Archive for the ‘Busby Perkins + Will’ Tag

Robinson Block – 46 Water Street

Here’s 44-46 Water Street; one of the few Water Street buildings we haven’t covered to date. The Terminus Hotel is to the east, and the Kane Block to the west. It’s known as the Robinson Block, although though there wasn’t anybody called Robinson in the city in 1889, when it was supposedly first completed, who might have developed it. It looks very similar to the Town & Robinson block built around the same time on Carrall Street, designed by C O Wickenden, so he may well have designed this, but it also looks like W T Whiteway’s Ferguson Block, so we can’t be sure.

There’s a report in the Daily World from 1890 of a visit by Mr. I Robinson, an ‘English capitalist’ from London, who had made real estate investments in the city; he seems to be the most likely candidate to have developed the building. He also owned the Stewart House hotel on Water Street, and Town and Robinson, as well as the Carrall St building also developed the Metropole Hotel, where they hired N S Hoffar as architect – Henry Town was another English investor. The Yorkshire Trust had a client with Vancouver real estate investments called Isaac Robinson, so he seems likely to have been the developer. The Daily World tells us he was also a director of the Vancouver City Land Company.

The building was only about 40 feet deep when initially built, and an addition was constructed at the back around 1905. In 1901 a repair permit was issued to ‘Sherdahl’ as the owner, presumably Sven Sherdahl who owned the Dominion Hotel along the street. (That seems to have been around the time that some of Isaac Robinson’s estate was being sold). Numbering on Water Street changed over time, but we’re assuming that the Terminus Hotel was always next door, so we’re looking at the occupants of the building to the west of that. In 1890 the site was shown as vacant, and in 1891 A J Struthers, a commission agent was here (numbered as 36), with the Salvation Army at 38. In 1892 the building was numbered as 42, with both the Salvation Army barracks and T W Clark and Co based here. They were wholesale produce and commission merchants, run by Joseph Coupland who had been running a general store on Seymour Street a year earlier. (Joseph would be elected an alderman in 1895, and was nicknamed by the local press ‘me too Coupland’ for his consistent support for mayor Henry Collins). R S Graham, abook-keeper and teamster Birron Dunamaker were also here. Two years later Charles Rengel and F R Stewart, a wholesale commission merchant were here, and in 1895 the store was again vacant. In 1896 the new tenant was Z Franks, whose business would be here for many years.

Zebulon Franks had been born in the Ukraine the son of a rabbi, but his entire family were killed in 1881 in a pogrom that wiped out a third of the jewish population in his home town, and he escaped to Paris and then sailed for New York. He intended to make for California, but by the summer of 1882 was working in Winnipeg for the Canadian Pacific Railway, which was then being built. He married Esther Blonde in Winnipeg in 1883. Like him, she’d fled Ukraine. Pessie (or Bella) and Sarah (later called Sadie) in Manitoba. Zebulon and Esther arrived in Vancouver 1887 and a third daughter, Rosie, was born in 1888, then Abraham in 1890, Myer in 1894 and Leah in 1895. Esther died soon after Leah’s birth, and Zebulon was left with six children and a business to run. He married Yetta Halperin (born in Palestine in 1877) in 1898, and had six more children in the next ten years, Solomon (known as Sam), David, Robert (sometimes listed as Israel), Miriam, Monte and Annabelle.

Initially Zebulon opened a grocery store on Carrall Street that imported kosher meat from Seattle. On Water Street he ran a hardware and second-hand store that sold stoves, guns, and logging, fishing and trapping supplies, and which served as the first house of prayer for the nascent Orthodox Jewish community.

We know what the store looked like inside from this image from 1902: Zebulon is on the left; his daughter Sarah is beside him. The other gentlemen were identified as Mr. Beecroft, and Joseph Blonde

In 1910 the store moved from here to 101 Cordova, and in 1921 the listing switched from Z Franks to Y Franks, as Yetta apparently took over running the company.

Zebulon died in 1926; all 12 children were still alive, and scattered throughout North America: the obituary notice said “The deceased is survived by six daughters, Mrs A C Fleishman, Seattle, Mrs I Jacobs, Tacoma, Mrs Leah Horowitz, California, Miss Annabelle Franks and Mrs R. Meyers of this city.  Six sons, Abraham, Tacoma, Dr Bob Franks, Alaska and Myer, Sam, David and Monty of Vancouver.”

In 1927, following Zebulon’s death, she was still running the business. Several of Zebulon’s children including Annabelle, Myer and Samuel were working for D Franks & Co, a sacks and barrels business run by son David in Yaletown on Hamilton Street. In 1931 Annabelle was running D Franks, and David had taken over at Mrs Y Franks business on Cordova. Myer was secretary-treasurer of Iron & Metals, and had moved to Shaughnessey. A year later Y Franks and Co moved to Seymour Street, taking over the premises previously occupied by rival stove dealer William Ralph. (They closed in and V A Wardle and Co briefly occupied the building). The company continued to operate from there for decades, adding other locations, and remaining in business today on the north shore. Yetta Franks died in Los Angeles in 1963.

In the 1960s the building was given a ‘renovation’ that obscured the original appearance of the front facade, including stucco applied over the stonework, and replacement of the front facade brickwork and the original windows, seen in this picture from around 1979. Fortunately, in 2006 the building was once again renovated, but this time Busby, Perkins + Will restored the original appearance of the Victorian Italianate design. There’s a store in front, one residential unit above, and a restaurant fronting onto Blood Alley Square behind. Surplus density (for not tearing down and replacing the structure) was transferred to other development sites elsewhere in the city.

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 810-134 and CVA Bu P675

 

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Posted December 28, 2017 by ChangingCity in Altered, Gastown

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