Archive for the ‘Bruno Freschi’ Tag

1190 West Georgia Street

1190 W Georgia

Back in 1925, when our ‘before’ shot was taken this was the home of Willis-Kingsley Motors. They sold both new and used vehicles; they were Studebaker dealers, but the sign on the widow also notes “Buying a Used Car From Us Insures Satisfaction – Read the Pledge on Other Windows”. Willis-KingsleyIf the design of the older building looks at all familiar, it may be because Vancouver Motors (also built in 1925) was designed by the same architects, Townley and Matheson – and that’s still standing on Seymour Street, as we saw in one of the very first posts on this blog. (The building has had an extensive make-over since that earlier post).

Provincial Motors Ltd were the Studebaker dealers before Willis-Kingsley, we first found them in the street directory in 1923 sharing the same premises as A S French’s garage on West Pender. Before the garage was built there were two houses on this site. Although there’s an article from a few years back that says the company sold Pierce Arrow motor cars in the 1920s and 1930s and then Willys cars and trucks and finally Studebaker products, that’s incorrect. A 1923 Daily World article reviewed the company’s creation (we’ve skipped the part about how dependable and wonderful the cars were): “The local Studebaker agency was officially taken over yesterday by Messrs. Willis and Kingsley. The name of the new firm is the Willis – Kingsley Motors Ltd, 1027 Pender St. W. Mr. C. H. Willis, for the past ten years, has been selling Studebakers in Victoria, associated with Jamieson & Willis, Studebaker dealers in that city, where he is well known as an enthusiastic motorist and an active worker in all movements pertaining to good roads and other interests for the betterment of conditions affecting the motorist. Mr. George Kingsley, who Is equally well known in British Columbia automobile circles, comes from Shawnigan Lake. He is a native son and prominent in athletics in the province. He is a member of the Vancouver Rowing Club and holds the northwest Pacific coast championship for single sculling.”

This 1928 advertisement for the company showed the style of the – Made In Canada – Studebakers. The new premises joined several other car dealerships on West Georgia. Technically this location is in the West End, as it’s on the south side of West Georgia, but functionally it feels like it’s part of Downtown. Begg Brothers moved their Chrysler (Dodge and Desoto) dealership from elsewhere on West Georgia in 1951.

In 1980 the office building that replaced it was completed, designed by Bruno Freschi for Highfield Developments. Initially the corner was a great open space, but later it was filled in to extend the office atrium. Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1399-534


Posted 15 October 2015 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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550 Beatty Street

548 Beatty

Many, but not all the warehouses along the 500 block Beatty Street have been converted to residential use over many years. Here’s the first conversion, carried out over 30 years ago by architect Bruno Freschi. This 1974 image shows it when it was still a multi-tenanted warehouse operated, we think, by Johnston Terminals.

The architectural intervention for the residential conversion was significant – there are balconies punched into the façade held up by the heavy timber frame. The frame is far more visible as a result – much more than is true of most of the buildings from this period. That’s especially true on the main (and basement) floors where the widows and brick bases were completely removed. The conversion didn’t go smoothly – there were unexpected problems with the warehouse foundations (probably the lack of them!) and completion was delayed. The original partnership ended up forfeiting the building to a finance company, once the original bank financing was pulled. The contractor withdrew, and eventually completion of the project was only possible once liability had been settled by the courts.

The 1907 building is said in the Heritage Statement to have been developed by Mainland Transfer Co, part of C P Railways operations. Mainland’s warehouse was at Abbott and Pender for many years from before the early 1900s, and a variety of other companies occupied this warehouse, including Frederick Buscombe for at least a decade. Honeyman and Curtis designed a warehouse on Beatty Street for Mainland Transfer Co, and we therefore assume that this is the building (although the 1906 permit described it as “brick stable” – although at $40,000 it would have been an expensive stable). It was built by George Williamson, a contractor of a number of significant buildings around this period.

Apart from the Heritage Statement, there’s no evidence that Mainland was part of the CPR. It was founded in 1902, and Frank Gross, the manager who ran it then was still running  the company in the mid 1920s. A 1923 news story explained the history of this building. “In 1906 the Mainland Transfer Company approached the Vancouver Warehouses Limited with the idea of fusing their interests and a working arrangement was made. Under the joint auspices, business continued to grow so that at the present time the company owns and operates the largest warehouse business In Canada, one warehouse at 550 Beatty Street and one covering almost the whole of a city block, in the 1000 block Mainland Street.”

The Heritage Statement states that in 1914 Mainland created Vancouver Warehouses Ltd, to acquire the building and were based in the building until at least the mid 1950s with a variety of other tenants. As the quote shows, this is also incorrect. The company name had been around for several years before 1914. The 1911 insurance map, and the Street Directory both identify this building as being that of Vancouver Warehouse Ltd. Vancouver Warehouse had been formed in 1905, and was originally located on Cordova Street, and in 1908 was based here, managed by Willie Dalton, managing rather than occupying the warehouse space; four companies were listed as occupying the building.

Two more floors, with office space were added in 1928. The permit identified George Snider Construction Co. Ltd as the builder of $45,000 of new warehouse for Vancouver Warehouses Ltd., but we assume it wasn’t the entire building that was reconstructed. In 1932 occupants included the Columbian Consulate, the Chilean Consulate and the Northern Alberta Dairy Pool. By the 1950s there were over twenty businesses in the building.

Image source City of Vancouver Archives CVA 778-4


Beatty Street – 500 block (1)

We’re on the 500 block of Beatty Street in 1927, looking north to the World Building which is now covered in the advertising for the Bekins moving and storage company. There are a series of warehouses coming up the hill, ending with one designed by Parr and Fee for Robertson-Godson in 1909. That building was removed to make way for the SkyTrain station and public plaza and steps down to International Village, but the rest are still there, often with alterations.

These days the bottom of the hill has the Sun Tower (as it’s been known since the Sun newspaper moved in in 1937). The steel dome is painted to look like copper, and although W T Whiteway gets the architectural credit it was suggested by G L Sharp that he actually drew the initial design. Storey and Campbell’s 1911 warehouse also designed by Whiteway is next up the hill, converted to apartments in 1996. The Bowman Lofts were converted in 2006 and the Crane Building next door two years later. Both have extra new-build floors added on top as part of the residential conversion. The Bowman building was built in 1906, added to in 1913 and then rebuilt to Townley and Matheson’s designs in 1944, while the Crane building had Somervell & Putnam as architects and cost over $120,000 in 1911.

At 548 Beatty Bruno Freschi took a 1904 warehouse and radically reinterpreted it in 1983 by pushing the front wall back leaving a front windowless screen as balconies. 560 Beatty (today, but 576 when built) dates back to 1909, when it was built by J M McLuckie for Fred Buscombe, at a cost of $35,000. Next door at 564 Beatty the original architect is also a mystery up to the top of the first floor. It was built in 1907 by Jonathan Rogers, but in 1912 J P Matheson added two more floors for new owner R A Welsh. This view has changed with a four storey addition by IBI/HB being built, with new windows replacing the never-meant-to-be-seen side of the building, and a cafe added to the plaza.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Str N165