Rexmere Rooms – 568 Seymour Street

Rexmere Rooms 568 Seymour

We saw a view of these buildings almost three years ago when we first started this blog. The taller building in this 1922 image is the 1913 building designed by Braunton & Leibert for the Standard Trust & Industrial Co at a cost of $50,000. That company had developed another building down the street a year earlier, and in the frantic development scramble of the times, planned another on West Hastings Street near Howe Street in 1913. This wasn’t the first building here – there were houses and industrial buildings from before the turn of the century. The building to the south (The Arts and Crafts Building) had three floors in 1922, and three more today.

Leon Melekov was Managing Director of the company. As well as property development, Melekov’s other investment interest was oil – he was President of a two million dollar company in 1914 called Saxon Oil, looking to develop oil fields in the vicinity of Calgary. He appears to have moved on to the US once the Vancouver economy faltered: we know he was naturalized as American in California (and from that we also know he was born in Russia). In 1927 we find “An Ordinance granting a gas, light, heat and power franchise to Leon Melekov, his successors and assigns, for the purpose of furnishing the citizens of Flagstaff with gas, light, heat and power in the City of Flagstaff, County of Coconino, State of Arizona”. Eventually he apparently became disenchanted with the oil business – or so one might surmise from the title of his 1953 publication on the topic: The Greatest Fraud Ever Perpetrated in America“.

In the main floor in 1922 were Love & Co, who were furniture auctioneers. Upstairs were the Rexmere Rooms, run by John Melville. Several tenants are listed: a telegraph operator with the Great Northern Railway, a timber inspector and a carpenter, a female clerk with a photography company and three waitresses (two at the St Regis Café), a longshoremen and a swamper.

The house next door pre-dated 1901: in 1922 it was home to Frederick Helliar who ran Helliar Transfer from the same address. (There were two other Helliars in the city who worked for the company, Job and Garnet, but they had homes elsewhere in the city). Today the Braunton and Leibert building is still standing, these days the upper floors are offices. The house was replaced some time in the next few years.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-3424


Posted December 15, 2014 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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Carter House – Water Street (2)

Carter House 2

Here’s a second look at The Carter House on Water Street, built by Lewis Carter in 1886, soon after the fire that destroyed the city. The original verandah was removed some years after erection before this 1898 image. There were three Carter siblings in Vancouver, Lewis, John and their sister Elizabeth. Elizabeth was married twice, and had two sons. The elder son was William F Finlay who became sports editor at the Vancouver World and later the Vancouver Sun. He gave a number of interviews to Major Matthews, the city archivist, that are our main source of information about Lewis Carter. He was killed with his wife Nancy in a tragic accident when his car wheels stuck in the tram line on the Granville Street Bridge and the car was struck by a tram.

“Mr. Lewis Carter, who had been a surveyor on the construction of the C.P.R. from Port Moody to Vancouver, cleared the ground with his own hands. A tremendous cedar stump, over twelve feet in diameter, had to be removed from the spot where the front door afterwards stood, and in removing its roots, water was struck and added to the difficulty, a fact which illustrates the low level of the land of Water Street in those days.”

“My Uncle, Lewis Carter, crossed the continent five times, the first time in 1872. He was, for three weeks, on the survey line, the surveying of the route, of the C.P.R. from Port Moody to Vancouver. He had charge of the C.P.R. car building shops at Yale for two and one half years; they built freight cars there, and some of the first turntables.

“My first ‘impression’ of Vancouver came in the form of a big bump on the back of my head. I arrived by train, 22 October 1887, and took Uncle’s bus to the Carter House; an open ‘express’ conveyance with seat longways on both sides, a covering supporting with iron stanchions, and canvas flaps for the sides to let down in rainy weather, and drawn by two horses. The Vancouver roads were very poor for somewhere on our way up the incline to Cordova Street or down to Water Street, the bus gave a big bump, I bounced out of my seat, my head banged the stanchion of the covering, and left a big bump on the back.”

Carter wedding 1892We’re not sure exactly when Lewis handed the hotel to his brother John to run. In 1892 (as this wedding notice shows) John was linked to the hotel, and we know he worked there in 1891 as the desk clerk, and from 1894 to 1897 as the bartender. In 1898 he was shown living on Pender Street, and Louis was still proprietor of the hotel. Two years later John Lewis Carter was the proprietor, and a year later Mrs J L Carter was in charge.

Lewis and Maggie Carter continued to live in the city, presumably in retirement. John was shown as aged 59, and Margarett 38 in the 1901 census, but as with many people we’ve looked for, they were missed in the 1911 census (or had moved away) They died in 1923 and 1925, and were buried in Mountain View Cemetery. The hotel was demolished about 1921 or 1922, and the site was occupied by the Pacific Mills Ltd., before being incorporated into the Woodward’s Water Street Parkade, now refurbished and rebuilt as the Gastown parkade designed by Henriquez Partners.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Bu N166


Posted December 11, 2014 by ChangingCity in Gastown, Gone

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Carter House – Water Street (1)

Carter House 1

Lewis Carter was born in Ireland, in either 1842 or 1843, and arrived in Vancouver a few weeks before the fire that destroyed the city, and the hotel he had just built only weeks earlier. W.F. Findlay, Mr. Carter’s nephew told the story to City Archivist Major Matthews. “My uncle, Lewis Carter, of the Carter House, told me that, when the fire broke out, he was halfway up Mount Pleasant” (up Westminster Avenue on Mount Pleasant), “and started to run back. He ran a long way, then walked to regain his breath, then started running again, and got as far as the corner of Cordova Street East and Main Street and then turned west down Cordova Street slope. The wind was so strong that he could hardly make headway. He got as far as Carrall Street, but the fire prevented further progress and he turned and went down Hastings Road with the crowd.”

He started building a replacement hotel almost immediately, and The Carter House stood next to the Stag & Pheasant on Water Street for many years. It was, (some said), the first three storey building in the town – both before and after the fire. Mr. Findlay also explained how Lewis had ended up in Vancouver. “My uncle was one of the surveyors of the line of the C.P.R. from Port Moody to Vancouver. He once told me that he had once taken a big Indian canoe, capable of holding three and a half tons cargo—a big canoe—and he (Mr. Carter), three or four Indians, and two surveyors—a regular survey party—had carried it across from Burrard Inlet to False Creek at high tide, via what is now Carrall Street, to save half a day’s paddling, and bucking tide necessary to go around through the Narrows.”

In 1891 the census described Lewis as a hotel keeper, his wife, Margaret (from Ontario) was with him, nearly twenty years younger, and his brother, John, was there too as the hotel clerk. Over twenty lodgers were also recorded, from Ontario and New Brunswick, the USA, Scotland and England. They worked as loggers, mill hands, bricklayers and carpenters, tinsmiths and teamsters – a cross section of the trades building the rapidly expanding city. Margaret was the daughter of Robert McMorran who became a city Alderman for one term in 1898, was a member of the Orange Lodge, and who died in 1910.

The photograph was reproduced by W J Moore from a copy of around 1887, and the people in it were identified by W F Findlay: on the veranda was Mrs. Margaret J. Carter, wife of the owner. The third from the left is C.E. McTaggart, afterwards manager of the Vancouver City Market (destroyed by fire) opposite the C.N.R. station; the fourth is Chas. E. Doering, of Doering and Marstrand, brewers of Mount Pleasant; the fifth Lewis Carter, the owner of the hotel; and the seventh John L. Carter, his brother and manager of the hotel. A painted sign states, “Meals and Beds, 25¢.” The 1887 date seems likely to be correct – although there had been buildings on the street since the 1860s, after the fire the street was still uneven and unpaved; only the wooden sidewalks were reasonably easy to walk on.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Hot P1

Posted December 8, 2014 by ChangingCity in Gastown, Gone

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Gordon Villa – Cambie Street

Gordon Villa 633 CambieGordon Villa was built around 1890, and here it is in that same year. Major Matthews added a note to the photograph saying “Photograph shows Mr. John Connon seated on the steps, Miss Mary Connon (Stuart) standing in front of a door and the spire of the Baptist Church”. The house faced the Cambie Street Grounds (today a huge surface parking lot, waiting for a decision on a new Art Gallery).

From the street directory it looks as if the house was very new (if the 1890 attribution for the picture is correct). It doesn’t appear in the 1890 street listing, but J Cannon (sic) is there in 1891 with Miss M Connon, and in 1892 there’s a Mary Connow (music teacher) and John Connon, carpenter. John and Mary Connon emigrated in 1889 from Scotland when they were both aged 60, we assume their family came with them, although perhaps only Mary and William initially. We can guess where Gordon Villa got its name: Mary Connon was originally Mary Gordon, and John and Mary had married in 1862 in Banchory, Devenick, Kincardine, Scotland. They had a daughter, Margaret, who was born in 1863 and who died in New Westminster in john connon1938. A son, John, was born in 1865; another daughter, Elspet was christened in 1866 (she was called Elspeth when she died in Victoria in 1933), and a son, Gordon in 1871. The Archives have a picture of John Connon chopping a tree stump on his property on his Westminster Road (Kingsway) property around 1898. A newspaper reference to Mr Connon’s love of Burns poetry would seem to match his son’s preference for Scottish dress while clearing stumps.

Another daughter, Mary, was born in 1868 and married in 1893 to James Duff Stuart. She’s presumably who is described as ‘standing in front of the door’, and she was the music teacher in 1891. Like her siblings she was born in Aberdeenshire, while James had been born in Dufftown, Banff, Scotland, and he was aged 26, two years older than Mary. We’ve come across Mr Stuart before: he was co-owner of the Clarke and Stuart bookstore. Mary and James had at least one son, also called James, who enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps in 1915 and died in 1917 in France. They also had two daughters, Kathleen and Isabel. Mary was 87 when she died in 1956

In 1901 the family were living in Richmond and the only child with them was their 28-year-old son, William (who was aged 15 in the 1891 census). John was described as a rancher; William Gordon Connon was married in 1901 aged 25, and died aged 55 (where curiously he was described as single).

Today the site is part of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, the first project designed by the Montreal-based architectural partnership Affleck, Desbarats, Dimakopoulos, Lebensold, Sise which opened in July, 1959.

Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Bu P638


Posted December 4, 2014 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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West Cordova and Richards – se corner (2)

Cordova & Richards 2

We posted another view of this building two years ago. It was actually just on the edge of the previous post as well, as it’s across the street from the junction of Water Street with Cordova. Our earlier image dated back to 1890; here’s how the Bell-Irving block looked in 1932. It had been repaired by Schofield & Cox for Rand Brothers who presumably owned it then, to a design of W T Dalton in 1901.

In 1932 all the businesses are moving out – Ward’s first class Shoe Repairing; Peter Greenall’s store that sold birds, seeds and supplies and the Cash Register Store who, not surprisingly sold, overhauled and repaired cash registers. In future the shoes would be repaired on Cordova, the birds supplied on West Hastings and the cash registers fixed on Pender.

In the adjacent building Robert D McMillan’s cleaning store had already relocated. The building was another Bell-Irving development, but unlike the older building on the corner which he designed himself, in 1910 he hired Dalton & Eveleigh for the building to the south, built by William O’Dell at a cost of $15,000.

The building to the east on Cordova is more of a mystery – it was already built before 1900, and appears to also be known as the Bell-Irving block in the 1896 street directory, and it might date back to 1888 like the corner building, when it was occupied by bankers Bewicke and Wulffsohn, who owned a very substantial $60,000 worth of property in the city at that time.

Mr Wulffsohn was a German who achieved some notoriety, especially during the first world war. A Portland, Oregon, newspaper reported in 1915 “Charged with insanity, Johann Wulffsohn, ex banker and German Consul at Vancouver, B.C. was taken to the county hospital late today to await a hearing before the Lunacy Commission next week. The insanity complaint was issued at the instance of Mrs. Wulffsohn, who accompanied her husband here when the European war began last August. When arrested today J Wulffsohn was wandering about downtown carrying a bouquet of roses and a new broom. He had a number of pawn tickets and told police officials that what was left of the wreck of his banking business had been destroyed by the war. But Mrs. Wulffsohn explained the pawn tickets tonight by saying it was one of her husband s idiosyncrasies to purchase jewelry and to pledge it for loans.

A Vancouver newspaper was quoted as well “Johann Wulffsohn came to this city more than 20 years ago. He was engaged in the banking and real estate business as head of the firm of Bewicke & Wulffsohn, and made large investments here on behalf of German clients. Later he devoted his time exclusively to the consulate, and was looked on as a man of eccentric habits. He figured in several sensational episodes, notably on one occasion on which he returned from a leave of absence and found that his deputy had entertained lavishly on the occasion of the Emperor’s birthday. Bills of many hundreds of dollars flowed in on Wulffsohn who one evening invited his deputy out on the lawn in front of the Hotel Vancouver, and there the two men fought and wrestled for a quarter of an hour. When last in Vancouver a year ago Wulffsohn appeared quite prosperous and still cultivated in his personal appearance a remarkable likeness to the Kaiser, especially in his military moustaches. Wulffsohn Is about 57 years old. Six years ago he married Miss Maclure, daughter of J. C. Maclure, a capitalist of Victoria”.

Like many early investors in the city, Baron Wulffsohn, (as he was sometimes described) had emigrated in 1890, and had interests in mining as well as real estate. He also acted as a shipping broker, chartering ships to carry Eurorean goods to the west coast, both to Seattle and Vancouver. In 1892 he was managing director wulffsohn 1896of the Moodyville Lands and Saw Mill Company (Ltd.) on the north shore. The company’s involvement with the mill was wound up in the spring of 1896 when a notice appeared that said that they had ‘resigned the Agency of the Moodyville Lands and Saw Mill Company Ltd and had been replaced by Robert Ward & Co’. Wulffsohn’s involvement in the company that continued to bear his name was also apparently ended (or significantly reduced) at the end of that year, if this notice is accurate.

We know far less about Percival Harcourt Bewicke – although he was British (which explains why he was a member of the cricket club representing the city in 1889). He was born in Jersey in 1863, and is most likely to be P H Bewicke Bewicke who resigned his commission in the British Army in 1888. He first appears in Vancouver news stories in 1889, and was living at the Hotel Vancouver that year (and was already in partnership with Wulffsohn). That year his wife, Dorothea gave birth to a daughter, Hilda, in Vancouver. Although his name appears in the 1891 street directory, it’s at the business address, and after that it’s purely the company name that’s recorded. He’s not in the Canada census in 1891, but P H B Bewicke was living in London with his wife Dorothea and daughter Hilda in the British census in the same year, and Dorothea gave birth in London to another daughter, Zoe in 1891. (Zoe died, apparently unmarried, in Poole in 1974).

Today the site is occupied by a parkade, and one that’s likely to stick around for a while as it provides the parking for the SFU Harbour Centre and the offices in that building.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Bu N24

Cordova Street and Water Street

Water & Cordova v3

The initial street grid of the Old Granville Township, which followed the shoreline along Water Street, meets the (almost) east-west grid surveyed by the Canadian Pacific Railway on West Cordova to create an acute flatiron corner. This 1895 image shows the 1892 Holland Block designed by C W H Sansom for James M. Holland, an early real estate developer. The building borrowed from both Italianate styling and the bay widows of San Francisco, and in the early days the Queen’s Hotel occupied the upper floors. The building incorporated cast iron columns that show the BC Ironworks mark.

There’s another flatiron building a bit further east. It’s actually two buildings, each designed by N S Hoffar and completed in 1888. The one we can see the complicated turret on is for J W Horne; beyond it is the Springer-Van Bramer block developed for the partnership of Ben Springer and James Van Bramer, both connected to the north shore Moody’s sawmill, and the developers of an earlier building on the south side of Cordova. J W Horne also developed a number of other buildings nearby, including one on Cambie Street also designed by Hoffar in 1890. Today the only additional building on this block is the Buscombe Building, built in 1899 as a 3-storey building for John Burns and later acquired by importers Buscombe & Co.

The only significant building at this end of the north side of Water Street was the 3-storey warehouse for the Hudson’s Bay Company, built in 1894. It’s still standing today, but with two extra floors added in 1903. In the distance today the Woodward’s development adds a new flatiron building, a 43 storey tower designed by Henriquez Partners.

Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives Str P392

Hamilton Street – north from West Pender

Hamilton north

When this picture was taken in 1899 the new courthouse was on the right, the lawyers had their offices in the Inns of Court Building at the corner of Hastings (on the left) and across the street was The Arcade, John Parr’s design for a single storey investment by Harvey Hadden. We saw the office building and The Arcade from a different angle in an 1896 image. The Flack Block hasn’t been built on the corner of Cambie yet, but the Commercial Hotel was completed in 1895, and is still there (although the cenotaph blocks the view from this position).

The one mystery is the 3 storey turreted building north of the Commercial Hotel. Today it’s still standing as an SRO hotel known as the Melville Rooms, numbered as 322 Cambie; BC Assessment suggest it was built in 1900 (although clearly it’s older than that). In 1901 it was shown as offices, and was numbered as 334 Cambie. In 1899 property brokers and developers B B Johnston & Co had their offices here, with Mr Johnston and Mr Howe, as well as Atlas Insurance. We know that Johnston and Howe hired G W Grant to design a new office on Hastings in 1899 and another on Granville in 1900, but it looks as if this building pre-dates Grant’s arrival in Vancouver in 1897, and Johnston & Howe were based in another building on Cordova Street at that time.

Garden, Hermon and Burwell had their offices here in 1897, (and a year or two earlier), a firm of civil engineers and land surveyors founded in 1866. J F Garden was Vancouver’s mayor from 1898 to 1900. It’s most likely this is an N S Hoffar designed building: J F Garden commissioned a building from him on Cambie Street in 1894. We can tell from other images that the turret was still on the building in 1937, but had been lost be 1946.

Image source, City of Vancouver Archives CVA 371-2036

Posted November 24, 2014 by ChangingCity in Gastown, Still Standing, Victory Square

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