Archive for the ‘False Creek’ Category

Union Station – Station Street

Union Station Station St

Here’s Vancouver new Union Station seen perhaps as early as 1917. Completed in 1916 by the Great Northern Railway, it was designed by Fred Townley. It was built for passenger trains operated to Seattle through Blaine and for the Northern Pacific Railway to Seattle by way of Mission and Sumas as well as Vancouver, Victoria & Esquimalt services into the Kootenays and Northern Washington. The Great Northern was J J Hill’s rail empire; initially he was part of the consortium behind the Canadian Pacific, but when he couldn’t get the route linked to his American network he resigned in 1883 and expanded his own system.

Hill died in 1916, the GN scaled back their Canadian expansion, but their Vancouver terminus was already under construction next door to the Canadian Northern station. (completed a couple of years later). Both stations were constructed on the newly infilled eastern end of the False Creek Flats. The Canadian Railway & Marine World reported that the company had filled the area to an average depth of 12 feet. “As the whole property is a fill, the building is supported on a pile foundation, cluster piles being driven and cut off below the line of perpetual saturation. Upon these concrete piers were poured, which support reinforced concrete beams, which in turn carry the exterior walls, columns and floors. The skeleton of the building is reinforced concrete, hollow tile, and concrete floors and roof. The exterior has a granite base, carrying up and around all exterior doors terracotta surbase, and red brick above, with terra-cotta trimmings and cornice.”

The two-storey steel and concrete building was constructed by Grant, Smith & McDonald at a cost of $390,000. The significant expense was partly explained by the finishes: “The main waiting room will be panelled in Alaska marble, 7 ft. high, and will have marble and terrazzo floors and ornamental plaster ceiling. Provision has been made in the plastering of the end walls for placing oil paintings showing the Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks.” There were a series of other permits for additional buildings designed by Townley, adding up to over $200,000. One was the power house, located 150 feet east of the baggage room wing, with a brick stack at the east end 90 ft. high. The power house supplied heat to the different buildings through an underground reinforced concrete tunnel, steam to the passenger cars at the stub tracks, and to the passenger car yards. In connection with the passenger car yards there were a commissary building, an oil house, car repairers’ building, car foreman’s building; car cleaners’ building, a carpet cleaning building and a coal house.

By the mid 1930s many of the GN Rail lines had been shut down or abandoned (including the Northern Pacific operation). Passenger service to Vancouver from Seattle lasted until 1971 when it was transferred to Amtrak. The terminal in Vancouver was demolished in 1965, ostensibly to reduce property taxes.

The lot has remained vacant ever since, and is today used as a temporary parking lot and movie shoot base. It is intended to be the future home of the relocated St. Paul’s Hospital.

Photo source: thanks to Arthur Babitz at The History Museum of Hood River County who sent us this image photographed by Alva Day, a resident of Hood River, Oregon, born 1887 died 1955. He took a trip to Alaska in 1917; this may have been photographed as part of the trip. See the photoblog for more Hood River images.



Posted June 23, 2016 by ChangingCity in False Creek, Gone

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Exchange – 388 West 1st Avenue

Exchange b&a

Today it’s a condo building called Exchange, but when it was built in 1913 it was the B. C. Telephone Co., Ltd’s new warehouse and office – and not, as some sources (and the name) would suggest, a telephone exchange. It cost $35,000 to build, and the company claimed to be both architect and builder of the four storey ‘brick and stick’ structure built in the same style as warehouses found in Yaletown. It’s possible the design was completed in-house; it’s equally possible that an architect was hired but the company then submitted the plans themselves. If so it’s quite likely to have been Thomas Hooper, who designed other buildings for the company around this period, and who had plenty of experience designing straightforward industrial boxes.

BC Telephone, Wylie St AM339-S7 CVA 17-19 1915In 1913 1st Avenue was called Front street, and the permit here was for 366 to 376 Front Street. Once it was operating the building often had a Wylie Street address, although initially this was addressed as Yukon Street. It was essentially a warehouse for spools of cables and wires, telephone and related equipment, and the Archives have a 1915 image that shows BC Telephone vehicles and crew ready to service their customers, parked in front of the Wylie Street façade. There’s another 1922 image showing a row of service vans lined up.

Around 1927 an addition was built to the east of the 1913 building, in a different style without the large lintels of the earlier building. There was also a low, single storey wing extending further to the east. At a later date some of the small Wylie Street windows were replaced to match the larger windows.

In 1982 Best Facilities Services moved into the building and operated from here for over 20 years. Our 2003 image shows the building when they were still located here. They offered a range of property management and related services. As the Southeast False Creek development evolved, the buildings were sold for development, but the developers, PCL, chose to carry out a heritage conversion rather than demolish and replace the warehouse. They were given a Heritage Bank allowance worth over $2 million to retain and repurpose the building. A new six storey block was built to the east, with the whole project designed by Burrowes Huggins Architects. the elevator core that serves both halves of the project helps provide seismic stability to the older buildings.

Today the building is surrounded by other SEFC housing projects, with the final part of the block across the lane to the south expected to be built very soon. To the west the Maynards Block has been developed, and further development can be anticipated across the street to the north in the near future.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives AM339-S7 and CVA 17-19




Posted May 23, 2016 by ChangingCity in False Creek, Still Standing

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15 Dufferin Street East

Proximity b&a

There’s a three storey building in our 2011 ‘before’ image that dated back to 1912. Designed by William O’Dell for Albert Milton when 2nd Avenue was called Dufferin Street, this was described as a factory/warehouse three storey brick stable. Assuming that the Albert Milton who built this is the same Albert Milton in the 1911 Census (which is a pretty safe bet as he was the only Albert Milton listed), he was from Ontario, already retired at the age of 50 and living with his 38 year old wife Luretta and their four children, Ada, Ernest, Aletha and Edward. Ada was aged 18, and all the children were born in BC, so the family had been in the province for a while.

Before moving to Vancouver Albert had been down the valley – the 1901 Census shows him living in Surrey, farming in Cloverdale. 56th Avenue was once called Milton Road, so it was a reasonably important farm. Daniel Milton, his brother also lived with the family then. Albert was the Treasurer of the Surrey Agricultural Association in 1895, (a role that would have been much more appropriately performed by the Association’s Secretary, Mr. Thrift). In the 1880’s Mr. Milton built the first Campbell River Bridge – Mr. Thrift recalling the story in his memoir: “the Hon. Prov. Secretary instructed the Council to let a contract for the erection of the bridge and to draw on the Government for the amount of $500 when complete. This was done, Mr. A. Milton of Cloverdale took the contract and erected the bridge and when completed the Council attended the official opening, a grand dance was held on the Bridge, the settlers ran pony races across the structure and there was much jollification in celebrating the opening of the Campbell River Bridge on the Coast Meridian Road.”

William O’Dell in Vancouver wasn’t really an architect; he was a builder. He constructed an East Cordova hotel, but the owner hired an architect to design it. He also built one of the buildings in an earlier post. In the 1880s however he was one of four architects in Nanaimo, so had the ability to design this structure with no difficulty. It was indeed a stables, run by Burke & Wood Co Ltd, a transportation company. In 1913, when they were first shown having their stables located here, their transfer office was on Water Street and H Vasey was company president. There was another Water Street firm of draymen, Burke and Cameron, and we assume it might be the same Mr. Burke; Allan (or Allen) L Burke. In 1913 Mr. Wood was no longer associated with the company, but he was S P Wood, and in 1910, like Mr. Burke, he lived at 791 Cambie Street. The company had a stables then at 102 Harris Street – today’s East Georgia Street.

It’s surprising how long horse-drawn transportation remained viable in the city: the company operated here all the way to 1920 – then the building was shown as vacant. In 1923 the street name switched to East 2nd Avenue, and Burke & Wood Co Ltd are shown here again all the way to 1930. In the early 1930s it became home to Vancouver Art Metalworks Ltd, run by J Woodman. From the early 1940s until at least 1955 Hume and Rumble, electrical contractors, were based here. The South East False Creek area was identified to be ‘let go’ from industrial to residential uses in the late 1990s, but development only took off a few years ago. The residential over retail building here, called Proximity, was designed by IBI/HB for Bastion (who also developed Opsal nearby), and was completed earlier this year.


Posted May 9, 2016 by ChangingCity in False Creek, Gone

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False Creek North


There are earlier views across False Creek that illustrate the dramatic change in the city, but this is in some ways more remarkable as our ‘before’ shot was taken in 1985 (before Expo ’86, but after the stadium was built), and the ‘after’ under 26 years later in 2011 (just before we started this blog, but after the new stadium roof had been built).

Almost everything you can see today was built by Concord Pacific, who have developed a series of residential neighbourhoods, often around a park (where the contaminated soils from the former industrial use of the site are stored). The seawall promenade wasn’t in place in 1985; that has also been built as the Concord projects have been built.

There are a few more buildings in the background since the 2011, shot, but there are big changes under construction that will alter it far more, with two hotels an the casino move to the BC Place stadium, and four more towers by Concord Pacific on either side of Cambie Bridge – two already under construction.

There’s more change to come in future as the final large site on the north side of the Creek, the Plaza of Nations, has a proposed rezoning that would see several more residential and commercial buildings, and there are three towers skirting the Rogers Arena, the first well on its way to completion.


Posted January 1, 2015 by ChangingCity in Altered, False Creek

365 West 2nd Avenue

365 W2nd

Depending on what time of day you’re reading this (or how long since it was posted) the ‘today’ version of the picture is changing as the 1990s buildings are being demolished. As they’re in the ‘private lands’ of South East False Creek, we can safely predict that there will be a mid-rise condo tower proposed here, although there are no details as we write this.

The ‘meanwhile’ auto businesses that were here were in building built in 1993 and possibly designed by Allan Diamond & Associates. Before that the site was home to a big – really big – wooden shed; the Vancouver home to Martin and Stewart, hide and skin merchants. The company – still in business today in Montreal – operated in Vancouver for many years. The Heritage Vancouver newsletter in commenting on the demolition in 1991 noted “An interesting wooden edifice atop stone foundations, the Martin & Stewart Building has been used for generations for the storage and processing of furs and hides; this sharply limited its potential adaptive re-use because of the aromatic nature of that enterprise.” There was an agreement made with the workers union in 1954, a couple of years after the firm established a base in Vancouver, and as late as 1990 the company were the main brokers for BC sheep hides (paying $2 a hide to the farmer). This image was taken in 1977.

It looks as if Martin and Stewart expanded their Vancouver operation in the early 1950s by buying out the company already operating in this building, Bissinger & Co (although sometimes wrongly recorded as Bessinger). They had operated in the city for decades, at this location (although until 1926 the street was known as Dufferin rather than W 2nd). We can find them on Granville in 1912 and on Dufferin in 1914, although a little further east, at Yukon St, and by 1916 they were operating at this location. This wasn’t a tannery, so the site isn’t toxic. it was used for the sorting, grading, salting and storage of hides.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-243



Posted September 11, 2014 by ChangingCity in False Creek, Gone

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Alder and West 6th Avenue

Alder and 6th

Around fifty years ago (in the 1960s) this was the view at the foot of Alder Street where it meets West 6th Avenue. There was a small wood-frame apartment building to the east, supposedly dating back to 1910, and across the street was more of the Vancouver Iron and Engineering Works  (once the buildings of the Vancouver Machinery Depot Co whose president was George Walkem, a Conservative MLA in the early 1930s).

Actually the apartment dated back to 1912, and was built at a cost of $50,000 by Arthur Langlois a carpenter who designed and built it for himself and three tenants. in 1913 they were Edward Dell (an engineer with the CPR), Harry Hunt (a compositor on the Province newspaper) and James Duke, (a draperies salesman).

Arthur lived with his wife Elizabeth, daughters Mildred and Thelma (aged 9 and 7) and son Arthur jnr. Arthur was originally from Ontario and his wife was Scottish, but all their children had been born in British Columbia. Although the apartment building only received a building permit in 1912 and the Insurance map that year shows a vacant site, the 1911 census has the family living at that location so perhaps they were about to be living in a construction zone as Arthur replaced the house they had lived in for several years into a four-unit complex.

Anybody living there today would be doing much the same; Alder Crossing, a 12 unit townhouse designed by Matthew Cheng Architect is just nearing completion. The view across the creek has changed a bit.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-485


Posted September 26, 2013 by ChangingCity in False Creek, Gone

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Westminster Avenue – 1000 block

1000 block Main

We’re not completely sure when the Bridge Hotel was built, or who designed it. It was at 796 Westminster Avenue just before the bridge that headed south over False Creek, and John Austin was running it in 1888 and in 1889 he was running it as well as the Stewart House on Water Street. In 1907 the Bridge Hotel was listed at 1080 Westminster Avenue (following a comprehensive renumbering of the street) and was run by Cunningham & Chapman; Samuel G Cunningham and Alvin Chapman. The 1903 Insurance Map shows it having only 2 storeys, and was a woodframe structure. In 1908 it was renamed as the Globe Hotel, although Cunningham and Chapman still operated it. It was a new stone faced building, developed by Kelly and Murray at a cost of $35,000, although we don’t know the architect involved.

In 1910 when our photograph was taken the five storey the VanDecar Hotel had appeared in the directory for the first time a little further to the north at 1038 Westminster Avenue. The plans  for the building were probably drawn up in 1908, and the architect might have been John S Taylor. He was a Scot who arrived in Canada in 1905, aged 20, and worked in the CPR Offices until 1907, when he set up his architect’s office. If it is by him, the hotel is the earliest design we know to be associated with his work in Vancouver – he would have been only 23 when it was designed. Thomas Hooper designed a new iron canopy for the hotel entrance in 1909.

The directory shows that in 1910 there were a number of residents living full time in the hotel. There was a lunch counter run by John Tomkins and a cigar stand by Thomas J Tomkins. The barber’s shop was run by Lee Vandermark, and there was a Pool Room run by Kimber and Entursette. Herbert VanDecar was the manager, with L Bates VanDecar  of ‘VanDecar and sons’ living at the hotel (probably one of Herbert’s three sons). We assume this is the same L B VanDecar who ran the Royal Hotel in Cranbrook in 1905, with the slogan ‘Van always on hand to welcome guests’ and in 1907 moved to the Driard Hotel in Victoria. The other two brothers, Frank, and A B VanDecur weren’t listed in the Directory as living in the city. In that same year the Westminster Avenue bridge was rebuilt as a bascule bridge.

From 1910 to 1912 Samuel Cunningham, from the Globe, was no longer in the city, (or at least not in the City Directory) but in 1913 he was back, owning the Hotel Cunningham which was the new name for the VanDecar. There’s no sign of any of the VanDecar family in the city that year, and L B seems to have moved on to Port Alberni.

In 1920 the Globe was still in business; H Parkin was running it, and the street was now called Main Street. That year the Cunningham became the Ivanhoe with J G Scott running it, and Mrs Groves the housekeeper. There were a number of long-term residents including a carpenter, millwrights, a cook, a policeman, a diamond driller, the elevator operator at the Birks store, a miner and a welder.

Globe Hotel 1918In 1923 the Globe disappeared, acquired by the City of Vancouver for the expansion of the False Creek Flats that had been filled in to the east. This 1918 picture shows it hanging on while the new station is built behind, but a few years later the new park was created in front of the station buildings. Today the Ivanhoe continues to welcome world travelers as a Backpacker’s hotel as well as offering long-term accommodation for permanent guests, just as it did when it was first built.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Str P429 and CVA Bu N540.084