, in 1921.

Next door was the Ackroyd Building, and then the Temple Building. We looked at the history behind those buildings in an earlier post. The Ackroyd Building started out being called the R V Winch Building, until Mr. Winch built a much larger and more magnificent building to the west of here. It was completed in 1905 and designed by Grant and Henderson. The Temple Building was developed by the Temple Realty Company, and also designed by Grant & Henderson. The Temple family were in Santa Rosa, California, but they relied on a relative, W Bennett Hood to manage their Vancouver investment, after 1906 joined by his brother Robert, partners in Hood Brothers real estate, based in the building.

The last building on the block was also built in 1905, although the foundations had been started in 1895. Dr Israel Wood Powell ‘of Victoria’ was originally the developer, in partnership with R G Spinks and R G McKay, with a building designed by Fripp and Wills in 1892. The foundations were started a couple of years later, but the 1903 insurance map showed that that was all that had been constructed eight years after that. In 1905 a new permit was taken out by Powell and Hood – They were William Bennett Hood (who developed the Temple building)and Bertram W Powell, the son of Israel Wood Powell. Also designed by Grant & Henderson, the $15,000 building had iron columns and beams. In 1922 it was known as the Roaf Block; owned by J. H. Roaf, who hired Dalton & Eveleigh to design $9,000 of work to repair the building after a fire. Major Roaf was the managing director of the Clayburn Co, manufacturers of bricks and sewer pipes from a clay deposit at Sumas Mountain. A keen motorist, in 1912 he was owner of vehicle licence 1587. In 1923 another $20,000 of alterations (designed by William Dodd & Sons) were carried out when the World Publishing Co moved in (rather a drop in status from the World Tower down the street).

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 2010-006.008; Ernie Reksten

Posted September 24, 2018 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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729 Hamilton Street

Fire Hall No. 1 was probably newly built when this 1950s image was shot. We wouldn’t know who had designed the third location of the city’s Fire Hall No. 1 if the picture wasn’t listed as part of the Townley and Matheson fonds, in the Archives collection. The building replaced the Cordova Street fire hall, which in turn had replaced the first building on Water Street. It was only here for about 20 years; in 1975 the new Heatley Street Fire Hall No. 1 was opened, and Fire Hall No. 8 was opened further down Hamilton Street in 1974 to retain a Downtown fire fighting base – the land for that building having been acquired in 1971 for $60,000!

Here’s another view of the building, designed in the international style, and seen here in 1962. The equipment is on display because the Fire Department had taken delivery of a new set of fire trucks. The urgency to move the relatively new facility was to facilitate ‘The Federal Block’ – an anticipated major government investment proposed in the early 1970s. The entire block, by 1981, was a vacant parking lot, but the project never materialized, and finally, in 1995, Moshe Safdie’s design for the new Vancouver Public Library Central Branch was completed. The Federal Government contributed to the library project by agreeing to lease the corner office tower, and some upper floors, for 20 years. The tower is still Federal offices, but the upper floors of the main building have now been converted to library use, with public access possible very soon to the rooftop garden.

Image sources: City of Vancouver CVA 1399-461 and CVA 354-260

Posted September 17, 2018 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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