Archive for the ‘Braunton and Leibert’ Tag

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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Burrard Street – north from Nelson Street

Burrard from Nelson 2

In many of the images we publish the contemporary view is of street trees, added over recent years, that makes seeing the buildings behind more difficult. That’s not the case on Burrard Street – back in 1923 the street foliage was every bit as lush as it is today (if not more so). Burrard was really a wide boulevard residential street then – it didn’t really go anywhere to the south; (the Burrard Bridge wasn’t built until 1930). We’re standing in the middle of Burrard at Nelson Street, so that’s the First Baptist church on the left, built in 1911, and houses in the 900 block of Burrard Street on the right.

Unlike the houses on the 700 block, (a couple of blocks down the hill, on the right) we do know who designed and built the houses on this block – or at least, several of them (even if you can’t really see them for the trees!) Thomas Fee, architect partner to John Parr, designed and built four of the houses – presumably as investments. During his career as well as designing dozens of buildings for clients throughout the city T A Fee would build projects for himself costing tens of thousands of dollars. These houses were early investments, and more modest. They were among an impressive list of houses built by Fee in the West End – he seems to have bought several blocks of land and then built houses from at least 1901 to 1904. We don’t have records currently available before 1901, but it seems likely that there were earlier dwellings also built by Fee on the eastern (right) side here.

900 Burrard 1912This 1914 detail from an aerial view from the second Hotel Vancouver shows the back of the houses. In 1904 J H Field had the double lot on the corner of Nelson Street, (on the far right of the main picture, towards the left of the aerial shot) and added a second house at a cost of $950. The large house, four blocks up at 970 Burrard was a Fee investment, built in 1901 at a cost of $2,500. Further up the street at 940 and 946 Fee built two houses in 1901, one of them costing $3,000, while next door at 932 he built an even larger home – the foundation stonework cost $2,000 in 1902. Most of the houses closer to Nelson were built a few years before 1901; it was likely to be a popular location as the Dawson Public School was just a block to the south, across from St Paul’s Hospital.

The building down the hill on the left is Irwinton Court – still standing today and built by C N Davidson in 1912 to Braunton and Leibert’s design at a cost of $132,000. The two apparently vacant areas of land on the left before the apartments are the gardens of Hillside Hall (a private hospital in 1906, although by 1923 a rooming house) on the south side of Barclay Street, and the playing area of the Aberdeen School (built in 1912 for $135,000) on the north side. Behind the trees on the 800 block, beyond that, were more houses, all built before 1900, on both sides of Burrard Street.

Today, on the left is the newly restored YMCA facade with the Patina condo tower behind, the Sutton Place Hotel, and off in the distance the towers of the Royal Centre. To the east is the Dal Grauer electrical Substation with the Scotiabank cinema and Electric Avenue condos above and beyond that 800 and 850 Burrard, a 1980s condo and office development designed by Eng and Wright with two distinctly different elements on a single lot.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Str N181; extract from William Moore panoramic photo, CVA PAN N218


Posted January 29, 2014 by ChangingCity in Altered, West End

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731 Burrard Street

731 Burrard

This is the home of jeweller C N Davidson in 1898. That’s Mrs Cecilia Davidson in front, so presumably it’s her son, Freeman on the pony, and Cicero (her husband, born in Ontario in 1859) holding their younger son, Irwin (who seems to have been known by his middle name, Norman). Freeman’s rather unusual name came from his father’s mother, who was Jane Freeman. Records suggest it was probably similar to his uncle’s name: records show Freman Davidson was born in Brantford, Ontario, in 1862. There looks to be a family resemblance in the gentleman holding the pony, so that’s probably his brother Augustus A Davidson who was listed at the same address in 1898. A year earlier the two brothers had incorporated the Shamrock Mining Co (with shares worth $250,000) with a third partner, William Brooks. At that time Augustus lived in Victoria running the Victoria branch of Davidson Brothers, jewelers.

We saw a smaller version of this image when we looked at an early picture of the Parr and Fee designed stores that Mr Davidson built on his property in 1911. They’re still standing today, as is Irwinton Court, the apartments he built here on the other part of his land in 1912. The family moved deeper into the West End, to Harwood Street. This house appears to have been built in 1891 – Mr Davidson is listed here in the 1892 Street Directory. Two doors away ‘C O Wickendin’ the architect was in residence (actually the prolific C O Wickenden who was designing many of the important buildings in the city around then). Cicero Napier Davidson remarried in 1922 when he was aged 60, and widowed. His wife, Rose Dalton, was from England, divorced and aged 36. Augustus also settled in Vancouver, and on his death in 1950 was buried in the Burnaby Masonic cemetary.

Image source: City of Vancouver CVA Str N2


Posted July 6, 2013 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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1003 Robson Street

1003 Robson

Remarkably, in a city that likes to reinvent itself (or at least its buildings) on a regular cycle, these single storey retail stores have sat on the corner of Robson and Burrard for over a century. They were built in 1911 by builders Allen & Jones at a cost of $9,500 for C N Davidson, and designed by Parr and Fee. A year later the same owner hired Braunton & Leibert to design a much more expensive proposition, the $132,000 stores and apartments called Irwinton Court, behind the stores. Those are still there today as well.

Dr Guthrie 1890In 1890 jewellers Davidson Brothers had a store on Yates Street in Victoria, and another in Vancouver on Cordova, which had opened in 1888. We know the brothers were previously in business ‘in the east’ because Dr Guthrie managed to borrow money (with insufficient funds to cover the loan) on the basis of earlier acquaintance.

In 1891 C N Davidson is listed in the census record as a jeweller aged 32, and his family are living in Vancouver with 1-year-old daughter, Elaine, his wife’s mother, Frances Haskett and their domestic, Maggie Johnson. Mr Davidson’s father was shown as an American, although he was born in Ontario (apparently in Guelph). His wife’s family were from Quebec; (it looks as if she was born in Montreal but had moved to Ontario before she was 14). The street directory had his home on the corner of Seymour and Georgia

731 Burrard 1898 CVA Str N2In 1894 the Provincial Building and Loan Association formed a local board in Vancouver, with C N Davidson as president. That year saw the family living at 731 Burrard, seen in this 1898 picture.  In 1896 he was on the board of the Vancouver, Victoria and Eastern Railway along with William Templeton and other leading members of the Board of Trade. Unlike many of the proposed railways of the day, this one was actually built, and eventually became a subsidiary of the Great Northern.

As we have seen with a number of other pioneer developers, Mr Davidson did not limit his interests to his main profession. In 1897 he was involved in gold mine prospecting. He and his brother, A A Davidson (who ran the Victoria jewellery store) were two of the four owners of a $250,000 mining company, Winchester Gold Mines of Fairview, Victoria, formed to purchase the Winchester claim in Yale. The same year they were also partners in the $250,000 Shamrock Mining Co with the intent of taking over the Shamrock claim in Osoyoos. Cicero was also briefly a defendant in a case against the Orphan Boy Gold Mining Company on McCulloch Creek where the owners (including C N Davidson) were accused of defrauding shareholders. While his brother seems to have maintained active involvement in the region, there’s no mention of Cicero retaining an interest.

In 1899 Mr Davidson was severely hurt in a fall from a ladder at his home, but obviously recovered. In the 1901 census Cicero and Cecilia have a son Freeman, younger son Irwin N, her mother Fanny Haskell and their domestic Stella Struthers. In this census Cicero’s family background is Scotch, and his wife’s Irish.

In 1911 the family were living at 779 Burrard (a renumbering of 731), Cicero and Cecilia were both aged 52, their sons Freeman and Norman (aged 18 and 14), his wife’s mother, Frances Haskett and their domestic, Rachel Cullen. The development of their home into the Irwinton Apartments must have taken place in 1913 – by 1914 all but one of the 54 suites is occupied. The family had moved to 1609 Harwood. Freeman appears to have fought in the First World War, but after that we have not been able to identify him. Cicero was living in retirement on Dunbar Street in 1926 (when this picture of his developments was taken), and was still living there in 1940. At this point his wife was Rose E Davidson; he remarried in 1922 after Cecilia had died. Rose was 24 years younger. Cicero Davidson died in 1946.

In 1981 Irwinton Court was restored by architects Lort and Lort and strata titled.

Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-1522


Mission House – 148 Alexander Street

Army & Navy Warehouse Alexander 1949

In 1912 Brown and Howey hired Braunton and Leibert to design a $50,000 5-storey brick apartment building for 148-156 Alexander Street. The builders were to be Egdell & Dixon. Seven months later the same owners and architects proposed a $16,000 two-storey brick warehouse. In fact, we think both buildings were completed – Brown and Howey’s feed warehouse was the two storey building on the right of the picture – the five storey building was entirely different.

Brown and Howey were William R Brown and Wesley Howey. Both apparently managed to evade the 1911 census, but fortunately Wesley was in Vancouver in 1901, so we know he was born in Ontario in 1868 with a father who had emigrated from Kilkenny in Ireland and a mother from Quebec. He was one of eleven children who scattered around North America. His sister Rebecca was in Minnesota, their older sister Margaret in Medicine Hat, Alberta, one brother in Brandon, Manitoba, another in Edmonton and his younger brother Dr Richard Howey in Toronto. His older brother George was a placer miner in Alaska who died in the shipwreck of the CPR Princess Sophia in 1918 . Wesley was described as a flour and feed merchant in 1901, staying as a lodger with William and Julia Soames and their family.

We despaired of chasing down William Brown – mainly because in 1911 there were 20 people in Vancouver whose parents thought William would be a fine name for their son. We know he was living on Davie Street, and fortunately in 1901 there were only ten William Browns in town, and so we know that he was born in New Brunswick, as was his wife, Jane, and his family background was Scottish.

The company only operated in their building for a few years. Next door the 5 storey apartment was altogether different. it was the Vancouver Rescue Mission, operated by the B.C. Protective Association. The heritage description notes “Designed to house 300 men per night, the Mission had a kitchen and dining hall. There were nightly gospel meetings. The charity offered by the mission was aimed at ‘neglected men’ – the working poor and the ‘derelict’ unemployed. The men who could afford to, paid for their accommodation, while those who could not paid with tickets issued by the City’s welfare department. The men were encouraged to try to find work through the Mission’s employment bureau and to help pay for their keep by working in the Mission’s scavenging business.”

By 1922 Gordon and Belyea were in the building as the base of their wholesale hardware supply company, and by 1949 when our VPL image was taken it was the warehouse for Army and Navy Stores. In 1982 it returned to residential use with just 16 apartments over commercial space (with an added sixth floor) designed by Tor Skjelvic in one of the earliest warehouse conversions in Gastown.


1090 Granville Street

We’ve seen 1090 Granville before, off in the distance on the 1000 block of Granville Street. It was designed by Braunton and Leibert for James Borland, who started small, as an Ontario born plasterer, building two houses (still standing) in Strathcona in 1892. By 1901 he was identified in the census as a contractor and he had built a two storey commercial building on Westminster Avenue (also still standing, although much altered). He was living with his wife Sarah and children Alfred and Stanley. In 1902 Borland and Brown hired Parr and Fee to design a building on Hastings Street (which can be seen here), built by Baynes and Horie next door to BC Collateral. In 1904 he had a court fight to acquire a site from Joseph Coote – the site being wrongly identified on the receipt. He won, and acquired the site where the Dawson Building would be erected for $20,000. In 1911 he was mis-identified as Barland but was living with his wife, children and now a daughter, Gladys, and their Chinese domestic Chufat at 1934 Nelson Street (close to Stanley Park, in a rather well to do area of town).

In 1912 he really pushed the boat out, hiring Bedford Davidson to build Parr and Fee’s design for the Maple Hotel (now the Washington Hotel) at a cost of $80,000, and also this Granville Street building designed by Braunton and Leibert which cost $55,000. We don’t often see how much the land cost, so it’s interesting to see it cost twice as much as the building cost to construct. Although built as retail space with rooms above, by 1920 the only occupant was the Standard Furniture Co. By 1933 when this picture was taken it had become the T Maher Furniture Co, who were still there in 1939, but gone in 1940. Today the building still has retail at the base, but it has returned to its intended residential use on the upper floors and since 1991 the McLaren Housing Society has provided low cost, supportive housing for persons with HIV & AIDS.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-4324


Posted March 13, 2012 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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Hotel Stratford – Gore and Keefer

For a prominent building we’ve been able to get very little information on the Stratford Hotel – or Hotel Stratford as is seems to have been called in 1912 when it was built. By 1972 when this image was taken in was no longer the classy joint that it had been when it was first opened with 200 rooms. The architects were Braunton and Leibert (at least for the building permit, although the trade announcement only identified Hugh Braunton) and their client was listed as Mrs Walter Sanford. As the contact address for Mrs Sanford was given as the c/o the Empress Theatre (which was also on Gore at Hastings) which was run by an American actor identified as Walter Sandford, we can presume a minor spelling error somewhere.

During the 50s, 60s and 70s news reports regularly feature the Stratford Hotel for a series of infractions and criminal acts involving both illegal substances and activities. These were interspersed with regular fires – so regular that it’s a testament to the construction quality that the building is still with us. These days the Stratford is called the Fan Tower, and has relatively inexpensive rental rooms. It’s missing its second floor cornice line, but otherwise still looks pretty good for a century old building.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-450


Posted February 25, 2012 by ChangingCity in Chinatown, Still Standing

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