Archive for the ‘Blackmore and Son’ Tag

B C Electric Substation, Main Street

The Vancouver Public Library say this image was shot on 8 July 1920 by the Dominion Photo Co. It shows the electric substation for BC Electric that dominated the street – and especially the wirescape – around this stretch of Main Street. It was built and rebuilt several times over a few years. Some work was designed in-house, but in 1903 Blackmore & Son had designed the substation on the corner here, costing $32,000 and built by E Cook.

This image shows a $12,000 addition built in 1912 as well; (the building on the right). A year earlier one of the the concrete smoke stacks had cost $16,000, designed by C C Moore and Company. They were specialist engineers who also supplied the boilers in the sugar refinery, and they had constructed the first $6,000 chimney in 1910 designed by Weber Steel Concrete Co, a US specialist chimney designer.

After this image was shot, in 1923, Coughlin & Sons were hired to carry out another $15,000 of alterations, although there’s no obvious difference to the buildings in this 1929 VPL image, except there seems to only one chimney remaining for the auxiliary power supply. (B C Electric had built a hydro-electric generating station at Buntzen Lake as early as 1903).

B C Electric built a new substation just to the north of these buildings, between 1945 and 1947. The Murrin Substation is still standing, and in use, today. Designed by McCarter and Nairne, the open air transformer yard replaced the buildings to the west, down Union Street. A new smaller substation building designed by Sean McEwan was added more recently on the corner. (William G. Murrin was the president of the British Columbia Electric Railway Company from 1929 to 1946.)

The Murrin Substation is currently expected to be decommissioned around 2030. BC Hydro reviewed a number of options, including rebuilding a new substation on the Murrin substation site. A new site has been acquired, as upgrading the existing facility isn’t a viable option because it sits on seismically unstable soil. It’s technically not feasible and cost prohibitive to seismically upgrade the site to appropriate levels.

With the viaducts to the immediate south expected to see removal and redevelopment, this stretch of Main Street will look very different in a few years time.


Posted 15 July 2021 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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East Hastings Street – 200 block, north side

We looked at the history of the Empress Hotel, on the end, and the Phoenix Hotel, next door, in an earlier post. The Empress was built in 1913 for Lyle Leroy Mills, a hotelier born in Iowa, with a wife from Sweden. The architect, F N Bender was her brother, and was in Independence, Kansas, Next door the Phoenix (as it was called in 1981) had been built as the Empress Hotel in 1908 designed by H B Watson for V W Haywood. He was a policeman when the city was created in 1886, headed off to the Klondike and made a fortune on Bonanza Creek, and returned to a variety of business interests in the city.

More recently we’ve looked at the Afton Hotel (with the Ovaltine Café) on the right. It was designed b y S B Birds and developed as a Post Office and federal offices for R B Hamilton – who we can’t find in any other records. It became a rooming house quite soon after it was built, and the Ovaltine Café opened on the main floor in 1942.

We haven’t looked at The Belmont Hotel, the three storey building, third from left before; designed (according to the permit) by Blackmore and Son for John Spooner. He’s proved almost as difficult to pin down as R B Hamilton. The building’s Heritage Statement says he developed the building, but didn’t live here. It’s hard to find him living anywhere in Vancouver, or indeed BC in 1904. We assume he’s the same John Spooner who was owner of 10 East Hastings Street in 1886 (and as John Sponer in 1887), and John Spooner, a carpenter, was shown living at that street address in 1890. and John Sponer a house carpenter was boarding in the city in the 1891 census. The confusion with his name continues all the time; in 1899 John Sponer, a carpenter, was living at the rear of 12 E Hastings, in 1900 he was working for the Royal Columbia Planing Mill, and in 1901 John Sponer of 10 E Hastings was advertising that a 16 year old German girl was looking to find a position for general housework, although he doesn’t appear to have been found by the census that year.

John was probably Austrian, and we think that he mostly lived in Washington State. In 1891 John Spooner was putting a sawmill on his premises, two miles east of Blaine. In 1907 he was living in Whatcom and involved in litigation with a neighbour, Neils Neilson. John took the water from Spooner Creek, on his land, and diverted all of it into irrigation so that none ended up reaching his neighbour. He lost the case, and a subsequent appeal. In 1920 he was aged 65, retired and living in Blaine, Whatcom County, with his son Lewis (probably Louis), and it looks like he was born in Petersdorf in Austria. Assuming these records are all for the same person, in 1891 he was single  and a boarder in Vancouver, working as a carpenter. His son was born 6 years later in Austria, suggesting that he returned to Europe, started a family, and come back to North America in the early 1900s, with his son following in 1910.

In 1905, the Belmont Building became the offices of W.A. Brown plumber; he remained in that location until the 1920s. The site then became a confectionery – Home Confectionary – a use that continued until the 1970s. The building’s upper floors were the Belmont Rooms, and were closed down for 20 years, with the China Cereals and Oils Corporation operating from the entire building (as they were in this 1978 image). The residential floors re-opened as a renovated privately owned shared bathroom residential property in 2005. A 2011 proposal to add a Chinese senior’s tower at the back of the lot has not been pursued.


Posted 17 August 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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West Hastings Street – 100 block, south side (2)

We saw the buildings to the east of this part of the 100 block of West Hastings in an earlier post. We’ve also looked at most of these buildings in greater detail over the years. The tallest building in the group is the Stock Exchange Building, an 8 storey steel-framed building on a 25 foot wide lot, costing $75,000 to build and designed by J S Helyer and Son in 1909. The two storey building to the east (on the left) is The Province Building, which we revisted in a second post. It started life in 1898 as the offices of the Province Newspaper, Walter Nichol’s Victoria newspaper that moved into Vancouver. It was given a new lease of life in the 1920s as a retail store known as ‘The Arcade’, and today’s façade is Townley and Matheson redesign for that purpose. Both the Stock Exchange, which today is non-market housing, and the Province building have been given a recent make-over, with furniture store Structube moving into the retail space. Our 1981 image below shows that it was a furniture store in a previous incarnation. In 1940 (above) there was Singer sewing machine dealer, and the office building had become The Ray Building.

The black and white almost matching three storey buildings to the west are 152 and 156 W Hastings. The westernmost is older, built in 1901 for Jonathan Rogers, and costing $10,000. It was designed by Parr and Fee. 152 West Hastings, next door, was built in 1904 and designed by William Blackmore and Son. It cost $8,000 and the developer was E Rogers – Elizabeth, Jonathan Rogers’ wife, who had married Jonathan in 1902. Long the home of the Trocadero Grill, today it has office space over retail.

The one building we haven’t researched is 150 West Hastings, and we don’t know who designed or developed the building. It’s the 3 storey building between the Stock Exchange and Rogers buildings. It’s been cleaned up – in 1979 the brickwork had been painted over and the store was ‘Save-On Surplus’. It was repaired in 1920 by Cope and Sons, who hired Gardiner and Mercer and spent $2,000 on fixing it up, and the same owners carried out more repairs in 1916. In 1911 the Vancouver Electric Company added an electric frame sign, but we don’t know who that was for. In 1903, when it was supposedly built, T Grey, a tailor had a store here, as well as Ernest Easthope (senior), who repaired bicycles. (His son, also called Ernest, was a teamster). Today there’s a yoga studio, with offices upstairs.

Image sources City of Vancouver Archives CVA 586-2574 and CVA 779-E16.21


Hunter Block – West Hastings Street

We caught a glimpse of this building when it was on an early hand-coloured postcard. It was lost in 2004, (the same year that we shot the ‘before’ image) after a fire destroyed the structure. The building dated back to 1902, developed by Thomas Hunter of Hunter Brothers, who also built a smaller building on Granville Street in 1892. Samuel and Thomas Hunter (and not James, as some surprisingly inaccurate official records suggest) were contractors and developers. Samuel arrived first, in 1891. Thomas was here in the same year, and in 1892 he got married. As the Daily World reported: “Wooed and Married. In Homer street Methodist church on Thursday evening Thos. Hunter, of Hunter Bros., contractors, was married by Rev. Robert R. Maitland, assisted by Revs. E. Robson and J. F. Betts, to Miss Jennie Simpson, daughter of Theodore Simpson, Seymour street. The groom was supported by his brother Sam and Jonathan Rogers“.

The wedding record shows that the brothers were from ‘Wilfred’, (actually Wilfrid, near Brock) Ontario, and Jennie had been born in New Market, also in Ontario. When she died in 1937, she was recorded as Jane Maria Hunter, and census records also record her as Jane, although her marriage certificate and the newspaper report called her Jennie. The 1911 census found the family headed by Jane’s father, Theodore Simpson, (born in England) and Jane and Thomas with their 17 year old son who was named after his grandfather.

Samuel was a year older than his brother, and they had been part of a large family headed by William, from Nova Scotia and Elizabeth, who was Irish. At 15 Sam was already working as a labourer, and when he first arrived in Vancouver worked as a machinist. Only a year later the brothers were building a modest commercial building on Granville Street for a local landowner, John Twigge, and a year later partnered with Jonathan Rogers (who was at Thomas’s wedding) on a commercial building on Powell Street. By 1896 only Thomas is listed in the street directory.  Samuel (who would have been aged about 30) died in 1895 of ‘typhoid fever’. An 1896 newspaper report that says ‘the heirs of the late Samuel Hunter of this city, received $2,000’ in an insurance payout. That would have been his wife and infant child, who had been out of town when he died.

This building was therefore only associated with Thomas Hunter. There’s a permit approved in 1902, designed by Blackmore and Son, costing $15,000 to construct. Thomas was the builder, and he stayed in Vancouver, and continued to act as a contractor and builder for many other projects. Several were investments built for his own portfolio, including about a dozen frame houses and an apartment building on Nelson Street in 1909. He also built a Parr and Fee designed commercial building on Cordova for his father-in-law in 1903, and there was a Parr and Fee commission for a three storey block in 1906, also on Hastings (and it’s possible that the Blackmore commission was never built, and this was a Parr and Fee building).

In 2004 we photographed the building early in the year, only a couple of months before the local press reported the fire that destroyed the building: “The three-alarm fire raged through a two-storey building at 311-317 West Hastings, gutting the Blunt Brothers, a marijuana-oriented cafe that billed itself as “a respectable joint.” Smoke from the blaze on the edge of Gastown could be seen as far away as White Rock.

Vintage clothing store Cabbages and Kinx was also destroyed, as was Spartacus Books, a long-standing left-wing bookstore.”

As historian John Atkin noted at the time: “The building that has major damage [311-317 West Hastings] is a wonderful building with an amazing sheet metal facade to it, lots of pressed tin.  It was very rare in Vancouver because the original overscale pediment that sat on top of the building was still intact.  Those are one of the first things to fall down in windstorms or whatever, and here it was intact.”

Today the site remains one of the most obvious redevelopment opportunities, with some parking, and the odd movie shoot occupying the space.


Posted 8 November 2018 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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West Pender and Howe Street – se corner

This modest two storey structure appeared in 1909. It was ‘designed’ by Charles Perry, a builder who wasn’t registered as an architect, but who advertised his ability to supply plans for construction projects. It cost $4,600, and may have incorporated an earlier 1901 warehouse built on the corner for the Thompson Brothers in 1901. That was designed by W T Dalton on the first 25 feet of West Pender. We think Mr. Perry might have added and incorporated the next fifty feet of frontage copying Dalton’s style.

The owner was E McGinnis. We’re not sure who he was; there wasn’t anybody called McGinnis in the city whose initial was ‘E’, and hadn’t been for several years. There was a ‘Mr. McGinnis’ who had developed property on Davie Street in 1903, and there were no obvious McGinnises who might have had the resources to do that living in the city, so if the initial is correct he’s most likely to have been an absentee investor. Emery McGinnis was a Whatcom businessman in the 1890s and 1900s, but there’s nothing to positively identify him with this building, or any other investment in the city.

The Thompson Brothers also designed and built the next building up Pender Street in 1901 – with the slightly higher cornice line in this 1945 Vancouver Public Library image. The next building to the east was also from 1901; C E Turner hired Blackmore and Son to design the $6,000 two-storey commercial building. The rest of the block was a more substantial investment by E Lewis in 1902, who spent $20,000 on another W T Dalton designed store that incorporated five lots. We’ve researched Edward Lewis and his shaky past in Montreal in an earlier post.

The tenant in the first storefront on Howe in 1910 was Haskins and Eliot, who sold cycles. We’ve seen their store in two other locations in earlier posts, but they stayed here over a decade. On the West Pender frontage Andrew Papandrew, a confectioner had his store. In 1920 it was still in the same use as the Academy Candy Store, run by George Assemas and George Polidas. In 1930 the Minute Lunch was located here, and the cycle shop remained on Howe, but now as Harry Routledge Co Ltd. The upper floor appears to have residential use by the 1930s.

Pender Place, the development that fills the entire site today, is a pair of office towers completed in 1973 designed by Underwood, McKinley, Wilson & Smith.


St Ann’s Academy – Dunsmuir Street

St Ann's Academy 406 Dunsmuir 2

Dunsmuir was a street with a concentration of institutional buildings. The High School, Athletic Club and YMCA were all close to St Ann’s, the city’s first Catholic school. It was opened in 1888 by the Sisters of Saint Ann and was also known as Sacred Heart Academy. We’re not sure who originally designed the building, but in 1903 William Blackmore & Son designed additions to the premises. Our 1900s Vancouver Public Library image must be taken after that, as it looks the same in the 1947 picture below, when it was being demolished.

The Catholic Congregation purchased three lots separated by a narrow lane from the Church property on Dunsmuir Street. Sisters Mary Alexander, of the Infant Jesus, and Teresa of the Sacred Heart made up the first group of Sisters for the school. In 1901, two Sisters staffed the Boys School. In 1904 additions to Sacred Heart Academy allowed for more students and the name of the school was changed to that of St. Ann’s Academy. The school closed in 1946. The sister’s weren’t local -the early school records were written in French.

Today there’s a low podium associated with 401 West Georgia, a mid 1980s office tower. The building was kept low, and set back to allow a better view and more open setting for Holy Rosary Catholic Church, although now there’s a new office building replacing it.

St Ann's Academy 406 Dunsmuir v2

Image sources: Vancouver Public Library, City of Vancouver Archives Bu N201


Posted 10 September 2015 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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152 West Hastings Street

152 W Hastings

We’ve looked at the history of the development of this building last year. It’s half of two structure with an identical design and different architects. This is the 1904 building designed by William Blackmore & Son for Elizabeth Rogers although he didn’t have to do a lot as it’s a copy of the 1901 building to the west designed by Parr and Fee. This closer shot shows the stonework on this building doesn’t exactly match the construction of the older building.

This 2004 image shows the condition of the building ten years ago, before new owners restored the building and introduced office uses to the upper floors, replacing a variety of arts and music groups who paid low rents in the run-down space. Concerns about fire safety eventually led the City to close the building, which in turn led to the sale and restoration of the property. We weren’t able to exactly match the angle the older picture was taken, as we weren’t willing to stand in the middle of West Hastings to replicate the perspective of the adjacent building!


Posted 30 June 2014 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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Hastings and Homer – ne corner (2)

Hastings from Homer 3

We already saw this view as a postcard; here it is in a wider view looking all the way to the Flack Block and beyond. The Arcade was still standing at the corner of Cambie Street (in front of the second tram) with the Flack Block beyond on the other side of Cambie. We already identified the building with the curved second floor windows behind the first tram as the Mahon Block in the earlier post. Next door there’s another 2-storey building that we’ve failed to confirm the identity of the builder; we think Thompson Brothers, a stationery company. had it altered in 1913, but we’re not sure who built it originally.

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

Beyond that to the east is a rather handsome 1899 building, built for Thomas Hunter and designed by Blackmore and Son. Today it’s one of the few ‘gap teeth’ in the city – the building was destroyed by fire in 2004. Next door to that is the oldest building on the block, the 1894 and 1898 Rogers Block designed by William Blackmore and Parr and Fee in two almost identical phases. As we noted on another blog, Jonathan Rogers would almost certainly be unhappy with the current use of his buildings. These days they house the offices of the Marijuana Party and the Amsterdam Cafe. In 1916 Jonathan Rogers was the main organiser in Vancouver of the People’s Prohibition Association who successfully lobbied for the introduction of Prohibition in British Columbia (which lasted from 1917 to 1921).

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 677-623