View from Harbour Centre Lookout south east

The before image here is from 1981, and the contemporary image was taken about 18 months ago, although very little has changed since. (That won’t be true in future, as the viaducts cutting across the image are due to be demolished at some point in the near future).

There are three landmarks, each over a century old. In the foreground is the top of the Dominion Building, developed by the Dominion Trust in the late 1900s and completed in 1910, designed by J S Helyer and Son, and replacing an earlier retail building called The Arcade. On the corner of Hastings and Cambie is the Province Building (once home to the newspaper of the same name) developed by the newspaper owner Francis Carter Cotton and completed in 1908. He also built the adjacent and linked building on West Pender Street that became home to wholesale fruit and vegetable dealer H A Edgett. A A Cox designed both buildings. Further up West Pender is the Sun Tower (the name coming from another newspaper) developed in 1910, designed by W T Whiteway and completed in 1912 for Daily World owner L D Taylor, who was mayor of Vancouver for several terms between 1910 and 1930.

Beyond those buildings, and the row of warehouses down Beatty Street, was a soon to abandoned industrial landscape. Once home to heavy industries, and heavily polluted with metals and chemicals, in 1981 there were a number of warehouse and shipping operations and at the ends of False Creek, a concrete batching plant. The viaducts were the second structure – the first so badly built that the plan to run trams over the bridge was abandoned as it couldn’t take the weight. The new viaduct was the only part of an ambitious plan to run a highway through and round Downtown from Highway 1. It would have cut through the early residential Strathcona neighbourhood, removed much of Chinatown and then replaced the warehouses of Gastown. Some versions of the plans added complex cloverleaf junctions and cut through the West End. Delays and changing governments (and priorities) ensured only the replacement for the structurally compromised existing viaduct was funded.

It crossed a landscape that changed significantly after this picture when Expo 86 was built on the land around the end of the Creek in the mid 1980s. Subsequently the land was sold to a few developers. Concord Pacific developed most of the site (and continue to do so today, over 30 years later), but two other developers were responsible for the residential transformation today. Between 1989 and 2007 Bosa Development built over 1,000 units at the end of False Creek, between Main and Quebec Streets. Five towers can be seen today, with a sixth the headquarters of the Vancity Credit Union which spans the tracks of the Skytrain. Closer to us is International Village, a complex of six towers and a supermarket, retail mall and cinema built over a similar period to Citygate by Henderson Developments, a Hong Kong based developer. The worst polluted soils were retained on site and capped, with Andy Livingstone Park built on top.


Granville Slopes from above

The area between Granville Bridge and Burrard Bridge on the Downtown side of False Creek is called, in City policy documents, Granville Slopes. Like much of the surrounding Downtown South area, until the 1980s the area was mostly low-density commercial buildings, with a few multi-storey structures.

Our before image was undated in the Archives, one of the aerial shots taken for the City by Gordon Sayles. It’s possible to estimate the date from the construction of the buildings on the left, by Burrard Street. Anchor Point, a series of mid-rise brick clad condo buildings was completed in January 1978, so this must be from 1977. Daon Developments were the developers of the Waisman Dewar Grout designed apartment complex, which was subsequently strata titled in 1982. Today developers are attempting to acquire each of the strata buildings for redevelopment, but have so far failed to persuade the number of owners that are needed to make that possible.

We estimate that today there are over,000 residential units (so about 25,000 people) living in the area of the picture. In 1977 it would have been a few hundred, at most. Our contemporary image was posted in mid 2019 by Trish Jewison, who flies in the BC Global traffic helicopter.

Image source City of Vancouver Archives, CVA 515-8 and Trish Jewison, twitter.


Posted April 13, 2020 by ChangingCity in Altered, Downtown

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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Powell and Gore Street – south west corner

This 1971 image photographed by Walter E Frost shows a number of buildings soon to be demolished to make room for a new lock-up. The new Provincial Courts were built on the other half of the block, and this site had a new remand centre completed in 1983. Designed by Richard Henriquez, the building was taken out of commission as it became unnecessary to hold enough prisoners on remand to warrant the cost of running the facility. In 2008 the bottom floors were converted to the Community Court, but the upper floors and their massive concrete pods remained unused. After a $21m makeover designed by Henriquez Partners, the building is now a 96 unit low cost and non-market housing project managed for B C Housing by the Bloom Group.

This block was still mostly undeveloped in 1906, with a few occupants at the western end, recorded as ‘Japanese’, with no further identification. By 1907 there were businesses at this end of the block; T S Maikawa, a fish dealer. K Higaki’s barber shop and the boarding house run by Asahiya & Co. were on the corner lot. John Wickham had obtained a permit for two houses on the lot in 1906, which we think were built just to the south, on the same legal lot but off the picture. He may therefore have developed the three storey building as well. There’s no sign of a John Wickham in the city around this time, although by 1911 John Wickham and his brother Alfred were running a restaurant not too far away on West Cordova. Mr. Wickham built a number of houses and apartments in the area, so his absence from the directories is odd. There was a successful accountant in the city called John Wickham-Barnes, and it’s possible he was the developer.

Next door is a four storey building, constructed in two phases. The businesses here were almost always listed as ‘Japanese’, and the upper floor was “Jap Rooming House’, but the developers were Caucasian. Eligh and DePencier built the first phase in 1909, with ‘Bennett’ listed as architect. An additional two floors were added in 1911, costing the same as the first phase; $8,000. The Contract Record noted that the plans had been prepared – but not who drew them. ‘Eligh’ was probably Jacob Eligh, son of dairy owner William Eligh, both from Ontario. He was a policeman in the city in 1895, and later ran the family dairy business in South Vancouver. His brother, Hamilton died in 1894, and his father in 1901, so Jacob inherited the family wealth. His partner was almost certainly Henry DePencier, also from Ontario (from Burritts Rapids, Carleton County). He had been a lumber mill manager in Barnet, and would have known some of the residents of Japantown as half his workforce were Japanese. Henry was 52 in the 1901 census and his family roots were shown as German, but his wife Annie was Scottish, arriving in Canada in 1888. She was Henry’s second wife; his son, Theodore, an accountant, still lived with the family in 1901, ten years younger than Annie.

The 3 storey building to the west of the rooming house was developed by W Francey at a cost of $8,000 in 1909, and designed by A J Bird. It also appeared as ‘Japanese rooming house’. The only ‘W Francey’ in Canada was in Ontario, but Robert Francey, a Scottish civil engineer lived in Vancouver. He became the City Engineer a few years after the building was completed, and seems to have been the only person called Francey in British Columbia at the time the building was developed. The alternative is that it was William Francis, who was a real estate agent living in the city in 1909.

Before the war these were generally identified as occupied by (un-named) Japanese residents and businesses. Once the Japanese community were forced into internment camps some of the buildings in this area became an extension of Chinatown. However, the 4-storey rooming house became the Orange Rooms, run by Alfred Strom. Closer to us on the corner were the Ming Sun Reading Rooms, a reading room and social space for men from the Wong family clan who had immigrated to Canada from Hoi Ping (Kaiping) in China. By the 1950s the area was seriously run down. Many of the rooming houses had poor, mostly male, unemployed residents. The buildings were acquired by the Province, and cleared for the new court building in the 1970s, and subsequently the lock-up here.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 447-365


Posted April 2, 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

213 – 215 East Cordova Street

This 1927 image shows the new premises of the Tairiku Nippo Sha, or Continental Daily News, a Japanese language newspaper that started publication in 1907. There’s a cartouche with the initials ‘TNS’ on the upper part of the building. As Japantown, centered on Powell Street, grew and prospered, the newspaper was able to move into modern accommodation.

Patrick Gunn from Heritage Vancouver tracked down the building permit; it was approved in April 1927, and the business seem to have moved here in August that year. Gardiner & Mercer were the architects of the building with an unusual combination of recessed balcony and a Mission style roof. Moncrieff & Vistaunet built the $28,000 project. When the newspaper moved here it was run by “Mr. Yamasaki” Yasushi Yamazaki, who bought the Nippō in 1908 (after founder Dosa Iida ran into problems related to his attack on Japanese prostitution, and the men who controlled it). Born in Toyama in 1871, Yashudi arrived in B.C. in 1893, working as a logger, fisherman and miner. He was Secretary of the Japanese Fishermen’s Union in Steveston in 1900 and active in the Japanese fishermen’s strike. In the 1901 census he was listed as Y Yamasaki, a lodger, working as a laborer.

He began publishing a newspaper in Seattle in 1902 before returning to publish the Vancouver paper. Far from backing down from challenging the Japaeses sex trade, Yashudi continued the campaign against the prostitution of Japanese women, including publishing their pictures in a book published by the newspaper. He was President of the Canadian-Japanese Association from 1909-17. At the outbreak of war, hoping to get Japanese Canadians greater acceptance, and potentially the vote, he organized the Canadian Japanese Volunteer Corp (WWI). The corps of 200 was rejected as too small, but many members were accepted into the army in Alberta, and fought in Europe as Canadian soldiers. While remaining in charge of the Vancouver newspaper, from 1917-33 he was also editor of a newspaper in Japanese-held Manchuria. In the 1920s he lived on the next block, but although continuing as President of the newspaper, by 1930 he was no longer living in Vancouver. The newspaper was closed down in 1941, and Yasushi Yamazaki died in 1947 in Japan.

It appears from the street directory that the upper floor of the building might have been converted to residential use; in 1947 this address was the Mayfair Hotel Rooms (and next door were cabins, that can also be seen in the 1927 image). In 1955 the Mafair rooms were still here, with the lower floor shared by ‘Can Govt Agriculture Health of Animals’, and ‘Nifty Noodles’. By 1973 this had become the back of the new $6m Courthouse, designed by Harrison, Plavsic and Kiss.


Posted March 30, 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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Main and Powell Streets – south east corner

The building on the corner was constructed in 1903, built by J L McTaggart at the modest cost of $2,500. It no doubt helped that Mr. McTaggart claimed to design and built the structure himself. John L McTaggart was in the hardware business as McTaggart and Moscrop, with a store on Carrall Street. He was already in partnership with Mr. Moscrop in the hardware business by 1898, and he may have been in the city as early as 1890. In 1893 he was shown as aged 31, from Middlesex, Ontario, running a flour and feed store when he married Carrie McArthur from Yale, Michigan, who was 10 years younger. By the 1901 census they had two daughters and a son.

In 1912 he was running a grocery store at the corner of Granville and Robson. He was the victim of impersonation, when George McKay was accused of saying he was Mr McTaggart when telephoning orders for butter and eggs, which he requested to be left on the curb. He then stole them for sale in his own premises, leaving Mr McTaggart with a bill for goods he knew nothing about.

In 1914 he was on the Board of Control of the Exhibition Association, who ran the PNE site, and in 1917 he was considering leasing the failed City Market. The Daily World reported “The city council, sitting as the market and exhibition committe, and Mr. J. L. McTaggart. prospective leasee of the old city market building, on Main street, failed to come to any agreement on the renting of the city’s “white elephant” at the meeting; of that committee yesterday. Mr. McTaggart some time ago offered the city council to take a five year lease of the market for $800 per annum, but the committee to which the question was referred, did not think that was enough rental, especially as Mr. McTaggart wanted the use of the market weigh scales and slips. It was stated by Aid. Kirk that the market slips were already bringing in a total of $140 per month to the city although only a portion of the market building was leased. Ald. Gale moved that the city lease to Mr. McTaggart the unoccupied portion of the market together with the use of the wharf but not the right to charge wharfage for boats landing there. In supporting the motion Ald. Hamilton declared that It was important that the public should not be debarred for the next five years from landing produce in boats at the wharf. Mr. McTaggart declared those terms were not altogether satisfactory.” Council agreed to lease the building, but without a monopoly on the use of the wharf, at a subsequent meeting, although he quickly abandoned running the operation, which attracted very few customers.

Mr. McTaggart was well-known enough to have a cartoon in the local press. On at least two occasions, in 1909 and 1920 he ran (unsuccessfully) as an independent candidate for Alderman. Mr. McTaggart died in 1934, survived by his wife and daughter. He seems to have sold his development here fairly soon after it was built. It was initially leased to U Kawasaki, who sold Japanese goods, and a few years later it was a liquor store. By 1911 G T Sakie owned it, carrying out repairs, and two years later Marshall Smith carried out more repairs.

Next door the Queen’s Hotel opened in 1907, Harry Hopkirk, proprietor. In 1906, Henry Hopkirk ran the Queen’s Hotel at 423 W Cordova, so the new building inherited an existing business. There was work here in 1910, designed Dalton & Eveleigh and built by William O’Dell at a cost of $6,250 for ‘Mr. White’. That may be an error on the part of the clerk: the White Grocery Co Ltd occupied the main floor of the premises in 1911, moving from two blocks further south, but it was actually run by Randolph Fox and David J Turner. We suspect the name may have implied the lack of Asian involvement in the business. In 1910 G B Shepherd ran the Queen’s Hotel, and in 1912 L J Jamieson and L Falk.

In 1915 the property had some minor repair, when ‘J Beaty’ was listed as owner. There’s nobody listed under this name in the city, although there was a J Beattie. The hotel and café and grocery underneath didn’t have any proprietors listed, just their ethnicity. In 1919 U Kakitachi was listed as the owner of the building, carrying out $400 of repairs.

Unlike many of the city’s hotels, the Queen’s Hotel never changed its name. J Lee was running it in 1955, with Lee Lind operating the Queen’s Lunch on the main floor. This image (by Walter E Frost) dates to 1971, just before both buildings were replaced in 1973 with the contemporary brutalist Courthouse, designed by Harrison, Plavsic and Kiss. The $6 million building went to Council in 1971, where it was noted that “His Honour District Judge Eckardt spoke in connection with the matter, generally in favour of the report and the City Prosecutor appeared stating he was not in agreement with the proposed concept of the building.” It still operates as the Provincial Courthouse nearly 50 years later.

Image source, City of Vancouver Archives CVA 447-369



Posted March 26, 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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