Post Office – West Georgia Street

Georgia St Post Office

Here’s the city’s fourth post office building, built in 1958 and designed by McCarter, Nairne and Associates (the same architects who designed the Marine Building). This image was shot somewhere between 1960 and 1980 – although we think it was earlier rather than later in that range, judging from the vehicles – possibly 1965 if we’re reading the plate on the Oregon registered Mercedes correctly.

Post OfficeThe building is likely to see some fairly dramatic change in the near future. Recently sold by the Post Office for over $150m to the BC Pension Fund, a proposal to redevelop (by adding more structures above the 1950s building) is being considered. That won’t necessarily be dramatically different from the original intent for the building – today there’s a truncated two-storey office on top. but the original design was for a much more substantial office slab tower.

When it was built the structure was said to be the largest welded steel frame in North America. That’s an important distinction – there are many bigger buildings, but if it has a steel frame, it’s usually riveted, not welded. The repurposed building could see retail, office, hotel and residential uses, and the current parking area on West Georgia would become a plaza (presumably with the opportunity for some outdoor seating).

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-56

Posted May 14, 2015 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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The Biltmore – 955 Thurlow Street

Biltmore Thurlow

This 1928 Apartment building was a bit of a mystery. All we were able to find was that the architect might have been ‘Simmonds’ – H H Simmonds who practiced in the city for forty years. Then, thanks to a tip from the Heritage Vancouver Society (who are adding more and more building permits to their database) we were able to confirm the architect was indeed H H Simmonds, and the that developer was C S Gustafson, who spent $80,000 to develop it. Carl Gustafson was a builder (and the builder of this project) who had built houses in the West End as early as 1903, and developed the Clifton Hotel on Granville Street in 1910. In 1911 36-year-old Carl was identified by the census as Swedish (having arrived in 1890), living with his wife Hannah and their three sons and their domestic servant, and a lodger.

The building permit was issued in December 1928, and was shown in the street directory as ‘new apartment building’ in 1929, and occupied in 1930 The two fourth floor tenants were Claude Irons, the manager of the Burroughs Adding Machine Co and Laurent Maclean, a clerk with Customs. There’s no earlier building listed at this address on Thurlow – but that’s because it was on the corner with Barclay and the house that was there before was listed as 1100 Barclay. This 1955 Vancouver public Library image shows the building has remained pretty much unchanged in appearance over six decades.

From 1898, for twenty years, the house on this site (designed by William Blackmore) was the home of George I Wilson, President of the Coast Steamship Co, a Scotsman who first arrived in Vancouver in 1887 in the dry goods trade and then made his fortune in the canning business (although in 1900 he was listed as a broker, with an office in the Flack Block). In 1920 Mrs C Parkinson was listed as occupant of the house here, but so too were clerk J J Morley, Robert Norman, an industrial surveyor, F M Robinson, another clerk with the S C Railway and Alex Wood, the local manager with the Rat Portage Lumber Co (whose wife visited Toronto that year). In the Daily World in 1920 Mrs. C Parkinson who lived here was holidaying at Seaton Lake in the Lillooet Valley. The newspaper also reported  that Marion G Buller, who lived at the house, registered a new Chevrolet Tourer from here. We assume that this was a very classy multi-occupied rooming house. In 1923 Mrs Nellie Rudd was listed as the occupant and in 1927 and 1928 James Pickford, a salesman lived at the house until it was replaced with the apartment building.

Posted May 11, 2015 by ChangingCity in Still Standing, West End

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Broughton Apartments – 1091 Broughton Street

Broughton Apartments 1091 Broughton

Not all the buildings in the West End are in as quite as good shape as they once were. The Broughton Apartments have unfortunately lost their cornice, although the street is in much better condition than in this supposed c1910 picture. The earliest the picture can really date from is 1912, when the building was completed. The building permit for the $100,000 building was approved in December 1910, with Parr and Fee responsible for the design for owner, and builder Peter Tardiff. Although his name appears as contractor on many projects in the city, including a number on Granville Street that we’ve featured elsewhere, this seems to be the most valuable building that he constructed. His other significant investment was the Family Theatre on the 900 block of Granville Street that he built in 1910 as a cost of $25,000, with Parr and Fee also designing that for him.

The building started life as the Broughton Apartments, although today it’s known as Gainsborough Place. The site was initially occupied by a house owned by George Stevens. Peter Tardif, as he was recorded by the census, was living at 1121 Bidwell Street in 1911, age 43 with his wife Marie Louise and their eight children (six of them girls) aged between 15 and one, with his 24-year-old cousin, Yvonne Lafrance. His wife was a few years younger, and although both parents had been born in Quebec, all the children had been born in British Columbia. In the 1901 census he was also shown as Tardif, which suggests that the more commonly recorded Tardiff was probably wrong. He was listed as a house builder in 1901, and a contractor in 1911. He appears as the architect of some of the buildings he worked on, but as with many of the city’s contractors these were generally smaller jobs. He worked a lot with Parr and Fee on larger contracting jobs, which may be why he chose them to design his investment. In earlier census records, from 1871 to 1891 he was recorded as Pierre Tardif, one of 19 Pierre Tardif’s in Canada – all of them in Quebec. He was married in 1893, in British Columbia, to his wife Marie-Louise Labrecque.

When it was newly built this was clearly a smart building. Unlike many of the West End buildings the tenants all seem to have been couples, (or possibly men living alone). The apartments were big; there were only 37 altogether. Among the residents were the architect of the building, J Edmeston Parr, Samuel H Henderson who was manager of the Vancouver Table Supply Co, Charles Boldrick, who was secretary to William Holden, Robert Creech who worked for Geo A Campbell & Co, a real estate broker, E Crockett and George Kidd who was comptroller of the BCE Railway. Like so many of the city’s rental buildings, turnover was considerable; a year later half of these six tenants had moved on.

In 1913 Mr Tardif sold the building to a consortium of businessmen, Morden, Thorton, Kilroy and Morgan for $140,000 – which was a pretty successful return in a very short period – especially in an economic slowdown. Mr. Tardiff continued to build projects through to the 1920s, and we know he was still around because he was at the wedding of his son Raoul to Ivy Flack in 1929, and his daughter Jeanne Louise in the same year. We think Peter died, or possibly retired and moved away in 1933: that’s the last year he appears in the street directory: still listed as a building contractor, living on Blenheim. It appears that neither of his sons worked with their father; there’s no sign of the company name after this, although several of the children were still in the city.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-98

Posted May 7, 2015 by ChangingCity in Still Standing, West End

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Hampton Court – 1243 Thurlow Street

Hampton Court 1243 Thurlow

For a building that’s over 100 years old, Hampton Court is looking pretty good these days. It’s actually looking even better now than in our 1975 image (and the additional planting helps). The building permit says it was built for Western Securities in 1911. None of the Vancouver Directories around that time have a company called Western Securities, so the developer remained a mystery.

There’s a bit more information in the Contract Record, which reported that “an attractive apartment house building has been erected at the corner of Thurlow and Burnaby streets, Vancouver, for Dr. E N Driver”. That didn’t get us much further forward as there was no E N Driver – whether a doctor or not, in the 1911 Canada census. There was a Dr E N Driver who was a doctor in Alabama, so he seemed unlikely. We know the clerk recorded the right name for the developer – the Times Colonist recorded the creation of the new company in August 1911. Then we traced the right name. Dr Newton Drier was recorded in the 1901 census living with his wife, Hope, both from New Brunswick. As with so many Vancouver residents we look for, if he was recorded in the 1911 census it was under a wrongly spelled name.

The building was designed by Grant and Henderson and cost $100,000 for J J Dissette to build it, and was finished in 1912. In the city these days, when new policy allows higher density housing to be built, there is often an outcry when recent houses are demolished to make way for apartments. Dr. Drier had previously built a new house on this lot (addressed as 1101 Barclay) in 1902, designed by W T Whiteway and costing $2,300 – a substantial sum for the day.

In 1909 Dr. Drier moved to 434 West Pender – where his practice was also based – into a much smaller building also designed for him by Grant and Henderson a few years earlier. In 1916 he moved to New Zealand, continuing his successful medical practice. He returned to Vancouver in retirement, with a second wife, Jessie, and a daughter Francelle. He had a house on West 3rd Avenue, and died in 1941.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-421

Posted May 4, 2015 by ChangingCity in Still Standing, West End

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Queen Charlotte – 1101 Nicola Street

Queen Charlotte Apartments 1101 Nicola

We had to catch this ‘after’ picture in early spring – in summer the building almost disappears behind the greenery. Back in 1928 it was a brand new building built by Dominion Construction (the contractors led by Charles Bentall). The client was H H Stevens, a successful politician and businessman. Herbert Henry Stevens was born in Bristol, England, but arrived in Ontario with his family in 1887 at the age of nine. He made his way to the West Coast, working as a mine laborer and eventually became a small businessman. For a brief time in 1900, his travels took him to the newly annexed Philippines as part of a U.S. Army transport unit. He was also in the Pacific at the time of the Boxer Rebellion and participated as a volunteer civilian member of the U.S. Army in China.

These experiences can be associated with a number of Steven’s future positions; a confirmation of his Methodist teetotal background, (and active opposition to the availability of alcohol), support for organized labour (despite a staunchly Conservative political opinion on almost everything else) and a strong belief in the fundamental difference between western and Asian culture, which he believed should be removed from areas of western control (like Canada).

In 1901 he established a grocery business, and in 1910 the newspaper ‘The Western Call’ that supported Conservative views and included significant coverage of ‘the Chinatown problem’. Stevens never moderated his views on preventing any further incursions into the superior white world he imagined Canada should be. He was elected to Vancouver City Council in 1910, and then as a Conservative member of  parliament, In 1911, in his maiden speech he called on the government to keep Canada “a white man’s country”. During the Great War he ensured that the ‘official photographers’ in Stanley Park, Fricke and Schenck, lost that contract because of their German lineage. In a 1922 speech he argued for exclusion of all Chinese, posing the question “shall Canada remain white, or shall Canada become multi-coloured?”. It’s unlikely he’d be particularly happy in Vancouver today. Stevens was Minister of Trade and Commerce in R.B. Bennett’s depression era Conservative government of 1930 to 1934, and was actively involved in the Komagata Maru incident, working with the head immigration officer to stop the ship’s Indian passengers from coming ashore.

Stevens undoubtedly chose Dominion Construction to undertake his investment because Charles Bentall was a staunch member of the Methodist church, and Dominion had in-house architects who could design their projects, acting as design-and-build contractors. More recently it was restored by designed Robert Ledingham when it became a 25 unit strata, and has a period lobby, carpets and lighting fixtures, with what is claimed to be the city’s last brass-gated bird cage elevator.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Bu N261.1

Posted April 30, 2015 by ChangingCity in Still Standing, West End

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66 West Cordova Street


RV Winch 66 Cordova

We identified a building in a previous post as probably being Thomas Hooper’s building for grocer and meat and game dealer R V Winch. We thought that this photograph showed the same building, although we weren’t certain (although the street numbering and the insurance map from 1901 suggested they might be the same). Clearly this is R V Winch’s store, photographed in 1890 and in the Vancouver Public Library collection. (They have another version of the same picture dated as 1888, but that date is less likely to be accurate).

winch (background) 1893We’ve charted Mr. Winch’s progress in the city on another blog, because he ended up building one of the finest buildings in the city’s early history. His first store was on the same block as this, but further east, at 20 Cordova Street. That was redeveloped as part of the Dunn-Miller block now occupied by the Army & Navy store, and Mr. Winch moved to this new property a bit further west in 1889 – initially numbered as 52, although by the time this picture was taken in 1890 it appears to have become number 66. We couldn’t find any directory records that show him in any building address numbered as 66, it was either 52 or 58 Cordova, but then we noticed way off in the background of our previous post (photographed in 1893) that this building could be seen, just past the wooden hotel buildings that were replaced in 1909 by the Hotel Manitoba.

In 1889 the Vancouver Daily World identified the location of a development by Mr. Winch’s as a 44 foot wide building ‘just to the east of Dougall House‘ which was on the end of the block, several lots to the right in this picture. As this is a 25′ building, we now think Mr. Winch built that investment further down the block, but kept his store here.

R V Winch initially had a business partner – Joseph Shupe – but that partnership dissolved quite quickly. A few years later in 1894 he had another partner, his brother-in-law G E Bower, who was from the same town, Cobourg Ontario, and who started out as a salesman with company in 1892. He was no longer associated with the Winch businesses by 1903, and a few years later built one of a number of investment properties.

W A Grafton, in conversation with Major Matthews recalls selling game to the company. “You see, I used to sell all the fish and game—deer and grouse—to the Hotel Vancouver at first, or to Coughtery, the butcher, and then I changed over to Dick Winch” (Winch and Bower.) “The biggest lot I ever sold to Winch was thirteen deer and sixty-seven brace of grouse all shot by my brother and myself on Bowen Island, and in two days; deer were ‘thick’ then. Winch gave me sixty-eight cents a brace for the grouse, and five cents a pound for the deer.

You could sell the deer only at the opening of the season. After that, you could not sell them; the market was glutted; they did not want them. After the Comox started running, they brought in too many from up north, but you could always sell blue grouse.”

By 1902 the Winch store had moved to the Flack Block on Hastings Street, and a few years later a new building went up on Pender Street. Richard Winch took a gamble on shipping canned salmon to England, was successful in the hugely profitable enterprise, and on the strength of his expanding business empire became wealthy enough to acquire a Rolls Royce and built the Winch Block, now part of the Sinclair Centre.


Posted April 27, 2015 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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Cordova Street – unit block, south side


Unit block Cordova

We’ve see a number of these buildings (or their store fronts) in several recent posts. The building to the left is 36 West Cordova, and today it’s part of the Army and Navy store, but it started life as the Hayes & McIntosh block – a butchers store founded around 1889. The entire staff and the delivery horses from the company feature in this 1893 image. Next door were a series of buildings that were undoubtedly built very quickly after the fire (probably by 1887, when 56 Cordova was home to the Central Hotel) The hotel was run in 1887 by Thomas Quann, and he continued to run it through to 1892 when the number was switched to 42 Cordova. We know it’s still this building because Hayes and McIntosh are shown in the street directory being located next door, although in 1892 he was listed as Thomas Quamm. His census entry identifies him as Quann, born in New Brunswick and aged 46 in 1891 with his Irish wife, Mary, and his children, 18 year old twins, William and Mamie, and John Henry who was 16, all of whom had been born in the US. There were at least 25 lodgers, showing that the Central had a significant number of longer term residents, most of whom seem to be working in construction trades, or as miners. They were a mixture of Irish, English, American with one from Wales, two from Quebec and two from Scotland. By 1896 the owners were listed as Quann brothers, with Thomas joined by WH and JH – presumably his sons William (Billy) and John (Jack) who had now taken over running the hotel. They went on to build the Rainier Hotel in 1905 on the site of their wooden Balmoral Hotel (which started life in 1886 as the Burrard House, run by John Burrard) as well as running the Rose Theatre, the Maple Leaf theatre, and at one point also the St Francis Hotel.

In 1898 Powers and Farron had taken over running the hotel – James Farron who lived on Melville Street and Thomas Powers who lived at the hotel. They only stayed a year or two; in 1900 Newland and Farron were listed, and in 1901 Arthur Newland on his own. Arthur was English, aged 44, living with his Australian wife, Teresa, (who was 30), and they had just 3 lodgers. A year later the premises were empty, and in 1902 it became the Electric Theatre. This was Canada’s first permanent cinema – before this they were travelling shows run by people like the Electric’s founder, John Schuberg. The Electric cost 10c to get in – and seats were free. There was an usher to see that Ladies got the most Desirable Seats. Schuberg sold the Electric and moved to Winnipeg in 1903.

In 1909 the site was developed with a new hotel, the Hotel Manitoba, run initially by the Quann brothers (although Jack Quann died in 1911, and Billy Quann a year later.. It retained this name until 1953, when it became the Hildon Hotel, the name it still operates under today (as single room occupancy accommodation these days). The ‘official’ heritage statement says it was designed by W T Whiteway. We cannot find a single reference to substantiate that attribution. The design, using white glazed bricks is much more reminiscent of Parr and Fee, who used the material extensively on hotel buildings at this time, especially on Granville Street. There are two building permits for Parr and Fee for this address, both in 1909. The first was in April, for Evans, Coleman & Evans, Ltd who commissioned $25,000 of alterations to the William Block. Two months later another $7,000 permit for the same address, with the same architects for further alterations was approved. Both projects were built by Baynes & Horie. The expenditure suggests something substantial in the way of alteration, but perhaps there’s a part of the structure that pre-dates the 1909 construction.

Today there’s a 25 foot wide gap in the street that had a modest 2-storey building that in this image is occupied by R V Winch who sold fruit and meat, having moved from further east on the block when his previous premises were redeveloped for the Dunn-Miller block. This would suggest the building he is in was built in 1888, but we haven’t successfully pinned down a develop or architect –  it’s possible that Mr. Winch developed it himself.

Further down the street are two buildings that we think date back to 1899 – one developed by F A Boehlofsky and designed by Allan McCartney, and the second right on the edge of the picture that we think is R V Winch’s investment designed by Thomas Hooper. Today the Hildon Hotel – built as the Hotel Manitoba is here; built in 1909 – we think by Evans, Coleman and Evans (Percy Evans George Coleman and Ernest Evans) who had extensive merchant interests from docks to steamships with side interests in property (including two hotels on Cordova Street). Beyond is a 2012 residential building designed by Henriquez Partners for Westbank.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Bu P552

Posted April 23, 2015 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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