Clarke and Stuart’s store occupied the last bay at the western end of the N S Hoffar designed Dunn-Miller Block – so in the Miller end of the building – at 28 Cordova. They started up in business early in the city’s history. H P McCraney in conversation with Major Matthews in the 1930s recalled General J. Duff Stuart and Harold Clark as both being clerks working for Seth Tilley, the owner of the stationery company that was established in Granville, before the great fire and the name change to Vancouver. Tilley had the first telephone in town (which if you think about it had somewhat limited utility) – although his telephone number in 1890 was ‘3’. (Nobody had ‘1’, but somehow A G Ferguson had managed to get ‘2’). After he rebuilt after the 1886 fire, Tilley’s store was at 11 Cordova Street.
If his name was initially misprinted as Clark, Harold Clarke arrived in the city in 1890. He apparently arrived in the province from his native St Andrews, New Brunswick, in 1888 when he was aged 26. James Stuart arrived in 1889 and showed up in the directory in 1891 (although there was another James Stuart already in the city, working for Oppenheimer Brothers). Stuart was born in Dufftown in Scotland and 1891 Clarke was working for Thomson Brothers, booksellers and Stuart was a bookkeeper, although we don’t know who for. Clarke married in 1891, and Stuart in 1893, and each had three daughters. Stuart had four sons, Clark had three. By 1894 both men were working for Thomson Brothers, but in 1895 they had established Clarke and Stuart, booksellers and stationers in 11 Cordova Street, so presumably had bought out Seth Tilley who was still in town, but in retirement. In 1896 they were at their new address, 28 Cordova (the building seen in this 1898 picture). Thomson’s continued in business too, but moved a little further up the street.
Harold Clarke became President of the Recreation Park Amusement Co, a Licence Commissioner, and a member of the Vancouver Club and the Yacht Club. He lived at 1246 Haro Street. James Duff Stuart, who was four years younger than his partner, became the lieutenant-colonel commanding the 6th Regiment, later a General and at his death (in 1936) a Brigadier-General. In 1933 he spent $35,000 to buy equity in the Gleneagles golf course on the north shore. He was a member of both the Terminal City Club and the Vancouver Club. He lived at 1220 Georgia Street.
By 1904 the company had moved past just supplying typewriters – they went one step further and provided the stenographers as well. Later they diversified into property development – to our surprise they seem to be the clients who developed the now demolished Devonshire Hotel on West Georgia Street. We’ve also seen the building they built for their printing works and store in 1906. The company continued in business for many decades – Al Purdy, the poet, remembers Clarke and Stuart printing an early volume of his poetry in the 1940s, and the company were still trading in the 1950s.
As we noted when looking at the other end of the building, the Army and Navy store now occupies the space, although only the first few metres of the store are original construction, the remainder having been rebuilt in the early 1970s.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Bu N283.1
Here’s an earlier (1930) image of the Cordova Street frontage where Seymour ends. As we saw in the previous view of this corner Clarke and Stuart’s printing works and warehouse was built on the corner in 1906, and alongside David Spencer (and later his sons) has established a massive retail emporium. Before Spencers started building there had been two sets of earlier buildings, wooden ones erected soon after the fire, and then brich replacements, including one of the many ‘Horne Block’ developments.
In 1920 Clarke and Stuart still had a store here, and also one at 550 Seymour. A year later they only had the new store, and Spencer’s had taken over control of the entire block. From the look of the chimneys on the roof, they used the upper part of the Clarke and Stuart warehouse to add new boilers for the entire complex. From this angle it’s also possible to see how Spencer’s 1907 and 1911 store buildings were actually taller than the 1976 Harbour Centre that replaced them. The complex incorporated most of the store facade but did some really terrible things to the lower part of the Cordova Street frontage (and no favours to Seymour Street either). These days SFU Harbour Centre are in the Spencer’s part while offices fill the Harbour Centre tower and the lookout on top offer views over The Changing City
This 1973 image shows the St Francis Hotel on the west side of the street, and on the opposite side of Seymour, Clarke and Stuart’s printer’s store and warehouse. Clarke and Stuart occupied the building from when it was built for them in 1906 (to Grant and Henderson’s design) until 1920, when Spencer’s took it over. The rest of the block was also occupied by various iterations of David Spencer’s department store. The next building to the east is a Thomas Hooper designed 1911 addition to the larger building he designed a few years earlier next door to the east. The much bigger building beyond that is McCarter and Nairne’s 1925 massive expansion of the Spencer store.
Clarke and Stuart had been located further east on Cordova from before the turn of the century, operating as a bookstore but also selling typewriters, pianos and organs. Their former building had a makeover at some point, losing the cornices and details, but apparently retaining the original windows.
David Spencer, a Welshman, arrived in Canada just slightly too late to join the Cariboo gold-rush and instead bought the Victoria Library, a stationers and bookshop, in 1864. Following the success of that he partnered with William Denny to buy ‘The Victoria House’, a dry goods store in 1873, and five years later a new store under his own name. In the 1890s he bought a site on Hastings street for a location in Vancouver but a rival, Drysdale-Stevenson Company built a store on an adjacent site before he was able to develop his own building. Spencer acquired his rival’s business in 1905, and immediately built a $150,000 expansion. The store had immediate success in Vancouver, and the Spencer company and Charles Woodward out-competed each other to add new extensions and departments year after year.
In the mid 1970s the Harbour Centre was built to replace Spencer’s store (which had been taken over by Eatons in 1948, and who then vacated to the new Pacific Centre Mall). The building was designed by Toronto-based Webb Zerafa Menkes Housden Partnership (who had also designed the CN tower at around the same time). The 1920s part of the Spencer’s store was incorporated into the building, which these days also includes the Downtown campus of Simon Fraser University.
Image source City of Vancouver Archives CVA 447-379