These two images, although thirty five years apart, appear almost identical. On the corner is a building we’ve previously identified on another blog. It was developed by one of Chinatown’s merchants, the Sam Kee Company, run by Chang Toy. Sam Kee acquired two 25 foot lots at the corner of Pender and Richards in 1904, and the Empress Rooms were completed in 1906. We haven’t managed to identify the architect. These days it’s the home of MacLeods Books. In 1981 the second store in the building, down the hill, was the All Nations Stamp and Coin Co; today it’s an Antiques and Collectables store, with
The other half of the block is Century House, built in 1911 for the Canada Permanent Mortgage Corporation. The building was designed by J S D Taylor, an architect trained in Scotland. Canada Permanent operated at Century House until 1951. Since then, it has been home to an insurance company, a trade school, an antique store, a book store and a restaurant. Today it appears on the internet as a recording studio. The exterior is made of cut granite stone, except for two beavers and a lighthouse cast in concrete, which crown the buildings. It’s the emblem of the building’s developer.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-E10.34
There’s not much changed between our 1978 image and today. The Orwell was developed in 1911, and if anything it’s in better condition now than then. BC Housing acquired the building in 2007, and have carried out a series of improvements and restored the façade, which was designed by W P White. Today it’s run by Vancouver Native Housing Society. When it was developed H S Rowling was the developer, and Booker, Campbell & Whipple were the builders of the $70,000 reinforced concrete building. As far as we could tell from Building Permits it was Mr. Rowling’s only development project, although that turns out to be inaccurate.
Henry Soar Rowling was President of the Vancouver Real Estate Co, and unusually, he was a local. He was born in New Westminster in 1864, son of a Royal Engineer who arrived in British Columbia in 1858 on the North American Boundary Commission. Henry was a contractor in 1881, later operating tugboats on the Fraser River and then the Burnett River that runs out of Burnaby Lake. In conversation with Major Matthews he recalled hauling logs to the mills, including along a skid road where Gore Avenue is today, near Greer’s Beach (in Kitsilano) and from Brockton Point (in Stanley park).
In 1903 he moved into real estate. A 1914 biography said he owned two business blocks, ‘and much business and residential property’ as well as the Orwell (a rooming house when it was built) he constructed a building on the corner of Vernon and Albert Streets.
It’s been a while since any single family houses on Richards Street have been able to boast a waterfront view; (that’s False Creek in the background). The photograph is said to show Rev. J.H. Pedley on the balcony, and Mrs. Charlotte Ellen Reed Pedley on the porch. The Reverend was newly arrived in town, and the pastor of the newly built Congregational Church which was also on Richards Street just across the street. The church was designed by William Blackmore, so if an architect was involved in designing the house, it would probably be him.
The Reverend Pedley didn’t stay in Vancouver very long, but fortunately for us he was still here when the 1891 Census was collected, so we know he was English, but his wife was from Ontario. He was aged 34, his wife was four years younger, and the Census shows no other household members. There’s very little more that we’ve discovered about the pastor, who was the first Congregational Minister in the city, arriving in 1888 when the picture was taken. In 1889 the Daily World carried a piece from Winnipeg: “The Rev. J. Pedley, brother of the Rev. Mr. Pedley of this city, is gaining considerable fame in Vancouver as a preacher. His eloquent and stirring sermons are said to draw immense congregations. As a result of his work a good solid church building will be erected in Vancouver this year, the plan of it being similar to that of the Central Congregational church of Winnipeg.” Reverend Pedley’s name was James, and his brother’s Hugh; in 1890 they went on a camping expedition to Rat Portage (which made the newspaper – in what must have been a slow news week). In 1894 it was reported that he had travelled to Montreal, and was returning to Vancouver, but the house was occupied by James Macaulay of James and Macaulay, and the Pedley’s aren’t listed (but neither is a business called James and Macaulay). In 1895 Rev Pedley is back, (shown as Rev J W Pedley – which was his correct initials). In 1896 the pastor was Rev H C Mason, who lived in a different house on Richards Street, and there were four new residents of the house.
In 1912 Rev James Pedley played an important role in creating the United Church from the merger of the Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational denominations in Canada. In 1915 he published a biography of Lord Strathcona; (Donald A. Smith, the Canadian Pacific director and politician). We know the Pedley’s had at least one son, as the Museum of Vancouver have a ceremonial trowel presented when the church foundation stone was laid in 1888 presented to the Archives by Rev. Pedley’s son, Lieut. Col. James Henry Pedley, in 1936. The 1911 Census shows him aged 18, born in 1892, living with his parents at 23 Harbord St in Toronto. The Times-Colonist reported the death of Rev Pedley in 1933, in Toronto.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Bu P112
A three storey building was approved for the Sam Kee Company in 1912, designed by Kennerley Bryan, to be built by R P Forshaw at a cost of $16,000. This permit was for apartments/rooms; described in the more detailed press notice as “three-storey brick store & rooming house; facing is red brick relieved with green tile; window ledges cement; galvanized iron cornice surmounts the bldg.” (Sam Kee was essentially a fictional character, the merchant who ran the company was Chang Toy.) This doesn’t seem like an ideal location for a residential building, and what was built doesn’t fit the description exactly.
This part of Keefer didn’t reach Columbia Street, because False Creek was right there. Across the street from this building was the Vancouver Gasworks, with a pair of retort houses on the street, and gasometers to the south. In the previous few years the edges of the channel had been tidied up, straightened and turned into a coal dock to deliver to the gasworks coal yard. Until it was abandoned and filled in some years later it occupied the place where Columbia Street would be extended; just to the west of this building.
This building wasn’t shown in the 1913 street directory (when the property next door was identified as being occupied by “Foreigners”). It showed up in 1914 as ‘New Building”. In 1915 the Maple Leaf Rice Mills were shown operating here, at 147 Keefer. While it didn’t reveal the owner, it suggested the business was Japanese. A year later a Chinese operator had taken over, Wing Kee Rice Mills. This was a Sam Kee owned company that Fred Townley had been hired to design a building for in 1912. We’re reasonably sure that it’s actually his design for the Rice Mill that got constructed. Paul Yee says that Sam Kee had operated a rice mill in the city from 1908.
In 1924 the Rice Mills were no longer listed but the Sam Kee Company had moved their offices here from East Pender, and were still in business here in the mid 1950s. Today the building continues to houses office space – the same company was occupying the building in our 1978 image.
The Hazelwood has just emerged from a cocoon of scaffold looking better than it has for many decades. Comprehensively restored and repaired, it’s one of the BC Housing acquisitions that’s been given an internal makeover and an external facelift. Years of paint have been removed, aluminum windows replaced by new wooden sashes, and the cornices restored. There’s even a new sign that looks just like the one in the 1940s. (There was a different sign in the 1926 Vancouver Public Library image (above), but you can see the one now replicated in the 1947 Archives image below.
The Hazelwood started life in 1911 when Thomas Hooper obtained a building permit. J J Frantz was hired as contractor for the $75,000 building, which had 120 rooms, main floor retail and a basement that was intended to be fitted out as a barbers (although it never was). The façade of the building sits on a pair of huge steel ‘I’ beams, embedded in concrete doric-style columns. They haven’t been visible for many years, hidden behind a tiled false front. The conservation plan for the building, written by architect Barry McGinn, draws attention to the innovative construction. “A combination of concrete-encased steel wide-flange steel columns supporting I-beams and heavy timber posts supporting timber beams frame the 2″X6″ laminated timber floor. The second floor above the original retail tenancy was framed in concrete encased steel columns supporting twinned concrete encased I-beams. To reduce the presence of columns across the retail floor, every other second floor beam is framed into a longitudinal beam running the length of the building between steel column supports on alternate bays. This steel framing design, intended to open up unencumbered retail floor space, demonstrated a level of structural design sophistication quite unique for this building type at this time. Solid lumber load bearing walls align with the second floor beams and extend up through the four upper floors, supporting the solid 2″X4″ laminated lumber floor structure and also serving as room demising walls. Beams span the corridors and the light court walls are constructed of solid laminated 2″X4″ lumber with wood headers over openings.”
Perhaps this unexpected engineering and design attention was due to Thomas Hooper’s clients: Thomas Hooper and S B Snider. This was apparently Mr. Snider’s biggest investment, and as far as we can tell Thomas Hooper’s sole property investment, so getting it right was obviously important. Sanford Snider was shown aged 67 when he developed the hotel, (he was actually only 56, but the 1911 census doesn’t appear to have had the most diligent census clerks) and although the census gave a one word description of his occupation – ‘mines’, the street directory described him as the inspector of the National Finance Co Ltd. Sanford was from a family of German origin; his wife Sara was from an English family, but they had both been born in Ontario as had the two children still living at home in 1911, Lorna aged 26 (a schoolteacher) and 17-year-old Ronald.
They had been in the city a decade earlier when Sanford was a ‘traveller’ and there were more children at home, (three daughters, Bertha, Emma and Elva, as well as Ronald) and his wife had been called (accurately) Sarah. There was one other son, also called Sanford, who had died as a child. Sanford had married Sarah Hutchcroft in 1880 in Newmarket, Ontario.
Thomas Hooper was two years younger than Sanford Snider, and arrived from England in 1871 when his father brought the family to London, Ontario, where Thomas became a joiner and carpenter. They moved west to Emerson, Manitoba in 1878, where Thomas married in 1880, then moving on to Winnipeg where he worked with his older brother, who was an architect. Thomas moved further west in 1886, walking the last 500 miles of the journey (as the train wasn’t yet reaching Vancouver), and arriving a few weeks after the fire destroyed the city. Ne quickly established himself as an architect, achieving significant commissions like the Homer Street Methodist Church as early as 1888. His workload expanded, and at one point he had the largest practice in western Canada, with three offices in different cities. The dramatic downturn in the economy in 1913 saw work dry up. By 1915 Hooper had given up and moved to New York, where work started to come his way only to stop with the US entry into the Great war in 1917. He eventually returned to Vancouver, virtually broke, in 1927. He died on New Year’s Day, 1935 aged 77, and was buried in the family plot of the McCauls in Mountain View Cemetery. Sanford Byron Snider died in Penticton in 1948 aged 92.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1184-2679
Our 1978 image shows two adjacent buildings that had fairly recently been renovated to match each other. The four window building closest to us was originally constructed in 1930, while the three bay building next door to the east possibly dates in part back to 1910. It’s possible that the earlier building was significantly altered in 1930 when the nearer structure was built; both got another make-over in 1974.
The smaller 1930 building was a residential and commercial building built by Chinese trader Hok Yat Louie. He arrived in Canada from the Pearl River Delta in Guangdong at the end of the 1890s, paying the head tax to be allowed to live in Victoria. Having been a farmer in China, he moved to Vancouver and worked in the Hastings Mill, and then as a market gardener on the north shore of the Fraser River. He learned English from a textbook while riding his cart to market in Vancouver, and in the early 1900s had saved enough money to open a grocery store and farm supply business on Westminster Avenue (today’s Main Street). He was supporting his wife and children he had left behind in China, but could also afford to have a second wife arrive from China. They would have eleven children together, and a few years later Hok Yat was sufficiently successful in business to acquire the A Urquhart Block on East Georgia (across from these buildings) where the family lived until he built this new property in 1930.
Thanks to Patrick Gunn’s research we know that when the 1930 building was constructed, the Journal of Commerce reported it, and so helped identify the designer. While he wasn’t allowed to call himself an architect (because he was Chinese, and so couldn’t register as an architect), W H Chow had designed many of Chinatown’s buildings and improvements over several decades.
Given the context of the time, the investment was pretty remarkable. The recession caused by the stock market crash of 1929 was in full swing. W H Malkin, a rival (and much larger) wholesaler had been elected mayor in 1929 and immediately moved to limit what he called ‘Oriental stores to fixed Oriental districts’. The three large food distribution companies in the city (including Malkin) did their best to ensure H Y Louie couldn’t easily buy from major suppliers, severely impacting the profit he could make as a wholesaler. Minimum wage legislation in the late 1920s had also had an unfortunate impact on the Chinese workforce who were Louie’s retail customers. If employers couldn’t pay their Chinese workers less, then many preferred not to employ them at all. At one point during the recession, it was estimated that 80% of Chinatown residents were jobless.
Hok Yat took his first and only trip back to China in 1934, where he visited his 92-year-old mother and saw his first family for the first time in nearly 40 years. He never returned to Vancouver, dying in Hong Kong on the return journey. The H Y Louie company passed into the control of his eldest sons, Tim, who was only 21, and Tong, a year younger. They nursed the company through the recession and into the middle of the century, expanding steadily, establishing the IGA brand in British Columbia in the 1950s and acquiring London Drugs in the 1970s.
While the older building to the east is said to have been altered and utilized by H Y Louie in 1930, we’re not so sure that the alterations were substantial. The building had originally been built by M O’Keefe for Champion and White, a building supply company whose main warehouse was round the corner on Westminster Avenue. They built a two-storey structure here as a stables, obtaining a permit in 1909 for a $12,000 investment. The 1930 insurance map shows it was two storeys, with a hay barn over and two automobiles parked at the back with access from the lane. W H Chow’s design in 1930 for H Y Louie’s building isn’t really contemporary, so we surmise that he took his design cue from the adjacent warehouse that H Y had also acquired (possibly some years earlier). It’s likely that the façade we see today was altered when the use switched from stables to warehouse. Champion and White had stopped using the stable some years earlier – the 1928 street directory referred to ‘Chinese stables’.
The family were still using the premises in the 1950s, although they no longer used the building across the street. Today Chinese retail businesses occupy both stores here, with a seafood market in the H Y Louie 1930 building and a produce and grocery store in the former stables next door.
Remarkably, the commercial building on this East Georgia lot is less than a decade old. It was only completed in 2007; with a permit issued to Young Engineering, although we think veteran Chinatown architect Joe Wai was also involved with the design.
Before the new commercial and residential building there was a small house. We’re not completely sure when it was demolished, but the site sat empty for at least ten years. The house (which started life as 234 Harris Street) was built before 1900. In 1891, James Foley was living here, which seems to be when the house was built. He was listed as a driver, and briefly shared the house with Patrick Foley, a fisherman. The 1891 Census shows that James had a new job: he was Brakeman on the railway. Like his younger brother Patrick he was born in Ireland, and he wasn’t in the house for much more than a year. He seems to have gone back to being a teamster, and had Room 11 in the Dunn Miller block in 1892. L G Dodge, a carpenter, moved in to replace him. He stayed a few years, and then left the city, replaced by William Martin, an expressman, in 1898. By 1901 he had also moved on, with John McEachern, a builder living here. He was 42, and his wife Addie was 35, both born in Ontario, and both showing ‘Spiritualist’ in the census column that noted their religion. Their 11-year-old daughter Mildred had been born in the US, (they were married in Minneapolis in 1887), but Kenneth, who was four, was born in BC.
There were several John McEacherns born in Ontario in 1859, but noting the significant number of Simcoe residents who ended up living in Vancouver, it would not surprise us if he was born in Nottawasaga, a small town that saw an apparent exodus to Vancouver at the end of the 19th Century. We haven’t tried to trace all John’s movements, but we know that in 1920 they were living in San Francisco with Addie’s sister, Mary Tomlinson. In 1940 John and Addie were still living there, aged 81 and 73, and Kenneth was aged 43 and living with them.
Today it’s home to three apartments and China Housewares Discount Centre Ltd. “For all ceramic and porcelain figurines, kitchen wares, gifts and housewares”.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-358