Archive for the ‘Gastown’ Category

Water Street east from Cambie

This is a very early picture of today’s Water Street – it’s from 1886, and it shows the Town of Granville as it’s from a few months before the fire, the arrival of the railway, and the new name for the new city. It was known then as Front Street, and we’re looking east, from half way between Cambie and Abbott. The water is on the left, behind the buildings, (and a little further east almost up to the edge of the street).

The archives notes say “Photograph shows the residences of Isaac John and Ainsley Mouat and other buildings prior to the Great Fire“. Major Matthews, the city’s archivist recorded that “Mr. Isaac Johns, customs officer and harbour master, lived in a neat dwelling to the west of Mannion’s. Ike, he was called, was from Bristol, England. He was a capable musician and much in demand for concerts at New Westminster.

Isaac Johns was born around 1839 (his marriage certificate says in Wales) and he married Isabella McGregor (born in 1851 in Sooke) in Nanaimo in 1867. Records suggest they had seven children; the last, Kate, was born in Granville in 1883. Isabella Johns died in 1888.

W R Lord recalled Mr Johns and his office: “he was a man of about three hundred pounds, and I can see him yet, sitting out under the verandah in front of his little office, the Customs House, west, not east, of Sullivan’s, and near the ‘Hole in the Wall,’ just a bit of an office about ten feet by twelve, little bit of a place.”

This is a picture of the Custom House, which was then on the corner of Granville and Hastings. John Bowell was the customs officer, and Isaac Johns deputy. The picture is labelled 1891 and shows shows John S. Rankin, Captain C.A. Worsnop, Mr. Johns and Joseph Fagan.

Charles Worsnop was the cashier, Joseph Fagan a ‘landing waiter’ and we can’t find John S Rankin in the city. The date can’t be correct, as Isaac Johns died in April 1890.

The Nanaimo Free Press reported “Mr. Isaac Johns, for many years customs officer at Vaucouver, died in that city on Sunday after a lingering illness. Tbe deceased gentleman was in early days in business in this city in the building now occupied by Hirst Bro., on Commercial street. His wife, a daughter of Mrs. John McGregor, of this city, died in December 1888. He leaves five children who now are doubly orphaned. Mr Johns will be well and favorably known by the pioneer residents of this city, for his genial manner and open-heartedness made him many warm and lasting fnends.” His second daughter, Margaret, died two months after her father’s death.

Ike Johns had already moved out of his house by the time the picture was taken; it was the home of ‘Birdie’ Stewart, and her ladies. They were said to offer a warm welcome to any visiting sailors, (and local gentlemen too), much to the discomfort of their next-door neighbours, the Methodist Parsonage.

Although there are reasonably contemporary records that say Birdie Stewart moved to Granville in 1873, her name didn’t appear in any street directories. As far as we can tell, no females appear there in the 1870s, and it’s only in the late 1880s that they’re acknowledged. Stories told to the archivist said she was fined $20 for keeping a house of ill repute by the new City Council in 1886, having pled guilty. It was the means by which the new Council paid their first bills, as they had other no tax roll or income at the time.

After the fire she seems to have continued in business. After pleading guilty and being fined for running a house of ill-repute, the second time she appeared before the magistrate she didn’t plead guilty, and the case was dismissed for lack of evidence.

In 1891 there was a Mrs. M Stewart who was running a boarding house on Water Street, about a block to the west of here. She was said to be 39, from Ireland, and had three children, the eldest a daughter aged 21 born in BC in 1870.

On the opposite side of the street Mrs. Crakanthorp told Major Matthews  “The storey-and-a-half cottage just across the street a few yards to the east was built by Ainsley Mouat.” (The Major noted: Mouat was one of the early lot owners in Granville.) “He built it on spec, rented it to Ben Wilson for a residence, until Ben Wilson built his own house on the north side.”

When we came here in 1873, Ainsley Mouat was a boy in the Hastings Mill Store; then afterwards he went into the mill office, then he went to Victoria. Then when Captain Raymur died, and Mr. Alexander became manager of the mill, the heads of the mill sent for Ainsley to come back. Ainsley was the heart of the Bachelors’ Club. He died about 1893 or 1894 of typhoid fever.” In the years he was in Vancouver, Ainslie built several cottages to lease out. He’s on this image of Betchelor’s Hall, on Dunlevy at the Hastings Sawmill.

We found A Mouat (initially recorded as Mowatt) in the street directories in the 1880s, listed as an accountant. His death was announced in the Times Daily Colonist in November 1893: “Ainsley James Ingles Mouat, second son of the late Captain William Mouat, aged 26 years“. His service as secretary of St James Church for ten years was noted in 1894. He was the oldest of eight children of William Mouat and Mary Ainslie, both from London. His father was a noted ship’s captain for The Hudson’s Bay Company, dying in a canoeing accident in 1871 travelling from Knight Inlet to Fort Rupert (near the tip of Vancouver Island).

Today on the right the Colonial Hotel and Gastown Hotel were built in 1911 and 1913. Winter’s Hotel used to occupy the corner up until last year, when it burnt to the ground with the loss of two lives. On the left there’s Rainsford and Company’s 1923 building, and the 1905 warehouse built by the McLennan and McFeely Company and initially occupied by  the Canadian Fairbanks Company.

Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives Str P8, Misc P6 and Mi P27



Posted 20 February 2023 by ChangingCity in Gastown, Gone

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Horne Block – West Cordova Street

We’ve looked at this building at a distance several years ago, but here it is close up. It’s not the only Horne Block still standing; there’s another on Cambie, and there were two others shown in this 1889 etching published in a Portland magazine called West Shore. Another (The Yale Hotel today) is also still with us – only the White Swan was redeveloped after a fire damaged it in 1894, less than 10 years after it had been built.

There was apparently a slightly different initial design for the West Cordova block, with the illustration obviously drawn before the building had been completed.

The developer was James Welton Horne, born in Toronto in 1853, with a remarkable early life (that he seems to have embellished more than a little). He did extremely well for himself at an early age, developing the new city of Brandon in Manitoba as the railway arrived, and seemingly in close association with the Canadian Pacific Railway, to their mutual benefit. He repeated the relationship in the newly established Vancouver, erecting four buildings before the city was 3 years old. An 1891 biography described him as ‘the heaviest individual property owner in Vancouver’, although that’s also probably self-promotion rather than accurate. With $156,000 worth of buildings he was a major investor, but Isaac Robinson and David Oppenheimer both had more valuable holdings.

He managed for a time to be both a Member of the Provincial Parliament, and an active property developer, but after four years in Victoria he retired from his political role in 1894 on medical advice (aged 41). Before that he had been elected to City Council in 1888 and 1889.

Another illustration of the building showed a somewhat more accurate representation, with the turret and decorative cornice that have both been lost for many years.

The narrow flatiron building (seen here in 1986) has housed a variety of businesses since NS Hoffar designed the building in 1889, including a wholesale shoe dealer in the 1920s, a wholesale stationer in 1952, a towel and sheet distributor in 1972, various fashion businesses from the 1980s to the 2000s, and now the home to a Timber Train Coffee Roasters cafe.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 791-0896


Posted 23 January 2023 by ChangingCity in Gastown, Still Standing

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326 West Cordova Street

We know that this building had been significantly altered before this image was taken in the 1960s. That’s because it was first built in 1903, it had a different facade. It was developed by T Simpson who hired Thomas Hunter to build the $9,000 investment designed by Parr and Fee. It was the second design for the double lot site – a $12,000 version had been submitted a year earlier.

The image on the right is a part of a 1932 picture showing West Cordova, and our building is the two storey structure in the centre of the picture, next to the tall building (which is the Mercantile Building on the corner of Homer).

Although there were two Thomas Simpsons in Vancouver in 1903, neither developed the building here; one was a clerk in the Tiny Dog store, and the other a grocer. The T Simpson who developed this was Theodore Simpson, (confirmed by a paragraph in the 1903 Contract Record, which reckoned the costs had stretched to $15,000). Mr. Simpson’s choice of Thomas Hunter as the builder wasn’t in the least surprising. In 1892 Jennie Simpson, Theodore’s daughter, married Thomas Hunter.

At the end of 1902 the Province reported that “Work was started this morning on the demolition of the buildings formerly occupied us the Rustic and Golden Tip restaurants, to make room for the erection of a handsome new brick and stone block. The new building, which will be of two stories, will measure 50 by 120 feet, and is being built for Mr. Theodore Simpson of this city. The estimated cost of Its construction is not made public, but is understood to be in the neighborhood of $15,000. The architects of the new block are Messrs. Parr & Fee and the plans show a handsome structure of brick with a cut stone front. It Is understood that the lessees of the new block will be the wholesale clothing firm of Mackay, Smith & Co., who at present occupy premises further along Cordova street.”

Theodore Simpson arrived in Vancouver in 1891, but was apparently missed by the census. He soon had a problem that required the attention of the City Council “the contractors who deposited stumps etc on the property of Theo Simpson on the corner of Melville and Thurlow Street, be notified to have same removed or buried.” In 1892 he was living on Seymour Street, but by 1894 he was already shown as ‘retired’ and living at Melville and Thurlow. Thomas Hunter was the head of household there in the 1901 census, with Theodore and his wife, Isabella, living with Thomas’s family. Theodore was 62, and from England, shown arriving in Canada in 1845, and Isabella was six years younger.

Their daughter, Thomas’s wife, (Jane, Jannie or Jennie), had been born in Ontario, and that’s also where Isabella came from. Theodore was 25 when he married Isabella Day, aged 19, in Newmarket, Ontario in March 1864. In the 1871 census he was listed there as ‘baker’ – the same as in Vancouver in 1901, (although he was never associated with any work in Vancouver, and was described as ‘gentleman’ in the 1898 voter’s list, suggesting he was already retired with investments). In 1881 the family (Theodore, Isabella, and Jane, born in 1865) were living in Summerside, in Prince Edward Island.

In the spring of 1902 the family had a shock when Isabella passed away. Theodore submitted plans for this location soon after. He died in 1925, and was buried in Mountain View Cemetery with Isabella, and Jane Day, who was born on the same date as Isabella, (so presumably her twin sister) who had died in 1912.

This building was significantly  altered, and given its contemporary appearance, in 1955. That year Lounge Fashion Clothes (manufacturers) occupied the building, with Braemar Clothiers, Fletcher Lock & Safe in the middle unit and CanaDay’s Apparel (men’s wear) in the third. Fletcher’s had been in the building since at least the 1920s, and in 1925 a wholesale trunk and bag company were here too, the Langmuir Manufacturing Co.

Today Sphere Communications are here, buying and selling pre-owned cellphones, alongside Gastown Printers and Indigo Sutra, a home furnishing store specializing in items made with sustainable and natural fibres from around the world.

Image sources City of Vancouver Archives CVA 810-246 (copyright) and extract from Str N14



Posted 20 June 2022 by ChangingCity in Gastown, Still Standing

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310 West Cordova Street

These two small buildings are part of a block of very old (for Vancouver), and low-density buildings in what was once one of the most important city streets. On the extreme left of the frame Dr. Whetham’s Arlington Block can be seen, built in 1887. We looked at the building on the right, (home of the Frank & Oak clothing store today), in an earlier post. 314-316 W Cordova was developed in 1905 by R McLeod. We only have newspaper references, not a permit, so we can’t identify the architect, or which of several ‘R McLeods’ this might be. There was contractor called Rod McLeod, although we might expect him to build his own investment. Another possibility was Robert McLeod, an engineer in Victoria who had been married in Vancouver in 1900, and had an interest in a mining company near Nelson.

Next door to the east, (the left hand of the pair), is 310 West Cordova, which was initially numbered as 308. This is the Turner Block, originally designed by C O Wickenden for George Turner in 1889, so it’s one of the oldest buildings in the city. The Heritage Foundation’s website takes their information from the Heritage Statement for the building, that says it was built as a restaurant in 1914, but there’s no permit to support that, although it was altered quite early in its life. The building was vacant in 1915, but there’s an undated image that shows the Arlington Hotel and this building, when it had arched second floor windows. There was a single storey building to the west, so the picture was taken before 1905. It’s possible the upper floors were altered, or the building rebuilt when the Washington Cafe moved in. It opened in 1916, and that might be the source of the Heritage statement date, although we would expect a building permit for any major work, and there doesn’t appear to be one.

There was a George Turner in New Westminster who is well-documented; he was the provincial surveyor. This was a different George Turner; he lived at this address briefly in 1889, but by 1891 had rooms in the Leland House Hotel, where he was was listed in the street directory as ‘speculator’.

He was apparently missed in the 1891 census, but was listed in 1901 as a lodger at the Merchant’s Exchange Hotel, on Seymour Street. That record said he was aged 50, born in 1850 in the United States, and he was a miner who had arrived in Canada in 1886. His age records varied; when he died in 1914, in Savona, his birth date was 1846, and The Province published two obituaries, one citing each year, so it was unclear which was true. He died wealthy, but unmarried, and left his estate to two sisters, Katherine Meeker of Asbury Park and Mary Welles of Los Angeles. Katherine’s family tree shows a brother called George, one of seven children born in New York state, in 1848, so it appears he had a habit of adding or subtracting two years either way when saying how old he was.

It’s not clear what George did before arriving in Canada, but he was already a wealthy man (so perhaps he was a successful miner). He arrived in the city just as it became Vancouver, and acquired property very early, with at least three different lots allowing him to be on the 1887 voter’s list. (In those days, men who owned property could vote, irrespective of nationality). By 1889 he had $30,000 worth of property, and two years later it was worth $10,000 more. Biographies identify some of George’s fortune from mining in the Rossland, Slocan and Sandon areas, but we were wary of confirming that as there was at least one other George Turner (a Spokane judge and politician) who was associated with mining shares in BC, and who is not the Vancouver speculator, and there were three other George Turners with miners certificates. However, it appears reasonably clear that he was involved in both the Great Western Mine in Sandon, and the Two Friends Mine in Slocan in the 1890s where he was superintendent, and had a reputation as ‘an honest broker’. In 1897 he had rooms in Black’s Hotel in Sandon.

When he was in Vancouver he was a member of both the Vancouver Club and the Terminal City Club, and enjoyed playing chess – in 1892 he was president of the Chess and Draughts Club. His business interests outside mining included the early Street Railway company, their rivals, the Gurney Cab Co, and later a milling and grain business and the McLaren-Laurentia Milk Co. He acquired land in the San Joaquin Valley in California, where he established a ranch and was on a fishing trip to Savona in 1914 when he died.

A variety of businesses occupied the premises over the years. From 1916 it was home to the Washington Cafe, and the upper floor had been linked to the Arlington Block and was part of The Arlington Rooms. At the back was a separate 3-storey building that had been used as the Soldier’s Training School. Thomson and Stoess owned 310 W Cordova in 1926, but the repairs were to a workshop, factory and warehouse, so that was probably the building at the back. In 1930 Kydd Brothers occupied the space, and the Washington Cafe was still in operation in front.

Initially no owner was identified for the cafe, as it was ‘Chinese’ (and that was all you apparently needed to know). It had opened in 1911 in the Arlington Block, when it was run by Mer Wing. Two waitresses were wanted in 1911, when the wages offered were $9 a week. In 1922 John Ming Ching was listed (in the Chinese Section of the Directory) as manager. In 1931 Gin Gin was manager, and in 1935, the last time it appeared, Wong Do.

In 1936 the building was empty, and by 1939 a safe manufacturer, J & J Taylor, had moved in, with Sinclair Bros making confectionery in the building on the lane. That situation remained the same in 1955, the last year we can check directories online. A few years ago The Deluxe Junk Co had a clothing consignment store, then by 2016 Woodsons had their law office over a Versace Home store, and today Neumann & Associates, a law firm have their offices over the Indonesian Trade Promotion Centre

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives (copyright) CVA 810-21 and UCR California Museum of Photography 1996.0009.X4834


Posted 2 June 2022 by ChangingCity in Gastown, Still Standing

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Arlington Hotel – West Cordova Street

We’re slightly surprised that in ten years of posting, a complete image of this building has eluded us. The arched Italianate windows suggest it’s a very early building in the city. It is in fact one of the oldest still standing, although not “originally built as professional offices and as accommodation in 1887 and owned by Dr. James Whetham” as the Heritage Statement says. N S Hoffar designed the building, but it was completed in late 1888. After the fire of 1886 an earlier building occupied the corner for a couple of years, seen in an earlier post. Hoffar designed another building for Dr. Whetham across the street, also in 1888, completed a few months after this one. The building here was described in a 31 December 1888 newspaper article as ‘just complete’ although it wasn’t occupied until 1889.

It was shown as 204-208 Cordova on the 1889 insurance map, 3 storey, with lodgings on the top floor, offices on the second, and  stores for Dry Goods and ‘B&S’ on the main floor (Joseph Pyke’s boot and shoe store). The 1890 directory shows John and Johann Buntzen had rooms here, so did Miss C A and Miss Sarah Netterford, and John Rooney, the chief mail clerk. Henry Burritt had his dental office, as did Lewis Griffith McPhillips, a barrister and Tuck and Black, also barristers.

Dr. Whetham, like many early Vancouver developers, came from Ontario. His father had been a flax and hemp manufacturer in England, who moved to Canada, established himself as a general merchant and then died, leaving a widow and three young children. His son, James Whetham is said in an early biography to have taught, then headed west, farming in Manitoba in 1878. Somehow he managed to study medicine (his biography says ‘in winter’) in Toronto and then Portland, Oregon, while apparently living in Spokane Falls. He only practiced medicine very briefly before moving on to develop real estate, initially in Spokane Falls and then in 1887 in Vancouver.

By 1889 James Whetham had the sixth largest land holdings in the city, was on the board of trade and was elected to the City Council. He lived in the Hotel Vancouver, and founded Whetham College on Granville Street with backing from other Vancouver businessmen; his brother became the headmaster. (Charles Whetham had moved to Vancouver before 1889, and opened a real estate office in the Whetham Block). In 1890 Dr. James Whetham still had an office at 130 Cordova, identifying himself as a physician. He died in 1891, aged only 37, of what was diagnosed as typhoid fever. The recession of 1893 saw the closure of Whetham College, the first post-secondary teaching institute in British Columbia. Charles Whetham moved back to the University of Toronto, but returned in the mid 1890s to a farm he had bought in Whonnock.

In 1890 all the tenants listed were commercial, with printers, lawyers and the Patterson Detective Agency. In 1893 they included Truman and Caple’s photography studios, the dentist, a barrister and Frank Leslie, an artist. In 1894 BC Land and Investment Co had their office here, and H D Burritt was still running his dental office, and in 1896 a few residential tenants were listed again.

In 1898 Braden & Co had a meat store here, as we saw in an earlier post with an image from that year.  The heritage statement says “The evolution of this lodging house continued as the Simcoe Rooming House, and subsequently as the Arlington Rooms from 1913“. This is wrong. The Simcoe was further down the block, and the Arlington Hotel name appeared in the 1898 street directory.

By 1901 this was shown as the ‘Lee’ building, renumbered as 300-304 Cordova. The Burrard Inlet Meat Co had the store at 300 W Cordova, the Arlington Hotel was upstairs at 304, and the Arlington Billiard Parlour was at 308, which was the next building to the west. The store was no longer associated with the meat trade after this: A J Bloomfield sold cigars here in 1902. A couple of years later the street address disappeared, and the retail space appears to have become associated with the hotel upstairs. In 1905 it was run by Cottingham and Beatty, and a year later John Beatty on his own, later corrected to Beaty.

Within a few years the premises had been renamed from the Arlington Hotel to the Arlington Rooms; Alice Gill ran them in 1915. The retail uses reappeared here; in 1920 Mrs Tosa Takaoha had a barber’s shop and S Nunoda sold confectionary. The courtyard was built on in 1909, to house a printing wing of Thomson Brothers Booksellers.

In 1950 The Arlington Rooms were still upstairs, over Low Yow’s Confectionary store, but by 1955 the rooms had closed and the Triangle Coffee Shop and a fabric shop were on the main floor. Today there’s a tailors and dressmaker’s in one unit, and a locally-made clothing store in the other. Upstairs the offices have a range of businesses just as they did in the 1890s, including a counselling service, a construction company, the offices of the Central City Foundation, the Latincouver Cultural Society office, a Registered Psychologist’s practice and a language school. There’s also a business that would have made no sense to the earliest tenants: the office of an “online archive/designer and luxury clothing store, known for its finely curated selection of niche Japanese brands, well-known European labels, and vintage Americana”

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 810-277 (copyright) and CVA 810-15 (copyright)


Posted 16 May 2022 by ChangingCity in Gastown, Still Standing

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Persepolis Hotel – 351 Columbia Street

This modest rooming house has been operating for at least 110 years, but its development is something of a mystery. The smaller building to the left, with the arched entrance, is on the southern half of the lot. That’s Parr and Fee’s building for Borland and Brown, from 1902, and was home to The Horse Shoe Hotel. The part of the site in the picture was vacant until 1907. In 1908 there were businesses addressed here, so we can reasonably assume that’s when the building was constructed, in the dark years where building permits have been lost. We think James Borland would have been the developer. He built the Horse Shoe Hotel in 1902, and was still carrying out alterations and repairs up to 1912.

James was originally from Ontario, arriving in Vancouver around 1891. He started as a builder with two houses built in 1892 – both still standing. His death notice said that he arrived in Vancouver in 1888, although the street directories didn’t include him until 1892, and he appears to still be in Ontario in the 1891 census. He was born in Huron, Ontario, around 1864 and married Sarah Hamill, who was from Grey County, Ontario. They initially lived in the East End, then moved to the West End in 1901, where they stayed for over 20 years. When James died in 1937 he was living in Shaughnessy Heights. Over many years he developed a property empire, including several hotels and other commercial investments.

The 1912 insurance map shows this building as part of the hotel, and there’s no reference in the street directory to any separate lodging here initially. The 1908 directory shows McLean & Oliphant, real estate closer to the lane, and The Horse Shoe Hotel Grill next to the hotel. In 1909 Royal City Realty Co took over the real estate office, and a year later the Empire Shoe Shop and the Empire Tailor Shop. The Horse Shoe Grill expanded to take the whole frontage in 1912. The Grill closed a couple of years later. Annie Snider, a tailor operated here in 1915, and Maurice Glucksman offered a similar service in 1920. By then there was also a barber and B B Taxi – rivals to Central Taxi who were located immediately opposite. The ‘rooms over’ shown on the insurance map that year were still the Horseshoe Hotel, and the hotel bar was on the corner of East Hastings. BC Collateral, a pawnbroker had moved in to the other half of the main Hastings frontage.

A Hamill and S A Harris hired R Hill to make alterations to one of the stores in 1920, and A Babalos opened a barber’s shop in the unit. A Hamill also carried out more alterations to another unit in 1923. Alfred Hamill was a motorman for the BC Electric Railway, but he apparently also owned this property, and he built himself an expensive ($7,500) house on West 40th Avenue in 1926. The reason for his involvement in the building, and property, was presumably because Alfred was James Borland’s brother-in-law.

Stores came, and went over the years. B B Taxi stayed for years, joined in 1930 for example by Horseshoe clothiers and Horseshoe Tailors and Cleaners. Five years later the New Horseshoe Tailors were here, and Blue Cabs. By 1947 both Horseshoe Tailors and Cleaners and Blue Cabs were still here, but the upper floors had become the Sunshine Rooms.

By the early 1950s the property had been split. On Hastings, to the left, BC Collateral and Cunningham Drugs (who had occupied the stores for many years) were underneath the Toon W O Fong rooms, while here the ‘Frinces Rooms’ were run by Chow Choy. Wing Mah who ran confectionery store Wing Hong Co, lived over the shop, and Horse Shoe Tailors were still in operation next to the lane. (We have no idea if that was the actual name of the rooming house, or a typo).

The names of the businesses here continued to change over the years. In our 1978 picture Hing Hing was running a store next to Eddie’s Trading Post, that offered to buy or sell pretty much anything. In 2001 this was the Evergreen Rooms, still in Chinese ownership when it was ordered closed for a number of violations of the Standards Maintenance By-law (among other problems). The building reopened in 2008 as the Persepolis Hotel; still a privately owned SRO hotel with 27 rooms. The retail store was most recently ‘Farm’, an unlicenced cannabis dispensary, which was not approved to continue in operation when it sought to become legitimate.


Posted 14 April 2022 by ChangingCity in Gastown, Still Standing

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Columbia Hotel annex

We looked at the history of the Columbia Hotel (on the right in our pictures) in an earlier post. It was designed by Honeyman and Curtis for Boyd & McWhinnie in 1911, and cost $60,000. The adjacent building on the other half of the double lot as actually an earlier structure. It was, (according to a press report), a “Three-storey brick business block w/ stores & dwellings; cover south half of the two lots at the SW corner of Columbia & Cordova;” for the same owners, built by Mr T Mackinnon, and costing $10,000. No architect was identified, and given the simplicity of the design, it’s possible none was involved.

The 1905 building was an annex to the original Columbia Hotel, which was smaller, and replaced with the 1911 6-storey structure. Thomas McWhinnie probably developed the building with Thomas Boyd as there’s an 1891 Council minute that recorded “That permission be not granted to Messrs Boyd and McWhinnie to erect a frame building on the corner of Oppenheimer Street and Columbia Avenue same being contrary to the By-Law” We can be certain that Thomas Boyd, a contractor, was Mr. McWhinnie’s partner as the two men owned this lot as early as 1886.

Thomas Boyd first appears in the street directory in 1888, as a contractor, and he became a wealthy developer and property owner. In 1889 his construction interest expanded as he teamed up as Boyd and Clandenning, and he also carried out work on his own, and developed with Thomas McWhinnie. He was from an Irish family settled in Nova Scotia. He arrived in 1883 in New Westminster, which was why he was able to buy Vancouver property without living in the city at that point. He carried out local road building, like the Stanley Park Road, but also railway construction on the Crowsnest Railway, and the Pacific Great Eastern to Cheakamus. He married in Montreal in 1893, and had two daughters. He ended up as executor to both James Clandenning and Thomas McWhinnie, and died in 1938.

The 1889 insurance map only shows the Australasian Saloon one lot down on Columbia Street, later incorporated into the Columbia Hotel site, but nothing was built here at that time. Thomas ‘McWhiney’ doesn’t appear in the city until 1890. Before that he was listed in New Westminster. The Columbia House Hotel run by Joseph Dixon first shows in the directory in 1894, at the corner of Oppenheimer and Columbia. In 1895 it’s the Columbia Hotel, and Thomas McWhinnie lived there. He was running the hotel in 1896, with a partner called J A Murray, and in 1898 with Charles Orre.

By 1899 Thomas McWhinnie was sole proprietor of the hotel, with A A McWhinnie shown as the clerk in 1901. In 1891 Thomas was living in Vancouver, a house carpenter living with his wife, shown as Jennie, who was from England. She was actually Hannah Jane Solloway – they had married in 1890, and she died in 1893. The Daily World reported that their infant son Thomas also died later that year, in Mission City. Thomas’s brother Arthur was also in the city, a painter living with his American wife Annie and their infant daughter, Lillie. In 1901 the census said Arthur was a saloon keeper. It showed Thomas living at the hotel with 16 borders. He was aged 42, and had arrived in Canada when he was 7 from Scotland. (There were two Thomas McWhinnie’s born in Scotland in 1858, but only one was born on the 28th of May). Thomas was born in Girvan in Ayrshire. His father was Henry, and his mother Sarah Dunlop. In 1881 the family were living in Simcoe, in Ontario, and the census that year showed one of Thomas’s younger brothers was Arthur A McWhinnie, who was born in Ontario. A meeting of the Pioneers Club said Thomas arrived in the Lower mainland in 1884.

Both brothers were working at the hotel in 1902, but Arthur was no longer listed in 1903. He held the licence for a liquor store on Hastings Street which was transferred to Urquhart Brothers in 1902, so he was apparently contemplating moving then. Thomas McWhinnie transferred his licence in 1903 to James Guthrie, who was running the hotel a year later. Thomas’s absence was explained in The Province: “Mr. Hugh Uquhart has returned from a trip to Edmonton. He and Mr. Thomas McWhinnie of this city, have purchased a wholesale and retail liquor business there, and Mr. McWhinnie has remained behind to carry it on.” Although he was absent, his involvement continued in Vancouver. Another Boyd and McWhinnie building worth $10,000 was approved on Water Street in 1905.

In 1906 Thomas McWhinnie married Etta Rye in Whatcom, Washington. They went on to have six children; Sarah, Frederick, Janet, (born in Penticton in 1913), Alexander, James in 1917, and finally another son, Douglas in 1919. Etta was only 38 when she died in 1920, the same year as her infant son. After a brief absence the family reappeared in Vancouver in 1907, living on West 4th Avenue, with William now listed as ‘farmer’. Apparently he retained the hotel but also acquired a Penticton fruit ranch, and property in Osoyoos. Thomas was still living at the W4th Avenue address, and was aged 64 when he died in 1922. He was buried in Penticton.


Posted 10 February 2022 by ChangingCity in Gastown, Still Standing

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157 Water Street

This seven storey warehouse has been redeveloped recently with its more modest next door neighbour. The facade is all that was retained, so today it’s part of a contemporary concrete framed building that shouldn’t suffer damage in the event of an earthquake.

The window frames on the top two floors have been replaced to match the remainder of the building, which was initially intended to have three storeys. We don’t know who designed the building, but Edward Cook was the contractor for the development, which was for the BC Plate Glass & Importing Company; he submitted the permit in 1905, and additions in 1906. The Province reported that he “intended to be 3-storeys, however, he rented the add’l floors as rapidly as they could be planned“. Edward was a prolific contractor with over 40 buildings constructed by 1891. He had arrived in spring 1886, and built a small house for his family to move into, but it burned down in the fire a few days later, and their first home was a tent. Edward developed a few projects for himself, but here we assume he might have been the contractor (and possible the designer) of the building.

The glass business was run by Arthur Bogardus, Charles Wickens and Frank Begg. Bogardus and Wickens had a retail and glazing business, and Frank Begg joined them in the early 1900s. They moved into a Yaletown warehouse a few years after this. They were still based here in 1910, sharing the building with the Otis-Fensom Elevator Co. Both businesses had moved to new Yaletown buildings by 1913, when Burke & Wood Ltd, a freight transfer company, Alcock & Downing, importers, the Carey Safe Co (warehouse) and R Madden & Son, wholesale produce occupied the building. In 1920 A P Slade’s produce warehouse took over the entire building, which they continued to occupy for many years.

By 1950 Eaton’s, the department store, had taken over the space. As Gastown was converted to a destination retail location this became home on the lower floors to the Games Company, who were here in this 1985 image. There was a 1995 proposal to convert the upper floors to residential use, but that never happened. The recent redevelopment initially proposed to rebuild the facade as 6 storeys, re-using the existing bricks but creating greater floor to ceiling height. That idea was dropped, and all seven floors were recreated in a concrete frame behind the facade. The building (including the adjacent Harper Warehouse) was fully leased to Microsoft while still under construction. A French-Japanese music and fashion label store and their associated Café Kitsuné will occupy the retail spaces.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 790-2089


Posted 25 November 2021 by ChangingCity in Altered, Gastown

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151 Water Street

We have waited to look at the history of this early Water Street warehouse until completion of the new office building that has been built behind, and above, the restored facade. Initially three additional floors were proposed to be added in a complementary ‘heritage’ style, but the plans were changed to add greater height in a contemporary style, set back to retain the heritage element’s integrity.

This was a 1912 warehouse developed by J M Harper and designed by A J Bird. Seen here in 1985, it had already transitioned to retail use, but it started life as a produce warehouse, built by Willis and Fisher for $16,000. Mr. Harper was an absentee developer, living in Kamloops where he was a partner in a wholesaling and retailing business supplying miners. He partnered with A S McArthur, both in the dry goods business and in property development in Vancouver, including a building at Hastings and Main.

J M Harper was often referred to in the press as Major Harper (having raised a mounted military unit in 1908), and he had extensive business interests. He was also an independent voice in the community. When Kamloops Board of Trade petitioned for the local Kamloops Band reserve to be reduced in size in 1913, Major Harper was one of few voices in opposition, “J.M. Harper merely pointed out that the Indians had never been treated fairly by whites and in any event Kamloops had a lot of room to branch out in without bothering the Indians.”

In the 1911 census James M Harper was aged 51, living on ‘income’, with his wife Elizabeth who was 48 and five children aged between 8 and 20. Both parents were shown born in Scotland, and we can track the family’s movements before settling in Kamloops; their oldest daughter, ‘Ena’, was born in Alberta in 1891 and Norman, their 18-year-old son in Manitoba. The other sons and daughter were born in BC. (Ena was Georgena in the 1901 census, born in the Northwest Territories, and Elizabeth was shown born in Ontario. In 1891 the family were living in Lethbridge, when Alberta was still part of the North-West Territories). From their son’s 1920 wedding in Vancouver, we can find his father was James Milne Harper, and his mother Elizabeth Paterson. James was born in Banffshire in 1859, one of 10 children.

Tragically, their son, Norman Stuart Harper, was killed on active service in the First World War. A postcard, written to his mother, showed up in a Washington state antique store. It revealed that he was in hospital in London in May 1918, having been injured landing his bi-plane. Less than two months later he was shot down and killed while on a bombing mission over Germany. He was buried by the Germans with full military honours, but his family only managed to trace his death in 1920. The 1921 census shows James and Elizabeth still in Kamloops, with three children still at home and Georgina Paterson, Elizabeth’s sister living with them. J M Harper died in Vancouver in 1937, already widowed.

The newly completed building attracted multiple tenants; Olmstead Budd Co Ltd wholesale fruit suppliers, Swartz Bros wholesale fruits, California Fruit Growers Exchange, Pacific Fruit & Produce Co and A Francis Tourville, produce broker. In 1920 The Foottit Co., Ltd became the tenants here, produce dealers headed by Harold and Ernest Foottit. A year earlier they were both working for F R Stewart and Co, a rival produce business whose premises were a few doors to the west. Harold was 39, and had arrived in BC in 1906. His wife Edith Longfellow arrived from England a year later, (they had married in 1905), and their son, (Harold) Raymond was born in 1914. Ernest was two years younger, and like his brother came from Hull. Ernest married Beatrice Thorley, who was also from Hull, in 1908, Harold Foottit was living in Vancouver when he died in 1968. Ernest died in 1971, in Seattle, where he was Superintendent of the Home Savings Building for many years, and was buried in Burnaby.

Their business didn’t prosper, and by 1923 W R Cook and Co had moved in here. Both Foottit brothers returned to working for F R Stewart. By 1930 the Independent Fruit Co had moved in, and a decade later the building was occupied by Slade and Stewart who were also in the adjacent building. Later Robison Cotton Mills used the warehouse, and as the area became more of a tourist destination in the 1960s an antique and contemporary art dealer took over the space. In recent years it became known as a destination for buying first nations art and artefacts, in Frances Hill’s store. Recently redeveloped, a flagship clothing store are fitting out the retail units while Microsoft have occupied the offices on the upper floors.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 790-2090


Posted 18 November 2021 by ChangingCity in Altered, Gastown

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73 Water Street

This brick faced warehouse was, according to its Heritage Statement, built in 1912 for the Vancouver – Prince Rupert Meat Packing Company. While the developer is correctly identified, the building permits weren’t submitted until 1914. There were three permits in total; two in January for $6,400 (presumably for preliminary work) and another in April for $50,000. The company designed all three stages of construction of the 33 feet wide, and 7 storeys high building, built by E J Ryan. It’s on the same block as a ‘rival’, and slightly earlier coldstore and meat-packing building, owned by the Canadian Swift Meat Packing Co.

By 1919 Swift owned the Vancouver – Prince Rupert Meat Co (as well as many other companies), and there is some suggestion that the business was always a subsidiary of Swift (a Chicago-based business). Swift had their name on the building in 1923, but by 1930 they had consolidated to their building to the east, and David Spencer’s departmental store were using this building as their warehouse. T Eaton and Co bought the Spencer business in 1948, and continued to use the warehouse. (When they operated as a rival to Spencer’s, they had a warehouse a block to the west of here).

As Gastown turned into a tourist area, the ground floor became a gift shop (seen in this 1985 image) and today a shoe store, with office space in the converted warehouse above.

Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 790-2097


Posted 26 July 2021 by ChangingCity in Gastown, Still Standing

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