Archive for the ‘Downtown’ Category

Robson and Hornby Street – south east

This image, from May 1965 shows, according to the Archives record, “the Clement Block, Danceland, Crystall Lunch, C.K.N.W. and Black Top Cabs office”. There’s also a bakery, and Triangle Books on the main floor of the two storey and mansard building dating from 1922. It was developed by Herbert S Clements, and designed by A A Cox in two stages; Cameron Construction built the initial $12,000 structure, and then a year later E Cook & Sons carried out another $6,000 of ‘Miscellaneous; Repairs/Alterations; Banquet hall’. Those were by no means the total costs.

A complex legal case from 1927 told the story of the new building. In 1920 W H Sproule, President of the National Mortgage Company, and H S Clements, a director, bought a building on this corner. W G Harvey had owned the building in 1909, and sold it that year to Maxwell, Le Feuvre, Passage and Tomlin for $85,000. There were various mortgages and payments that are far too complex to list here, and Maxwell and Le Feuvre sold their interests, but eventually Passage and Tomlin agreed to sell the site to Mr. Sproule. He had difficulty paying for the building, and Mr. Clements helped him out, and they ended up owning the building with a small mortgage. Mr. Sproule at around the same time moved to Winnipeg leaving Mr. Clements in charge of the decrepit building, which was ordered demolished by the City in 1922. The replacement cost at least $88,000 in total to build, and the land was assessed at $50,000, and in June 1924 he sold the building seen here for $125,000. Mr. Sproule sued to try to get more than his half of the sale proceeds, and a judge awarded him an extra $3,085. Mr Sproule wanted more, and Mr. Clements didn’t think he was entitled even to that amount, so they ended up in the Court of Appeal. The judges sided with Mr. Clements: one of the judges noting “Real estate at the time in question in the City of Vancouver was of very uncertain value and holders thereof were looked upon as speculators. The defendant by the exercise of great skill and judgment was able to, in the end, make a profit by the sale of the land after the erection thereon of a suitable building, and he must be allowed all outgoings in respect thereof; the plaintiff cannot obtain the profits and leave all the losses with the defendant.”

Herbert S Clements had been a Conservative MP, initially in Chatham, Ontario, where he was born, representing West Kent from 1904 until 1908 when he moved to British Columbia. He set up a real estate company with George S Heywood which continued to operate through to the early 1920s. His partner was also from Chatham, where he was still living in 1901. When they were in partnership, they both occupied apartments in the same building, 859 Thurlow. At the same time, from 1911 until 1921 Herbert represented the British Columbia ridings of Comox-Atlin and then Comox-Alberni. His obituary, in 1939, said he retired both from his real estate business and politics more than 15 years before. That would coincide with a court case where Mr. Clements sued John J Coughlin for $5,000 to be paid for helping Mr. Coughlin sell his interest in a government funded drydock in Burrard Inlet. Mr. Clements was involved because of his ‘influence’ in Ottawa, but unlike two other lobbyists, he was never paid.

Herbert Clements was an old-school conservative. While representing Chatham it was noted that he “Strongly advocates more protection for agricultural interests of Canada and believes in equal tariff with U.S. on all national products affecting Canada.” When he stood as a conservative for Comox Atlin in 1911, the local Prince Rupert newspaper, the Daily News described him as a ‘carpet bagger’, and backed the liberal candidate (a local). The Omineca Miner newspaper seemed happier with him, and carpetbagger or not, Mr. Clements was elected. Today his attitude to former eastern Europeans are still remembered, especially Ukrainians, interned during the first war. In March 1919 he said “I say unhesitatingly that every enemy alien who was interned during the war is today just as much an enemy as he was during the war, and I demand of this Government that each and every alien in this dominion should be deported at the earliest opportunity. Cattle ships are good enough for them.”

The new building on the corner was leased out, with the entire second floor going to a dance academy called the Alexandra Ballroom, with the entry on Hornby Street. It had draped windows, a stage, a small lounge and a kitchen. The wooden, sprung dance floor had bags of horsehair laid under the floor, and later, overhead fanning boards were added. All this made for a very classy venue, a rival to The Commodore.

In 1929 a radio station was established on the third floor by Sprott Shaw College. In 1954 radio station CKNW moved into the space, but owner Bill Rea, sold CKNW and took over The Alex, downstairs. He changed the name to Danceland and created a new upbeat venue. Adorned with oversized neon signs, Danceland began to attract some of the big names of the day. Red Robinson recalls the venue playing host to Ike & Tina Turner, The Coasters, Bobby Darin, Roy Orbison and many other R&B and early rock and roll bands. A new owner took over Danceland and continued to promote the venue as a Rock and Roll dance hall. It could accommodate up to 600 people, and coaches sometimes could be seen parked outside having brought dancers up from the USA. It was noted that bouncers did routine patrols looking for booze under the chairs.

The city bought the building for a civic centre that never materialized, and the Province took over and initially cleared the site for a parking lot in 1965. The new Courthouse, designed by Arthur Erickson was built here many years later, although this corner is really part of the site’s extensive landscaping, designed by Cornelia Hahn Oberlander.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 447-351

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Posted December 12, 2019 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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Northern Electric – Robson Street

In the summer it’s impossible to be sure that this 1928 building is the same as it was in the picture, photographed in this Vancouver Public Library image a year after it was built. Nothing much has changed externally, although it was added to in 1947 with a matching element. To the east (left of the picture) there’s a former gas station that’s been a bar for many years. The architects for the Northern Electric building were McCarter Nairne, with Northern Electric’s Montreal based architect, Joseph Onesime Despatie. The building was basic, but there are a few modest Art Moderne / Classical touches at the entrance.

Northern Electric started life in the mid 1890s as the manufacturing subsidiary of Bell Telephone of Canada. Before they developed here they occupied a building on Water Street. During the 1920s, as well as the core telephone and related business, Northern Electric made kettles, toasters, cigar lighters, electric stoves, and washing machines. The Vancouver buildings were warehouse space, with a showroom, but manufacturing took place elsewhere. The company name was truncated to Nortel many years later, and eventually saw a spectacular bankruptcy in 2009. They had long abandoned this building, which had been purchased in 1958 by the Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver for use as their Catholic Centre, containing their offices and the Catholic Men’s Hostel with over 100 beds on the third floor. A new office building was built some years ago on the site of the former St Vincent’s Hospital, and only the hostel occupies the building for now.

In 2018 City Council approved the development of a 29 storey residential tower here. It will sit above the restored facades of the Northern Electric Building, and there will be a hotel in the restored part, on four floors, with an adjacent new six storey building to the east. The oldest part of the heritage warehouse will have a restaurant on the main floor, and there will be a coffee shop in the 1947 addition. The Catholic Hostel is moving initially to St Paul’s Hospital, and will need another new home once that is redeveloped in a few years time.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Bu N279.2

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Posted December 9, 2019 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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Robson Street west from Hamilton

This undated image was taken, we’re reasonably certain, in the early 1980s. This part of Downtown was in transition: the area had started out in the late 1890s as a residential neighbourhood, complete with churches and corner stores, conveniently located for the original city centre to the north and the new CPR city to the west, emerging around Granville Street. By the 1970s the move to commercial use had been significant, but odd houses still remained, like the one on the left of the picture. It was first shown in a street directory in 1892 when Amelia Vesey moved here, probably with her family. She was recently widowed, born in Nova Scotia and previously married to Joseph Vesey. In 1911 she had moved to live with her son, Charles, an accountant living in the West End.

Just to the right of the billboard is the BC Hydro headquarters, over half a kilometer away and standing tall in a neighbourhood of modest buildings.

The building that helps us date the image is the big, gold, office building in the distance. Designed by Eng and Wright it was completed in 1983. Beyond it, one and a half kilometers away, the Sheraton Landmark hotel occupied a prominent spot on Robson Street. The ‘after’ shot was taken earlier this year (before the street trees were in leaf to hide most of the buildings), but the Landmark was already shorter, on its way to be demolished for a pair of strata and non-market housing towers that will replace the hotel. Between the camera and the Landmark nearly 1,000 residential units have been added – always over a commercial podium of several floors of retail and office. Closest to us is Eight-One-Nine, designed by Rafii Architects for Bosa, and completed in 1998, and next door The Galileo by Hamilton Doyle Associates, completed a year later. There are two more condo towers beyond that, completed in the 2000s.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 800-2945

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Posted December 5, 2019 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

118 Robson Street

This gas station, on the corner of Robson and Beatty, was developed in 1922 by Imperial Oil Ltd. It cost them $8,000 for Dominion Construction to build it, and Townley and Matheson designed it. We suspect that underneath the changes that have seen the building converted to a bar, the bones of the structure are nearly 100 years old. It almost certainly won’t make it to a century, as the site has been approved for redevelopment (along with the Catholic Charities building to the west, which started life as Northern Electric’s factory). The gas station part of the site will become a new boutique hotel, along with the heritage building, and there’s a condo tower as well.

This Vancouver Public Library picture shows the site in 1941, when it was addressed as 110 Robson and known as the Connaught Service Station – initially it was Imperial Oil station No.7. In 1941 it was run by T McMurdo and M Beaton, who had adopted the name when they took over from Imperial around 1935. They were still running the business in 1947 when “Thieves smashed a window to gain entry into the Connaught Service Station, 110 Robson some time during the night but fled empty-handed. Cupboards and drawers were rifled, but the safe was untouched”. The building was rebuilt as a bar – presumably when the service station use was abandoned – in 1979.

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Posted November 28, 2019 by ChangingCity in Altered, Downtown

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Helmcken and Richards Street – south-east corner

In 1981 this was yet another Downtown gas station. The first development here were a row of four houses facing Helmcken. They were duplexes, as there were eight street addresses. They first appear in 1907, and they were probably rental homes as only two of the named occupants are the same in 1909, and they had all changed again by 1911. The houses were still standing in 1951, but the following year The Eveready Tire and Motor garage was here. It was run by Roy Ellis, Doug Rolls and Fred Macey. Doug Rolls was born in Hedley, but came to Vancouver at 16 where he started work at a Granville Street service station. During World War II he worked at Boeing, where he rose to the position of Superintendent building aircraft that included the B17 ‘Flying Fortress’, and after the war he built houses in Vancouver, before setting up the garage.

The garage use, which included a Shell gas bar, only lasted a few decades. In 1995 one of the earlier Downtown South residential towers was completed here. Designed by Raymond Y Ching and Associates for Diamond Robinson, the Robinson Tower has 124 apartments in 17 floors, with some retail on the main floor.,

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-E08.23

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Posted November 25, 2019 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

False Creek eastwards from above

Here’s another of Trish Jewison’s recent shots from the Global BC traffic helicopter, manipulated slightly to fit an earlier Archives image – this one from 1947. This one was taken in May this year, as the twisting Vancouver House was nearing completion. From this angle it looks like a large, but perfectly normal rectangular tower, but it has a triangular base (to fit next to Granville Bridge), which gradually grows to a rectangular upper portion. Designed by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, it’s the most dramatic new building seen in the city in decades. It includes a new local shopping centre, with supermarket and drugstore, as well as public art suspended from the underside of the Granville Bridge. In 1947 there was a 35 year old 4 storey warehouse, and some single storey commercial buildings, which all remained until redevelopment started in 2015.

In the foreground Granville Island had even more buildings than it does today, all in industrial uses, mostly related to the fishing, logging and sawmill industries. There was a chain maker, saw blade supplier, forge and rope manufacturers. There was a net loft and a rigging company, a ship repairer (and a coffee shop). Today there are many more coffee shops, and the only real industrial use is the Ocean Cement plant next to Granville Bridge.

The rail bridge that was still around in 1947 was the Kitsilano trestle. It was built by the CPR (but the last steam train to Steveston ran in 1905) and was then used by the BC Electric Railway. The trestle started out as a link in an electric passenger transit system using street cars and connecting downtown Vancouver with farms on the South Side of False Creek and beyond. It connected the south shore of Vancouver to the railyards that filled the land between Yaletown and False Creek. The rail ran all the way to Carrall Street, where the Interurban headquarters was located. The trestle was removed in the early 80’s as it was in poor condition, rarely used and a navigational hazard. The original right-of-way can still be seen, curving around the Harbour Cove and Mariner Point residential buildings built in the mid 1980s.

Om the north side of False Creek, once the railyards were removed, BC Place Stadium was constructed, moving major sports into Downtown. The rest of the site became home to Expo 86, which reached round the Creek all the way to Granville Bridge. Sold as a single piece of property to the company now known as Concord Pacific, thousands of apartments (including non-market and seniors housing) have since been built on the land. There are still a few remaining sites to redevelop, and inland there are plans to add another tower as tall as Vancouver House on the opposite side of the bridge. Further towers will be developed to the north when the loops from Granville Bridge are removed. The site at the bottom of the pictures will see the greatest change; the Squamish Nation have unveiled plans for 6,000 apartments in 11 towers on the Indian Reserve land they were given back after the rail use was abandoned.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives  CVA 59-03 and Trish Jewison, Global TV traffic helicopter.

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Posted November 11, 2019 by ChangingCity in Altered, Downtown

1233 West Georgia Street

This 1918 picture shows a car dealership built in 1913 for H A Bowers and designed by William Dodd, built at a cost of $10,119. It wasn’t the first building here with that use; in 1909 T W Fletcher hired M D Campbell to design a $9,000 garage here, and two years later Mr. Bowers was the owner, obtaining a permit for $6,500 of work to add to a building here and reconstruct part of it. We’re not sure if he followed through on that idea, or whether it’s more likely that the Dodd building was built as a replacement. It closely matches an adjacent garage for McLaughlin, that was built in the same year, next door. It looks like the project was scaled back from an earlier version: The Pacific Coast Architect, an American publication had announced in 1912 that “Architects Doctor, Stewart & Davey prepared plans for a two-story reinforced concrete garage, for H A Bowers”, but those architects never obtained an permit.

Thomas W Fletcher, the developer, was shown in the 1911 street directory as retired, and had moved to a home in the newly built and up-market Shaughnessey sub-division, but he was only aged 43. The census said he was in real estate, but we don’t know if the garage he apparently built in 1909 ever had an occupant before Mr Bowers acquired it. In 1921 Mr. Fetcher had Mackenzie & Bow design a new home in Shaughnessey, and was shown as working again, as an adjuster. A year later McCarter & Nairne designed another house for him, on Minto Crescent.

Herbert Bowers was an American, aged 31, and only recently arrived in Vancouver. In 1911 he lived two blocks west of here with his wife Hazel and their three children, Robert, Alice and Herbert junior. They has recently lost another daughter: the Press Democrat of Santa Rosa, California reporting that year that “Mr. and Mrs H. A. Bowers, who removed from here to Vancouver, have suffered a sad bereavement in the death of their little daughter Doris, who is well remembered here by many friends both young and old. The child’s death was due to pneumonia, which occurred March 6.”

Herbert ran the Central Auto and Supply Co, and the family had apparently left Vancouver and returned to California by 1913. In 1922 Herbert junior died in perculiar circumstances in Vancouver. The Daily World reported “A coroner’s Jury, with Dr. Sutherland of Port Coqultlam as coroner, sitting this morning at Murchie’s undertaking parlors, brought in the following verdict on the death of Herbert Bowers, whose body was found on the Pipe Line road In the bottom of a ravine under an automobile on Sunday: “We find that the death of Herbert Bowers was accidental, he not being familiar with the road, which is dangerous at this spot.” Mrs. H. A. Bowers, mother of the dead man, and Mr. W. D. Woods, manager of the Barron Hotel, Vancouver, Identified the body. Mrs. Bowers stated that her son was 18 years of age. The family reside at Santa Clara valley, California, and were here on a vacation. She said that she had no idea how her son came to take the car. They had been staying at the Barron Hotel and he was away visiting friends In South Vancouver on Saturday night. She had four other children, who are at present at their camp on Howe Sound. Bowers had several letters on his person addressed to “My dear wife” and the contents were of a peculiar nature. The mother said that the initials that appeared in the letters were not those of her son. W. B. Dishman of Bellingham, who was driving the car at the races the day before, gave evidence to the effect that the auto was In good condition. He said that he had never seen Bowers in his life. In Richmond police court yesterday Dishman, charged with driving to the common danger after an accident in which Mrs. David Buchan was injured, forfeited $100 ball when he failed to appear. Oscar Olsen, also of Bellingham, has reported to the police that he also had never known Bowers nor knew how he came to have the car.” Herbert and Hazel Bowers was still living in Santa Clara in California in 1940, with their son Thomas, who was born in 1920 in California. The family’s new life wasn’t that of a garage owner: Bowers Park in Santa Clara is named for Herbert, a pear grower in Santa Clara who was also an organizer and director of the Santa Clara Pear Association. He also served on the Jefferson Union School Board in the 1920s and early 1930s.

The replacement garage operator was the Franklin Motor Company, who moved in by 1913 and manufactured a luxury vehicle in Syracuse, New York. The Franklin was very reliable, being air-cooled (and so unlikely to be frozen up in the middle of the night). It also had extensive use of aluminum in the body, and some models offered better gas mileage than some vehicles today. They moved out after two years, and had no showroom in the city until 1918 when a Franklin dealership opened on Granville Street.

In 1915 Dominion Motors briefly occupied the building. There’s an unidentified early 1910s image of this building in the archives that shows a Packard, Hudson and Baker Electric dealership. Those were all brands sold by Dominion, but the economy was in a bad way, and they went out of business in less than two years. In 1918 the Sigmore Motor Co Ltd, selling Studebaker cars were operating here. Studebaker of Canada moved into the building in 1917, and out again in 1923 briefly to West Pender, then back to West Georgia in 1923 to a new garage less than a block from here.

By 1925 Southard Motors (with the MacDonnell-Scott Garage and Vancouver Auto Towing Service sharing the address) were selling Essex cars here – a part of Hudson Motors of Detroit. In the 1930s they had relocated to Granville Street, where in 1938 they were selling Chryslers. For a brief period in the early 1930s this wasn’t a garage; the B C College of Arts were using the building.

From 1936 to around 1942 Walmsley Motors moved in, (seen on the right in selling Cord, Auburn and Willys. Soon after, like the adjacent garage, the building became used as the Canadian Government Ordnance Machine Shop. By 1950 Canada Dry were using the building as a warehouse, and by 1955 Maynard Auctioneers were here. Pictures from the 1980s suggest the buildings were still standing, although with a new façade.

Where 1233 West Georgia stood today there’s a condo tower called Venus, designed by Howard Bingham Hill and completed in 1999.

Image source City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-5332 and CVA 99-4851

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Posted November 7, 2019 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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