Archive for the ‘Downtown’ Category

The Van Horne Block

This was one of the first of the city’s office buildings, seen here under construction in 1888. It was on the south-west corner of Granville and Dunsmuir, and was originally designed to be twice as wide, with four retail bays, but just two were built. It was commissioned by an American living in Montreal, William Cornelius Van Horne, the fomer general manager of the Canadian Pacific Railway who became vice-president of the company in 1884, and president in 1888.

Having successfully negotiated a route, and to be given a substantial land allocation to put the railway’s terminus in the newly named Vancouver, the Directors of the CPR set about undermining the economy of the old Granville Townsite to the east by creating a new city centre, with Granville Street as its spine, and the new railway station on the waterfront to the north. They built their hotel a block to the south of here, (as this 1889 etching from West Shore, a Portland magazine, published in 1889, shows), and filled in some of the remainder of the street with their own investment properties, different office and retail buildings like this one, all designed in 1888. They mostly ignored the local architects, and favoured Bruce Price to design four of them. He was an experienced American designer based in New York. These would have been relatively minor commissions for an office designing Chateau Frontenac in Montreal and buildings for Yale University. (He also designed a version of the CPR’s Opera House, even further into the recently cleared forest to the south, but a different architect got the design commission for the building that was constructed in 1889).

‘Sir’ William Van Horne was given an honary knighthood in 1894, although as an American citizen he wasn’t technically supposed to use the title. Despite having the biggest salary earned by any North American railway executive, he resigned the presidency of the CPR in 1899, aged 56, and was involved in businesses across Canada, and around the world. He helped create a viable Cuban railway system, spending time in hot climates to help treat  bouts of bronchitis. He was extraordinarily gifted in areas beyond commerce. He was an accomplished artist, an excellent violinist, and an avid and knowledgeable collector of art, Asian porcelain and pottery and fossils. He was said to be able to outlast his friends at both drinking, smoking Cuban cigars and playing cards into the night. He died in 1915, three years after his office building was transformed.

That was stripped out and extended internally to create a movie theatre, the Kinemacolor Theatre, (which two years later became the Colonial), in a $70,000 reconstruction. The 1912 building permit was to the Ricketts Amusement Co and the architect was E W Houghton, a Seattle-based architect originally born in Hampshire in England (who had redesigned the CPR’s former Opera House in 1907). The facade was extensively altered with a different window pattern.

The final movie shown in January 1972 was ‘The Sun Also Rises’, from 1957, with Tyrone Power, Ava Gardner and Errol Flynn. (Flynn died in Vancouver in 1959 having been in the city to lease his yacht, accompanied by a 17-year-old actress). The theatre was demolished in April 1972 – the estimated one million bricks were carefully removed and sold at eight and a half cents per brick, to buyers who came from as far as Seattle.

After several years as a vacant site the third Pacific Centre Mall office tower was completed in 1981, designed by McCarter Nairne and Partners with a lighter colour than the earlier ‘dark towers’ to the south. From 2018 over a period of 18 months the building underwent a total reclad to replace the poorly-performing curtain wall, while the tenants continued to occupy the building. New double-glazed units designed by Perkins + Will were installed from a staging platform that worked from the top to the base of the building.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives SGN 92

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Posted 26 January 2023 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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Seymour and Dunsmuir Streets – looking south

We saw the building on the corner, 570 Dunsmuir, when it was developed in 1926 as a bus depot, and then turned into a bigger building in 1957. Here it is in its rebuilt form, some time in the 1980s (and seen below in 1974). There was a new bus station opened in 1947 further along Dunsmuir to the east, and BC Electric ended up owning the old terminal having bought out the bus company. They used it as offices, but moved to their new office building on Burrard, in spring 1957 and by December a larger building had been completed here by adding additional floors to the shell of the transit centre. A consulting, design and construction engineering company, The BC Engineering Company, moved in,

They were a wholly-owned subsidiary of BC Electric, and their new offices had a bright two-tone blue scheme designed by Townley and Matheson with C B K Van Norman. The company became International Power and Engineering Constultants (IPEC). By 1980 H A Simons, an engineering company specializing in designing mills occupied the space.

They had clearly moved out by 1993, when the Sun reported that “A man has been charged after police raided a vacant office building and found a loaded handgun, marijuana and a home-made lab used to make amphetamines. Vancouver police liaison officer Del Valerie Harrison said the arrest was made at 9 p.m. Monday at 570 Dunsmuir. Charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking is Erberto Ferretti, who was allegedly living in the seven-storey structure.

In 1997 the building was given a further makeover by a company called 570 Dunsmuir Holdings. We don’t know who designed the new blue glazing. The contractors, Ledcor, stopped work when their payments were stopped because a BC-based mortgage company, Eron, run by Brian Slobogian and Frank Biller, were forced to call in the receivers and stop payments to the developer. The men behind 570 Dunsmuir Holdings were said to be Peter Bryant, and Martin Chambers, a dis-barred lawyer with convictions for financial improprieties. 570 Dunsmuir Holdings had an $8.5m mortgage with Eron to pay for the makeover, so eventually the building became part of Eron’s inadequate assets. The building was sold to Churchill Property Corp. in 2004 for $11.19m as part of the foreclosure of Eron.

In 2005 the Canadian Press reported “The Churchill Building, better known to thousands of scammed investors as 570 Dunsmuir St., is part of financial dog’s breakfast that was Eron Mortgage Corp.

Almost eight years after the Vancouver-based firm collapsed, taking $240 million of investors’ money with it, Eron founder Brian Slobogian is to be sentenced today after pleading guilty to one fraud and five theft counts.

His lawyer has recommended a three-year prison sentence while the Crown is looking for six-and-a-half to seven years behind bars.

The hearing will be closely watched by former Eron vice-president Frank Biller, who faces trial by judge alone April 4 on 14 charges of theft, fraud and breach of trust. Both men had previously been found guilty of securities violations, fined $300,000 each and handed trading bans in what the B.C. Securities Commission calls the biggest fraud in B.C. history.

In a parallel process – symbolized by 570 Dunsmuir – Eron’s judicial bankruptcy
trustee is disposing of the last of its assets. Only four of the dozens of Eron developments remain to be sold.

Slobogian was sentenced to six years, and Biller to three, (but they served much less time in prison). In 2022 U.S. Authorities reported that Francis Biller was wanted for involvement in a civil fraud case involving a boiler-room operation based in Medellin, Colombia, that they allege netted US$58 million. Martin Chambers was convicted on other charges of money laundering in the U.S., and spent 13 years in an Arkansas jail from 2002. He died in 2022.

TransGlobe of Toronto paid $15m for the building in 2006, and today it’s still office space on a site with a major re-development potential. Underneath, the base of the building has a nearly 100 year old frame.

CVA 772-1372 and CVA M-15-87

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Posted 12 January 2023 by ChangingCity in Altered, Downtown

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570 Dunsmuir Street

Here’s a 1926 building photographed after dark in 1936. There is a daytime shot from 1938 (below) but it was taken from an upper floor window, so we can’t replicate it. Townley and Matheson designed the building as the bus station for the regional long-distance coach company, Pacific Stages, Ltd. The passenger depot was constructed by E J Ryan for $150,000.

Ivor Neil’s Terminal City Motor Co had initially operated a car hire business, but added some buses. Under a new name, Pacific Stages Transportation Ltd, he expanded to offer service between Vancouver and Port Moody and Coquitlam. Buying up other companies he eventually served the Fraser Valley and south as far as Seattle.

Sensing potential competition to their bus and streetcar network,  BC Electric Railway Co acquired the business in 1925 creating the BC Motor Transportation Co. “Operating All Classes of Motor Vehicles, Including Pacific Stages, Yellow Cabs, Sightseeing Cars, Flat Rate Cars, Drive Yourself Cars and Baggage Transfer.” Their new premises saw services headed to West Vancouver, Horseshoe Bay, through Surrey, to Mission, and even to Harrison Hot Springs, as well as to Seattle. The Vancouver Archives have images of the building’s construction in 1926. The teardrop styled buses in the picture above were built in Vancouver by Hayes.

There was a barber, beauty salon, shoe shine, travel bureau, cigar stand and the Fountain Lunch to provide services to passengers and the surrounding area. Continued service expansion meant a new terminal was built a few blocks to the east in 1946. BC Electric contined to use the building for a while, with their General Sales division occupying the building in 1950. There was also an auditorium, that we suspect may have been created from the bus garage area at the back of the main floor.

In 1957 there was a dramatic makeover of the building. In March the BC Electric staff moved to BC Electric’s new office building, and by December a larger building had been completed here by adding additional floors to the shell of the transit centre. The BC Engineering Company moved in; consulting, design and construction engineers. They were a wholly-owned subsidiary of BC Electric, and their new offices had a bright two-tone blue scheme designed by Townley and Matheson with C B K Van Norman. The company became International Power and Engineering Constultants (IPEC) and later H A Simons, a specialist engineering company specializing in designing mills took the space.

After a further reclad of the building by new, and financially dubious owners in 1997, it was bought by Churchill International Property Corp for $11.19m at the end of 2004. TransGlobe of Toronto paid $15m for the building in 2006, and today it’s still office space on a site with a major re-development potential. Underneath, the base of the building has a nearly 100 year old frame.

Image Sources: Vancouver Public Library and City of Vancouver Archives CVA 778-82

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Posted 9 January 2023 by ChangingCity in Altered, Downtown

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Davie and Seymour Street – sw corner

This 1911 hotel is currently for sale. It has 27 vacant SRO rooms, and a former bar on the main floor, and nobody seems to want it for what the owners seem to think it’s worth. It was developed by Mrs. Priscilla Hunt, who hired A J Bird to design it, and spent $20,000 getting Robert McLean & Co to build it. Mrs Hunt was unquestionably the developer; she was a widow (although her son-in-law was in real estate, and may have advised her). It was built as a rooming house, and appeared as The Glenwood Rooms in 1912, addressed to Seymour Street and run by Mrs. A R Hansford. A year earlier she had been running another rooming house on West Pender that she also named The Glenwood Rooms.

Priscilla Chapman was born in Clinton, Huron, Ontario (in 1869, if her death certificate were to be believed, or 1861 if the headstone on her grave was accurate, and actually in 1856). When she married Jonathan J Hunt in 1884, somewhere in British Columbia, she admitted to being 25 (although she was really 28), and was living in Portland Oregon. Her husband was aged 48, a widower born in Bangor, Maine and running a hotel in Port Townsend, Washington Territory.

He was described as a widower, having married Mary, who was Irish, and building a house in Port Townsend for her in 1864. We think Mary died in 1878. This allowed Jonanthan to marry a second wife, Louisa, who he married in 1878 when she was 20, and they had three children born in 1875, 1877 and 1880, before she divorced him in 1884. (J B Hunt, Jonathan’s son, was killed in a train accident in Pendleton in 1895 when he was riding on the outside of the train, having failed to obtain a seat, and fell under the wheels).

By 1870 J J Hunt was running the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Port Townsend. A 1915 journal article said “the Cosmopolitan was the best known house in all this section of the territory, some not entirely bloodless. Being the port of entry, many seafaring men congregated there, and at times made the town lively in more senses than one” This was probably a coded reference to a fight that turned into a homicide in the bar in the 1870s. The killer spent 14 years in prison for manslaughter, was released in 1891 and swore revenge on the lawmen and J J Hunt.

In the mid 1870s J J sold his hotel for a while, and ran a wholesale liquor business, and in 1875 bought the wreck of the Orpheus, a sailing ship that had been hit by the S S Pacific, sailing from Victoria to San Francisco with 275 passengers and crew (and possibly as many as 400). The steamship was running without navigation lights, and hit the sailing ship, scraping along its side. While the sailing ship was damaged, but able to sail on, the sidewheeler was taking on water and sank with the loss of all but two on board, including Sewell Moody, owner of Moody’s Mill and founder of the north shore township in Burrard Inlet. The 225 ft. ship had a cargo manifest that included $79,000 of gold (91kg) and two barrels of opium.

Mr. Hunt paid $385 at public auction at the end of 1875, and hired the schooner Winnifred and a crew to strip the wreck of the Orpheus of anything of value. (The wreck of the Pacific was located at the end of 2022, and there are plans to attempt to locate the cargo using a remote underwater submersible, with a museum to display the finds, currently preserved in 1,000 feet of water). By 1880 J J Hunt was again running the Cosmopolitan, and in 1883 Hunt’s Hotel, to which, in 1884, he built a three-storey addition.

Three and a half years after his parent’s 1884 wedding, on 18 April 1888, Franklin Sterling Hunt was born in Port Townsend. His birth was registered then, and the same birthday appears on his 1917 Draft registration. Curiously,  some records suggest he had a sister, Violet, born just five months later in October 1888 in Portland. However, her burial record, in Burnaby, shows she was born in October 1883, and her mother’s name was listed as Tessie Chapman. Her mother’s pregnancy was no doubt a factor in her father’s 1884 divorce. Then we noted that Priscilla’s obitiary mentioned that she had two sons, Charles and Frank. Charles Cleveland Hunt was born in Port Townsend in 1882. When Charles was married in 1917 his father was listed as John, a hotelman, and his mother as Theresa Chapman.

In 1888 J J Hunt stood as a Democrat in the election for Congress, but didn’t make the cut. (Skagit chose a Republican). Jonathan Jay Hunt died in March 1893, aged 63. It looks like Jonathan and Priscilla stayed in Port Townsend until his death. We don’t know how long Mrs. Hunt stayed in Port Townsend after that, but her daughter, Violet, married Calvin Gray in Seattle in 1900, when she would have been aged 17.

C Gray is first mentioned in the Vancouver directories in 1903, when he was a machinst for Ross and Howard. A year later he was working in real estate, and by 1911 he was wealthy enough to live on Point Grey Road. In 1913 Calvin and his wife Violet took a three month trip to New Orleans and Southern California. Part of his real estate business was a management agency for owners wanting to lease their property. Calvin was a member of the Vancouver Board of Trade, and appointed a notary public in 1917.

The 1921 census confirms that both Priscilla and Violet preferred alternate names, and ages. The household of Calvin Gray aged 51, real estate broker, consisted of Elvira, aged 36 and Tessie Hunt, his mother-in-law, who said she was 50, and born in the USA. (Violet) Elvira was actually 38, and her mother was really 65. In 1923 a court case to prevent a neighbour from ‘borrowing’ the use of her skid road revealed that  Mrs. Calvin Gray was logging a 1,000 acre of forest near Sechelt.

Violet’s death was announced in June 1935. The death of Mrs. Violet Alvira Gray, aged 46, of 1034 West Fifteenth avenue, occurred Thursday. Funeral services will be held at a p.m. Saturday in Nunn & Thomson’s chapel. Burial will take place In Masonic Cemetery, Burnaby. Born In Portland, Ore., Mrs. Gray had been in Vancouver for thirty years. She is survived by her husband, Calvin Gray; her mother, Mrs. T. Hunt of Vancouver, and two brothers, Franklin and Cleveland of California.

Her husband organised an estate sale in June 1936, with $20,000 of glassware, china and silver on sale. The sale was extended in July when the contents of Mrs. Priscilla Hunt’s home were added. She had died in March 1936, and presumably the contents of her home could not be sold immediately. Calvin Gray retired to Puente in California in 1941, and died there in 1943.

In 1930 Frank Hunt was living in San Francisco. He was still there a decade later, still single, and a lodger. His brother had married in 1917, and in 1930 was in Blue Lake, Humboldt California with his wife and two children, Frances and Calvin.

The rooming house saw an auction of the contents in 1913, with all the brass bedsteads and bedding sold off.  It became known as the Canadian Apartments, and in 1924 was sold to Mr T W Roberts of Fort William, who enjoyed being able to walk around the city in February without an overcoat. One tenant was arrested for theft in 1926, and another had money stolen by a ‘prowler’. In 1945 the owners were Mrs L Thompson, and Axel Isaacson. A fire in her room, caused by a discarded cigarette in the bedding, caused smoke damage, the loss of all her personal belongings, and three ‘elderly men’ (aged between 60 and 70) to be rescued by being carried out by firemen. Renamed the Candian Hotel, it continued to advertise moderate rates and quiet rooms, with housekeeping. In 1959 Frank Saunders was arreested for carrying out illegal operations, but was acquitted, although his co-accused, Olive Williams, was found guilty.

In 1960 the building was ‘for sale, by owner’ for $97,000. The tenants of the building can probably be guessed from almost all the mentions in the press through the 1960s and 70s to the death of a tenant; unsually male, and in their 60s or 70s. One was only 58, but he set fire to his bed falling asleep while watching TV, in 1976. Our 1981 image shows the Canadian Hotel offering housekeeping rooms, and The Canvas Co and Gallery Restaurant on the main floor.

It’s hard to say what will happen to the building long term. At 40 feet by sixty it’s too small to redevelop, unless perhaps it was in conjunction with the Coast Mental Health building built in 2000 to the south, and then only with the two other buildings to the west. The SRO rooms are protected, so it’s likely to remain a low cost rental building.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-E03.27A

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Posted 29 December 2022 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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Downtown & False Creek from above

This is another older image matched up to Trish Jewison’s twitter pictures from the Global BC traffic helicopter (on May 16, 2021). It’s from the 1940s, and is one we’ve only recently been able to access as part of the collection that Uno Langmann donated to UBC. We’ve featured pictures of Burrard Street, and how suburban it felt, but this image really brings that into focus. The Burrard Bridge was newly completed, and there were industrial operations on both sides of False Creek on either side of the bridge. To the east of the bridge was a collection of run-down shacks where a residential population squatted on the foreshore.

The Vancouver Block can be seen on the left, on Granville Street, and it’s still visible today, one of the taller buildings on the retail strip. The gasometer on the right of the picture was on the end of False Creek, and the resulting pollution from the coal gas production is one reason for the parks among the residential towers developed by Concord Pacific. (The most polluted land is capped and sealed under a park, rather than risking disturbing it). That’s the earlier Georgia Viaduct crossing the industrial activity and railyards now occupied by the two stadia.

On the left St Paul’s Hospital is just visible, and across the street was Dawson School, where today the dark towers of the Wall Centre have been built. Because the shots were taken from different elevations, although they line up almost perfectly, it’s possible to see further up Burrard Inlet in the contemporary shot. In the foreground it’s easy to see the two newest and noteably taller towers. Vancouver House from this angle looks like any other rectangular condo, as the dramatic scooped cutout is hidden from view. The 54 storey Burrard Place is just left of centre, the first of three towers planned for the same block of Hornby. Between them, the contrasting black glazing and white marble balconies of the Pacific by Grosvenor stands out, another recent addition to the skyline. In the 1940s this part of Downtown was still single family homes, although some had been converted to commercial uses, and others to rooming houses.

Image source: Langmann Collection UBC

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Posted 26 December 2022 by ChangingCity in Altered, Downtown, West End

Fidelity Life Insurance – 1112 West Pender Street

This is the new Fidelity Life Insurance Company building on West Pender, designed by McCarter Nairne & Associates. Construction commenced on the $1.6m building in 1959, and it was announced that the company (which already owned a small office in the city) were moving their headquarters here from Regina, rather than moving to Toronto. Harry Cutler was the Canadian manager of the business, and a series of other sibling companies also moved here. A 1961 profile said, “The Fidelity Life Assurance Company is a member of the Friend’s Provident and Century Group of England, whose other Canadian operations include the Pacific Coast Fire Insurance Company, Century Insurance Company, Limited, and The Anglo Scottish Insurance Company, Limited, all operating in the general insurance field.” That was the year this picture was taken.

At least one of the businesses originated in Vancouver; Pacific Coast Fire Insurance. We saw the company’s first office building, developed in 1911 and still standing on Howe Street. It once had a waterfront view but is now two rows behind newer buildings. The building was developed by the National Finance Corporation with J W Horne, and the insurance company could trace its history back to 1894 when James Welton Horne, David Henry Wilson, and Edward Odium deposited 111,845.65 to act as security against potential claims against the business. J W Horne had tried to get the business off the ground in 1890 with five other sponsors. An additional $15,000 was required in 1906, furnished by the Dominion Trust Company.

Five years after they moved in, the businesses were combined as the Century Insurance Company of Canada. They moved offices to the opposite side of the street in the 1980s, and then to Toronto in January 1987. That year the company discontinued activities, and two years later an order was issued winding up the property and business into the Dominion Insurance Corporation. The building originally had angled vertical aluminum sunshades in front of the east-facing windows – a device seen on contemporary buildings like the United Kingdom Building and the City Library. They were replaced with red brick veneer panels on the balconies that continued onto the Pender facade, so that the building appears to have been built in the 1980s.

Today it has a variety of businesses with lawyers, suppliers of polycarbonate sheeting, and designers of blockchain technology (at least for now).

Image source: Fred Schiffer Jewish Museum L.23530

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Posted 22 December 2022 by ChangingCity in Altered, Downtown

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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!’

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Posted 19 December 2022 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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Phillips Building – Melville Street

This 1960 Office building is the one we chose for the cover of The Changing City, a book we wrote over a decade ago. It’s known today as the Wyland Building, but when it was developed it was the Phillips Building. Today there’s another Phillips Building, not far away, developed in 1965. The newspapers said the building was designed by Hollingsworth & Birmingham, although a 1962 RAICS Jounal said it was B Renke, and the developer was described in the Province as being “John Phillips, former Calgary and Texas oilman.” We’ve tried to find a Calgary oilman called John Phillips who might have developed an office building in Vancouver, and come up short. A John Phillips had been involved in an earlier project in the city developing a West End apartment building in 1954.

The Vancouver Sun reported on the million-dollar investment, and its new tenants, B.C. Forest Products. On July 3 a $3,000,000 destroyed the sawmill and offices of the business. By 5pm the following day “four floors in the new Phillips Building at 1190 Melville had been arranged, just a pulse beat from the city’s heart. That Monday was a July 4 to remember for John Phillips, a former resident of Texas. He had built the ultra-modern office block as a speculative venture. All seven floors had been vacant since February. But by nightfall he had leased all floors, at a total annual rental of about $150,000. It was an odd coincidence, but the same day MacMillan, Bloedel and Powell River Co. had agreed to take over the top three floors.”

The name change came in 1985, just after when we assume the new glazing was installed. That year the US artist Robert Wyland painted a 12,000 sq. ft. mural on the side of the building, using 153 gallons of General Paint’s exterior latex, applied with a spray gun. The top of the picture is still visible above the townhouses on the condo tower built next door, but the orcas that were the subject of the mural have been hidden. We don’t know how long a 60-year-old modest class B office building can survive in a neighbourhood of tall residential and commercial towers, but for now the mirrored facade offers a reflection of the heritage Stadacona apartments across the street, and the Ritz condo tower beside it.

Image source: Jewish Museum LF.01597

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Posted 15 December 2022 by ChangingCity in Altered, Downtown

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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.

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Posted 12 December 2022 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

Tagged with ,

Homer Street – 1100 block (3)

We looked at the other side of this block of Homer Street in two earlier posts. They’re part of the historic warehouse district that has been retained and converted to retail, commercial and some residential buildings. On the west side of the street earlier development wasn’t part of the CPR’s warehouse district and was included in the Downtown South residential neighbourhood. As a result, the commercial buildings on this side of the street have almost all been redeveloped. While the CPR warehouses were almost all built in a very short period, from 1909 to 1912, this side took longer, and the buildings were more recent.

That includes these two warehouse buildings, (as well as the gas station on the corner). 1107 Homer was developed in 1928 by Hobbs Manufacturing Co. Ltd, and designed and built for $34,000 by Dominion Construction Co. Ltd. Next door the larger lot with the two storey building had its building constructed in 1926. Dominion also built this one at a cost of $25,000 for Leek & Co, who had hired McCarter and Nairne to design it.

Hobbs Manufacturing had their roots in London, Ontario. They were glass dealers, but their advertisements note that they produced leaded windows for ecclesiastical purposes, along with stained glass, memorial and portrait windows, and mirrors for both religious and residential locations. They also manufactured store fronts: “fabricated in solid rolled bronze or copper or electro plated in many pleasing colors”. Another line were glass prisms for sidewalks where the basement projected beyond the building line.

Leek and Co in 1111 Homer were already established in the area – in fact less than a block away. They were a plumbing, heating installation and engineering business, previously located in 1090 Homer across the street on the next block north. The warehouse continued as their premises until 1970, when the Leasing Department of Montreal Trust advertised its availability. Whittick Mechanical Contractors started using some of the space in the building in 1972, and it was split into multiple smaller spaces until it was redeveloped.

In the early 1950s Hobbs Glass, in 1107, sold out to Canadian Pittsburgh Industries, who continued the operations of the business until 1958, when they moved to new premises on Terminal Avenue. A year later Trev Deeley’s motorcycle business was located here. Radco Sales continued distributing Suzuki motorbikes from here in the early 1970s, and by the end of the decade this had also become multiple office spaces. Joe Wai, architect, had his office here in the late 1980s.

The site was redeveloped with condos in the mid 2000s, designed by IBI / HB. The development was not without drama; the developer, Chandler Developments, went bankrupt in 2008, leaving a receiver to finish construction. The sales pitch for the project was too good to be true ” This is Chandler Development Group at its best. The respected family firm, with more than three generations of extensive real estate experience in Vancouver and beyond” In reality Mark Chandler had been ordered to stop selling condos here because he had failed to disclose his financial liabilities, and the BC superintendent of real estate, W. Alan Clark, found the information before him raised “a serious concern and a likelihood that Chandler, acting on behalf of the developers, has sold one or more development units in the developers’ developments to more than one purchaser.” This seemed more than likely as he had done exactly the same thing on a project he developed on Richards Street. He’d been deported back to Canada after being found guilty of fraud, theft and forgery related to a development project Arizona in 2003.

This didn’t really seem to put Mr. Chandler off. He started a new company, and developed a condo project in Murrayville, in Langley. Once again, he was accused of taking substatntial deposits from two parties on 34 of the units. Despite legal proceedings to sort that out, and an unpaid tax bill to the municipality, Mr. Chandler was more concerned with other matters. He had been indicted for fraud in 2016 in Los Angeles, accepting funds from investors for an LA condo project that was more fiction than reality. In addition to soliciting cash, between 2009 and 2011 Chandler convinced victims to give him loans or obtain loans from others and give him the proceeds, and use their personally owned properties as collateral for loans he obtained, according to federal prosecutors. After 3 years fighting extradition, he was transferred to the US in 2019. He may not have helped his case by supposedly surrendering his passport, and then taking a Mexico vacation using a second passport while fighting to stay in Canada.

When the case came to court in 2021, he was obviously hoping that the two years he had been held in the Metropolitan Detention Centre in Los Angeles, (where he caught COVID), and the fact that he pled guilty (to a single wire fraud charge) would help. The prosecution was seeking 51 months in prison, while his lawyers suggested two years was more appropriate. Judge Percy Anderson disagreed, and handing down a six-year sentence calling Chandler “a financial predator,”. Chandler, who used the $1.7m he obtained to buy himself a Mercedes-Benz, chartering a private yacht, luxury purchases and high-end dining, and vacations in Hawaii and Las Vegas, was also ordered to pay $1.7m back, and will have a 3-year supervised release once his sentence is served.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-E08.21

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