Archive for the ‘Still Standing’ Category

608 Alexander Street

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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758 East Georgia Street

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 790-0725


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

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Braden & Co – 300 West Cordova Street

This provisions and meat retailer occupied a store in the Arlington Block, developed in 1888 by Dr. James Whetham. No architect has been identified with the building, but another building nearby developed by Dr. Whetham around the same time was designed by N S Hoffar, so it’s likely that this was too. The Arlington Hotel was upstairs.

Whetham, like many early Vancouver developers, came from Ontario. His father moved to Canada, established himself as a general merchant and then died, leaving a widow and three young children. James initially became a teacher, 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 living in Spokane Falls. He only practiced medicine very briefly before moving on to develop real estate, initially in Spokane Falls and then from 1887 (aged 33) in Vancouver.

By 1889 James Whetham had the sixth largest land holdings in the city, was on the board of trade and was a city alderman. He was boarder in the Hotel Vancouver. He died in 1891, aged only 37, of what was diagnosed as typhoid fever.

T J Braden lived on Richards Street, near here, in 1898 when the photograph was taken. He first shows up in 1896, working as a butcher and living on Harris Street. It’s possible he was Thomas J Braden, from Simcoe, Ontario. His brother Robert was working with him a year later, and by 1900 they had additional branches on Harris Street and Granville Street, but by 1901 they were no longer in the city, and these were the premises of the Burrard Inlet Meat Co, managed by Herbert Keithley. Mr. Keithley and his brother-in-law, Robert Leberry, ran six meat stores, some that they had acquired from the Bradens, and lived in New Westminster. Early in 1902 they failed to open the stores, and two days later the San Francisco Call reported their pursuit in the US (left).

The sheriff was on the right track, but not fast enough. A few days later the Province reported that the two men were already mid-ocean, having boarded a sailing ship in San Francisco headed for Australia. It added “The unfortunate part of the affair Is that the wives of the departing men were left in ignorance of their husbands’ destination, and they were left absolutely without funds as well. Both women live In New Westminster and are sisters, and through no fault whatever of their own are left all but penniless. It is said Keithly did write his wife once after his departure, saying that he enclosed certain shares in a local company, the value of which would amount to about twenty-five dollars, but he forgot to send the shares.”

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 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.

Today the building still has retail stores; the butcher’s shop would be unrecognizable to former operators in its contemporary uses as an Italian fashion store for men and women, with the stripped-down design favoured by some clothing retailers.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Bu 5


Posted May 4, 2020 by ChangingCity in Gastown, Still Standing

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Japanese Hall – 475 Alexander Street

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

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

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


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

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Richards and Robson Streets, south west corner


This row of single storey retail buildings has been here, on the 500 block of Robson Street, according to BC Assessment, since 1938. In fact only the western half of the building dates to 1938, the eastern half was built in 1925. The permit was to ‘Mrs Gagnier’, but we’re not sure who, or where she was. The only Gagnier in the city was Delore Gagnier, who was the foreman at the Coca Cola bottling plant, and who lived near here at 987 Seymour. Peter Tardif built the $4,000 investment of 4 retail units, which housed a real estate business, Crystal Confectionery run by D De Poulos, and the Gray Remedy Co (Manufacturers of Gray’s Balm, “The Wonder Healer” and Other Medicinal and Toilet Preparations” in the first year of operation.

The 1938 permit to R F Allan was for $6,500 built by G Galloway & Sons. It’s possible this was Robert F Allan, a ship designer for the BC fishing fleet and coastal ferry services, as well as the classic ocean-going motor yachts in the 1930s, Meander and Fifer, still operating today (as does the Robert Allan business).

The entire lot with six different businesses trading is only 3,000 square feet. To the south is one of two mysteriously undeveloped surface parking lots; one of the last examples in Downtown these days, and escalating in value as everything around is developed. The Hong Kong owners are said to be considering developing the sites with a project that is said to include a hotel and long-stay apartments.

In the 1981 image Ted Lucich‘s Teddy’s Café was at the corner of Robson and Richards. It opened as Teddy’s Snack Bar and lasted until 1987, when it became Cafe S’il Vous Plait, still with a 1940s diner appearance. The Cafe’s last owner, Kyung Wook Kim, took over in 1989, and closed in 2009. Since then it’s cycled through several different Japanese restaurants. Further down the block at 536 Robson, The Strand Barber Shop opened in 1929 and stayed until 1973. Today it’s the bricks and mortar home of streetfood vendor Japadog. In between “Shoe Renu” can be seen in this 1981 image; today you can chose between a Viet Sub, or Falafel. Where you could get a haircut a decade ago in Storm Salon, today (or at least in more normal times) you can chose between curry or a Japanese Cream Puff from Beard Papa’s.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-E06.10


Posted April 9, 2020 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

5 and 11 West Hastings Street

We looked at the history of both these buildings in earlier posts, but we’re revisiting as both have seen more recent restoration, and we’ve researched the buildings a little more. On the right, the Canadian North Star (as it was last known) at 5 West Hastings is slightly younger than the Beacon Hotel to the west. We know that from an image we saw in an earlier post about the Palace Hotel, that pre-dated the Merchant’s Bank built in 1912, and recently restored. This Vancouver Public Library dates from 1920.

The image on that post (on the right) dates from 1899 and shows a two storey wooden building where the North Star was constructed. The Beacon, on the other hand had already been built, as a 3-storey building. That supported our earlier conclusion that when the 1899 news reported that “G W Grant would supervise the construction of a four storey block for B.B. Johnston & Co”, this was the building in question. In 1913, it was called “Drexel Rooms”, a name it kept until the 1980s, then later renamed the North Star Hotel or North Star Rooms, a single room occupancy hotel. In 1978 the Province newspaper investigated conditions in the Downtown Eastside SROs. “The owners of the Drexel are very energy conscious. The lights in the halls are left off. Manager Lau Mack King turned them on the other day because he thought the visitor from The Province represented the provincial government.”

In 1999 the Carnegie Newsletter reported the building had been closed for maintenance and health violations. “Although there are at least 29 units in this hotel, few were rented out monthly and many were just plain unrentable. There were so many orders for repairs that it was impossible to count them all.” It was briefly squatted in 2006 in a protest about the lack of affordable housing, but was already in a dangerous condition. Soon after the back of the building collapsed, leaving the structure open to the elements.

In 2014 the Solterra Group applied for permission to renovate the building to provide 31 self-contained units, each with a bathroom and cooking facilities. Half the rooms are reserved for low-income residents (5 for tenants paying welfare rate) and another 13 rooms at the provincial rent supplement rate, locked in for 30 years

Harry Jones was almost certainly the developer of the Beacon Hotel, probably around 1898. His name is in the 1900 Street Directory as occupying the West Hastings Street building, and he was still paying for repairs as owner in 1922. Harry was from Liverpool, and was an early successful real estate developer. We don’t know when the fourth floor was added; he carried out $1,500 of work to a building on Hastings Street in 1905, but he owned several properties, so we can’t be sure which was involved, and the work probably cost more than that. The style adopted for the addition didn’t attempt to follow the Italianate curved windows of the third floor, but added larger areas of glazing. Initially the rooms upstairs were the Ramona Rooms, then the Pacific Rooms, and more recently (and notoriously), Backpackers Inn, “BC’s worst drug hotel”

The Beacon was one of a number of run down SRO hotels bought by BC Housing in the early 2000s, and has had two periods of restoration. Now run by PHS, it initially reopened in 2009 as a social housing building for individuals living with concurrent disorders. An array of programs are available to residents including regular community kitchen events, pancake breakfasts, and movie nights. The Beacon closed for renovations in August of 2014, and reopened again in September 2016.

Image sources: VPL and City of Vancouver Archives CVA 677-27


Posted April 6, 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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910 Mainland Street

This 1948 warehouse is still going strong. That’s surprising, as it’s in the heart of the Downton South (realtor’s Yaletown) residential area, and covers an entire city block. Like the other Yaletown warehouse structures, it’s been repurposed as office space. When it was built it was the Hudson’s Bay company warehouse, with limited window openings. In acquiring the Zellers brand in the mid 1970s, local retail entrepreneur Joe Segal also picked up the warehouse, which he once said was valued at $600,000 at the time. The Zellers and Fields stores were soon sold on to Hudson’s Bay, but the Segal’s Kingswood Capital retained the warehouse, initially converting it to a wholesale showroom, called Showmart, seen in these 1981 images. Kingswood developed a new showroom, rebranded as the Fashion Exchange in 2001, and the businesses moved to the False Creek Flats.

In 2002 the newly converted office space was occupied by Crystal Decisions, a Vancouver software developer acquired by Seagate Technology. Kingswood totally updated the office space in 2003 when Omicron designed a new skin for the building, adding an extra floor of windows by diamond drilling through the concrete walls. Crystal Decisions were acquired in 2003 by Business Objects, and they in turn were acquired by German software company SAP in 2008, who continue to operate the building as office space.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives  CVA 779-E18.13 and CVA 779-E18.14


Posted March 16, 2020 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing