Pemberton Building – West Hastings Street


W A Bauer developed this eight storey building in 1910, and completed it a year later. Standing on the south-east corner of Hastings and Howe, the owner hired W Marbury Somervell of Seattle as the architect, and called his new $225,000 asset ‘The Pacific Building’. Mr. Bauer wasn’t a novice at real estate investment; he had acquired a large chunk of North Vancouver in 1905, and had developed smaller buildings, but nothing on this scale. This wasn’t his first idea for the site; in 1909 he had obtained a permit for a $150,000 hotel designed by Parr and Fee, but never followed through. He used the most up-to-date method for the construction of the building, hiring  the Ferro Concrete Co (headquartered in Cincinnati). We’re not sure why the postcard artist changed the top of the building, but it never looked like this.

Unlike many residents with a German sounding name, Mr. Bauer retained the spelling of his name throughout the war. That might be because anyone who heard him would not think him German – he was born in Brisbane, Australia, where he became a railway engineer. He was also well-known in the province; he had been the Dominion and British Columbia Land Surveyor, having arrived in 1891. He also married well; his wife was Ruby Springer, daughter of Ben Springer who managed the Moodyville Mill and then turned to real estate development in the early city of Vancouver in conjunction with Captain Van Bramer. In 1901, before his marriage, William Bauer was shown in the census living with his mother, Anna, who had been born in England, and his sister Maud, who was eleven years younger (if her age was recorded accurately – which would have made her mother give birth at age 51, which seems unlikely). In 1911 he was recorded as ‘Bower’ , aged 43, with Ruby, 28 and their son Benjamin who was aged two and 11-month daughter Frances Maude. There were two domestic servants living with them in their Seaton street home.


The Pacific Building was sold on the quality of its construction. “The outer walls are of brick and concrete, finished on the exterior with handsome pressed brick and terracotta. The floors are of solid re-inforced concrete, and the entire structure sanitary, clean, warm and absolutely fireproof, affording every security against damage by fire, and minimum insurance rates. The Pacific Building is of an architectural type remarkable for its simple elegance of treatment, resulting from the artistic contrast of light and shade, and the fact that it is not overburdened with detail. The entire exterior effect is pleasing and elegant in the extreme. The central location of the building, its attractive appearance, and the fact that it towers high above all buildings in the neighborhood, gives it a distinct advertising value which is too important to be overlooked by those in search of offices. The main entrance hall is finished in selected, handsomely-veined marble, producing a handsome and impressive entrance. The corridors are tiled and finished with a specially-designed wainscoting four feet in height, with a beautiful marble base. The floors are laid in rich ceramic mosaic tile.” The advertising even went as far as claiming that the building was ‘earthquake proof’ – fortunately never put to the test. In the 1990s a complete seismic analysis of the building was carried out and a partial upgrade saw shear walls being added at the building’s basement perimeter.

W A Bauer hired Somervell and Putnam a year later to design his new $20,000 Shaughnessy home, and a garage a year after that that cost $4,000 (more than many houses cost to build). In September 1918 things went very sideways for the Bauer family. The Yorkshire and Canadian Trust Company made a claim in the Supreme Court seeking $47,717.50 from William A Bauer, comprising commissions owed to the company by Mr Bauer, and loans made by the company on his behalf. He also had tax arrears in Richmond for three properties in 1918. In January 1919 he moved to Chilco and Nelson from his Shaughnessy home, which he presumably rented to help cover his debts. In early 1919 it was announced that the family were leaving town “Mr. and Mrs. W. A. Bauer and family have left to make their home In Vernon, B. C, on their Coldstream ranch” In May 1920 the Daily World reported that the family were returning from the Okanagan, having purchased a house on Cedar Crescent, and presumably the financial crisis had been overcome as Mr Bauer built a garage there in 1921. That same year the paper reported that “Mrs. W. A. Bauer, Coldstream, Vernon, arrived In the city on Wednesday morning and has taken up residence on Shaughnessy Heights”. They don’t seem to have stayed long: in December it was reported that “Mrs. W. A. Bauer and two sons have left for Vernon, where they will reside. They spent the past six months In Vancouver.” Two months earlier it was reported that “Mr. Dudley Dawson, manager of the Dominion Bank, who just recently arrived In the city, has leased the home of Mrs. W. A. Bauer, Shaughnessy Heights.” There are mentions of visits in 1922, but nothing suggesting the family in residence; instead the Bauers appear to have continued to live in Vernon, growing fruit.

In 1927, when this Vancouver Public Library image was shot, this was still called the Pacific Building and housed dozens of offices, with a Turkish Bath in the basement and the American Consulate on the second floor. By the 1950s the building had been renamed the Pemberton Building, although today it seems to have reverted to it’s original name.

Posted December 12, 2016 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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575 Dunsmuir Street


The building is almost unchanged, but the tenant is very different. In 1942 this was the former Vancouver offices of Yukon Southern Air Transport, who had just moved to Howe Street. The company was undergoing other changes that year – Yukon Southern Air Transport was bought out by Canadian Pacific Air Lines, with Grant McConachie, founder of Yukon Southern becoming President of the company. Yukon Southern was sold for over a million dollars, although it had never generated a profit. We’ve seen the building the office occupies in an earlier post: it’s underneath the much-loved and no longer operating Railway Club, built in 1920 for real estate agent Harry Jones.

McConachie started flying regular mail and passenger flights to Whitehorse from Edmonton in 1937, first with his company United Air Transport (which he founded in 1933) and then with its successor, Yukon Southern Air Transport Limited. Planes used floats in summer and skis in winter, but McConachie soon realized that year round operations were more economical using runways. Only Whitehorse had a year-round runway; otherwise northern airstrips were almost non-existant. In 1938 McConachie hired men to clear airstrips in Fort St. John and Fort Nelson using small tractors and horse teams. The next summer McConachie had started to clear an airstrip at Watson Lake, when the federal Department of Transport decided to develop an airway between Edmonton and Whitehorse based on routes established by bush pilots and a consideration of the shortest route between the centre of the continent and the Orient (the Great Circle Route).

In 1939 an airway survey established a route linking existing airports at Grande Prairie, Alberta, Fort St. John and Fort Nelson, B.C., and Watson Lake and Whitehorse in the Yukon. The government expanded these airports with 3,000 ft. x 500 ft. runways and some storage and maintenance facilities. The improvements were made to make it safer to fly across this remote area, and the chain of airports was known as the Northwest Staging Route. McConachie paved the way for the Department of Transport’s survey engineers, but was also able to take advantage of the new facilities for his airline operations. Yukon Southern added 3 twin-engine, all-metal Barkley-Grow T8P-1 airliners in the spring of 1940, followed soon after by 2 Lockheed 18-40 Lodestars.

Today you can’t buy a ticket to Whitehorse,  but you can get a very reasonably priced Falafel Plate.

Image source City of Vancouver Archives Bu N153

Posted December 8, 2016 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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A Bit of Hastings Street


We really can’t argue with the title of this tinted postcard from the 1910s. Remarkably, it shows that the pattern of buildings hasn’t changed in either of the two blocks visible in the picture for over a century. In fact almost all the buildings are unchanged. The dominant building is obviously the Dominion Building, completed in 1910. Initially developed by the Imperial Trust in 1908, an over optimistic belief that the needed $600,000 construction cost would be easy to raise led to a shotgun merger with the Dominion Trust Company, and the building was completed in 1910. Perhaps it would have been called the Imperial Building if the merger hadn’t happened. The Dominion was said to be the first steel-framed building in the city, and on completion the tallest in the British Empire. Almost immediately the building’s owners suffered further financial crises, with the Dominion Trust Company forced into selling to the entirely unrelated Dominion Bank, ensuring that the name didn’t have to change.

On the extreme left hand side of the picture is a building occupied by Vancouver Hardware and Thomson’s Stationers early in its life, hidden behind the tree in the contemporary shot. It was designed by Parr and Fee in 1898, and today has some terrible cement render replacing the original facade. The two-storey building to the east is The Mahon Block, designed by W T Dalton and built in 1902. In 1913 it was altered by W F Gardiner, which was possibly when an additional bay was added to the east, as far as we can tell for Thomson Brothers.

To the east, the tall, thin building is still standing today – although in our summer shot the street tree hides it from this angle. It’s the Skinner building, and it was built in 1898, so the second oldest on the block. It’s four storeys tall with an almost fully glazed facade designed by W T Dalton for Robert B Skinner and Frederick Buscombe for Jas. A Skinner’s wholesale china and glassware business.

Beyond that to the east was a rather handsome 1899 building, built for Thomas Hunter and designed by Blackmore and Sons. Today it’s one of the few ‘gap teeth’ in the city – the building was destroyed by fire in 2004. Next door to that is the oldest building on the block, the 1894 and 1898 Rogers Block built by Jonathan Rogers in two almost identical phases with William Blackmore and then Parr and Fee as architects.

Looking down the street to the south side of the 100 block, the tall building is the Stock Exchange Building, a tall skinny office that was never actually occupied by the Exchange. Today it’s an SRO that has just had an excellent façade restoration. Like the Dominion Building it was designed by J S Helyer. Next door is a more modestly scaled building at 150 West Hastings dating from 1903, then two more Jonathan Rogers investments, one developed by his wife, Elizabeth. Hidden behind the tree on the right is the Province Building which started life (in 1908) as the Carter Cotton Building. The biggest differences between the two pictures are the addition of street trees, and the reduced volume of pedestrians on the sidewalks.

Posted December 5, 2016 by ChangingCity in Still Standing, Victory Square

BC Electric Railway car barns – Main Street at Prior


These big industrial buildings were first constructed in 1899, and initially expanded in 1903. W T Dalton designed the first buildings, and Dalton and Eveleigh the expansion which was for an iron frame car barn costing $14,000. It was this building, so the building at the front is probably the 1899 structure, and the barn behind the addition. The BC Electric Railway Co ran the trams (streetcars) and suburbans that helped to shape the expansion of the City of Vancouver, and many of the suburban municipalities as well. There’s a bit of a debate about the date of this image – the City Archives think it’s from 1899, but other authors say it’s 1904 (which seems to make more sense). It had nine parallel tracks that could squeeze 45 streetcars inside the largest single-storey structure in the city at the time. There were four repair pits and an electric hoist. There was small store (behind the streetcar) run by George Aldrid where employees could buy fruit and tobacco.

streetcar-barns-main-prior-1969-walter-e-frost-cva-447-355The building was further expanded in 1912 when the BC Electric Railway Co planned a $40,000 addition built by Snider & Brethour. We’re unsure what that involved, as the 1912 insurance map shows a much larger building already completed along the entire street to Prior Street. We assume this happened sometime in the late 1900s when there’s a gap in available building permits. (In 1914 the rapidly expanding fleet saw the company build a new two-storey reinforced concrete barn at Main and 14th Avenue, replacing earlier structures at a cost of $300,000).

The expanded buildings that were built here can be seen in this 1969 W E Graham Archives image, long after streetcars had gone, and before the buildings were torn down to be replaced with the new Georgia Viaduct (at the eastern end it’s some distance from Georgia, between Union and Prior Street). The view will change again once the viaducts have been removed.

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives Bu P212 and CVA 447-355

Posted December 1, 2016 by ChangingCity in False Creek, Gone

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Alexander Street at Columbia


This image from around 1930 shows Canadian Pacific locomotive 2614 headed north-east along the tracks that cut a 45 degree angle through the East End of the city. We’re familiar with pictures of tracks running down the street carrying the interurban and streetcars of the BC Electric Railway, but don’t often see the full-sized locomotives that could shut the street down for several minutes. engine-2614-drake-st-yard-1920s-bc-archivesThe engine was probably coming from the Canadian Pacific Drake Street Yards – here’s another view of the Class G2E 4-6-2 locomotive built by the American Locomotive Company in the yards (on the right). There’s another picture in the City Archives of the engine in the station below Cordova Street in the 1930s, attached to a passenger train. The locomotive was sold for scrap in 1959.

There’s a challenge in lining up the contemporary image: the right-of-way that the train ran on has been built over. We’ve seen the building in an earlier post. It’s part of the Four Sisters Housing Co-op; this part was a newbuild component and there’s an attached heritage warehouse that in part dates from 1898. In 1988 the heritage building was converted to residential use, with the new structure replacing the right-of way as a part of the Co-operative, designed by Davidson and Yuen Partners for the Downtown Eastside Residents Association.

Image source: City of Vancouver CVA Can P103 and BC Archives

Posted November 28, 2016 by ChangingCity in Altered, East End

East Pender Street, south side from Dunlevy


Like the last image we posted, we’re looking at Mau Dan Gardens. These are the four storey apartments that are part of the Mau Dan Co-op, designed by Joe Y Wai and completed in 1981. It’s not so easy to line up the contemporary image because Dunlevy Avenue used to go through this site, but today it’s an internal area within the Co-op’s gated enclave. We’re pretty certain our image dates from the 1960s, before the site was cleared in the 1970s. The Co-op pay an annual fee to the City of Vancouver to have exclusive use of the roadway: when the project was first built there was still public access, but in 1995 City Council agreed to lease the land to improve safety, security and privacy for the residents.

Before the comprehensive redevelopment of this block there was a mix of residential and commercial property here. This was the 300 block of East Pender; Merv’s Auto House had once had a gas bar, but by the time this picture was taken had became a welding and repair shop with ‘Bee Line frame straightening’. This was a very Chinese part of town: all the names on Dunlevy and this part of E Pender were Chinese in the 1950s, and the Lore Yee Jang Tong had their fraternal house just out of shot to the west, with the Yin Ping Society a little further down the street on the same block.

This corner site was first developed with two houses; architect and builder W H Chow was hired to make repairs to one of them in 1914. By 1912 it was known as East Pender, but it had been named both Princess and Dupont before that. In 1926 this was identified in the street directory for the first as the Downes Super Service, run by A Downes, but the rest of the street were described as ‘chinese’, which in 1930 became ‘orientals’. A decade later a few Chinese names were recorded, as well as the Ten Yick Reading Room next to the tong house. Downes Super Service were still in business until 1940, still run by Arthur Downes, who lived on W10th Avenue with his wife Cornelia. The service station briefly became the Harry’s Super Service, then the Victory Service Station, but by 1943 it was closed. In 1946 Lees Transport were operating here, and from 1950 the premises were G Vernon’s tire service.

Posted November 24, 2016 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

Keefer Street, north side from Jackson


When W E Graham took this picture in 1966, Strathcona was an area of the city that was still threatened with obliteration. The ‘urban renewal’ of the neighbourhood and parts of Chinatown were still on the table – although it was becoming apparent that the local community weren’t going to roll over and allow their homes to be bulldozed, at least not without a fight. Several blocks of houses and businesses had been flattened, and new rental housing (at higher densities) had been built, ostensibly to rehouse the community. The McLean Park housing development between Union, Keefer, Gore and Jackson is immediately behind the photographer; construction was started in 1963, and completed in 1970 (although the design dates from the 1950s).

The homes in the picture had already been expropriated by the City of Vancouver some years before. We don’t know who built them, or exactly when, but they were already built when the 1901 Goad’s Insurance map was published. In 1967 it became apparent that even if the City of Vancouver still favoured ‘slum clearance’ of the entire area, other levels of government wouldn’t be funding the remainder of the program. We’re not sure exactly when the houses were demolished; there’s an Archives image that shows a few were still standing on the block in 1973. The dramatic change in levels that resulted from the redevelopment can be seen clearly – the houses were on a much higher level because, as with much of Strathcona, the streets were leveled after the houses had been built.

The City’s plans for this site intended it to be sold to a private developer for market housing, and it was sold for a third of the cost to assemble it. The purchaser blew the deal and didn’t develop the land as promised; lawsuits ensued and the city eventually regained the land. The City then proposed that a fire hall should be built on the site, but after local objections that was built on Prior Street and the land was reserved for family housing. Mau Dan Gardens was developed by the Strathcona Area Housing Society, (a spin-off from the Strathcona Property Owners and Tenants Association – SPOTA – the community group who successfully fought the comprehensive redevelopment of the area). It was designed by Joe Y Wai and Spaceworks Architects, and built by the Turnbull and Gale construction company. Some of the units were sold, and remain freehold properties.

The majority of the 128 unit project is a housing co-operative. The founding membership of the Co-operative were predominantly of Chinese ethnicity, but included families of Vietnamese, Cambodian, Japanese and Canadian origin. In the past couple of years the complex has been comprehensively updated for the first time since its 1981 completion. New energy efficient windows and roofs were provided, the wooden frame repaired where needed and a new rainscreen stucco finish applied to the outer walls over improved insulation and soundproofing.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1135-35 (reversed)

Posted November 21, 2016 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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