Archive for the ‘Captain Henry Pybus’ Tag

500 block Richards Street – west side (1)


We noted in an earlier post that the building on the corner with Dunsmuir (on the left of the picture) may not be purely a 1988 structure. This 1974 image shows that the Bible Society building shared similar dimensions, but looking more closely we think the façade at least would require a complete reconstruction to change the windows as much as they were. Next door the BC Stamp works is almost identical over the 40+ years. The building is shown as having been completed in 1926, although underneath is an earlier house. In 1896 it housed Mrs. S McDonald, Alex Wilson, William Taylor,  Mr. Bradley, Mr. Simpson and Dr. J A Mills, who had his office next door on the corner of Dunsmuir, and who built a house there in 1896. Mrs McDonald continues to be associated with the address for several years, although the street directory doesn’t always list anyone else, suggesting she was running a rooming house.

In 1901 Mrs. Sarah McDonald and Dr. J A Mills are listed here, but at separate addresses in the same building, and by 1903 Dr. Mills has moved to the corner property, and William McDonald a teamster has moved to 579 Richards and Sarah McDonald, widow, is shown at 581 Richards running a boarding house. She was shown running it in the 1901 census, aged 41, from Ontario, and with six male lodgers including a carpenter, a machinist and a CPR ticket clerk, and two female guests; Hilda Thompson, a 35-year-old chamber maid from Norway and Annie Maslin from BC, who was aged 30 and a Dining Room Girl.

S Astell had the house rebuilt in 1911 when the permit sought to have the house lifted and altered. This was Ontario-born contractor Sebastian Astell, who lived with his brother, wife, five daughters and one son on West Pender. Once completed, Hunter and Henderson, decorators occupied the basement and there were three separate suites; one was vacant, A Kjos was in another and Mrs. Nina H Perine was at the back.

These days it’s run as the Urban Hideaway Guesthouse, an apparently cash-only cross between a b&b and a hostel (with prices closer to b&b than hostel) with seven guest rooms. The BC Stampworks were in the building long before our 1974 image. The earliest we can find them under that name at this address is 1930 – which must make them one of the longest-running continuous business locations in the city. The company goes back to 1909, and as the previous occupants of the premises were Houghton & Smith Ltd, who also manufactured rubber stamps and other marking devices, that continuity is even longer. They had moved in only a couple of years earlier, moving from West Pender, and replacing Love & Co, who were auctioneers.

The more ornate four storey building on the right was developed by Captain Henry Pybus, built by the Provincial Construction Co, cost $30,000 in 1911, and was designed by S B Birds. We’ve seen another of Captain Pybus’s investments on West Pender Street. A Master Mariner, born in South Africa, in Vancouver he commanded all three of the CPR ‘Empress’ line ships. He was married to Florence, and had two children, Ann and Mary, both of who married into the Bell-Irving family. He retired in 1911, and lived in Vancouver until his death in 1938.

The date of construction suggests that Captain Pybus turned his savings into real estate on his retirement. He also became very active in the Art, Historical, and Scientific Association of Vancouver, where he was President from 1921 to 1927. The 1912 insurance map references the building as the Dunsmuir Rooms, although there’s no entry in the street directory until 1914 when Sarah L Shaw was running the establishment. In 1918 an advertisement in the Daily World offered “up-to-date rooms at $2 a week and up”. Today it’s the Hotel St Clair, although it’s more of a hostel with shared bathrooms, and very reasonable hostel rates for the rooms. (The hostel’s website will tell you “It was the first concrete building in Vancouver”. It wasn’t; the four storey building is wood frame and the front facade is clad in concrete that has been cast to appear like stone). A 1996 proposal to redevelop as a larger rooming house with en suite bathrooms behind the preserved façade was never pursued.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 778-379


Posted 14 November 2016 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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West Pender – 500 block (2)

West Pender 500 block 2

Here’s a more recent view of the view west from Richards Street of the south side of West Pender. In a much earlier post we saw the buildings that were there in 1908. This 1980s picture, still before the Kingsley Lo designed parkade was built, shows how many had survived the intervening years.

Almost all the buildings were unchanged over the 70 year gap. We’re wondering if the building on the corner might have been a very early one. In 1888 T Prest commissioned William Blackmore to design stores and apartments on Pender at Richards, and if they were built, this would quite possibly be them as the 1901 insurance map only shows this corner of Richards and Pender developed; in 1902 it housed the Chinese Mission. However, Fripp and Wills were also commissioned to build a commercial block for J.M. Spinks, R.G. McKay and Dr. Powell in 1892 also at Pender Street at Richards – so that’s a more likely candidate as it comes four years after the Prest commission.

The first building past the parkade dates back to 1909 and was apparently the first of several investments by Captain Henry Pybus (he built more expensive buildings on Seymour and Richards a few years later). This two storey structure cost $11,000, and Captain Pybus had been based in Vancouver for many years. In 1897 he won the Blue Ribbon after setting the Trans-Pacific crossing record aboard the Canadian Pacific steamship ‘Empress of Japan’. In 1899 he was captain of a British flagged vessel, the Tartar, with a Chinese crew. The San Francisco Call reported a problem he ran into with that crew “The Chinese crew on the British steamer Tartar has been in a state of mutiny for three days, and it was only yesterday that they were brought to their senses. Captain Pybus threatened to send them all back to British Columbia as mutineers and fill their places with white labor or another Chinese crew. The threat had more effect upon the crew than all the persuasive eloquence of Consul Show Ting or the imperative orders of Consul General Ho Vow.”

When he built the Pender Street investment Captain Pybus was already aged 58, although he had a younger English-born wife and two daughters, aged 16 and 20 in the 1911 census. He had been born in South Africa and although his biography suggested he had come to Canada in 1901 when he was 50, the 1911 census says it was 1890, which makes more sense. He was described not just as a sea captain, but as a Master Mariner. His reason for being in the US with the Tartar was to transport US troops involved in military operations in the Philippines. Once in Vancouver he commanded all three of the CPR ‘Empress’ line ships.

The building (numbered today as 532 West Pender) still stands today, and looks very similar to when it was first built.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 772-1305


Posted 16 June 2013 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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