Archive for the ‘Mount Pleasant’ Category

Mount Stephen Block – East 7th Avenue

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When this apartment building was first completed it was known as the Mount Stephen Block. The architecture features the trademark brick patterning used by Townsend & Townsend, with one of the most flamboyant pressed metal cornice designs ever built in the city. ‘Exploring Vancouver also noted that ‘Two immodest female figures energetically support the heavy pediment’.  The owner, and builder of the $60,000 project on the corner of Quebec  St was W D Muir.

We’ve seen a number of the Townsend’s other projects in the city. Many had the Argyle checker pattern in red, on a buff background. They used the same design on warehouses and apartments throughout the city. Although published biographies suggest they were brothers, our research suggests they were father and son, probably from Manchester. They were only in the city from 1909 to 1913, but managed to design buildings worth over $800,000.

muirW D Muir was initially a grocer in Mount Pleasant; his premises were close to the flatiron where Main and Kingsway meet at 8th Avenue and he was a pioneer, establishing his grocery and bakery around 1896. He dropped the grocery, not only producing thousands of loaves, but in 1903 patenting the oven he used to bake them. In 1904 the ‘Mount Pleasant Advocate’ announced that he had added another oven, and could now turn out over 1,000 loaves of bread in an hour. In 1905, when flour prices increased by $1 a barrel, W D Muir announced that he had $3,000 of flour on hand, and so could continue to feed Vancouver for a while longer without raising prices.

In 1908 Wiliam is already listed as retired; he had sold the bakery business a year or two earlier to Hanbury Evans & Co. In 1909 he sold the large brick ‘Muir Block’ on the corner of Westminster (Main) and 8th, and he obtained the permit to build this apartment block in 1911, with completion a year later.

The 1901 census tells us Mr Muir was from Quebec, born in 1856, while his wife Jane was from Ontario and a year younger. Their six year old son, Thomas, had been born in British Columbia. The household was large – there were seven lodgers, two who presumably worked for William as they were bakers, and a domestic servant. Duncan Muir was one of the lodgers, aged 21, a teamster (as were two others). By 1911 he’s shown born in 1854, and while Jane is a year younger her birth date is shown as 1850, showing census clerks couldn’t necessarily calculate accurately. William is shown as retired, living on income (presumably from selling his business, and a little later from rent). Their domestic was shown as Florence Muir, who was 28, and James and Jennie Muir, William’s niece and nephew were also living in the family. Jennie was aged 14, but James was 53 and working in a bakery as a stableman.

The Mount Stephen Apaertments switched at some point in the 1950s to be an ‘apartment hotel and rooms’. It subsequently reverted to being a rental building that by 1979 was run down. The landlord of the day looked to add a massive rent increase, and the tenants fought it. With Federal financial support they formed a co-op and bought and renovated the building in 1980. The co-op later purchased the lot next door to add a yard, garden and parking space. With their new name, the Quebec Manor Co-op continues to offer 32 affordable rental apartments.

Image source: City of Vancouver archives CVA SGN 1028

Posted January 19, 2017 by ChangingCity in Mount Pleasant, Still Standing

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Ashnola Apartments – 2152 Main Street

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When this building was constructed Main Street had just changed its name from Westminster Avenue. Located close to one of the city’s breweries, while today we think of it as a pub when it was built it was a retail building. Braunton and Leibert designed it, completed in 1913 for Dr. Israel Powell, one of the province’s important pioneers. He was born in 1837 in Port Colborne in Simcoe, Ontario, and drawn by the Cariboo Gold Rush reached Victoria in 1862 via the Panama Canal and San Francisco. He never went to look for gold, but like his father, Dr. Powell became involved in politics. He was elected to the House of Assembly of Vancouver Island in 1863, but failed to be re-elected in 1866 and 1868. He supported the merger of Vancouver Island and British Columbia, and later Confederation. Sir John A Macdonald was a family friend, and offered him the position of lieutenant governor of B C, or as a Senator. He declined both, but agreed to become Superintendent of Indian Affairs for British Columbia, a position he held for 18 years from 1872. He was surgeon for the Victoria fire department and also served in the militia, while building his medical practice. He was also instrumental in establishing the first Scottish Rite Masonic Lodge in British Columbia. From 1871 to 1875 he was the first grand master of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia, which brought together the lodges under English and Scottish jurisdictions, although later, in 1877, he severed his connections with the masons.

Although he lived in Victoria, he owned property in Vancouver from its inception, and was on the initial voter’s list. He was part of an early consortium with David Oppenheimer and others who bought land in 1886, and was also a shareholder in the Vancouver Improvement Company (a larger group with many of the same owners) who eventually owned 330 acres of Downtown land and helped ensure their increased value with the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway into the city. At his death in 1915 he had investments in farms in the Fraser Valley, on Vancouver Island including the Hotel Wilson of Victoria, as well as in buildings and lots in Vancouver and North Vancouver. The names of several places in British Columbia, commemorate Dr. Powell, including Powell Street in Vancouver and Powell River.

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This building was completed only two years before his death when he was in his mid seventies, and cost $47,000 to build. As far as we can tell it represents Dr. Powell’s only investment in bricks and mortar in the area, but according to the Heritage Statement for the local plan, he had acquired and named the streets of most of the area we associate as Mount Pleasant (with Henry Edmonds). It states that it was Dr. Powell’s idea to name the streets after the Canadian Provinces, although Mount Pleasant was a name chosen by Edmonds.

Our 1940s image show the retail unit occupied by a Fur company, while in 1976 it was Royal City Antiques. Over the years the retail uses have changed many times – today it’s a bike store and a dounut shop.

Image sources CVA 1184-2758 and CVA 780-234