156 West Hastings Street

Trocadero Grill 156 W Hastings

We looked at a 1940 image of this building in an earlier post. We also featured the building next door, 152 West Hastings to contrast the state it had got into by the early 2000s to how it is today, following restoration. Our earlier post noted the information contained in the Heritage Statement “In 1939, E. Chrystal & Co. changed the east half of the facade to match that on the west; the cornice on the west half was removed as well and replaced with a single continuous cornice”. As this 1914 image shows, that’s not accurate. It was the western façade (closest to us) built in 1901 for Jonathan Rogers at a cost of $10,000, designed by Parr and Fee, that was altered. The second floor windows were originally a shallow wooden bay window; today both facades match 152 West Hastings built in 1904 and designed by William Blackmore and Son. It cost $8,000 and the developer was listed as E Rogers – Elizabeth, Jonathan Rogers’ wife (who he married in 1902). E. Chrystal & Co were a sash and door manufacturer. Jonathan Rogers went on to develop the Rogers Building at Pender and Granville

There aren’t too many passing references to the Trocadero, which was here for many decades from at least as early as 1911. Delbert Guerin recalled that his mother Gertie, of Squamish and English lineage, was hustled into a corner table to be hidden from other customers, and as a result the family never ate there again. In 1936 the restaurant was the scene of a sit-down strike by waitresses who were fighting for unionization, better pay and working conditions. The Women’s Labour History Collection at SFU interviewed one of the strikers, Marion Sarich, who noted that “I was a bus girl, I was working seven days a week at, I don’t know I think it was 25 cents an hour … they weren’t allowed to work us over eight hours but they did … So we started organizing and had a strike. The CP’s Housewives’ League, the Women’s Labor League, and the CP Women’s Auxiliaries supported the stnke, as did much of the general public.” Anita Anderson, another striker and bus girl at the Trocadero remarked that “the police were sympathetic to the strikers because they ate there and got to know the bus girls and the waitresses. The customers became just like a family because they were eating there everyday and you saw them everyday“.

trocThere were 138 covers at the Trocadero Grill, which although known in the 1930s as a Greek restaurant with its own bakery, didn’t start out that way. It was initially owned by Donald D McKinnon, who advertised in ‘The Kilt’ in 1916 as ‘A Café for Highlanders, run by a Highlander’. Donald McKinnon was living on Melville Street in 1911, aged 34, with his 24 year-old Ontario-born wife, Kay and their five year old daughter, Kate. He had arrived in Canada in 1901 and the family had four lodgers, Juliet Cooper, Cassandra Walker, Mabel Hutchinson and Ethel Eggar. Before he ran the Trocadero Mr McKinnon appears to have managed the Winton Motor Car Co showroom. In 1914 he acquired the mineral rights of a property in the Peace Valley. By 1919 the Trocadero was run by J Makris, A Ziongas and H Mavris, an had presumably changed to its Greek manifestation. Donald McKinnon had become a manager of the Kincaid, Water Wheel and Power Company. (We know it’s the same Donald McKinnon, because his home address stayed the same). The McKinnon Water Wheel and Power Company as it then became offered a small, powerful wheel attached to a generator for mining operations that was said to be far lighter and easier to utilize than gasoline generators of the day. This was not the only application: the BC Government powered the electricity for the town of Squamish using a McKinnon wheel, and the 1919 report of the BC Department of Railways commented “This may be said to be the first special wheel of this or any type to be manufactured in the Province, and it has proved most satisfactory during the trials, – only a few minor alterations and adjustments requiring to be made.” The company survived well into the 1920s.

Today there’s a restaurant again where the Trocadero once operated – part of the Warehouse chain.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives LGN 1271

Granville Street – 400 block east side

400 block Granville

We’re looking north on Granville in 1939. Looking much darker in those days than it does now, the 1908 Canadian Bank of Commerce is behind the car, and beyond that is the Royal Bank’s half skyscraper from the early 1930s. Closest to us is the Merchants Bank of Canada, built in 1915 in a classical style to make its modest three storeys look more imposing.

The large office building on the corner of West Pender is the Rogers Building. It was built by Vancouver businessman Jonathan Rogers, who hired Seattle architects Gould and Champney for his biggest investment in the city. He was born at Plas-Onn, near Llangollen in Denbighshire, North Wales, and grew up speaking only Welsh. At 16 he moved to Liverpool where he worked at various jobs while perfecting his English. In May 1887 he headed for Montreal and crossed Canada, arriving on the first transcontinental train to arrive in Vancouver. Soon after his arrival Jonathan attended the first public auction of parcels of CPR land within the newly created city. He bought four lots outside the area already built at that time, although now located in the heart of downtown. He started work as a painter, and then became a construction contractor.

The massive speculation that had accompanied the arrival of the railway in 1887 was soon halted when the economic realities of building a new city set in, coupled with a collapse in lumber prices south of the border. Jonathan Rogers held on to his land through this depression and in 1893 with James and Thomas Hunter built a 2-storey building on Columbia Street, near Powell Street known as the Commercial Block. He became one of the city’s most successful contractors (and was elected to City Council), and over a number of years added a series of modest buildings on West Hastings Street. The Granville building was in an altogether different class. Initially announced as ‘The Glyn Building’, (although on completion it would bear the Rogers name), Jonathan spared no expense on his state-of-the-art reinforced concrete structure (the biggest the city had seen). He toured North America and Europe with the architect, A Warren Gould, to identify the best materials, and understand the most up-to date building finishes and techniques. Fifteen carloads of enamelled terra cotta came from Chicago. The ornamental iron was purchased in Minneapolis and St. Paul and five of the most up-to-date elevators were bought in Toronto. Nearly 60,000 feet of cork flooring and 60,000 feet of linoleum came from England and 8,000 barrels of California cement were used. During construction The BC Saturday Sunset said “The building is designed along the lines of the modern French Renaissance (with an) exterior of polished Glasgow granite, in combination with cream-colored terra cotta facing . . . All the interior finish woodwork is to be of hardwood with white Italian marble corridors and stairs throughout… The building will be a monument to Alderman Rogers, whose faith in the future of this city is exemplified in the erection of a building which, when completed, will represent an expenditure of nearly $600,000.”

The Engineering and Contract Record reported noted “One wing of the building will be fitted up for doctors and dentists, for whose convenience special electrical and compressed air appliances will be introduced. They continued “the basement will contain a large cafe and kitchen, barber shop, etc., as well as heating and power plants, electric generators, and refrigeration machines for the cafe.”

Rogers sold the building in September 1927 to General F. A. ‘One Arm’ Sutton for a sum “exceeding $1 million” – the largest real estate transaction in the city to that time. Around 1940 he bought it back – although by then his wife Elizabeth was managing the family interests.

Jonathan Rogers died in 1945 and left what at that time was a very large sum of money, a quarter of a million dollars, to various causes in Vancouver. The largest single bequest of $100,000 was given to the City of Vancouver to create a neighbourhood park in a poorer part of the city. (Rogers served on the Parks Board for 26 years). After several delays Jonathan Rogers Park was finally opened in 1958 on 8th Avenue, in Mount Pleasant.

Today the Rogers Building continues to offer office accommodation to a wide variety of tenants, and although the basement barbers no longer operate, the stores on the main floor continue to thrive.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1376-147

Posted July 14, 2016 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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Canadian Bank of Commerce – Granville and West Hastings

Hastings & Granville se

As this image shows, this Toronto-designed bank was briefly a big building on an important city corner. Granville Street was the Canadian Pacific Railway’s showpiece; their station was just down the hill, and their hotel and opera house were to the south. They were intent on moving the city’s commercial centre westwards from the old town of Granville, where the city had first been established some distance to the east of here, towards their own land holdings along Granville Street.

This Vancouver Public Library image shows the newly-completed bank in 1908, designed by Darling and Pearson, the bank’s preferred corporate architects. By 1910 a taller building had been built next door to the east, also designed by the same architects for Canada Life. To the south, on Granville Street, Jonathan Rogers built his showpiece office building completed in 1911.

Oberto Oberti carried out a careful reconfiguration of the building for Birks Jewelers; the bank operations ceased here in the mid 1950s.

Posted July 11, 2016 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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Seymour Street – 1200 block, east side

1200 Seymour east 3

The area of the Downtown Peninsula officially known in the Downtown Plan as ‘Downtown South’, (and sometimes called ‘New Yaletown’) has seen some of the greatest change in the city in the relatively recent past. We saw the block to the north of here in a recent post. That looked at a 1981 view of the street; here’s another from the same year. The area in 1981 had mostly single storey commercial buildings, most dating from the 1940s to the 1970s. While there were a few old houses in parts of the area, mostly dating back to the early 1900s, in this part of Seymour Street it was all business property. As with our previous post, the Archives have this image wrongly attributed – this time to Richards Street, and the 1100 block.

On the corner is a 1976 structure that recently was home to a vintage clothing store, but in 1981 was ‘Rattan Rarities’. Next door were a series of auto-related businesses; J & M Fiberglass Enterprises, who are still in business in an industrial area of the city, an auto body shop. (The original owner, Jerry Olsen, an expert on Chevrolet Corvette bodywork retired in 2005). The next building was occupied by Cylinder Grinders (who we assume ground cylinders). Surprisingly, (and we suspect for only a short time), the first two commercial buildings are still standing. The former car body repairer became a Japanese auto repairer, but the most recent use for the building was as a sales centre for a condo project on Hornby Street.

Perhaps the most obvious difference in spring and summer is the tree canopy – in 1981 there were no street trees. No doubt with the redevelopment of the corner lots there will be even more in future.

1200 Seymour east 2

We’re now mid-block, also in 1981. We don’t know for certain when the garage-like structure in the centre of the picture was built. Until the mid 1920s these seem to be residential addresses, and there were some houses built here according to the insurance maps. Campbell & Grill were running a sheet metal works which the numbering suggests might have been next door to the north. By 1934 The Piston Shop was here, so it would seem likely that this was an early 1930s building. It also looks as if there was some continuity of use here as the 1981 occupants of the building were Cylinder Grinders, who had been located on the block since before 1950. The other company here, White Mine Development were a mining operation. They carried out a number of prospecting drilling operations using diamond drilling during the mid to late 1970s.

In 1996 a double-height loft tower was built here. ‘Space’ was designed by Kasian Kennedy for Pacific City Land Corp, with 211 condos in 20 floors. The lower floors have the overheight lofts while the remainder of the tower has standard apartments. Over the years there have been a series of minor development permits to add space to the building to legalize the upper floor platforms that have been installed in many of the double-height spaces. Although in theory the zoning permits the possibility of two towers on this block, this is very unlikely to happen. The location of this tower is right in the centre of the block face with non-market housing to the south and a site to the north limited in height due to potential shadowing of the park across the street.


Posted July 7, 2016 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone, Still Standing

568 Keefer Street

568 Keefer

This Strathcona house was still standing in our 1962 image. Although it seems to be in reasonable condition, and had been developed and built less than 50 years earlier (according to the building Permit by K E Raby in 1913), it was gone by 1979 when a new house was built, much further back on the lot. Six years earlier the neighbouring site with what looks like a former store was also redeveloped, with a shrunken Vancouver Special (as this is an area of twenty-five foot lots).

We had no idea who the K E Raby shown on the building permit was: nobody of that name shows up in any location in the street directories, although there was a Lewis (sometimes Louis) Raby involved as a real estate broker in the early 1910s. He was from Duncan, Ontario, and in December 1915 was apparently headed to World War One; although soon after he applied to become an American citizen and moved to Tacoma where he worked in the shipyards. His wife, Alice, was Australian and a nurse. They married in 1911 and in 1918 he had built a new maternity home in Tacoma, the year Alice died from pneumonia. Katherine Raby was living in the North Bulkley Valley in 1911 where she advertised as a public stenographer, but she married George Harvey that year and presumably became Katherine Harvey.

There is mention of K E Raby in a 1915 news piece: he donated a box of fruit to a collection for troops headed overseas, and was shown as in business at 512 Main Street. Two boxes were also donated by K A Raby of Candyland. That helped us trace who we think really built the house: K E Rahy. (Rahy was misprinted in the newspaper as Raby; presumably the building permit suffered from the same issue). Kalil E Rahy ran the confectionary store at Main and lived on Odlum Drive, and another entry shows another Kalil Rahy running Candyland on West Hastings, living on the 800 block of Keefer.

There was only one K Rahy recorded in the 1911 census (the clerk heard the name as Karl) – a Syrian who had arrived in BC in 1891. He lived with his wife, son and five daughters on Odlum Drive. In 1913, when the house was built he was living on East Hastings and was manager of the Granville Theatre. (By 1916 there were five Kalil Rahys in the city by including the two who ran confectionery stores; two of the others were tailors). There’s no sign that the Rahy family ever lived here, it seems to have been an investment property.

The first resident in the house was listed in 1914 as Crediford Hill, with Jennie Lawrence a year later and in 1916 Woo Sun, followed by Lum Wah Sun in the early 1920s. Crediford was a carpenter who was married to Gertrude, and when they moved into the house they had two daughters aged nine and seven (Gertrude and Phyllis), and John their six year old son. Crediford and his family were relatively recent arrivals from England (in 1910); all the children had been born there. They had moved from 630 Powell Street where they had two lodgers, Edward Hill, a plumber and William Little, another carpenter.

Posted July 4, 2016 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

837 West Hastings Street

Ferguson home 815 W Hastings

We featured an office building erected on this lot in an earlier post. Here’s the house it replaced that dated back to late 1886, built by and for real estate pioneer A G Ferguson. The reason that it’s so difficult to compare the image with what’s there today is that the house was built on the sloping lot on top of a cliff, with a commanding view out over the beach towards the forests on the North Shore of Burrard Inlet. Today the site has been leveled, the cliff is no longer apparent, and the forest that remains starts a lot further up the mountains. This was numbered as 815 Hastings when it was built, but the numbers have shifted and we’ve referenced the contemporary address.

On almost every document and publication that mention him he was referred to as A G Ferguson; his first name – Alfred – is never used. He was an American, born (according to his marriage certificate) in New York in 1843, and married to Marion Dixon of Michigan in Pottawattamie, Iowa, in November, 1869. He appears in the 1891 Canadian Census as Alfred Graham Fergusson, born in 1844 in the US to an English born mother and American father. In the 1901 census he was listed as Arthur, but that census collector spelled his wife’s name incorrectly, and recorded him as Fergusson.  The 1901 household was completed by Elizabeth Orange, a companion, and Mabel Williams, a 24 year old domestic with James Williams, also a domestic aged 20 years.

A G Ferguson came to British Columbia as a tunnel builder. He was in charge of the Cherry Creek Tunnel work about 13 miles west of Kamloops in 1884. He almost certainly arrived in Granville in 1885; he doesn’t appear in the 1885 Street Directory, but his wooden building was definitely standing at the corner of Carrall and Powell Streets in the spring of 1886, and Frank W Hart in a 1933 conversation recalled “Even in 1885, A.G. Ferguson was noted for being a C.P.R. tunnel contractor, and wealthy; a very nice man to boot. He built the Ferguson Block at the southeast corner of Carrall and Powell streets—burned down in the fire shortly afterwards”. In June 1886, within days of the fire, Mr. Ferguson confirmed he would build a ‘cottage’ high on the bluff on Hastings Street. W T Whiteway designed the replacement of his burned down office investment at Carrall and Powell; he may have designed this house as well, although as an engineer Mr. Ferguson could also have designed his own home. In 1887 he’s listed as a Civil Engineer, living on Hastings Street. By 1888 his description has changed to ‘capitalist’.

When the CPR sold off land, A G Ferguson was at the front of the line. It perhaps didn’t hurt that the sale took place in the Ferguson Block, or that the CPR’s Vancouver executive, Harry Abbott, lived next door. Walter Graveley in conversation with Major Matthews in 1935 recalled the sale; “Ferguson had his hand on the handle of the door; Ferguson was first; Dr. LeFevre was second; F.C. Innes was third; then came R.G. Tatlow; C.D. Rand was next, and I was behind C.D. Rand. The first three, Ferguson, Dr. LeFevre, and Innes had sat up all night in Ferguson’s office in the same block; the Ferguson Block was the wooden block on the corner of Carrall and Powell streets, where the C.P.R. had their first offices in Vancouver; we were waiting for the C.P.R. office to open; that was why we were there; there was no rush; we just walked in when the office opened that morning; Ferguson was first; he had his hand on the handle of the door.” The speed of growth of A G’s investments can be seen in the assessed value of his property. In 1887 it was $20,000, in 1889 it was $100,000 and in 1891 it was $140,000. In that year his holdings were the sixth largest in the city. He built a series of buildings that had his name associated with them, all somewhat confusingly called ‘the Ferguson Block’ as well as the Boulder Hotel on Cordova.

A G Ferguson enjoyed an active social life as well as his business and civic duties. He was an extraordinarily hands-on chair of the Parks Board, helped design the grades of the roads, and funding the Board’s works out of his own pocket when funds ran out. He was the first president of the newly formed Terminal City Club in 1899 (although the city’s merchants had been meeting together from 1892 as the Metropolitan Club). He had a luxury steam yacht, the Nagasaki (probably built in Japan). He fell ill in 1902, and died in San Francisco in 1903. Appropriately enough, today the site is home to the Terminal City Club. Perhaps the city’s most mixed-use building, it combines the club, retail uses, office space, a hotel and strata apartments in a 30 storey building designed by James Cheng and Musson Cattell Mackey completed in 1998.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives SGN 67

Posted June 30, 2016 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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Hastings and Howe – nw corner

800 block W Hastings

We looked at a building on this corner in an earlier post. It was the Merchants Building, designed by Townley and Matheson and completed in 1923. Here’s an earlier image showing the house that was replaced when the Merchants Building was developed. The picture shows the dramatic scale changes going on at the time as the frame for the Metropolitan Building was being erected next door, in 1910. The house pre-dated the century, in fact it was one of the oldest in the city. It had been built in 1887, designed by T C Sorby who also had the job of designing the first station and rail terminal.  In 1891 it was occupied by H Abbott, and A G Ferguson owned the house next door (where the Metropolitan Building was built). Significant city-building was being directed from this block: Harry Abbott was superintendent of the BC Division of the CPR and Arthur Ferguson was one of the most active real estate promoters and developers in the city.

Before this Mr. Abbott had, according to reports recorded by City Archivist Major Matthews, stayed in the Sunnyside Hotel on Water Street and the Burrard Hotel on Hastings. The house was built at the same time as the first Hotel Vancouver, and the lumber came from the Moodyville Mill on the north side of Burrard Inlet. Mr. Abbott’s family joined him from Brockville just before the first train arrived in Port Moody in July 1886. Apparently they travelled in his rail car a few days before the first official train, and so were technically the first passengers to travel across Canada. When the Abbott family were in residence Mrs. Abbott was said to have kept chickens in a large run in the garden.

Harry Abbott came from a well-connected Montreal family – (his oldest brother was the first Canadian-born Prime Minister). He studied law, then switched to civil engineering, helping build new rail lines in eastern Canada. In 1882, aged 53, he joined the CPR, and two years later was given the job of managing the construction of the main line to the west. He was appointed to superintendent of the BC division of the railway in 1886, and spent over a decade developing the new city and expanding its services.

In 1897 Mr. Abbott was still living here, but had retired from the job of running the railway’s Vancouver operation, although he was still living in the house. A year later he had moved to a new house he had built on the corner of Georgia and Jervis, and Richard Marpole, the new general superintendent moved in. One possibility is that the house had become a company owned building rather a personal one, (although Mr. Abbott was definitely owner of the lot in 1886). Another credible scenario is that Mr. Marpole bought it and lived here for 12 years before Shaughnessy Heights was ready for house construction. He moved to a new home on Angus Avenue in 1911, and it looks as if the house was vacant, and then the address disappears completely until the Merchants Building was built in the early 1920s.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Bu P556

Posted June 27, 2016 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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