Archive for the ‘West End’ Category

1030 Robson Street

This 1974 image shows a 3-storey brick apartment building on the 1000 block of Robson. It was developed by Oscar Schuman, (listed as Schumann on the permit), who was owner of the Beaver Cafe, and who lived on Point Grey Road. E J Ryan built the $20,000 development, designed by Parr, McKenzie & Day, in 1912.

Oscar was listed in the 1911 census as a 38-year-old German restaurant owner, with his wife, aged 22, called Olga, from Russia, and a daughter called Margaret who was two. In 1910 he had been fined $100 for selling alcohol in his unlicenced Hastings Street Cafe. In a sting operation, Inspector McMahon ordered whisky with his meal, and paid for it on leaving. Although the owner was not present, he was fined for the offence, as his defence that “He kept the whisky for making sauce, and no one was Instructed to sell It.” wasn’t considered credible. That same year the death of his baby daughter, Anna, was reported.

He first showed up in Vancouver in 1903, when he was running the ‘Saddle Rock Restaurant and Oyster Parlors’ in the Boulder Dining Room on Cordova Street. He sold that in 1907, and this wasn’t his only development – he also built a frame apartment in 1908 on Cornwall Avenue. Despite his German origins, he was still in the city in 1915, running his new rooms here, which were called the Auld Rooms. His family however moved on; there’s a record of Margaret crossing from Washington State to Victoria in 1915, and in 1920 Olga and Margaret were living in a boarding house in Seattle. Oscar himself had left Vancouver by 1916, and we can’t find him after that.

This became the Robson Hotel, run by Charles Pearse in 1918. By 1930 it had become Robson Lodge, a name it retains. Nothing much seems to have happened here. The address appears in the press, but only to advertise rooms. In the 1970s a room was $135 and in the 1980s a 2-room suite was $375 a month. The one excitement was in 1945, when the Sun reported “Police Arrest Silk-Tie Toter. Charles Bryan Codd of 1030 Robson was arrested by police late Sunday in a lane in the 100 block East Pender and charged with theft. Police say they found on him four boxes containing two dozen silk ties, allegedly stolen from the Gum Jang Company, 102 East Pender

In 1974 the Salamander Shoe Store and Happy Feet Shoe Repair were alongside the Robson Florist. At some point the entrance to the apartments was shifted from the centre of the main floor to the east side. For over a decade, this was home to a branch of Cafe Crepe, but that closed during the covid pandemic and the retail space is now for lease.

The single storey stores to the right were developed in 1922 by E Winearls, and built by Bedford Davidson. In 1999 they were replaced with a contemporary glass fronted box, designed by W T Leung.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 778-323

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Posted 20 September 2021 by ChangingCity in Still Standing, West End

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Granville Loops from Above

There are loops at both the north and south end of Granville Bridge. We’re looking at the Downtown end of the bridge, and at a contemporary image taken by Trish Jewison in the Global BC traffic helicopter and published in July 2020. Vancouver House, the cantilevered Bjarke Ingles designed rental and condo tower had already been topped out next to the bridge.

The before image dates back to 1968, when Downtown South was still a mixture of rooming house hotels on Granville Street and low-rise commercial uses both east and west of Granville. Pacific Street runs underneath the bridge, and to the west Beach Avenue ran up to the bridge, but to the east were rail tracks and a sawmill. These days Beach continues as Beach Crescent, looping up around the top of George Wainborn Park, built over the capped contaminated land from the decades of industrial uses. Six buildings developed by Concord Pacific can be seen developed around the western and northern edges of the park. Another tower is planned across from Vancouver House, with a similarly tall tower of condos over a podium of non-market housing to be owned by the City.

There are plans to remove the loops, which occupy a lot of land, and replace them with new streets following the prevailing grid. That will allow two more development sites to be released for four more towers. The Continental Hotel, which sat in the middle of the eastern loop, has already been demolished, although it was still standing when we posted its history in 2013. Across the street to the north the Cecil Hotel has also gone, replaced with the Rolston condo tower, although the adjacent Yale Hotel has been saved.

Further north the biggest slab building in the image in 1968 was the headquarters of BC Electric. It was 11 years old in 1968, and shone out like a beacon at night as the lights were always left on. (The electricity bill went to the owners). Today it’s still there, hidden behind the Wall Centre tower and called The Electra. It’s now a mix of residential condos and commercial units and was converted in 1995,when it had a new skin (as offices generally don’t have opening windows, but that’s a requirement for residential units). To its left St Paul’s Hospital was more obvious in 1968, and just as likely to fall down in the event of the anticipated earthquake. Its replacement is under construction, and Concord Pacific have agreed to pay $1 billion for the old hospital as a future redevelopment.

In the area above the top of Vancouver House there are plans already approved for several more high-rise towers. The first to be built, The Butterfly, is already under construction behind the First Baptist Church (which is getting a major seismic upgrade as part of the development).

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 215-22 and Trish Jewison, Global BC on twitter.

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Posted 2 August 2021 by ChangingCity in Altered, Downtown, West End

Firehall #6 – Nicola Street

Fire hall #6, in the West End, was commissioned in 1907 and opened in 1908. Even though it was developed in the period when the building permits have been lost, we know the architects of the project. Honeyman and Curtis designed the building, possibly the first in North America specifically designed for motorized firetrucks.

It was photographed in 1908 with its Seagrave Hose Wagon and Auto Chemical Engine – both state-of-the-art equipment for the time. After the 1886 fire the City was willing to fund the fire department generously. The Seagrave machines cost around $5,000 each – more than it cost to build most West End houses at the time. (Seagrave still make fire trucks today, but the entire Vancouver fleet are now built by Spartan).

There was a delay getting the building started; the architects reported to the City Council that it was such a busy time for contractors that it had been difficult to get any of them to bid. “The public advertisement had not drawn a single call for the specifications, but by personal effort several contractors had been Induced to figure.” In the end Peter Tardif won the contract to build the fire hall.

The building was expanded in 1929, with a design by A J Bird, and there was another picture taken by Stuart Thomson, with the latest engine proudly on display.

As far as we can tell, that’s an American La France ladder truck in the picture on the right. Not too many were built with the firemen sitting over the front wheels.

Our main image dates from 1975. The hall received a further makeover, and was seismically upgraded in 1988, designed by Henry Hawthorne Architect. The fire staff continue to fight fires and attend other emergency calls throughout the West End, equipped with a Spartan Gladiator Sirius LFD engine, and pump. Recently the city’s ladder trucks have changed from 75 foot units to 105 foot (to better service fires in 6-storey buildings) so the ladder trucks are now located in other West End and Downtown fire halls.

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-395, CVA 99-3730 and FD P39.2

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Posted 10 June 2021 by ChangingCity in Still Standing, West End

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1145 Robson Street

There aren’t many large office buildings on Robson Street, but this one has been around over 70 years. It received a makeover in 1986, when it got a post-modern appearance designed by Downs Archambault, and a new name as John Robson Place. Our 1974 picture shows it as it was completed in 1948, when it became the Unemployment Insurance Commission offices. Over the years other government departments were also located here, including Indian and Northern Affairs. 

The Vancouver Sun announced the project in 1948. “SIX-STOREY BUILDING FOR ROBSON STREET Preliminary work has begun on a six-storey, $375,000 office building for Alvin Estates Limited at 1145-1155 Robson, between Bute and Thurlow. The building is reported to be for occupancy of a government agency. Contractors are Allan and Viner Construction Company. Swinburne A. Kayll is architect and F. Wavell Urry is consulting engineer. Plans show a six-storey reinforced concrete building with 99 feet frontage and 131 feet depth. Entrances are to be finished in marble and glass block. Provision is made for two passenger elevators.” The picture shows that they actually built seven floors.

These days the space is occupied by a number of businesses; software developers, accountants, a mining company, a travel agency and management agencies and now has retail units at street level

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 778-332 – 1100

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Posted 12 April 2021 by ChangingCity in Altered, West End

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Ocean Towers – Morton Avenue

As we noted in the previous post, his 1959 apartment building helped change the appearance of Vancouver. Designed by Rix Reineke with Chow, Nelson and Associates it was originally designed at 21 storeys, but slightly scaled back to 19. There were only 69 units, varying from just over 1,000 square feet to over 1,500. Originally priced at between $25,500 and $32,000, as costs rose, so did the prices, which eventually were selling at $31,000 to $38,000. The building was devloped and built by the Becker Construction Co, and was originally penciled in at $1 million, but eventually cost about double that. The Vancouver Sun reported that site assembly cost about $200,000. 

The design – seen here in the 1960s – represented a dramatic break from the early 1950s zoning of the West End, which allowed 8 storey buildings (many of which were built to meet that limit). Buildings could theoretically go higher if they were thinner, and this tower is very skinny from north to south, but almost a full block east to west. While the ‘Miami modernist’ look was admired by some, the scale of the building and its effect on the buildings behind made it few friends. It was opposed by the Town Planning Commission, the city’s Technical Planning Board, the Vancouver Housing Authority and the Community Arts Council. Council approved it anyway, but the perceived negative impact of this building and a few others built in the same era ensured they would be the last.

Design guidelines required narrower buildings with space between them when later residential areas were planned, and new towers added to the West End. That’s still true today, as the experience of this tower continues to determine tower design not just in the city of Vancouver, but throughout Metro Vancouver. The architect later moved to La Jolla in California.

It wasn’t – and isn’t a condo building. The strata act wasn’t introduced until 1966. It started life as a ‘self owned’ building with each owner having shares in the company that owned the building. Some time in the next decade or so it became an ownership co-op. which it still is today. At the time we were drafting this post there were five units available with the least expensive priced at $1.5 million, and the additional fees were $1,000 a month.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives, Leslie F Sheraton CVA 2009-001.120

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Posted 8 April 2021 by ChangingCity in Still Standing, West End

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1033 Davie Street

These days this is The Davie Building, with the popular Fountainhead Pub on the main floor. The offices on the upper floors have a variety of smaller suites, with local professional like lawyers and insurance brokers, and the offices of the West End Business Improvement Association. However, most of the tenants are medical practitioners, either providing local services like chiropractic, or more specialist clinics, thanks to the proximity of St Paul’s Hospital. The brick tower behind the building is part of St Paul’s, due to move from this location in a few years to a new hospital site next to the Canadian Northern Station, where Union Station used to stand.

When it first opened in 1959 this was known as the Metropolitan Medical Centre, and it featured in an advertisement in the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Journal, which helpfully identifies the architect. That was Gerald Hamilton and Associates, a practice responsible for several of the city’s best modernist buildings. The ad says it was an attractive functionally planned medical centre, but the most obvious design element was the lattice screen that completely obscured the south-west facing facade of the building. Our 2005 image shows the curved plastic awning roof on the Fountainhead pub in those days. In 2013 a comprehensive building renovation replaced the screen, and the glazing behind.

The illustration shows that when it was built, the lower floor was also office space, with a classic 1950s / early 1960s frieze in front of the entrance. The introduction of the pub saw the addition of a curved canopy, now replaced with a brick screen and large window openings and a patio that has a glazed awning added in winter.

Next door there has been a cleared site (with a temporary community garden) that replaced a gas station and retail building. There are now plans for a 47-storey mixed-use tower, designed by Merrick Architecture.

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Posted 8 March 2021 by ChangingCity in Still Standing, West End

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1494 & 1496 Harwood Street

This is one of the increasingly rare houses in the West End. It’s actually a three unit strata these days, having been converted from a duplex in 1975. This 1985 image shows all three units for sale, suggesting it continued in a single ownership until then. It only occupies half the depth of the lot, although unusually there’s a narrow path at the back leading to the lane. Once celebrations can safely be held, the owners might want to hold a party, as the permit was approved in December 1919, so the house was completed just over 100 years ago.

The architects were Gardiner and Mercer, and the description in the BC Building Record for the $4,750 building (built by the Vancouver Construction Company) said “early English design, two-storeys, containing 7-rooms and will have every modern convenience”. The developer was F C Saunders ‘of 718 Granville’. That was the business address of Frank Saunders, a barrister, living on Jervis in an apartment in 1919. He moved into his new home at 1496 Harwood once it was completed. The 1911 census showed him living at 601 Bute, with his wife Pauline. He was 32, and she was two years younger. She was from Ontario, and he was Scottish, having arrived in Canada in 1888. From Pauline’s death certificate (in 1967, when she was 87) we know he was Frank Caithness Saunders, and that she came from Whidley in Ontario.

In 1904 Frank was a founding member of the Siche Light Company, who were in the acetylene gas lighting business – but there’s no sign of any company activity. However, it does tell us the Frank was a lawyer then, and living in Montreal. Mr. Saunders seems to have led an unremarkable life – or at least one that didn’t attract any coverage in the local press. He was President of the Stanley Park Lawn Bowling Club in 1919. Frank was only 59 when he died in 1933. His widow continued to live in this house until at least 1955, but it was obviously more than she needed on her own, and in 1940 the second address of 1494 Harwood appeared for the first time, reflecting a split into two units.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 790-1676

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Posted 18 February 2021 by ChangingCity in Still Standing, West End

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Lost Gas Stations in Downtown Vancouver

We’ve seen a lot of Downtown and west End locations where there used to be gas stations – we think there were at least 99 of them in the past where they’ve now disappeared. Today there’s just one left – for now. On the corner of Davie and Burrard, the last remaining Esso station has been bought by a property developer. A block away there was a Shell station, developed in 1951, and seen in this image from the same year in the Vancouver Public Library photo collection. The garage structure is still there, with additional elements added as restaurants. The gas station had closed by the early 1980s, and became a Mr. Submarine store for a while.

Further south, at Seymour and Pacific, Imperial Oil had a gas station, seen here when it first opened in 1925. Townley and Matheson designed the structure, which was built by Purdy & Rodger at a cost of $6,900. The gas bar was replaced with part of the Seymour off-ramp of the Granville Bridge, completed in 1954. If the number of service stations seems low today, that wasn’t the case in the 1920s. This was 601 Pacific, and Imperial Oil had another Townley and Matheson designed gas bar at 740 Pacific, and Union Oil had another on the same block. By 1930 this gas station no longer existed.

In the background is the Bayview Hotel, later renamed The Continental, and in its later years operated by the City of Vancouver as an SRO hotel until it was demolished in 2015. In its early years the hotel was an expensive investment for Kilroy and Morgan, who spent $100,000 to build the hotel designed by Parr and Fee in 1911.

Finally (for the time being), there was a larger gas station on Robson Street, operated here in 1974 by Texaco. In 1985 it was redeveloped with a 2-storey retail building that includes a London Drugs store, and smaller retail units on Bute Street. Initially there were houses built here, but the motoring use of the site was over decades – in the 1930s Webber-MacDonald Garage was here, repairing and selling pre-owned automobiles, which became the Robson Garage a few years later. The corner however had a different building; the Bute Street Private hospital was here for decades. It became a rooming house, but was still here when Hemrich Brothers (who ran a garage on Howe, and then Dunsmuir Street for many years) were running the Robson Street garage in the later 1950s. The building had originally been built in 1928 for J McRae, who hired Townley and Metheson to design his $16,000 garage. The big new Texaco canopy, facilities  and forecourt replaced the buildings on the street until the 1980s redevelopment put buildings back along Robson.

Image sources: VPL, City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1399-530 and CVA 778-333

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Posted 8 February 2021 by ChangingCity in Altered, Downtown, Gone, West End

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Robson Street – 1000 block, north side

There was a row of stores built on Robson Street in 1911, although in this 1950 Vancouver Public Library image by Artray it looks like they were probably remodelled at some point. This location was initially developed with houses, and in 1911 the owner, Harold Wilson, moved a house to the back of the lot and hired Parr and Fee to design retail stores costing $10,000 on the street, built by Baynes and Horie. We know what his middle initial was from one of the two permits submitted by H C Wilson, but we haven’t definitively confirmed his identity. It seems most likely that he was Harry C Wilson, a shoe merchant with a store on Granville Street in the 1910s.

Harry was initially a baker, in partnership as Wilson and Sugden, in Strathcona. He lived in the 700 block of Keefer Street, above the bakery, in a building still standing today. By 1912 he was listed as both a grocer at 733 Keefer, and ‘of the Wilson Shoe Co’, and he had moved to E14th Avenue. In 1909 he got married, and the wedding notice noted that he was originally from New Brunswick, and his wife from Nova Scotia. As a member of the International Order of Foresters, he took a continent-wide tour, starting in Los Angeles and then to various unidentified ‘eastern cities’, ending up at the convention in Toronto. Mr. Wilson intended to combine business with pleasure: “While I do not concede that other cities have anything on Vancouver In the line of shoe stores, an interchange of Ideas Is always profitable, and I will visit as many large shoe stores and factories as possible.”

In 1924 the Royal Trust Co owned the building, and applied to convert it to a garage, to be built by Baynes & Horie for $1,800. However, the street directory shows a series of service and retail stores, suggesting the garage never moved in, although that might be the date of the alterations to the appearance in the picture. The most consistent business here was a milliner’s store.

To the left of the stores, (before The Manhattan apartments at the end of the block), were two houses, and a small single storey store built in 1925. Over the years the numbers were changed – for some peculiar reason, when the block was first developed in the 1890s the last house on the block was 1041. The houses were 1031 and 1035 Robson, (renumbered from 1033). They were already occupied in 1894 by H T Lockyer and J R Seymour, and 1031 was the older, with Jenny Drysdale living here in 1892 and it’s possible the house had been completed a year earlier, but no numbers were assigned to the properties that year. They were replaced at some point by single storey retail units that in turn were redeveloped this year as a double-height shoe store.

In 1950 it’s just possible to make out ‘Cafe’ on the front of the end of the retail block. That’s the geographically inaccurate ‘White’s Corner Cafe’. The houses in 1950 appear to no longer have any residents. C M Hyde, a barrister, had his offices here, along with Alford and Hughes, bicycles, Robson Realty and Aqua Accounting Services. In the house next door Curtis Radio and Electrical shared the building with W Kenyon, a jeweler.

Today there are limits on the height of new buildings (and residential isn’t allowed to be added on this part of Robson) so that the street retains greater natural light. Most buildings on this block have been redeveloped as double-height retail stores, either with two floors (like Indigo Books) or a mezzanine floor. Francl Architecture have been responsible for the design of most of these new buildings.

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Posted 7 January 2021 by ChangingCity in Gone, West End

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Gilford Street north from Comox

The title of this 1965 picture in the Vancouver Archives is ‘[View from Comox] Street [in the West End showing] trees’. Fortunately there hasn’t been so much change that it’s impossible to work out where, from Comox Street, the image was taken. It’s looking north on Gilford, and the Park Gilford, the 13 storey rental tower on the left, was completed in 1962.

Beyond that was a house, that is no longer standing. It was replaced in 1982 by Gilford Mews, a 15 unit strata building which we think was designed by West Coast Modern architects Robert Hassell and Barry Griblin. The decision to keep some of the landscaping means that the trees have grown much bigger over 50 years, and hide the building in summer. The townhouses went on sale in 1982, priced between $170,000 and $189,000 each. The trees today almost hide the 1959 rental building to the north; Four Winds is 10 storeys, with 37 units.

The house had first been developed in 1908, although by the 1960s it was an apartment building. We know who developed the building. Christopher W Ford obtained a permit to build a house costing $8,500, and four years later added a garage. The design of the house is similar to a number of others designed by Parr and Fee – especially the corner turret and cupola, which were a feature of Thomas Fee’s first house on Broughton Street.

C W Ford was born in Morrisburg, (now part of Dundas), Ontario in 1856. He married in 1878 and by the late 1880s he was running a general store in Morewood, Ontario. Around 1894 he sold up, and moved to Vancouver, starting as a druggist’s clerk, and living on East Hastings. He opened a grocery store in 1900, and by 1904 had moved on to manage the grocery department in Woodward’s Department Store. In 1906 he was a director of Woodwards, but was also involved in real estate with another Ontario grocer, John Jackson. He established his own real estate firm, and in 1910 he developed The Princess Rooms on Granville Street, a $55,000 project designed by Parr and Fee. Christopher and Mary Ford had three sons, Harry, Clarke and Grant. Harry became a Vancouver physician and married Georgie McMartin, from New York, and they had a daughter, Mary, in 1909. He died in Jervis Inlet in 1910 of exposure, having been separated from the hunting party he was with. Georgia and her daughter moved in with her father-in law. Clarke trained as a lawyer, but worked for a firm of safe manufacturers, and was married twice, and Grant was a dentist, marrying three times.

Christopher’s wife, Mary, died in 1912, and two years later Mr. Ford remarried to Ethel Holland, a widow, and music teacher, originally from England. They moved out of the West End to a house he had built in North Vancouver. Christopher Ford died in 1945, and Ethel in 1955.

The house was occupied for short periods by different residents until 1920, when Harold Idsardi moved in, and stayed until 1948. He was a civil engineer and land surveyor, who arrived in Vancouver in 1910 and had married Loulie Aylett K. Fitzhugh, (born in Fairfax Virginia) in Los Angeles in 1912. He managed to have a mountain, and a valley on Vancouver Island named after him. They had three sons, none of whom stayed in Vancouver. In 1949 the house was split into 8 apartments and named the Elphege Apartments, and by 1978 the building was called the John Penrice Apartments.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-48

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Posted 28 December 2020 by ChangingCity in Gone, West End

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