Archive for the ‘East End’ Category

Belleville Block, East Hastings Street

Frank G Lewis was a successful hardware merchant, partnered with Reuben Sills. Lewis and Sills bought a Westminster Avenue hardware store from Malvina Coudron in 1901, and bought the land the business was located on in 1907. In 1908 they built a new warehouse for their expanding business, and then, like hundreds of other Vancouver business people, they went into real estate, building this $40,000 investment on East Hastings.

Frank Lewis was born in Ontario, and the 1901 census shows him living with his 36 with his 22 year old wife Jennie, (also from Ontario) and her mother, Lizzie Lunn, who had been born in England. In 1911 Frank had a different wife’s name – Alice Jane – (a more accurate record), and they now had two children, Arthur and Gertrude, and a maid, Dorothy Howe, who had been born in Wales.

His partner, ‘Ruben Sills’ (according to the street directory) was also born in Ontario, and living with his wife Winifred (an American) in 1911 and their three children, Helen, Harold and Jack. For most records (like his marriage and his daughter’s birth) Ruben’s full name was recorded as Reuben Stedwin Sills. Reuben married Winifred in 1893 in Wayne, Michigan when he was 30. Frank married Alice Jane Johnson from Smith’s Falls Ontario in Vancouver in 1900.

The origin of the building’s name can be traced to where the families lived; in 1881 and 1891 Reuben Sills was shown living in Belleville, Ontario, and so was Frank G Lewis. The building was described in a 1908 news story in The Province as a three-storey concrete store block office block … fitted for stores and offices. There were obviously some slight changes, as the offices became residential and another article describes them selling the Belleville Apartments for $100,000 the following year. They bought a lot further south on Westminster Avenue to develop, although we’re not sure that they built anything; in 1918 the City acquired the entire block and turned it into Thornton Park. In 1913 they built the Globe Clothing Store on West Cordova, hiring Braunton and Leibert as the architects.

Both men retired in 1927, leaving their hardware business to sons. It continued, with new partners, as Barbour, Sills and Davies through to at least the late 1930s. Reuben Sills died in 1940, when his mother’s name was recorded as Jennie Stedwin, and his father as Escuit Sills. Frank Griffith Lewis died in 1941.

The Belleville Apartments became the Brazil Hotel (as it was in this 1978 image) and then the Walton Hotel. By the early 2000s the building was home to drug dealers and was a dangerous place for residents. It was however a comfortable home for coackroaches and bedbugs. The building was acquired by BC Housing from a developer in 2007. They carried out a comprehensive restoration including adding tougher wallboards, sturdier fixtures and a better security system. The cheap rubber baseboards gave the bugs a safe place to avoid fumigation. As part of the $4.6m 13 month renovation, when the crew rebuilt the walls they put in a layer of diatomaceous earth with the insulation. The earth is the microscopic skeletal remains of algae-like plants, which have razor-sharp edges that will slice up the bodies of any bedbugs that do get into the walls. And when the baseboards were reapplied they were sealed laterally at four different points where bedbugs might find a seam. The renovated building continues to look better than it did for many years, and is managed by the Lookout Housing and Health Society.


Posted June 29, 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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123 East Hastings Street

From its design, we wondered if this modest building, with its quirky oval windows, might be designed by G W Grant, and we were correct. This 1903 building cost $6,000 and was developed by John Lewerke. This 1986 image shows it when it was still in use, with the Tiem Vang Skyluck Jewellers, and Ho Wah Hair Stylist. The street directory says that John Lewerke was a logger, living at 625 Hornby. We don’t find him in the 1901 census, and he seems to have left the city by 1911, but the two John Lewerkes living in Santa Monica in 1930 most likely tell us a little. John the son was born in Vancouver, and the father in 1860 (or 1864 in a different census) in Holland. They had emigrated to the US in 1920, along with Jane, born in Canada in 1871, and a younger brother, Arthur. An earlier Ellis Island record shows them entering the US in 1910, which would explain them missing the Canadian census. The 1920 immigration record shows John, Jane and Arthur entering through the land crossing from Vancouver, headed to Los Angeles. John was aged 59, and retired. John Jnr. was shown staying in Vancouver at the ‘Babbington Hotel’. We think he preferred to be known as Alfred, and he stayed in Vancouver where his death was recorded in 1969. He had been the manager of the Badminton Apartments on Howe Street.

John died in 1942, aged 82, living at 4, Sea View Terrace Santa Monica, and Jane in 1957 aged 91, at the Santa Monica Convalescent rest Home, although she still owned the Sea View property. John was described as the retired owner-manager of a wholesale lumber mill. He had J E Parr design a home on Pendrill at Broughton in 1906, and a year later Jane was advertising for a Japanese house boy to cook and do general housework.

Today the building is boarded up, and there’s a vacant lot next door, but gradually new development is happening along East Hastings, and it’s likely that a new building would incorporate the façade of this survivor.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives  CVA 791-0801


Posted June 15, 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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658 to 668 Alexander Street

All three of these buildings came to be used as brothels not long after they were built, but it’s possible that was not the initial intent for two of them. The 500 and 600 blocks of Alexander were chosen by the madams who ran the houses because it was away from Downtown, and close to the port. They thought the pressure that moved them in the late 1900s from Dupont (West Pender) to Shore Street (East Georgia) might let up if they were less obviously located, and some of them spent a lot of money to build their new business premises here.

On the left the two houses were both developed by the same owner, Mrs. A C Alter. The census said Albert and Addie Alter were living on Heatley Street in 1911, where Albert was a grocer. Addie was a year younger at 45 in 1911, and they were both from the USA, having arrived in Canada in 1908.

A year earlier Albert had been a grocer on Powell Street, and a year later he was also running a rooming house on the 600 block Powell Street, which were named the Alter Rooms. In 1912 Addie hired builder R V Pushaw to design and build 662 Alexander (the middle building) in February at a cost of $6,300, and then a month later 666 Alexander (on the left) for an additional $6,600. We don’t know if she was emulating her husband and building another rooming house, or whether the brothel use was always intended, but the Ladies moved in quite soon after. Mary Scott was running 666 by 1913, and Rhea Wilmore was at 662. Both knew the city well; Mary had been at 604 Alexander in 1912, and Rhea had run an establishment on Harris Street (East Georgia today), from 1908 to 1910. As there are apparently no birth, census or death records of anybody called Rhea Wilmore, she may well have assumed the name for professional purposes.

The authorities were still intent on pushing vice out of the area. In 1912 the Minister of the Kitsilano Presbyterian Church gave a sermon, published in the Vancouver Sun, that said “In a certain district of Vancouver, buildings are being rushed up in feverish haste, the construction of which plainly tells that they are to be devoted to vice and shame. Hundreds of lewd women are already established there.” The mayor, James Findlay, was initially willing to retain the red light district “I have given orders for the cleaning up of the town,” he said at a May 21 meeting. “This applies to rooming houses, blind pigs and Turkish baths, but not to Alexander Street. I say it without shame, gentlemen.” (Blind pigs were illicit drinking establishements).

The reformers continued their campaign, and the police responded. William Morrison (that’s his mugshot above) found out the hard way – receiving a 30 day prison sentence as a “frequenter of a house of ill fame” during a 1913 raid. He was hired by Mary Scott to play piano, and had clearly had an interesting 44 years; his booking noted two scars on his face and a bullet wound on his left leg.

By 1921 Mrs Alter still owned the rooming houses, so she no doubt had known what they were used for in the 1910s. The census that year tells us she was Adelaine Alter, and by then a widow, Albert having apparently died in late 1913 or early the next year. By 1916 only Fay Packer was still in the brothel business, Mrs. Alter’s buildings were vacant. Fay had built the $15,000 apartments at 658 Alexander in 1913, hiring E Evans to design the building. As she arrived after the 1911 census, and left before the next one, we don’t know anything about Fay. She may have been the former New York actress who was living in Reno, Nevada in 1910 when she had two female lodgers, both aged 25. That Fay was 28, and originally from Ireland. That year the Salt Lake Herald Tribune reported the loss of $6,000 of diamonds, jewels and cash. “The robbery was the cleverest and most successful ever perpetrated in Nevada and no trace has yet been found by the officers who have been working on the case since it was reported Miss Packers room was entered from the rear and her belongings ransacked Miss Packer has offered a reward of $1000 for the arrest of the guilty parties” In 1913 she sold her liquor licence in Reno, suggesting she might have moved away.

By 1918 almost all the ladies had left the street; Fay was gone, but the middle building was occupied; it had been re-used as the Fuji Steam Laundry. In 1928 the business was sold, and the BC Government Gazette published the details. “To purchase, take over, or otherwise acquire as a going concern the power laundry business now carried on at number 662 Alexander Street, in the City of Vancouver, in the Province of British Columbia, by Genjiro Kubota under the names of “Alexander Steam Laundry” and “Fuji Laundry” “To carry on the business of a steam and general laundry, and too wash, clean, purify, scour, bleach, wring, dry, iron, colour, dye, disinfect, renovate, and prepare for use all articles of wearing-apparel, household, domestic, and other linen, and cotton and woollen goods and clothing, and fabrics of all kinds, and to buy, sell, hire, manufacture, repair, let on hire, alter, improve, treat, and deal in all apparatus, machines, materials, and articles of all kinds which are capable of being used for any such purposes”

The industrial use ceased after the 1950s and the three buildings became low cost rental units. In our 1978 image they were the Ocean Rooms, Alex Rooms and Rose Apartments. The properties had low values, and the area continued to be sketchy. In 2014 Fay Packer’s building was seized by the BC Government’s Civil Forfeiture Office, although the owner was never charged with any offences. The building was being used by four men who were running a drug ring out of the single-room occupancy hotel. They were arrested and charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking. Charges were not laid against the building manager or the owner, but the Provincial authorities argued that they “ought to have known that what was going on was criminal activity.” so the building was seized, and then sold by the Province for $820,000.


Posted June 11, 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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630 Alexander Street

Unlike a couple of other buildings that were developed on this block with potentially more innocent intent, we can be certain that this was developed as a brothel (even if the permit said it was a rooming house). It was far from cheap for such a modest building – $15,000 – and developed by Ollie Gilbert. She hired on of the city’s more upstanding architects, W F Gardiner, and E J Ryan as builder in 1912. Six years earlier she had built a very expensive house on Harris Street (E Georgia today) for the same purpose. The street name was briefly changed again to Shore Street, and Ollie and all her girls were listed there in the 1911 census. She was 38, from the US, having arrived in Canada in 1906. She had 10 female lodgers, most with no stated occupation, but two claiming to be musicians, one a hairdresser and one a dressmaker. They were all from the US, except Jeanette Gibson from Quebec.

Ollie managed to keep her business out of the papers, except for one unusual case in 1915, when two local men, W. J. Taylor and R. J. Lewis appeared on charges of conspiracy to defraud, in connection with the sale of land in Oregon. She had already closed her establishment, although from the court case it was clear she was still in the city. “Miss Ollie Gilbert was the first witness called, and she testified to having been induced by the accused to pay $250. She believed she was buying 160 acres of land in Oregon.” The accused were selling documents which appeared to give title to the land, but actually were only forms that allowed an application to acquire the land. As the land itself was subject to another court action in the US, the offer was fraudulent. The men were convicted of fraud and sentenced to two years and 18 months’ imprisonment respectively. (Another witness who lost money on the same scam got minor satisfaction. William Hayes, a CPR employee from North Bend explained that “when he had learned that the land he had paid $260 for was worthless and that the land game was “bunco” he had Interviewed Taylor and In the argument had thrashed him and he himself had spent a night In the cells for it while Taylor put two weeks in the hospital.

After the first war this part of Alexander had been ‘cleaned up’ (although Nellie Arnold was still living here), and this became a Japanese owned rooming house operated by H Soga in 1922. By 1941 Howard Harman was running the rooms here (and also working as a machinist at the Heatley Machine Works, so probably his wife, Bessie, was running things), and in 1955 Tony Fediw. While several of the former brothels are still standing today, Ollie’s building was replaced in 1985 with the Dera Co-op, designed by Davidson & Yuen, with 56 units of non-market housing.


Posted June 8, 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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608 Alexander Street

The Laurel Apartments have been painted white, but otherwise they look pretty similar to our 1978 image. The building dates back to 1911, and it was an expensive piece of real estate. It cost $35,000 to build, with W T McMillan recorded as having designed it, and E Woolridge as contractor. The developers were listed as N E Arnold and L St Clair, and we think it was divided into two separate properties, one for each.

Alice Arnold was not found by the 1911 census in Vancouver, but almost certainly appears in an unusually honest household in the Comox and Atlin area. The head of household was Sadie Washington (from Ontario), with Leonie Abilsus, an American and Alice Arnold listed as ‘female partners’. Alice was 37, a widow, and from the United States, arriving in Canada in 1903. All three were listed as negro, and musicians. (Several other households on the same street consisted of female French dressmakers, and there were also several European musicians). Alice was first listed in Vancouver owning a rooming house at 153 East Pender (Previously Dupont) from 1908, after the area had supposedly been ‘cleaned up’ in 1906 by the  police, who chased the ladies who offered their services there initially to Shore Street and a couple of years later to Alexander. Apart from Alice, only Lottie Mansfield, her close neighbour was still here from the early 1900s.

In 1911 a Mrs. L E St Clair was shown living at 658 Granville, (the New York Block), but confusingly she wasn’t shown in any of the apartments there. In 1911 Nellie St Clair was also listed at 153 Harris, next door to another of the city’s noted suppliers of female companionship, Dollie Darlington. She’s likely to be our developer. It’s the only time that we can find Nellie listed living in Vancouver, and nobody with that name seems to have been recorded getting into trouble. Nellie may have been known under a different name to her parents, and may have ‘borrowed’ her working name from an actress working in the US; her near neighbours Pearl Grey and Lily White may have done something similar.

The building here was only completed in 1912 (when Dollie Darlington was running a rooming house on the next block), and didn’t appear in the street directory until 1913. The building was obviously open and operating towards the end on 1912. Having pushed the ladies from Chinatown eastwards towards the port, along Alexander Street, the City had decided to get them out of there as well. In October 1912 the Province reported “FINED AND SENT TO JAIL Ruth Richards Pays $200 and Gets Six Months. Finding her guilty of having operated a disorderly house at 608 Alexander street, Magistrate South this morning sentenced Ruth Richards to pay a fine of $200 and to serve six months at hard labor in the New Westminster jail. Following the passing of the sentence, Mr. Dugald Donaghy. appearing for the accused, stated that he would file notice of appeal at once. Louise Davis, found guilty of being an inmate of the Richards woman’s house, was allowed to go on suspended sentence provided she leaves Vancouver tonight. Should she return a sentence of six months at hard labor will be imposed upon her. The Richards woman was notified at the time of the order to “clean up” the city was given that she would have to leave town and as she did not go a sentence of six months is hanging on her on that charge. The Davis woman was never before the court previously and therefore was given an opportunity to depart.” Louise Davis (seen on the left) seems to have left town as instructed. (She may have evaded attention from the authorities, but she was listed in the 1911 census – a 31 year old American ‘hairdresser’ – living at Ollie Gilbert’s Shore Street establishment).

The setback didn’t close the premises; in 1913 it was shown occupied by Mildred Hill (who was fined for operating her car while drunk, driving back from North Vancouver in July 1913) and Cora Allyn. Ruth Richards (seen in her mugshot on the right) was still in the area too, just a block away at 502 Alexander. In 1916 it was possibly still continuing in operation; Cora Allyn had both street addresses, one of only a handful of occupied buildings, and one of only two with female residents, with Fay Packer on the next block. (Cora may have been the New York born Lillian Allyn who crossed the border in 1910). The building was shown as vacant in 1917, but as far as we can tell, Mrs. Allyn continued to live here for many years, albeit more discreetly. She was at 612 Alexander in 1918, and was listed here through the later 1920s as a dressmaker. Mrs Nellie Arnold was on Alexander Street at 630 Alexander in 1922, and here again in 1928, replaced by Miss C Allyn again in 1929. The Alice Arnold who died under the wheels of an Oak Street trolley in 1938 was apparently unrelated. She was from Calgary, and only 24, although there were some similarities as her common law husband, James, was sentenced to two years hard labour just 2 weeks after her death for living of the avails of prostituting her.

Another 1939 news story in the Vancouver Sun recorded a connection to a city murder. “Tragedy After Drinking Bout. A drinking party that resulted in tragedy was described today at the preliminary hearing of Nelson Maracle, second engineer on the tug “Clayburn” on a charge of murder. The charge arises from the death by drowning of Kenneth Cassidy, 49, chief engineer of the “Clayburn,” on Aug. 16. His body was taken, from the water, near the “Clayburn” while it was moored at McKeen and Wilson wharf. Hans Anderson, fireman on the tug, declared that Cassidy, Maracle and himself had had several drinks of beer before they went to 1146 Richards Street with a bottle of rum on the evening of Aug. 16. Mrs. Sarah McGill, proprietor of the rooming house, testified that Maracle and Cassidy had a few drinks of rum at her house and that they were showing the effects of liquor. Mrs. Cora Allyn, 612 Alexander Street, said Cassidy and Maracle came to her-home about 2 a.m.. They had a few more drinks there and left. The hearing is continuing.” Cora is shown here is 1941, then the unit is vacant for a while, but she’s back again, last listed here in 1945. A year later they become 19 apartments known as Attlee Lodge run by W R Gilbert and C Korsch. It retained the name, and became 37 apartments by 1955, changing to the Laurel Apartments more recently.

Image source: VPD Police files: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 480-496 and CVA 480-495


Posted June 4, 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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578 Alexander Street

Marie Gomez was only in the city for a few years. In many ways her timing was unfortunate. She arrived in a boom; invested funds to develop her business, and then saw a combination of civic hostility, economic recession and a war see her financial return disappear. Claiming to design the building herself, Marie spent $9,000 to have R C Douglas build her new rooming house.

Although she commissioned it in 1913, this building didn’t appear in the street directory until 1915. Marie was already in town; in 1912 she was fined $200 for selling liquor without a licence at 621 Alexander. In 1913, under the name of Alice Graham, she was fined for running a ‘Disorderly House’ (the legal term for a brothel), and for serving liquor without a licence at another house at 407 Keefer. That was actually the worse crime – she was fined $102 for the liquor charge, but only $52 for the disorderly house.

In 1972 (six years before our picture of the building) Curt Lang photographed the doorway of Marie’s building. It shows that Marie wasn’t hiding where she lived; her name was picked out in the custom tilework in the doorway. The notes accompanying the photo say her establishment was for “Spanish sailors who came from Philippines to [the] nearby Rogers Refinery.” As Lani Russwurm has noted, it seems likely that Gomez might have been a Filipina, and that “Alice Graham” was her alias, rather than the other way around. As well as her name on the vestibule, Marie got her name into the street directory here in 1915, as other ladies were packing up and leaving, or finding less obvious premises to operate from. The police note refers to Marie’s premises on the 600 block as ‘The House of All Nations’. In 1916 this building was empty, and in 1917 it was listed as a Sailors’ Home – which wasn’t so different from a few years earlier, although the company was probably less exotic.

The building was run as an unnamed rooming house by Mark Zagar, and became the Camp Lodge Rooms in 1953.

The building was redeveloped a few years after our 1978 picture with a less-than-beautiful non-market housing building (seen on the right), named after Marie Gomez. The building only lasted 25 years. Managed by DERA from 1989, the wood-frame building was poorly built, and fire alarms triggering the sprinkler system left the frame rotting and mould in the walls. DERA owed $2m in a mortgage, but couldn’t keep up with repairs, and increasing numbers of stories of abuse of residents and visitors started to emerge. In 2006 a newspaper ran a story quoting a police officer who described the building as a “house of horrors”, where crack-addicted prostitutes were tortured and their heads shaved with razors by drug dealers collecting debts.

BC Housing acquired the building, demolished it, and in 2014 a new concrete building was completed with 139 suites on 10 floors, designed by GBL Architects, and operated by PHS Community Services Society.

We don’t know what happened to Marie, but in 1933 the Wilkes-Barre Times in Pennsylvania reported “Marie Gomez, alias Nancy Carroll, of 2 Dyer lane, charged with conducting disorderly house, was fined $100 and costs today in police court. A woman charged with being an inmate was fined $25 and costs. A man who testified that he was thrown out of the house and suffered a laceration over the left eye was charged with frequenting and was fined $10 and costs. A fourth man, who said he was a friend of the husband of the proprietress, when he Interceded at the hearing for the woman and acknoledglng that he was present at the time, was likewise fined $10 and costs on a frequenting charge.


Posted June 1, 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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758 East Georgia Street

This heritage home was built in around 1908, and is seen here in an Archives shot from around 1985. The first resident in 1909 was George Skinner who was Scottish, and listed as a mariner. He had previously built a home nearby on Prior Street in 1902. This house was built by J M Reed, according to the Building Permit and water connection, and we’re guessing that was John Reid, who was a builder of houses over many years from the early 1900s.

George Skinner arrived in Canada in 1892 when he was around 24 years old. His wife Isabella Mcleman was also Scottish, and arrived in the same year when she was 16. They married in 1893. In 1901 they were living on Prior Street, with two children, and George was listed as a fisherman, but the census said he was a canneryman. From around 1901, for a short time, he was manager of the Gulf of Georgia Cannery in Steveston.

In 1911 he was here with his wife, and now 3 children, listed only by their initials: WG, RI and KB. William had been born in 1894, their daughter (known as Isabella, but we assume she was christened with a name starting with the letter R) in 1897, and a second son in 1903. A third son, Hugh was a late arrival, born around 1918, the final year the family were in this house. In 1919 Arthur Lindquist was here, replaced a year later by J H Yuen, and in the mid 1920s Samuel Plastino, who was a fruiterer, but would soon own the Shaldon Hotel, and later develop a block on East Hastings at Heatley. Sam was born in 1886 and arrived in Vancouver in 1920, selling confectionary. We’re pretty certain he came from Washington, where a Sam Plastino had a short crime spree before ending up in State Penitentiary for several years.

Here, records show Sam had 145 pints of U.B.C. Beer, and 60 of Cascade Beer (both brewed in Washington) confiscated in April 1925 (after BC’s prohibition had ended, but when the Liquor Act controlled who could sell alcohol. Sam had a hotel, but no licence). In September of the same year Sam lost another 35 bottles of beer, and a bottle of Lemon Hart Rum. In 1928 he sued mayor Louis D Taylor for what he considered to be a slanderous statement made by the mayor in a Police Commission meeting relating to the operation of the police. During hearings into police corruption Plastino admitted attempting to bribe ‘the dry squad’, his hotel having been raided 40 times in four years. He successfully appealed one $500 fine. He claimed to have sent whisky to the mayor (along with notorious brothel owner Joe Celona), but the mayor denied ever having received any gifts, or having spent any time with Celona, as Plastino claimed. He made no friends with City Authorities by claiming to have arranged bribes for both the City’s prosecutor and head of the dry squad in other cases.

Assuming it’s the same Sam Plastino (and there seem to be no others) he had a string of convictions in the US in a very few years. He was charged with forcing an underage girl (who was 17) to go with him to a hotel room in 1908. He was accused of threatening her with a revolver, and his bail was raised to $5,000 as a lower earlier bail was thought too low, and he had plans to evade the charges. At the time he was in Spokane, and a fruit dealer. A year earlier he had been jailed for 33 days for immorality for living with a 16-year-old. In 1908 he was arrested for an attack on an imbecile, and in 1911 for assault on a 17 year old, and for illegally selling liquor. He was arrested again for assault of a 16 year old in San Francisco (who claimed he had promised to marry her) and finally that year for violation of the white slave law in Tacoma – the charge that sent him to jail. He may have returned to Italy before coming to Vancouver – a Sam Plastino faced deportation from the US in the 1910s, but we haven’t found the details in that case.

Later in Vancouver, in 1940 he was accused, with John Kogos, of assaulting young girls, although the case seems to have been dropped – but it confirms our theory that he’s the same Sam Plastino from Spokane. He died in Vancouver in December 1963.

By 1930 Antonio Culos had bought the house, the proprietor of the Fior D’Italia Café, and lived here over 20 years. Peter Culos was living here in 1951 when he was on the board of The American Marketing Association. The house was owned by You War Jung in 1955 – three years later Wally Jung got his name in the newspaper because he suffered a bruised head, and visited the ER. This was an era when a lucky junior reporter was assigned to writing down every visitor, and the nature of their injury.

We lose sight of the Skinner family for many years, but in 1927 (when he was living on Kitchener Street), Captain Skinner was said to have sailed the Chris Moller to Belgium, by way of the Panama Canal and Newfoundland. Launched in 1917 in Olympia, Washington, as a lumber schooner, she ended up in China in 1924. Her new owner, Archie McGillis, was a well-known alcohol import and exporter (during US prohibition, naturally). Although rumoured to have carried cocaine, heroine and Chinamen during the 1920s, nothing was directly proven until 1926 when she set off with 17,779 cases of liquor from Vancouver, calling at Victoria for another 3,700 cases before heading to deliver (her papers said) in San Blas Mexico. She was held by customs officers, suspicious of a destination that had no port. The liquor had originated in Great Britain, and sailed right past San Blas en route to the Vancouver warehouse where it was held in bond, avoiding taxes. It was suggested that rather than return to Mexico, it was likely that the cargo would have ended up in San Francisco or Los Angeles. It was seized, (with some loss overboard in the meantime) but the ship was allowed to sail. She was next loaded with lumber in Ladysmith, then sailed, with George Skinner in the crew, to Europe, with the expectation of collecting a cargo of liquor to return. Unable to pay the dock fees in Belgium, the ship was seized, and eventually broken up in Belgium.

In early 1940 the family make a dramatic reappearance. Captain Skinner and his wife were living at Bridgeport, in Richmond, and his son Hugh in Eburne. In December 1939 Captain Skinner was skippering a fishpacker towing a scow off Vancouver Island, the Great Northern V, owned by Francis Millerd Co of Vancouver. It was the crew’s first trip for the owner, and the voyage went wrong when the rudder broke off the unpopulated coast of Vancouver Island. The ship drifted for three days, crashing in a gale onto rocks off Lawn Point. The engineer was drowned, but the skipper and his son made it onto the shore, but both were injured in the process. They struggled for a couple of days, then obeying his father’s entreaties,

Hugh set off to try to get help, leaving his stricken father. It took him four days before he was spotted by Don Lawson, a pilot with Ginger Coote Airways. Hugh Skinner was injured; once rescued by boat two toes had to be amputated on one foot. The Port Alice Provincial Police started a search along the shore whenever the gales and fog allowed a boat to be launched, and over two weeks later they found George Skinner, still propped against an uprooted spruce tree where his son had left him, alive despite having eaten nothing for 22 days. He had been able to drink a little water using a tin that Hugh had salvaged, and had a thin blanket also pulled from the wreck. He was carried to the shore, and recovered in Port Alice Hospital before returning to a huge welcome in Richmond, and a delighted wife who had thought herself a widow for several weeks. Hugh Skinner married in December 1940. George died before Isabella, we think in 1945. She was 83 when she died in January 1963.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 790-0725


Posted May 21, 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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East Georgia Street – 300 block, north side

We took a while to confirm that this is the correct place to take this picture. It required us using aerial photographs, as today the 300 block of East Georgia is in the middle of the MacLean Park housing development. (It doesn’t help that most of the Archives images of the area are inaccurately labelled ‘McLean Park’). The name comes from the city’s first mayor, Malcolm MacLean.

In 1947, UBC Professor Leonard Marsh started looking at ‘urban renewal’ in Vancouver and in 1950 published “Rebuilding A Neighbourhood; Report on a Demonstration Slum-Clearance and Urban Rehabilitation Project in a Key Central Area in Vancouver“. The neighbouhood was undoubtedly poor, “There are cases of 20 people sharing a toilet, and many instances of children having to play in the streets around pool halls and beer parlours because they have no yards.” From 1959 the plans to redevelop the Strathcona neighbourhood were in place, and the first new housing was built on top of the only park in the area; MacLean Park. A new park was developed a couple of years later, when the residents could be offered new rental homes in the new housing.

The new housing was a mix of row-houses and high-rise blocks, and the initial phase at the western end included four blocks, three with homes and businesses, and one the park. East Georgia Street disappeared for two blocks, including the 300 block, one of the last to be redeveloped. Seen here in 1966, the businesses had already closed down, including the Moon Glow Cabaret, owned by railway porter Daddy Clark, and for a while home to a mixed-race R&B band featuring Tommy Chong on guitar, ‘The Calgary Shades’ – seen in this Rob Frith collection poster published in the Vancouver Sun. They were renamed as Little Daddy & The Bachelors, before becoming Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers, signing in 1965 to Motown’s Gordy Records.

Seen here just before demolition in 1966, the 3-storey building was approved for development by Rogers & McKay in 1911, but only appeared for the first time in the 1914 street directory as The Edinburgh Rooms. Fred Weiner, a butcher occupied the store downstairs. The developers were both carpenters, so they quite probably designed the building, which would have been a wooden frame with a brick façade on East Georgia. They developed at least eight buildings, one on Keefer Street costing twice the $15,000 this building was said to cost. Rogers was probably William H Rogers, listed as a builder in the street directory. In 1911 he was living in the West End with his wife Daisy and four lodgers – everyone in the house had been born in Prince Edward Island. There were five carpenters called McKay, and no references we can find successfully identifies which one partnered with Mr. Rogers.

The two buildings to the east were both developed by Campbell and Grill, who were sheet metal workers, and occupied the building on completion. The hired Campbell & Bennett to design the building, and are recorded as building it themselves, although they hired Rogers & McKay to build another property a block away from here. The earliest work here we can identify was in 1909, and the right-hand block was built in 1911. There were hundreds of Campbells in Vancouver in the early 1900s, but fortunately their partnership was recorded so we know it was John A Campbell who was partners with Albert Grill. John Campbell lived on East Cordova. None of the many John Campbell’s in the 1911 census seem to be the developer. If there are too many John Campbells, there was only one person called Grill – and the 1911 census missed him. Fortunately the 1921 census identified him, with his wife Catherine and children Edith and Charles. In a caption that the Vancouver Sun probably wouldn’t publish today, Edith, who was four, was one of 3,000 children entered for the ‘Prettiest Child’ contest and was pictured as “Chubby Girlie Poses Prettily”. In 1921 Albert was 38, and from Ontario, but Catherine, who was six years younger, was Scottish. That year saw the partnership of Grill Sheet Metal Works dissolved, with Albert’s partner, Isaac Kidd, leaving him as sole proprietor of his business.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-335


Posted May 14, 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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Robert Clark – Carrall Street

This 1897 image shows Robert Clark’s Gents Clothing and Furnishings store. The furnishings were the sort men wore, not items around the home. The store was one listed as supplying Klondike clothing, an activity that generally ensured that the supplier became a lot more successful than most of the miners who bought their outfit. Mr. Clark was the subject of a profile in the Daily World on the last day of 1888:

“ROBERT CLARK is a Scotchman. He was born in the bright and prosperous County of Lanarkshire, and is proud of the fact, too. He left auld Scotia, for Canada, in 1871, and remained four years in Manitoba. Thence, in 1875, he came to this Province, which has since been his home. For some time he was engaged in business in Nanaimo and also for six years in Yale. The whole large block, at the corner of Carrall and Oppenheimer Streets, in which the clothing establishment of Gilmore & Clark is located, belongs to them jointly and is a fine property.

The firm is an old and reputed one. Just before the great fire, in 1886, which occurred in Vancouver and swept it for the time being into oblivion, the firm opened a branch business here, of which Mr. Clark had charge. They were “burnt out,” as everybody else was. Still they rose, Phoenix-like, from the flames mightier and stronger than ever. Robert Clark has represented Ward 3 during the years 1887 and 1888, and has now been re-elected for the year 1889, which fact is a sufficient guarantee that his worth is appreciated by the electors of that ward. He is also President of the St. Andrew’s and Caledonian Society; is an able speaker and keen debater; a good all-round business man, and owns property all over the city.”

We outlined Mr. Clark’s biography in an earlier post about this W T Whiteway designed building – built by Robert Clark with his Irish partner, Alexander Gilmore, immediately after their wooden store that was here burned down in the 1886 fire. They had lost a previous store in 1881 in Yale when that town burned down. Robert Clark was a grocer, and then shipwright in Glasgow, before heading to Toronto in 1870 aged 25. He walked to Winnipeg, where he built river steamers. He worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company, then in Grand Forks before heading via San Francisco to Victoria in 1875. He built steamers there, and in Alaska, before going into partnership with Alexander Gilmore in 1880, initially in Nanaimo, then Yale, and in early 1886 to Vancouver. Mr. Clark ran the store after 1890 when the partnership was dissolved. He was elected alderman in five different years between 1887 and 1892, and was on the influential Board of Trade. His extensive property interests were valued at a quarter of a million dollars when he died in 1909.

The building was torn down around 1963 and stayed as a parking lot until the mid 1990s when Carrall Station, designed by Kasian Kennedy, a 81 unit condo project with five floors of lofts was completed in 1997.


Posted April 30, 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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Japanese Hall – 475 Alexander Street

There has been a Japanese school here since 1906 when a new wooden building was constructed and a school established which taught the Japanese language and other general subjects such as math, history and science. In 1907 the windows were smashed in the anti-Asiatic riots, but the school continued in operation, although in 1919 the focus shifted to only teaching the Japanese language. The building became the focus of the community, and in 1928 this building was developed alongside, designed by Sharp and Thompson. The building served the growing needs of the school population as well as the Japanese Canadian community.  It was renamed, the Japanese Hall and Vancouver Japanese Language School to recognize its critical role as a community and cultural organization.

In 1941 there were over 1,000 students registered, but the hall was confiscated and the community moved to camps throughout the interior and Alberta. The armed forces took over the property through the war, and in 1947, the government sold half of the property and facilities to pay for maintenance expenses accumulated during the war.  From 1947 this building was rented to the Army and Navy Department Store until 1952.

Uniquely, of all the Japanese property confiscated during the war, this is the only building that was returned to the Japanese community. By 1961 it had been restored (after damage when pipes froze in 1950) and reopened. The adjacent site to the east, where the original hall had stood, was developed with a larger facility for the school opened in 1999. In addition to the Japanese language classes, Children’s World, a licensed child care and preschool facility operates here.


Posted April 20, 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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