Archive for the ‘A J Bird’ Tag

1111 Seymour Street

These are the Hollywood Apartments, seen in a 1927 Vancouver Public Library image. The apartments were intially addressed as 1121 Seymour, but became 1111 a few years later. Land agents Smith and Partners were offering three vacant lots here for $11,000 in 1906, and by 1909 there was an illustration in the press of the 18 apartments facing a twenty-six foot lawn. The owners were identified as D E Harris and J J Gregg, and the National Finance Co handled the leasing.

We found Mr. Harris obtaining the permit for a 3-storey apartment ‘between Davie and Helmcken’ for $20,000 in September 1908. Although he was a contractor, he hired A J Bird to design the building, and Mills & Williamson to build it. He lived on Ontario Street.  Mrs. Harris, before her marriage, was the unusually named Sydenia McFeetors, from Ross, Renfrew Ontario, who married Daniel Ely Harris in Rosedale, Manitoba in 1892. Daniel was shown as six years older, and was also from Ontario. We know the family arrived here in the early 1900s; their third child, Violet, was born in Ontario in 1903, and Everett, her brother, in 1908 in Vancouver.

In 1909 Sydenia Harris acquired 640 acres in the Cariboo, near Quesnel, using her husband as agent. Annie Gregg, wife of J J Gregg also bought land in the same area, using Mr Harris as agent, and he assisted a series of other purchasers who also bought land in the same area. In 1914 Mr Harris was identified in the paper as a land speculator, owning 10,000 acres in the Fort George district.

The residents of these apartments featured in the press from time to time. In 1916 Miss Ethel Dawson lost control of her car, which ‘ran amuck’, severely damaging another auto and sending two people to hospital. In 1921 Mrs Marie Tudor, who lived here, sued Gordon Gartley, the driver of the vehicle that killed her husband in Stanley Park earlier in the year. In 1925 the Ladies Meeting of the Royal Society of St George met in suite 9. W H Taylor had his car stolen in 1934, but Walter McElroy of Robson Street was arrested after police gave chase, catching him at Granville and W54th. A. Bakerman had jewelry stolen from his suite in the same year, and Mrs McKellar also had a ring stolen from her suite a month after that.

In 1944 William Johnson, a taxi driver, received a 10-day jail sentence for driving while drunk, and lost his licence for six months. A year later several residents’ sons were reported as killed, missing or wounded in the war, while another resident was injured in a car crash racing to meet her husband, returning from the war. The driver was charged with the manslaughter of one of the passengers, but acquitted. His widow and daughter sued, and received $10,000 each in civil proceedings. In 1946 William Johnson was again in court in an alcohol related proceeding – this time for selling it illegally; he got a $300 fine. Ironically, Mrs McKenzie held regular meeings of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in her suite for five years from 1949.

Effie Carmichael and James McArthur, both living here, were charged with running a gambling game in a South Vancouver home in 1959, but the case was dismissed. Harry Waterfield was aged 37 in 1963, and a tenant here, when he faced his 17th charge of breaking and entering (over a period of 21 years). Found guilty as a habitual criminal, he faced an indeterminate sentence of life imprisonment. In 1965 Alexander Williamson, aged 52, had a fall in the hall of the building, and another fall the same day from his second floor window that killed him.

When the developer, Daniel Harris died in 1953 he was aged 86, (so born around 1867). Sydenia Harris was aged 81 years when her death was reported in 1959. That suggests there was probably an 11 year difference in their ages. She was survived by 2 sons, J. Stafford Harris, Toronto, and E. Raymond Harris, Halifax, N.S.; 1 daughter, Mrs. T. Cameron, Vancouver.

In the early 1980s the kitchens were removed and the interior re-modelled to provide hotel rooms, managed as an annex to the Chateau Granville hotel across the the lane. Demolished in 2015, two years later Wall Financial completed construction of a 40 unit 6-storey building designed by Endall Elliot Associates that was submitted as a strata building, but then retained as leasehold apartments.



Posted 27 February 2023 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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Davie and Seymour Street – sw corner

This 1911 hotel is currently for sale. It has 27 vacant SRO rooms, and a former bar on the main floor, and nobody seems to want it for what the owners seem to think it’s worth. It was developed by Mrs. Priscilla Hunt, who hired A J Bird to design it, and spent $20,000 getting Robert McLean & Co to build it. Mrs Hunt was unquestionably the developer; she was a widow (although her son-in-law was in real estate, and may have advised her). It was built as a rooming house, and appeared as The Glenwood Rooms in 1912, addressed to Seymour Street and run by Mrs. A R Hansford. A year earlier she had been running another rooming house on West Pender that she also named The Glenwood Rooms.

Priscilla Chapman was born in Clinton, Huron, Ontario (in 1869, if her death certificate were to be believed, or 1861 if the headstone on her grave was accurate, and actually in 1856). When she married Jonathan J Hunt in 1884, somewhere in British Columbia, she admitted to being 25 (although she was really 28), and was living in Portland Oregon. Her husband was aged 48, a widower born in Bangor, Maine and running a hotel in Port Townsend, Washington Territory.

He was described as a widower, having married Mary, who was Irish, and building a house in Port Townsend for her in 1864. We think Mary died in 1878. This allowed Jonanthan to marry a second wife, Louisa, who he married in 1878 when she was 20, and they had three children born in 1875, 1877 and 1880, before she divorced him in 1884. (J B Hunt, Jonathan’s son, was killed in a train accident in Pendleton in 1895 when he was riding on the outside of the train, having failed to obtain a seat, and fell under the wheels).

By 1870 J J Hunt was running the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Port Townsend. A 1915 journal article said “the Cosmopolitan was the best known house in all this section of the territory, some not entirely bloodless. Being the port of entry, many seafaring men congregated there, and at times made the town lively in more senses than one” This was probably a coded reference to a fight that turned into a homicide in the bar in the 1870s. The killer spent 14 years in prison for manslaughter, was released in 1891 and swore revenge on the lawmen and J J Hunt.

In the mid 1870s J J sold his hotel for a while, and ran a wholesale liquor business, and in 1875 bought the wreck of the Orpheus, a sailing ship that had been hit by the S S Pacific, sailing from Victoria to San Francisco with 275 passengers and crew (and possibly as many as 400). The steamship was running without navigation lights, and hit the sailing ship, scraping along its side. While the sailing ship was damaged, but able to sail on, the sidewheeler was taking on water and sank with the loss of all but two on board, including Sewell Moody, owner of Moody’s Mill and founder of the north shore township in Burrard Inlet. The 225 ft. ship had a cargo manifest that included $79,000 of gold (91kg) and two barrels of opium.

Mr. Hunt paid $385 at public auction at the end of 1875, and hired the schooner Winnifred and a crew to strip the wreck of the Orpheus of anything of value. (The wreck of the Pacific was located at the end of 2022, and there are plans to attempt to locate the cargo using a remote underwater submersible, with a museum to display the finds, currently preserved in 1,000 feet of water). By 1880 J J Hunt was again running the Cosmopolitan, and in 1883 Hunt’s Hotel, to which, in 1884, he built a three-storey addition.

Three and a half years after his parent’s 1884 wedding, on 18 April 1888, Franklin Sterling Hunt was born in Port Townsend. His birth was registered then, and the same birthday appears on his 1917 Draft registration. Curiously,  some records suggest he had a sister, Violet, born just five months later in October 1888 in Portland. However, her burial record, in Burnaby, shows she was born in October 1883, and her mother’s name was listed as Tessie Chapman. Her mother’s pregnancy was no doubt a factor in her father’s 1884 divorce. Then we noted that Priscilla’s obitiary mentioned that she had two sons, Charles and Frank. Charles Cleveland Hunt was born in Port Townsend in 1882. When Charles was married in 1917 his father was listed as John, a hotelman, and his mother as Theresa Chapman.

In 1888 J J Hunt stood as a Democrat in the election for Congress, but didn’t make the cut. (Skagit chose a Republican). Jonathan Jay Hunt died in March 1893, aged 63. It looks like Jonathan and Priscilla stayed in Port Townsend until his death. We don’t know how long Mrs. Hunt stayed in Port Townsend after that, but her daughter, Violet, married Calvin Gray in Seattle in 1900, when she would have been aged 17.

C Gray is first mentioned in the Vancouver directories in 1903, when he was a machinst for Ross and Howard. A year later he was working in real estate, and by 1911 he was wealthy enough to live on Point Grey Road. In 1913 Calvin and his wife Violet took a three month trip to New Orleans and Southern California. Part of his real estate business was a management agency for owners wanting to lease their property. Calvin was a member of the Vancouver Board of Trade, and appointed a notary public in 1917.

The 1921 census confirms that both Priscilla and Violet preferred alternate names, and ages. The household of Calvin Gray aged 51, real estate broker, consisted of Elvira, aged 36 and Tessie Hunt, his mother-in-law, who said she was 50, and born in the USA. (Violet) Elvira was actually 38, and her mother was really 65. In 1923 a court case to prevent a neighbour from ‘borrowing’ the use of her skid road revealed that  Mrs. Calvin Gray was logging a 1,000 acre of forest near Sechelt.

Violet’s death was announced in June 1935. The death of Mrs. Violet Alvira Gray, aged 46, of 1034 West Fifteenth avenue, occurred Thursday. Funeral services will be held at a p.m. Saturday in Nunn & Thomson’s chapel. Burial will take place In Masonic Cemetery, Burnaby. Born In Portland, Ore., Mrs. Gray had been in Vancouver for thirty years. She is survived by her husband, Calvin Gray; her mother, Mrs. T. Hunt of Vancouver, and two brothers, Franklin and Cleveland of California.

Her husband organised an estate sale in June 1936, with $20,000 of glassware, china and silver on sale. The sale was extended in July when the contents of Mrs. Priscilla Hunt’s home were added. She had died in March 1936, and presumably the contents of her home could not be sold immediately. Calvin Gray retired to Puente in California in 1941, and died there in 1943.

In 1930 Frank Hunt was living in San Francisco. He was still there a decade later, still single, and a lodger. His brother had married in 1917, and in 1930 was in Blue Lake, Humboldt California with his wife and two children, Frances and Calvin.

The rooming house saw an auction of the contents in 1913, with all the brass bedsteads and bedding sold off.  It became known as the Canadian Apartments, and in 1924 was sold to Mr T W Roberts of Fort William, who enjoyed being able to walk around the city in February without an overcoat. One tenant was arrested for theft in 1926, and another had money stolen by a ‘prowler’. In 1945 the owners were Mrs L Thompson, and Axel Isaacson. A fire in her room, caused by a discarded cigarette in the bedding, caused smoke damage, the loss of all her personal belongings, and three ‘elderly men’ (aged between 60 and 70) to be rescued by being carried out by firemen. Renamed the Candian Hotel, it continued to advertise moderate rates and quiet rooms, with housekeeping. In 1959 Frank Saunders was arreested for carrying out illegal operations, but was acquitted, although his co-accused, Olive Williams, was found guilty.

In 1960 the building was ‘for sale, by owner’ for $97,000. The tenants of the building can probably be guessed from almost all the mentions in the press through the 1960s and 70s to the death of a tenant; unsually male, and in their 60s or 70s. One was only 58, but he set fire to his bed falling asleep while watching TV, in 1976. Our 1981 image shows the Canadian Hotel offering housekeeping rooms, and The Canvas Co and Gallery Restaurant on the main floor.

It’s hard to say what will happen to the building long term. At 40 feet by sixty it’s too small to redevelop, unless perhaps it was in conjunction with the Coast Mental Health building built in 2000 to the south, and then only with the two other buildings to the west. The SRO rooms are protected, so it’s likely to remain a low cost rental building.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-E03.27A


Posted 29 December 2022 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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93-95 West Cordova Street

The Union Bank of Canada commissioned this single storey masonry-fronted brick building built in 1910. They hired A J Bird to design it, and Adkinson & Dill to build it for $12,500. In 1910 The Union Bank of Canada had one branch in Vancouver; their modest office building at 550 West Hastings that they had moved into in 1907. In 1911 there were four new branches in the city, including this one, but most were in existing buildings.

There had been an 1887 wooden 2-storey building on this corner, built very soon after the fire that destroyed the city, where Quebec-born Z G Goldberg had his clothing store. Not long after it was built he was allowed to rebuild the verandah after a stray team of horses destroyed it. In 1891 he was known as Z Gordon Goldberg, and in 1881 he was still at home where his older brother David was head of family, a pawn broker, with parents Hyman and Leah who were from Poland. He was recorded as Zabelon, and also had an older sister, Sarah.

His Cheapside Clothing Co remained in operation for many years. In 1896 it was noted that “For the last three months a dog belonging to Z. G. Goldberg has been in the habit of following the streetcars along the double track portion of the line. Nothing seems to break it of the habit, and if locked up it starts out again as soon as let loose. It never makes itself a nuisance by barking.” By 1909 Joseph Izen was selling second-hand clothing in the store, and a year later the site had been cleared.

Referred to as the ‘pioneer bank’ of western Canada, the Union Bank followed the railway across the prairies to the West Coast. It was the first to provide an extensive branch system throughout the prairies, but suffered during post-war depression and was absorbed by the Royal Bank in 1925, who closed this branch.

Fred W Thompson took the premises, and converted it to a shooting gallery. By the early 1930s it was home to Service Confectionery. In 1932 a thief grabbed $30 in cash, but only after a strenuous tussle with the Japanese owner, ‘K Inoueze’, who gave chase to the ‘armed bandit’. “The Japanese overtook him and made a grab for the money. He later discovered he had retrieved only a bunch of old letters.” It was burgled in 1936, but the would-be thieves were disturbed and police found a tablecloth bundled up around cigarettes ready to be removed. The company was still owned by K Inouye in 1941, but with the forced removal of the Japanese from the coast, S Quon took over. In the 1950s the business was being run by C B H, H and D Loo.

In 1965 there was a barber’s shop here run by Bill Allen, and in 1980 this was home to fast food restaurant ‘Chicken On The Run’, but the business was liquidated in 1983. There was an optometrist here in the early 1990s, and today it’s a kitchen showroom, part of the Inform furniture business.

Image source City of Vancouver Archives CVA 790-2128


Posted 12 September 2022 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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Blenheim Court – 1209 Jervis Street

This is one of the earlier West End apartment buildings that’s still standing today. Built in 1910, it was developed by John A Seabold, who spent an impressive $85,000 on its construction, with Arthur Bird hired as architect. A year earlier the same development team developed The Capitola, also on Davie Street, and also still standing today.

We looked at Mr. Seabold’s history in that post; an American, he was in the city from 1900, and his wife Louise joined him in 1901. When he arrived he was a waiter, aged 26, and soon elected president of the waitresses and Cook’s Union. Less than 10 years later he built this apartment, with 42 suites, which, according to a full page advert taken out by Arthur J Bird, the architect,  “thirty-three of which include parlor, dining-room bedroom, kitchen and pantry, and also a bathroom. Some of these have balconies, and all suites are fitted with clothes and linen closets. The bathrooms are floored with terrazzo flooring, furnished by the British Columbia Supply Co. The doors in the building are all fitted with Sargent’s locks, which were supplied by Messers. Lewis & Sills. One very modern convenience in this building is that the suites have a complete system of local phones, connecting to city phones, which will be a great boon to the tenants.”

At the start of the First World War Mr. Seabold was said to have abandoned some of his property in Vancouver, and headed back to the US. At the age of 40 he said he was called up, and with a German family background he was unwilling to be involved in the fighting. However, he had already sold his interest in Blenheim Court. In December 1911, Roberts Meredith and Co sold his half share in the building for $85,000 ‘to Vancouver and London capitalists’. (He also managed to sell the Clarence Hotel for $40,000 in 1914.) Early residents of the building included Charles Bentall, at the time newly married and an employee of Dominion Construction, a business he would end up leading in subsequent years.

In 1959 the building was in the news when Robert White, a barman at the Arctic Club, was murdered in his apartment. One of three ‘bachelor murders’ in the West End that year, his killer claimed self-defense (despite stealing the victim’s wallet), and was sentenced to 3 years for manslaughter.

In 1990, five years after our image was taken, the property made the news when the owners at the time, PCI Realty Corporation, made substantial financial payments to tenants to move, so that a floor-by-floor renovation could be carried out. Gladys Vines, who was 83, and had lived in the building for 51 years, was offered $3,000, based on $50 a year of tenancy, plus moving expenses. (Eviction notices were also issued, so it was goodwill gesture rather than a requirement in those days).

More recently, in 2015, new owners of the building were accused of using a loophole in the Residential Tenancy Act by only issuing fixed term leases, and then increasing rents as much as 20% in subsequent leases for the same tenant. That led to a change in the Tenancy Act in 2017 to ensure that rents couldn’t be increased by more than a legislated amount.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 790-1682


Posted 4 August 2022 by ChangingCity in Still Standing, West End

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Elgin Apartments – 961 Howe Street

The Law Courts were built here in the 1970s, but two entire blocks had to be cleared for their construction. 961 Howe was a $20,000 apartment building designed by A J Bird in 1909. The developer, Hector McPherson was a 48 year old retired businessman. In 1911 his address was in his new investment at No. 6, a suite he lived in until 1920. There were 12 apartments, although in some years there were two apparently un-related tenants. Initially the street directory compilers got very confused, allocating some tenants to a fictitious 643 Howe, and others correctly to 671, which was known as the Elgin Apartments.

Despite Hector’s obvious Scottish Pedigree, the Elgin wasn’t a direct reference to Scotland. Hector’s grandparents were born in Scotland, but he was one of nine children born in Elgin, Ontario. In his case, it was in 1861, as noted on his stone in Mountain View Cemetery, when he died in 1949. Although he was initially elusive, not being in Vancouver in earlier census records, we found the death notice for his wife, Elizabeth, in 1918. ‘Before going to the mainland to live, Mrs. McPherson … had resided in Victoria for many years‘. Mr. McPherson was on a business trip to Brandon when his wife’s sudden and untimely death occurred. She was frequently mentioned in the press in the 1910s, usually in connection with the activities of the Canadian Scottish Chapter of Daughters of the Empire.

That turned out to be inaccurate, but a more detailed death notice clarified (and complicated) the family’s story.

Mrs. Hector Mcpherson, one of Vancouver’s best known social and patriotic, workers, was suddenly stricken with hemorrhage of the brain and passed away about 5:30 o’clock Saturday evening. She had Just returned to her study from the lower part of the building and was apparently in usual good health. The exertion is believed to have been the cause. Mrs. Mcpherson having just entered her study when she suddenly fell to the floor and expired in a few minutes. Mr. Mcpherson was superintending harvesting operations on his farm, north of Brandon, Manitoba, and is expected to reach the city on Tuesday morning. Deceased is also survived by her daughter, Flora, whose husband Major Howey Brydon, was killed in action at Vimy Ridge. The family has resided in Vancouver for the past eight years, coming west from Brandon and taking up their residence in Victoria, where they remained a short time before moving to Vancouver.”

We were able to find Major Robert George Howie Brydon, who married Flora McKelvie in 1916, and was killed in action in 1917. Flora Mae McKelvie was born in Brandon in 1893, her father was John McKelvie, and her mother, before she married, Elizabeth Anne Steele. John was from Quebec, and died in Brandon in 1901. We haven’t found Hector and Elizabeth’s wedding, but we assume it was in Brandon; Hector was living in Brandon in 1901.

We could find Hector McPherson in 1911, living with his wife, Elizabeth, and Flora McKelvie, his step-daughter in Vancouver.  Both Hector and Elizabeth came from Ontario, and he was listed as a farmer. Shortly before her death, Mrs. Hector McPherson and Mrs. Howie Brydon spent a week at Harrison Hot Springs.

Hector stayed in his Howe Street apartment until 1920. After that he appears to have moved south. In 1922 he travelled to San Francisco on the steamship ‘Columbia’. His previous address was with his sister, Mrs Neil Love, at 11th Avenue in Vancouver, and he had been living in Portland earlier in 1922. He was aged 60, 5′ 11″ tall, with a fair complexion, brown/grey hair and grey eyes, and was a retired farmer.

We were able to find Hector’s death record, which showed he died in Los Angeles in 1949 where he had been visiting for 5 months, living on Signal Hill. The informant of his death was his step-daughter, Flora Brydon, who lived in Long Beach. He was described as Construction Engineer, (ret) Canadian Pacific R.R. The cause of death was listed as ‘suicide – cut wrists with knife’.

We don’t know when Hector sold the Elgin, or whether it was part of his estate, but it was almost always fully occupied. Our Vancouver Public Library image dates from 1928, when there were still houses standing on either side. It was still standing in 1972, but by the mid 1970s the site was cleared for the new Arthur Erickson designed Law Courts, completed in 1980.


Posted 2 May 2022 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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151 Water Street

We have waited to look at the history of this early Water Street warehouse until completion of the new office building that has been built behind, and above, the restored facade. Initially three additional floors were proposed to be added in a complementary ‘heritage’ style, but the plans were changed to add greater height in a contemporary style, set back to retain the heritage element’s integrity.

This was a 1912 warehouse developed by J M Harper and designed by A J Bird. Seen here in 1985, it had already transitioned to retail use, but it started life as a produce warehouse, built by Willis and Fisher for $16,000. Mr. Harper was an absentee developer, living in Kamloops where he was a partner in a wholesaling and retailing business supplying miners. He partnered with A S McArthur, both in the dry goods business and in property development in Vancouver, including a building at Hastings and Main.

J M Harper was often referred to in the press as Major Harper (having raised a mounted military unit in 1908), and he had extensive business interests. He was also an independent voice in the community. When Kamloops Board of Trade petitioned for the local Kamloops Band reserve to be reduced in size in 1913, Major Harper was one of few voices in opposition, “J.M. Harper merely pointed out that the Indians had never been treated fairly by whites and in any event Kamloops had a lot of room to branch out in without bothering the Indians.”

In the 1911 census James M Harper was aged 51, living on ‘income’, with his wife Elizabeth who was 48 and five children aged between 8 and 20. Both parents were shown born in Scotland, and we can track the family’s movements before settling in Kamloops; their oldest daughter, ‘Ena’, was born in Alberta in 1891 and Norman, their 18-year-old son in Manitoba. The other sons and daughter were born in BC. (Ena was Georgena in the 1901 census, born in the Northwest Territories, and Elizabeth was shown born in Ontario. In 1891 the family were living in Lethbridge, when Alberta was still part of the North-West Territories). From their son’s 1920 wedding in Vancouver, we can find his father was James Milne Harper, and his mother Elizabeth Paterson. James was born in Banffshire in 1859, one of 10 children.

Tragically, their son, Norman Stuart Harper, was killed on active service in the First World War. A postcard, written to his mother, showed up in a Washington state antique store. It revealed that he was in hospital in London in May 1918, having been injured landing his bi-plane. Less than two months later he was shot down and killed while on a bombing mission over Germany. He was buried by the Germans with full military honours, but his family only managed to trace his death in 1920. The 1921 census shows James and Elizabeth still in Kamloops, with three children still at home and Georgina Paterson, Elizabeth’s sister living with them. J M Harper died in Vancouver in 1937, already widowed.

The newly completed building attracted multiple tenants; Olmstead Budd Co Ltd wholesale fruit suppliers, Swartz Bros wholesale fruits, California Fruit Growers Exchange, Pacific Fruit & Produce Co and A Francis Tourville, produce broker. In 1920 The Foottit Co., Ltd became the tenants here, produce dealers headed by Harold and Ernest Foottit. A year earlier they were both working for F R Stewart and Co, a rival produce business whose premises were a few doors to the west. Harold was 39, and had arrived in BC in 1906. His wife Edith Longfellow arrived from England a year later, (they had married in 1905), and their son, (Harold) Raymond was born in 1914. Ernest was two years younger, and like his brother came from Hull. Ernest married Beatrice Thorley, who was also from Hull, in 1908, Harold Foottit was living in Vancouver when he died in 1968. Ernest died in 1971, in Seattle, where he was Superintendent of the Home Savings Building for many years, and was buried in Burnaby.

Their business didn’t prosper, and by 1923 W R Cook and Co had moved in here. Both Foottit brothers returned to working for F R Stewart. By 1930 the Independent Fruit Co had moved in, and a decade later the building was occupied by Slade and Stewart who were also in the adjacent building. Later Robison Cotton Mills used the warehouse, and as the area became more of a tourist destination in the 1960s an antique and contemporary art dealer took over the space. In recent years it became known as a destination for buying first nations art and artefacts, in Frances Hill’s store. Recently redeveloped, a flagship clothing store are fitting out the retail units while Microsoft have occupied the offices on the upper floors.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 790-2090


Posted 18 November 2021 by ChangingCity in Altered, Gastown

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Firehall #6 – Nicola Street

Fire hall #6, in the West End, was commissioned in 1907 and opened in 1908. Even though it was developed in the period when the building permits have been lost, we know the architects of the project. Honeyman and Curtis designed the building, possibly the first in North America specifically designed for motorized firetrucks.

It was photographed in 1908 with its Seagrave Hose Wagon and Auto Chemical Engine – both state-of-the-art equipment for the time. After the 1886 fire the City was willing to fund the fire department generously. The Seagrave machines cost around $5,000 each – more than it cost to build most West End houses at the time. (Seagrave still make fire trucks today, but the entire Vancouver fleet are now built by Spartan).

There was a delay getting the building started; the architects reported to the City Council that it was such a busy time for contractors that it had been difficult to get any of them to bid. “The public advertisement had not drawn a single call for the specifications, but by personal effort several contractors had been Induced to figure.” In the end Peter Tardif won the contract to build the fire hall.

The building was expanded in 1929, with a design by A J Bird, and there was another picture taken by Stuart Thomson, with the latest engine proudly on display.

As far as we can tell, that’s an American La France ladder truck in the picture on the right. Not too many were built with the firemen sitting over the front wheels.

Our main image dates from 1975. The hall received a further makeover, and was seismically upgraded in 1988, designed by Henry Hawthorne Architect. The fire staff continue to fight fires and attend other emergency calls throughout the West End, equipped with a Spartan Gladiator Sirius LFD engine, and pump. Recently the city’s ladder trucks have changed from 75 foot units to 105 foot (to better service fires in 6-storey buildings) so the ladder trucks are now located in other West End and Downtown fire halls.

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-395, CVA 99-3730 and FD P39.2


Posted 10 June 2021 by ChangingCity in Still Standing, West End

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Police Station – East Cordova Street (1)

This 1956 image shows Firehall #1 on the left, (still standing today as the Firehall Theatre). Dating back to 1905, it was designed by W T Whiteway. Next door was the Coroner’s Court, which today houses the Police Museum. Designed by A J Bird, it was converted to the museum in the early 1980s, but was built in 1932.

Next door today is the concrete East Wing of the police station (hidden by trees in the summer), built in 1978 and designed by Harrison Kiss Associates. In this 1956 image an earlier (and taller) police station stood on the same spot. Built in 1913, The East End police headquarters cost $250,000, was built of ‘concrete and stone’ and designed by Doctor, Stewart & Davie. Initially it was shown as costing $175,000 in 1912 (and on Powell Street, which was an earlier intended location). An extra $70,000 was approved in 1913. The Beaux Arts style building had a cream terracota and stone façade over the concrete frame.

Surprisingly, for such a substantial investment, the building didn’t last very long. In 1956 Ernie Reksten photographed the building being demolished. Earlier that year the Vancouver Sun had reported the intention of clearing the site “to call tenders for demolition of the historic building on Cordova near Main. A survey of the old building, built in 1914 and located behind the new station on Main, shows It is good only for light storage purposes. Aldermen decided not to put the building up for sale as the land it occupies is urgently needed for the parking lot and possible expansion of police facilities. The heating plant has been removed. The elevators are cranky antiques and all electrical services require replacement. “It would cost a tremendous amount to put the old pile back into any reasonable shape,” said Alderman George Miller, properties committee chairman.”

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 447-63 and CVA 2010-006.170 (flipped)


Capitola Apartments – Davie and Thurlow


The upper floors of building haven’t really changed much since it was built in 1909. According to the building permit it cost $20,000 and was designed by A J Bird for J Seabold. (The Contract Record said Seabold and Roberts were the developers. We haven’t successfully identified who John Seabold’s development partner was.) In 1991 four dwelling units were converted to retail use, so there are now just 10 apartments in the building, but there were more in this 1924 image. The Daily World, in announcing the development, said “the design will be of classic character”.

John A Seabold developed a number of other apartment buildings around the city, including the Empire Hotel on East Hastings, our first post on this blog. He started out building houses, then apartments, and eventually was in partnership as Seabold and Roberts, building significant buildings for the day including Blenheim Court two blocks further along Davie Street.

seabold-1909seabold-1917Seabold was an American, and the source of his success was explained in a story published in an Indiana newspaper in November 1909; the Jasper Weekly Courier, published in Jasper, Dubois County. He was quoted saying that Western real estate “is better than a gold mine”. In 1913 he acquired the Clarence Hotel on West Pender Street. However, Mr. Seabold’s perspective changed quite quickly. Vancouver changed significantly from the city that only a few years earlier had elected a Jewish German mayor with a noticeable accent, David Oppenheimer.

A 1917 article in another Indiana newspaper, the Bluffton Chronicle, clarifies a point we’ve noted about several other Vancouver residents during the First World War. If there was any suggestion of German family origins it was wise to change your name or move south. The 1911 Census said that John was from a German family, but had been born in the USA. He was married to Louise, also born in the USA into a German family and they had a son, Ralph aged nine. John and Louise Schwartz were married in Michigan in 1900. They were shown having arrived in Canada in the same year, and appeared as John and Louisa Seabold in the 1901 census, lodging with Minnie Matthias. At that time John was a waiter, while in 1911 he was shown as a builder.

The 1917 news story explains that Mr. Seabold had tried to sell his property, but ‘found this impossible’. That wasn’t necessarily anything to do with Mr. Seabold’s origins – the economy of the city hit the skids around 1913, and the war didn’t improve things.

The main reason for heading to the USA was being drafted into the Canadian forces, which would have potentially have seen Mr. Seabold (who was aged 40 when the war broke out), expected to fight in Europe. The newspaper reported that some of Mr. Seabold’s property had been confiscated, presumably as a result of his decision to leave the country.

In 1944 Ralph Seabold was married in Los Angeles,  and John and Louise were living there in both the 1930 and in 1940 US Census records. They moved south to California in the 1930s; in 1920 they were living in Seattle where John was working as a contractor.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Bu N324.


Posted 17 October 2016 by ChangingCity in Still Standing, West End

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Woodbine Hotel – 786 East Hastings Street

700 E Hastings south

The Woodbine, like many of the remaining hotels in this part of East Hastings, was built in the city’s dramatic development boom around 1912. This was built for George Woodcock, and designed by A J Bird. Despite the sign on the cornice looking like it’s been on the building for it’s entire life, the name only dates to the 1960s – and not even the early 1960s – it wasn’t on the building in this 1965 image. When it was first built (at a cost of $35,000) it was called the Oak Apartments.

George Woodcock was said by the 1911 census and the street directory to be a builder, the census adds that he was originally from England, as was his wife Mary, and they lived with their five children (including 11-year-old twins) on East 9th Avenue . They’d arrived in 1901, so all five children would have been aged under seven, so George had either done well in the following decade to build the rooming house, or perhaps he borrowed the money with the intention of selling off the completed building. In 1908 he was shown as a bricklayer. In 1910 he designed and built his house on East Broadway (E 9th) which cost $2,700 to build.

H C Woodcock was listed as the builder of the property – although George was listed as a builder in the census, Hubert Woodcock was the more experienced if later building permits are to be believed. From their daughter Gladys’s wedding in 1923 and Florence’s in 1924 we know her mother Mary Woodcock was originally Mary Etherington, and so we know George and Mary married in Tamworth, in Warwickshire, in 1892. There’s a Hubert C Woodcock living in Tamworth in 1901, aged 19, so he’s almost certainly a relation of George – possibly a younger brother. Hubert married in Tamworth in 1906, and had been born in Wooton Wawen, also in Warwickshire. He first shows up in the Vancouver street directory in 1912, although the permit for the hotel was issued in December 1911, so he must have arrived in the second half of the year.

Either Mr. Woodcock sold his investment, or he allowed somebody else to manage his property. In 1914 Mrs L McLeod was proprietor of the apartments.

George and Mary Woodcock stayed in the East Broadway house. George worked as a bricklayer until he was 75, and Mary died in 1939, aged 66, just as he finally gave up working.  George died in 1948, aged 85. Hubert and Edith Woodcock settled in Vancouver, had a family, and they were living in Victoria, with Hubert still alive when Edith died, aged 90, in 1971.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 772-22


Posted 21 September 2015 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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