Archive for the ‘Still Standing’ Category

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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Davie and Seymour Street – sw corner

This 1911 hotel is currently for sale. It has 27 vacant SRO rooms, and a former bar on the main floor, and nobody seems to want it for what the owners seem to think it’s worth. It was developed by Mrs. Priscilla Hunt, who hired A J Bird to design it, and spent $20,000 getting Robert McLean & Co to build it. Mrs Hunt was unquestionably the developer; she was a widow (although her son-in-law was in real estate, and may have advised her). It was built as a rooming house, and appeared as The Glenwood Rooms in 1912, addressed to Seymour Street and run by Mrs. A R Hansford. A year earlier she had been running another rooming house on West Pender that she also named The Glenwood Rooms.

Priscilla Chapman was born in Clinton, Huron, Ontario (in 1869, if her death certificate were to be believed, or 1861 if the headstone on her grave was accurate, and actually in 1856). When she married Jonathan J Hunt in 1884, somewhere in British Columbia, she admitted to being 25 (although she was really 28), and was living in Portland Oregon. Her husband was aged 48, a widower born in Bangor, Maine and running a hotel in Port Townsend, Washington Territory.

He was described as a widower, having married Mary, who was Irish, and building a house in Port Townsend for her in 1864. We think Mary died in 1878. This allowed Jonanthan to marry a second wife, Louisa, who he married in 1878 when she was 20, and they had three children born in 1875, 1877 and 1880, before she divorced him in 1884. (J B Hunt, Jonathan’s son, was killed in a train accident in Pendleton in 1895 when he was riding on the outside of the train, having failed to obtain a seat, and fell under the wheels).

By 1870 J J Hunt was running the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Port Townsend. A 1915 journal article said “the Cosmopolitan was the best known house in all this section of the territory, some not entirely bloodless. Being the port of entry, many seafaring men congregated there, and at times made the town lively in more senses than one” This was probably a coded reference to a fight that turned into a homicide in the bar in the 1870s. The killer spent 14 years in prison for manslaughter, was released in 1891 and swore revenge on the lawmen and J J Hunt.

In the mid 1870s J J sold his hotel for a while, and ran a wholesale liquor business, and in 1875 bought the wreck of the Orpheus, a sailing ship that had been hit by the S S Pacific, sailing from Victoria to San Francisco with 275 passengers and crew (and possibly as many as 400). The steamship was running without navigation lights, and hit the sailing ship, scraping along its side. While the sailing ship was damaged, but able to sail on, the sidewheeler was taking on water and sank with the loss of all but two on board, including Sewell Moody, owner of Moody’s Mill and founder of the north shore township in Burrard Inlet. The 225 ft. ship had a cargo manifest that included $79,000 of gold (91kg) and two barrels of opium.

Mr. Hunt paid $385 at public auction at the end of 1875, and hired the schooner Winnifred and a crew to strip the wreck of the Orpheus of anything of value. (The wreck of the Pacific was located at the end of 2022, and there are plans to attempt to locate the cargo using a remote underwater submersible, with a museum to display the finds, currently preserved in 1,000 feet of water). By 1880 J J Hunt was again running the Cosmopolitan, and in 1883 Hunt’s Hotel, to which, in 1884, he built a three-storey addition.

Three and a half years after his parent’s 1884 wedding, on 18 April 1888, Franklin Sterling Hunt was born in Port Townsend. His birth was registered then, and the same birthday appears on his 1917 Draft registration. Curiously,  some records suggest he had a sister, Violet, born just five months later in October 1888 in Portland. However, her burial record, in Burnaby, shows she was born in October 1883, and her mother’s name was listed as Tessie Chapman. Her mother’s pregnancy was no doubt a factor in her father’s 1884 divorce. Then we noted that Priscilla’s obitiary mentioned that she had two sons, Charles and Frank. Charles Cleveland Hunt was born in Port Townsend in 1882. When Charles was married in 1917 his father was listed as John, a hotelman, and his mother as Theresa Chapman.

In 1888 J J Hunt stood as a Democrat in the election for Congress, but didn’t make the cut. (Skagit chose a Republican). Jonathan Jay Hunt died in March 1893, aged 63. It looks like Jonathan and Priscilla stayed in Port Townsend until his death. We don’t know how long Mrs. Hunt stayed in Port Townsend after that, but her daughter, Violet, married Calvin Gray in Seattle in 1900, when she would have been aged 17.

C Gray is first mentioned in the Vancouver directories in 1903, when he was a machinst for Ross and Howard. A year later he was working in real estate, and by 1911 he was wealthy enough to live on Point Grey Road. In 1913 Calvin and his wife Violet took a three month trip to New Orleans and Southern California. Part of his real estate business was a management agency for owners wanting to lease their property. Calvin was a member of the Vancouver Board of Trade, and appointed a notary public in 1917.

The 1921 census confirms that both Priscilla and Violet preferred alternate names, and ages. The household of Calvin Gray aged 51, real estate broker, consisted of Elvira, aged 36 and Tessie Hunt, his mother-in-law, who said she was 50, and born in the USA. (Violet) Elvira was actually 38, and her mother was really 65. In 1923 a court case to prevent a neighbour from ‘borrowing’ the use of her skid road revealed that  Mrs. Calvin Gray was logging a 1,000 acre of forest near Sechelt.

Violet’s death was announced in June 1935. The death of Mrs. Violet Alvira Gray, aged 46, of 1034 West Fifteenth avenue, occurred Thursday. Funeral services will be held at a p.m. Saturday in Nunn & Thomson’s chapel. Burial will take place In Masonic Cemetery, Burnaby. Born In Portland, Ore., Mrs. Gray had been in Vancouver for thirty years. She is survived by her husband, Calvin Gray; her mother, Mrs. T. Hunt of Vancouver, and two brothers, Franklin and Cleveland of California.

Her husband organised an estate sale in June 1936, with $20,000 of glassware, china and silver on sale. The sale was extended in July when the contents of Mrs. Priscilla Hunt’s home were added. She had died in March 1936, and presumably the contents of her home could not be sold immediately. Calvin Gray retired to Puente in California in 1941, and died there in 1943.

In 1930 Frank Hunt was living in San Francisco. He was still there a decade later, still single, and a lodger. His brother had married in 1917, and in 1930 was in Blue Lake, Humboldt California with his wife and two children, Frances and Calvin.

The rooming house saw an auction of the contents in 1913, with all the brass bedsteads and bedding sold off.  It became known as the Canadian Apartments, and in 1924 was sold to Mr T W Roberts of Fort William, who enjoyed being able to walk around the city in February without an overcoat. One tenant was arrested for theft in 1926, and another had money stolen by a ‘prowler’. In 1945 the owners were Mrs L Thompson, and Axel Isaacson. A fire in her room, caused by a discarded cigarette in the bedding, caused smoke damage, the loss of all her personal belongings, and three ‘elderly men’ (aged between 60 and 70) to be rescued by being carried out by firemen. Renamed the Candian Hotel, it continued to advertise moderate rates and quiet rooms, with housekeeping. In 1959 Frank Saunders was arreested for carrying out illegal operations, but was acquitted, although his co-accused, Olive Williams, was found guilty.

In 1960 the building was ‘for sale, by owner’ for $97,000. The tenants of the building can probably be guessed from almost all the mentions in the press through the 1960s and 70s to the death of a tenant; unsually male, and in their 60s or 70s. One was only 58, but he set fire to his bed falling asleep while watching TV, in 1976. Our 1981 image shows the Canadian Hotel offering housekeeping rooms, and The Canvas Co and Gallery Restaurant on the main floor.

It’s hard to say what will happen to the building long term. At 40 feet by sixty it’s too small to redevelop, unless perhaps it was in conjunction with the Coast Mental Health building built in 2000 to the south, and then only with the two other buildings to the west. The SRO rooms are protected, so it’s likely to remain a low cost rental building.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-E03.27A


Posted 29 December 2022 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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Felix Apartments – 610 Jervis Street

This large residential investment cost $130,000 to build in 1910. The Felix Apartment was designed by Thornton & Jones for G E Greveson, who was also recorded as the builder. These days it has a different name, (The Banffshire) and the building is far less prominent in the landscape (although still imposing).

Mr. Greveson has proved elusive – and he almost certainly wasn’t the developer. There was a G E Grieveson who was in the street directory – although not with a street address. He was listed as ‘3rd Officer, Empress of China’. In 1910 George E Grievson acquired a lot in the Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida Gwai today). He obtained his Certificate of Service to sail Canadian Coastal waters in 1908, and the Report from the Harbour Commissioners of eastern ports identifies his original home as Sunderland, England.

A June 1912 article in the Province suggests our builder was Mr. G. R Grievson, but not the developer.

Mrs Frances Kensit Stops the Work on Sidewalk at the Felix Apartments

An injunction restraining Mr. G. R Grievson, a contractor, from proceeding with the work of pulling down the garage belonging to Mrs. Frances Kensit and adjoining the Felix apartments was granted by Mr. Justice Morrison in Supreme Court chambers today. His lordship made it clear to the applicant, Mr. Cecil Killam, that he granted the injunction at the plaintiff’s risk.

The trouble is alleged by counsel to have arisen owing to a sale of a three-foot strip of land by Mrs. Jane Nickson to the owners of the Felix Apartments. The strip was shadowed by the overhang of the cornice on the apartment house. The strip was a portion of the house and lot with garage previously leased to Mrs. Kensit. After purchasing the strip of land the owners of the Felix apartments proceeded to lay a concrete walk thereon. As Mrs. Kensit’s garage stood on a portion of the strip they proceeded, stated Mr. Killam, to tear down the garage.

“I don’t see why you should apply for an injunction. The parties are good for damages. Why not bring a damage suit?” said his lordship at first. “In the meantime my clients have no place in which to store their motor car,” said Mr. Killam. The application was granted, the writ being directed against Mrs. Jane Nickson, her son. Mr. John R. Nickson, and the contractor. Mr. G. R. Grievson. A writ has also been taken out by Mrs. Kensit’s solicitors claiming damages, or in the alternative a cancellation of the lease.

We can’t find any reference to who Mr Grievson was, or where he lived. As far as we can tell there was nobody called Greveson, Grievson, or Grieveson in the 1911 Census in Canada. The developers might be identified from 1912, when both the building’s janitor and the Vancouver Financial Corporation were handling the leasing. The corporation was led by Harry Abbott, the former CPR boss, turned property mogul. He lived on West Georgia just to the south of here. More confusing still, a 1924 profile of Walter Hepburn, BC’s motion picture censor describes his earlier employment as a contractor, responsible for erecting the Felix Apartments. He had been elected as an alderman on seven occasions, and had been chairman of the finance committee for two of them.

This wasn’t an ordinary apartment building – in 1912 an elevator boy was employed. The building offered 3, 4 or 5 room furnished flats, for long or short-term rental. In 1912 a 3-room flat was $35. A few years later the apartments were also available unfurnished. In 1925 the suites were advertised as ‘minutes walk from post office and Stanley Park’.

In 1928 a fire in the building caused considerable damage. The building how had 110 suites, and 150 ‘lightly-clad tenants shivered in morning air‘ as firemen removed everyone from the building and then tackled the fire in the basement. It damaged an apartment above, occupied by J. R. Ashdown to another above this tenanted by Lee Millar and his wife Verna Felton. Entering the basement with hose lines the firemen were met by a powerful gas, which overcame several of them. Thomas A. Wylle of No. 3 hall, was rescued with difficulty by his comrades, having been overcome and lost in the dense smoke. He was given first aid and was able to resume duty.” The fire had burned for some time, and the wires on the alarm in the basement were found disconnected, and the telephone wires damaged. Repairs were covered by insurance, and expected to cost over $3,000, and the police were able to secure the building ‘to prevent looting by prowlers‘. When the permit for repairs was submitted, it was for $7,000 of work, and the owner was identified as F T Schooley. He was manager of Royal City Soaps, and he lived in suite 46 here, and as a sideline seems to have developed several houses. Mrs F T Schooley was still resident in 1928.

In 1933 Cecil Ellis lived here. Accused as being the driver of the getaway car in an armed robbery on the Bank of Montreal at 4th and Alma, he was acquitted after identification testimony was inconclusive. During the robbery the bank staff and robbers exchanged gunfire, with the teller injured by a bullet. Ellis had a snapshot of one of the robbers in an album found in his suite, but that wasn’t enough evidence to convince the judge.

The building sold for $90,000 in 1946, two years after this Vancouver Public Library image was taken, and was generally known by its address from then on.

In 1959 Russell Walker, a 71-year old mining engineer who lived in the building was rescued at a gold mine 30 miles north of Tofino and flown by the RCAF to Vancouver to have a ruptured appendix operated on.

Today there are 51 apartments, and the building has recently undergone an extensive restoration. Tenants share a Facebook Group to ‘Connect with your neighbours, ask to borrow a cup of sugar, share events, building history, whatever!’


Posted 19 December 2022 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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The Stadacona – 601 Bute

This early Downtown apartment building, completed in 1911, started to be built as half the building, and then saw a second half added to the construction contract. T R Nickson & Co were hired to build the first phase at 655 Bute for $22,000, closer to the lane, in January 1909 and at 601 Bute in May, for $23,000. J J Banfield was the developer, and he hired Parr and Fee to design the building, see here in a postcard just after its completion. (The Banff to the south, completed in 1911, and known then as Florence Court was still under construction).

John Joseph Banfield named the apartment block ‘Stadacona’ for the Indian name for Quebec City, where he was born. He was still there in 1871 living with his parents, William (listed in the census as a grocer) and Rebecca, and three siblings. In 1883 he married Harriet Oille, from St Catherines, Lincoln in Ontario, who was nine years younger. They were living in the same location in 1885 when their first daughter, Rebecca Mae was born, and were still there in 1890 when her sister Lois was born. John was here in the 1891 census, a lodger, although he was also recorded with his family in Ontario, where he was a real estate agent. That year the rest of his family moved west, and in 1897 a son, William Orson Banfield was born.

J J Banfield became a pillar of the Vancouver community. He was elected an alderman in 1896, and had the backing of the Province newspaper when he ran for mayor a year later, (but was beaten by William Templeton). “This is the season when candidates for the Mayoralty and civic honours (like the owl and the oyster) are with us. Alderman J. J. Banfield as yet stands alone before the electors of Vancouver as of the Terminal City aspirant to the position of Mayor. He is a strong local favourite and will prove a formidable rival to anyone who may come forward to oppose him in the forthcoming election.

He has given eminent satisfaction as chairman of the Finance Committee during the past year and a study of the present standing of the city speaks well for his administrative ability.

In 1898 he became a Director of the Golden Cache Co, a mining consortium. He was prosecuted for erecting buildings on False Creek that same year, but denied ownership and the case was dropped. (We assume he may have been an agent for whoever did construct the unauthorised buildings). He worked both as a land agent and a mining broker, offering interests in mines, and real estate, advertising both as J J Banfield and Co, and as John J Banfield’s List. He was also a Notary Public, and by 1908 when he sponsored the pocket guide map of the city, he also offered loans and insurance services.

He was one of the first members and the treasurer of the Tourist Association, and in 1912 he was elected treasurer of the Progress Club, a new organization dedicated to the creation of a Greater Vancouver. He was also vice-president and treasurer of the Hospital Board, and in 1914 Chairman of the Board. For many years he was chairman of the Vancouver school board. He was also a member of the Board of Trade, and an elder at St. Andrews Presbyterian church.

It was no surprise that Mr. Banfield chose T R Nickson to build his investment. Thomas Ralph Nickson married Rebecca Mae Banfield on September 9, 1908. In 1912 the Nickson’s briefly lived in the Banfield household at 644 Bute, a house across the street from the apartments. They had three sons, John, Allen and Rex, but divorced in the 1920s. Mae married again to Charles Cummings, who headed the Northern Construction Company. He had been married with children in Vancouver, but had also been divorced (in Reno, Nevada in 1928). He was on a business trip to Palm Springs, California, in 1933, to survey a contract to pipe water to Los Angeles, when he died unexpectedly at the age of 53.

(William) Orson Banfield went to local schools, served as a mule train driver in the First World War and, as a Trekker, graduated from UBC in 1923 in chemical engineering. (‘Trekkers’ were participants in the Great March of October 1922 that saw more than 1,000 students descend on the Point Grey peninsula to express their displeasure at the slowness of the government in building the university there.)

The Stadacona Block was first listed in 1911 at 645 Bute Street, with 22 tenants, although the census recorded it as 601 Bute. One of the tenants was James W Banfield, from Nova Scotia, with his wife Dorothy and their daughter. Like J J Banfield, he was in real estate, as was John Honeyman, another tenant. Other tenants included C Nelson Ecclestone, also in real estate, Walter Nichol, a bookkeeper with Molson’s Bank, George Black, a barrister and John J Tulk, manager of the Diamond Liquor Co. The Tulks were still living here ten years later when their son, John, a successful lawyer, died after a five year illness, leaving a widow and four children. A year later John Levin, a described as Winnipeg pioneer, and owner of the Norwood Hotel hotel moved in, and died just a few weeks later at the age of 65. A well-known member of the Jewish community, he had moved his family west for his health from Calgary, but his heart disease left a widow, three sons and two daughters.

In 1945 the building was sold for $60,000, and a year later Mrs. D Gunn, the owner, objected to a cabaret restaurant licence for a former car showroom “Mrs. Gunn, voicing the opposition of 70 of her tenants, because of possible noise, doubted the night spot would cater only to persons over 35, as advertised. Said she: “What woman ever admitted she was over 35?” By the 1950s the apartments were leased to ‘girls only’, with linen and TV provided and in the 1980s the apartments were still advertised for girls, and described as ‘individual rooms’ from $160 a month.

Today there are 26 suites, and the building can be seen in The Flash, and as Cisco’s Apartment Building in Supergirl.

Image source: the Langmann Collection, UBC.


Posted 12 December 2022 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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856 & 872 Seymour Street

There are plans to redevelop this modest Downtown site with a contemporary 7-storey office building behind the facade of the 2-storey building, developed in 1926. The Great War Veteran’s Building was designed by A A Cox, and cost $24,000, and was built by Cameron Construction Co. Next door Central Battery Service built the single storey building in 1921 and altered it a year later (it was 864 Seymour then, and 872 today).

The Great War Veteran’s Association had premises in 1919 on West Hastings, but built this new building with an auditorium and offices when sufficient funds had been accumulated. Before it was built there was a house here, divided up into separately leased rooms.

As the GWVA Hall, and then the Canadian Legion Hall branches of different service associations met here, especially during the second world war. After the war other groups hired the hall – including the Ex-tel-o club (we’re taking a wild guess at former telephone operators?), the joint labor-veterans’ committee, and the Northumberland and Durham Society for example (all in 1946). In 1950 thieves made off with 7 cartons of cigarettes and eight cases of beer. The safe was also removed, and the dial knocked off, but couldn’t be opened by the thieves. In the 1950s the Orange Order held the Loyal Protestant Home Tag Day at the hall.

By the mid 1960s references to Legion meetings had almost disappeared. The Vancouver Opera Association took over, and various arts activities started up. Vancouver Guild of Puppeteers performed here in 1965 and the Ballet Summer School was held here a year later. In 1976 the VOA made a loss of $42,000, but that was far less than expected as they had sold the hall for $218,217. The association blamed cost overruns by The Merry Widow, but still had another property at 111 Dunsmuir (for a while). There are no references to the building for several years, but in 1985 a Cabaret Licence was approved, allowing alcohol sales from 7pm to 2am. Club 856 opened up after advertising for cocktail waitress/er and a doorperson.

The club reopened in 1987 as Hollywood North, offering dancing and karaoke in an intimate atmosphere. A 1992 article, describing the bar as one of the ‘the poshest in the city’ noted that the owners agreed that ‘karaoke is dead’ and so allowed Mark Manhattan of The Outrageous Valentinos and partner Tex Rich to open ‘Licorice Whip’ two nights of the week. Early booking for live bands Potatohead, Luna Rosa, The Outrageous Valentinos and Art Bergmann with Short Leash. That version of the club didn’t last long, but Hollywood North continued with a jazz theme. Dee Daniels performed in 1992, not long before pianist Diana Krall was booked. For a short while Central Studios were here – opened in 2019, a Queer owned ‘part assembly space and part art studio, acting as both a production house and a presentation space’, unfortunately timed to coincide with the Covid pandemic.

Next door Central Battery Service was replaced by Holbrook Tires in the 1930, Callender’s radio store in the early 1940s and Seymour Machine Works in the late 1940s. In 1951 Ralph Thoreau, a plumber was based here, and by 1960 the Fairway Golf store, selling bags and clubs at ‘up to 20% off American prices’. In 1980 it had become the short-lived Ne Chi Zu Works Gallery, replaced in 1981 by VIP Collision Repairs and a year later by the Body and Paint Shop Co, who offered to pay the ICBC $100 deductible on car painting. In our 2003 image B Wireless sold Telus cellphones, and today Daily Body Care operates as a massage parlour and spa (not the RMT type). An online review, translated by Google says “Cleanest, tallest in the city center on the place, very friendly staff and a professional massage, come every week”


Posted 5 December 2022 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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Hamilton Street – 1100 block

These are the loading dock side of a range of Homer Street warehouses that we saw from the other side in an earlier post. On the left is Smith Davidson & Wright’s warehouse, on the corner of Davie Street. Designed by E E Blackmore for a wholesale paper and stationery business it was completed in 1911. The huge canopy on the Hamilton side allowed trans-shipment of goods from rail cars, or trucks in the street, to the warehouse without any impact from adverse weather. As the area changed in recent years, and office and restaurants moved into the area, the canopies have been retained, although in a less solid form, allowing outdoor dining under cover in spring and fall. The Cactus Club Cafe here has added an all-weather screened area to allow the space’s use to continue through winter.

In 1981, when the picture was taken, the rail use had almost been abandoned, but the warehouse operations were still in place. (To our surprise, there are very few images of railcars occupying the tracks; it seems that as often as not wagons would block the street at right angles to load from the docks).

To the north is apparently the same building in 1981 and 2022, but actually it’s a new built recreation. The McMaster building became residential in 2006, and in the process of stripping the building for seismic upgrade and conversion it was found to be so unsafe as to be impossible to save. The Homer facade was retained, and the rest of the building is 100% new build (with a replica recreation of the original building).

The McMaster company was formed in 1901 by 3 brothers, William, James and Edward McMaster who were unusually shown living at home in Toronto and also lodging in Vancouver in the census that year. They were initially clothing wholesalers, with premises on Cordova. They became McMasters Ltd., manufacturers of shirts and overalls, and sold their business to the B. C. Shirt and Overall Manufacturing Co., Ltd. in 1916. Although their name is attached to the building, the first tenant here was the Canadian Consolidated Rubber Co. The building was developed by Adamson & Main, in 1910, designed by architects Campbell & Bennett, and built by T G Coulson for $35,000. By 1920 there was a Royal Bank branch on the main Homer Street floor, Ives Modern Bedsteads occupying the space next to them, and Smith Davidson & Wright using the rest of the building.

The same developers built the lower $40,000 warehouse next door. We think the Adamson who developed the buildings was James Adamson, chief engineer on the CPR’s Empress of India, and later the Empress of Russia. His partner was probably David Main, a Scottish carpenter, turned contractor and later real-estate investor. The first tenant in the lower building wasn’t until 1914, when DeLaval Dairy Supply Co Ltd moved in.  Thet were still here in 1920, but there were four separate units with Druggists Sundries Co, Dominion Equipment & Supply, and Cyders Ltd., with Brown Fraser & Co (contractors, railroads and mining equipment and supplies) using one of the other floors. De Laval Dairy Supplies (and their rival Dairy Supply Ltd) and Brown Fraser were still in the same locations twenty years later, along with an upholstery business and outdoor advertising companies, a Quebec company, Vibra-Lite Displays, and Poster-Ette.

Today the warehouse on the corner, 1190 Homer, is mostly office space owned by Madison Pacific, including the Vancouver offices of Apple Canada. Condos in The McMaster Building at 1180 Homer are priced at around $1,400 per square foot, and a 2-bed apartment is available for over $1.8m. 1148 Homer is also offices, including those of Labatt Breweries British Columbia, part of Anheuser-Busch InBev, and owner of Stanley Park Brewing Co (who now actually brew a small amount of their product in Stanley Park, rather than on an industrial estate in Delta).

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-E13.04


Kensington Place Apartments – Nicola Street


This majestic Italianate styled building has stood in the West End for over 100 years. Completed right at the end of 1913 (when the picture was taken), it was designed by ‘P M Julian’ in 1912 for Robertson & Hackett. It has a Nicola Street entrance but used its Beach Avenue address for the permit. Philip Jullien, the architect, was from Washington DC where he learned the Beaux Arts style while working in several offices there. (He ended the 19th century trying to make his fortune in the Yukon goldfields, which might be how he became acquainted with Vancouver). He arrived here in 1910, and this was his biggest commission here, although he designed much bigger buildings on his return to Washington in 1916.

Ironically Robertson and Hackett made their fortune owning a sawmill at the south foot of Granville Street in False Creek, but they chose to build their $75,000 five/six storey investment apartments in brick & concrete. They had over 40 building permits over the years, but apart from this they were all for relatively minor changes and additions to their sawmills, or a few houses they seem to have owned elsewhere in Downtown.

David Robertson was a Scotsman, who established a construction business in England in the 1870s. He travelled to Toronto, then headed west, meeting James Hackett for the first time on the train when he joined it in Winnipeg. They formed a construction partnership responsible for building many of the city’s prestigeous early buildings. In 1891 they opened a sawmill, which they moved to False Creek in 1895, then added a sash and door factory, which burned down in 1906, (so they bought out a rival to continue operations).

James William Hackett was born in Truro, Nova Scotia, and arrived in Vancouver in 1888 after a decade in the construction business in Winnipeg. James was elected an alderman in 1897, and was an active member of the Board of Trade. After his death in 1918 his widow lived in Kensington Place apartments. His son, George Robertson Hackett became Manager and secretary-treasurer of the business, and David Robertson was president. In 1921 David, who never married, was living with his nephew, Alex, who was manager of the sash factory, Elizabeth, Alex’s wife, their 10-year-old daughter, and Elizabeth’s younger sister, who was a telephone operator with BC Phones. David was still at the same address when he died in 1933, aged 83.

The building started life as apartments – 22 huge ones. There are only four suites per floor, most with two bedrooms and two or three bathrooms. The first mention of the building is at the end of 1913, when F Bruce Begg, ‘of the Begg Motor Company‘ got married in Buffalo, New York, and on his return to Canada would be living here (on the top floor). While the seriously wealthy were building houses in Shaughnessy, those in society who preferred to rent were moving here. George Kidd, financier and comptroller of the BC Electric Railway had a top floor suite. Dr George Worthington, a prominent physician who later owned the Vancouver Drug Company was in suite 20. Norman Ridley-Shield who had been business manager of the Kelowna Opera House had a penthouse suite. A C Brydon-Jack, a well-known and well-connected lawyer lived here in 1916. From New Brunswick, he was the senior prosecutor in most crown criminal trials in the city. He organized the Dominion Trust Company. In 1915 only his wife Vera, was mentioned as resident (and presumably their children, aged 14 and 13). She was daughter of a New Brunswick shipbuilder. Arthur was living in the Main Hotel. Unusually, their divorce made the newspapers, in 1917, the year that Arthur remarried in Seattle. In 1919, Vera Brydon-Jack also remarried, also in Seattle.

Mr. and Mrs. Campbell Sweeny and their family moved from their flat in the Bank of Montreal Building. Mr. Sweeny arrived in 1887 as manager of the first Bank of Montreal branch in the city. Mrs Sweeny died soon after in November 1914, just before her son, Benjamin, was able to leave Europe to visit. He was in the Royal Engineers and had been wounded in battle. Shortly afterwards the remaining family moved to apartments in the Hotel Vancouver.

In 1916 the owners (still Robertson and Hackett), agreed to allow an auction of the valuable and recently acquired contents of Suite 32 ‘as the owner is going to the front’. Everything had been recently purcahsed from the Standard Furniture Co, ‘regardless of cost’ including Persian rugs that had cost $185 each. That same year Mrs. John D McNeill was visited by her mother, Mrs. J T Hightower of San Francisco. Her husband was managing director of a coal company that distributed ‘jingle pot coal’.

In the 1940s and 50s, the building was home to the celebrated Canadian novelist, Ethel Wilson and her husband. In the late 1960s the owners were planning to redevelop the building, but tenants led by Terry Devlin successfully bought the building, and in 1975 it was an early conversion to a strata building, and is also an ‘A’ on the Heritage Register. The new owners gradually updated the building, led by architect, heritage advocate and resident, Charlotte Murray. The exterior was restored; the cornice re-built, and the windows (almost certainly from a Roberrtson & Hackett factory) restored. Suites now sell for up to $3m each.

Image source: Library & Archives Canada 3259566


Posted 28 November 2022 by ChangingCity in Still Standing, West End

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451 East Pender Street

This is one of the earliest houses still standing in the city, and our 1986 image shows it was in pretty poor condition when the picture was taken. Everything was straightened up and repaired in 1999, when it was rebuilt, extended, and turned into a 3-unit strata, designed by Alan Diamond Architects.

It started life in 1889, and was built for Joseph Cameron. It might even have been built in 1888, as the 1889 insurance map shows the house, although the street directory clerk only caught up in 1891 when Joseph Cameron was shown at 523 Princess (the name for East Pender then). In the census that year 31-year old Joseph, his wife, Jennie (a year younger), and their daughters, listed as Tillie, aged 4, and Olive, 2, were recorded, but Joseph’s profession has been obscured in the record. He was shown being born in New Brunswick, as was his wife, and her brother, James McIntyre a general labourer who was also living with them (and shown as a lumberman in the directory).

Joseph and Jeanette (as she was christened) had arrived very soon after the fire, as Tilly was born in Vancouver in February 1887. This was confirmed in an article when they celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary, and in an interview with Major Matthews, the archivist, in 1937. They arrived in November 1886, having been married in 1879. After farming for a while, Joseph had a carriage business in Dakota, then headed west via Winnipeg on the newly completed railway to Port Moody, and then on a paddle steamer into Vancouver. They managed to find an empty store on Alexander Street to rent, but their water came from a well at Main and Alexander. Tilly was born in the store, and they found a house on Carrall Street to rent, over the False Creek tide water. Not long afterwards they built the house in the picture, paying $200 for the plot..

Joseph was listed in 1888, working for the Royal City Mills (that despite its name was on Carrall Street). Olive’s wedding certificate said she was born in New Brunswick in 1889 rather than in the family home. The family had been in their house long enough that they had established a garden by 1890, which attracted the attention of a vandal.

In 1892 the home address was changed to 425 Princess. In the 1901 census the family were still here, and had added Grace, who was five and Gordon, two. Joseph’s obituary said he was associated with the Royal City Mills for 25 years, then was a partner with the W W Stuart Lumber Co. for eight years, before he joined the staff at the Provincial Court House as engineer, where he worked for 25 years. After over 25 years in the same house, the family moved to Bayswater Street in Kitsilano. The Province recorded a tea party at their new home in 1913, when Mrs. F Rolston helped her mother receive guests; that was Tilly. Olive Cameron married Francis Prior in 1907, and her sister Tilly married Fred Rolston in January 1909, and William was born in November that year. Audrey followed in 1912, and Ethel in 1914. Gordon married Zelda Hamilton in 1924.

Jeanette died in 1941, and when Joseph died, in 1944, his death certificate suggested he was 4 years older than all the census records, but may have been recorded inaccurately.

Mrs Fred Rolston, as Tilly was called in the press, moved away to Brandon, Manitoba in 1929, and then briefly in 1930 to Winnipeg. She had studied at UBC in 1909, and at the Normal School, and was a teacher until she married Fred Rolston and started a family. He would become the first president of the BC Motor Dealers’ Association, and was associated with the Mutual Life of Canada before he retired. Once her three children had grown up she looked around for a more active role in the city. She was already a Sunday School teacher and was involved with numerous community associations including the Vancouver Council of Women. She was particularly active in the Candian Society for the Control of Cancer. (Her sister, Olive, had died in 1936). She was also a Director of the PNE and the VSO.

Tilly was elected to the Parks Board in 1938 on the NPA ticket, and was the founding chairman of the Theatre Under the Stars in 1940. She entered Provincial politics as the Conservative member for Vancouver-Point Grey in 1941 at the age of 54. She was re-elected in 1945 (the year her husband Fred died, at the age of 60) and in 1949 as a member of the Coalition party. She had been diagnosed with cancer in 1951, but nevertheless stood, and was elected again in 1952 as a member of W A C Bennett’s first Social Credit government. In that same year, Bennett appointed her to the position of Minister of Education. She was British Columbia’s first woman cabinet minister to hold a cabinet portfolio (and also the first in Canada).

In her first year in cabinet, she had to defend a school curriculum guide entitled Effective Living, that newly published “contained instruction for teachers to discuss teen-age activities, such as “dating,” and “modern expressions and practices” – including blind dates, Dutch treat, going steady, petting, good night kiss, pick-up dates, wearing a boy’s (or girl’s) school or class pin, cost of dates, etc.” Many parents, (and some teachers) objected to the guide, but Tilly defended it, saying “We must be vitally concerned with the kind of person the pupil is becoming“. In March 1951 she made a motion in the BC Legislature that the prices of butter had become prohibitive and the  restrictions that controlled the colour of margarine should be removed. Her motion was defeated but she didn’t give up; she continued to campaign and in 1952 a bill was passed that ended all colour regulations for margarine. She voted for the Equal Pay Act, but was often heard saying ‘the woman’s place is in the home’ (which has a certain irony as it’s hard to imagine she had much time to see her own).

A 1952 Macleans article described her style: Tilly, an ebullient grandmother, stood out like a red sail. She liked a cocktail, smoked (and once set fire to her hat while lighting a cigarette at a civic meeting), administered her Vancouver home according to the tenets of an Esquire Handbook for Hosts, loved bridge, costume jewelry and making annual tours to just about every part of the world except Alberta”. Her death in October 1953 was a shock, although it was apparently obvious that her cancer treatment was taking a lot out of her.

She was the first woman in British Columbia to receive a state funeral, and in 2011 the City of Vancouver named a new Downtown street, Rolston Street, in her honour.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 791-1256



Posted 7 November 2022 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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The Chatelaine – 905 Chilco Street

This 1930 building, designed by W M Dodd was built towards the end of a wave of West End development, when family houses were replaced with multi-unit rental walk-up apartments. J W Fordham Johnson had built a house here in 1904, which by 1928 had been split into five suites. The contents were sold off in June 1930, and the new apartments were complete by April 1931. This Vancouver Public Library image was probably taken later that year.

While some buildings of the era were fairly simple, this block has a patterned brick facade, an ornate stepped brick parapet and a gothic arched entry. The Journal of Commerce confirms the architect, and said that a ‘local investor’ was developing the $62,500 project. The building permit confirms the identity of the builder, J Galloway, and also identifies him as the developer. John Galloway also developed and built the Kenmore Apartments on Gilford Street, as well another apartment building on West 14th Avenue.

John, and his son John jnr. lived on East 7th Avenue, and James L Galloway on West 27th. Fortunately for us, he had been living on East 7th a decade earlier, so we can find him in the 1921 census. John and Margaret were both shown arriving in Canada in 1888. In 1921 they were both aged 57, and John was listed as a builder, and they were both born in Scotland. John Galloway had married Margaret Logan in Lanarkshire in 1885, and they had eight children, five of them girls. Margaret, the eldest daughter was born in Scotland in 1885, Sabina, Mary and Jean were born in Quebec from 1889 to 1894. The family headed west for a while, with Jean born in Vernon. A Daily World news story shows the family had previously been in Vancouver – and why they might prefer big city life.

John Galloway, late of this city, but now a contractor at Vernon, had a rough experience last month. He left Granite Creek on Tuesday, May 14th, intending to make the west side of Okanagan lake that night. In endeavoring to make a short cut over the mountains he lost his way. On the following day while attempting to cross a canyon his horse fell with him. The animal got so badly used up that he was not able to walk, and In trying to get him to a more open part, he kicked out and broke one of Mr. Calloway’s arms, close to the shoulder. After wandering about he at last made Granite Creek on the Saturday, having to swim very deep rivers. He was without food all this time, and suffered untold pain from his broken arm. Dr. Sutton, of Nicola, happened to be at Granite Creek that day and set the limb, after which the plucky contractor secured a new horse and rode on to Vernon by way of Nicola and Grand Prairie.”

John, the oldest son (who joined his father in the contracting business) was born in Montreal in 1896, and Florence was born in Scotland in 1900. James was born in Vancouver in 1902, and the final son, William, in Scotland in 1905.

In 1932 the building was in receivership, at the request of Halifax Investors Ltd. In 1937 the ownership question got really complicated. The Sun reported “Judge Declares Property Deal “Conspiracy”. Declaring that the transaction was part of a conspiracy to defraud the creditors of Joseph Francis Langer, Justice Murphy, on Friday, dismissed the suit of Langer’s wife, Jennie Louise Langer, 3138 West Fifteenth Avenue, for an interest in the Chatellaine Apartments, 905 Chilco Street. Another action, in which Langer joined his wife, for a declaration that they are owners of the Chatelaine subject to a $39,000 mortgage, also was dismissed for the same reason. 

James Torrance Armstrong, broker, Armstrong & Laing: Halifax Investors Ltd., and Mrs. Armstrong, as defendants, were deprived of their costs because they, too, were parties to the “illegal transaction,” the Judge declared. In a Judgment, Mr. Justice Murphy referred to a $78,000 Judgment obtained against Langer in 1932 by McTavish Bros. He recalled also that Mrs. Langer won a decision from the Court of Appeal restoring to her the furnishings of her home after they had been seized by McTavish Bros, for costs in that case; that Langer placed mortgages totalling $31,000 on their Granville Street home; that he sold the Orpheum and six other Vancouver theatres, admittedly, at great sacrifice, for $110,000 cash; all before he left British Columbia on Dec. 26, 1931, not to return until this year to assist his wife in this litigation.

Langer testified at the trial that he sacrificed a fortune in South Africa to return to Vancouver. The Judge stated that not only did Langer invest $5,000 In a second mortgage on the Chatelaine in the name of Halifax Investors Ltd. in a plan to cover up his assets, but he and Armstrong carried out a scheme to defraud Mrs. Langer of money to which they both knew she was entitled. J. Edward Bird and Ronald Howard conducted the Langers’ case; J. A. Macinnes and Percy White appeared for the defendants other than Kapoor Singh and his wife, who were represented by W. B. Farris and Ernest Bull. The latter obtained a dismissal with costs at the close of the plaintiff’s case on the ground that they were innocent purchasers for $2500 of stock in Halifax Investors.

For decades this was the home of Percy Williams, an insurance agent. Percy was better known as the double gold medal winner at the 1928 Summer Olympics. On his return there was a homecoming parade, ending at Stanley Park where awaiting him was a new car, $500 in gold and a $1600 trust fund. In 1930 he set a world record in the 100 meters, followed shortly with the gold medal victory in the 100 yards at the first-ever British Empire Games. At the Olympics in 1932 he had an injury, and wasn’t as fast. He never liked the spotlight and later claimed he hated running. He never again attended a track meet, even as a spectator, from the day he retired until the day he died In 1982, following a decline in his health, including two strokes. He took his life in his apartment with a shotgun he received as a prize for winning the gold medals.

The Chatelaine, 40 years after his death, still offers classy apartments in what is now a heritage building.


Posted 3 November 2022 by ChangingCity in Still Standing, West End

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Beatty Street from the Georgia Viaduct

We looked at the street view of these Beatty Street warehouse a few years ago. This picture was taken 50 years ago, (in 1972) a decade before the stadium was built on the old rail lands between the buildings and False Creek.

The shorter building with the white finish has gone completely. The warehouse was the most expensive of the three. In 1912 a permit was issued for a building to cost $150,000. Designed by Parr, McKenzie & Day for John W Gibb it was pre-leased to the The Canadian Fairbanks Company, who stepped in and completed the building when Mr. Gibbs ran into cash flow problems. The case was resolved in court, Mr. Gibbs ended up losing his interest in the building (to his father), and Fairbanks, a machinery supplier, stayed here until the 1950s.

In the middle is a building that cost $140,000 for the National Drug Co, built by George Snider & Brethour in 1913, designed by H S Griffith. Today it has had a blue tile makeover, and like its neighbour is used as office space. The four bay warehouse was designed by Dalton and Eveleigh for F T Cope. The same builders as its neighbour completed it at a cost of $75,000.

The Fairbanks warehouse was demolished and became the plaza in front of the BC Place stadium, constructed in the early 1980s, (allowing windows to be installed in the side of the National Drug Co building). The Terry Fox memorial, designed by Douglas Coupland, is located here. The rest of the site was part of the land sold to Concord Pacific, and they in turn sold it to PCI Group to develop an office building, initially known for its lead tenant as The Pivotal Building, designed by Busby & Associates, and completed in 2002. A second phase was leased to the Federal Government. PCI developed the site ‘in partnership with high net worth private investor’.

On the right are trees planted at the time the stadium was built, and which will be cut down soon. The former Pacific Press printing works is located on the corner of Beatty and Georgia, built in 1949. It was converted in 1968 to the boilerhouse of Central Heat Distribution who established a centralized heating network throughout the Downtown. New boilers are about to be installed in conjunction with a large, S-shaped office building and entertainment pavilion that will replace the 1940s building while still retaining the heating system operations.

Image source City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-5