Archive for the ‘Dominion Construction’ Tag

440 Burrard Street

When this image was shot in 1974 there was still a lane to the north (on the left of the picture), and across it was a 2-storey office building. On this other southern half of the 400 block of Burrard was this five storey office building was completed in 1949. Although it faced Burrard, it was addressed to West Pender as 999.

Up to 1947 there was a Shell service station on the corner, and before that an open air Chevrolet sale lot. Charles Bentall’s Dominion Construction acquired the site and completed the building in only 22 weeks. It was the first to be named as the Bentall Building, and had a CIBC Bank on the main floor and the Canadian Australasian Line offices on Burrard. Designed in a contemporary style with five floors of offices it was soon occupied by a series of Insurance companies  including Northwestern Mutual Fire Assurance, Travelers Insurance and Eagle Star, as well as the headquarters of Canadian Forest Products. Northwestern Mutual had prompted the development; based in Seattle, they were looking to expand north, and no new office space had been built in the city since the war had ended.

Charles Bentall, an engineer by qualification, had lost a court case in 1938 prompted by the AIBC, (the local Architects Institute), to prevent him from designing and signing off his own buildings, because he wasn’t a qualified architect. That means another designer should have been associated with the new structure. However, until the 1950s (when architect Frank Musson worked for Dominion) the company continued to design many of their own projects, with Claude Logan, a draughtsman, (and noted jazz pianist) credited with the design of several projects.

In 1984 Commerce Place, a silver reflective office complex designed by Waisman Dewar Grout Carter was completed to replace the 1949 building. Developed by Bentall, it houses offices for the CIBC Bank that have been on the same spot (with a short break for construction) for nearly 70 years.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 778-16


Posted January 1, 2018 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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Queen Charlotte – 1101 Nicola Street

Queen Charlotte Apartments 1101 Nicola

We had to catch this ‘after’ picture in early spring – in summer the building almost disappears behind the greenery. Back in 1928 it was a brand new building built by Dominion Construction (the contractors led by Charles Bentall). The client was H H Stevens, a successful politician and businessman. Herbert Henry Stevens was born in Bristol, England, but arrived in Ontario with his family in 1887 at the age of nine. He made his way to the West Coast, working as a mine laborer and eventually became a small businessman. For a brief time in 1900, his travels took him to the newly annexed Philippines as part of a U.S. Army transport unit. He was also in the Pacific at the time of the Boxer Rebellion and participated as a volunteer civilian member of the U.S. Army in China.

These experiences can be associated with a number of Steven’s future positions; a confirmation of his Methodist teetotal background, (and active opposition to the availability of alcohol), support for organized labour (despite a staunchly Conservative political opinion on almost everything else) and a strong belief in the fundamental difference between western and Asian culture, which he believed should be removed from areas of western control (like Canada).

In 1901 he established a grocery business, and in 1910 the newspaper ‘The Western Call’ that supported Conservative views and included significant coverage of ‘the Chinatown problem’. Stevens never moderated his views on preventing any further incursions into the superior white world he imagined Canada should be. He was elected to Vancouver City Council in 1910, and then as a Conservative member of  parliament, In 1911, in his maiden speech he called on the government to keep Canada “a white man’s country”. During the Great War he ensured that the ‘official photographers’ in Stanley Park, Fricke and Schenck, lost that contract because of their German lineage. In a 1922 speech he argued for exclusion of all Chinese, posing the question “shall Canada remain white, or shall Canada become multi-coloured?”. It’s unlikely he’d be particularly happy in Vancouver today. Stevens was Minister of Trade and Commerce in R.B. Bennett’s depression era Conservative government of 1930 to 1934, and was actively involved in the Komagata Maru incident, working with the head immigration officer to stop the ship’s Indian passengers from coming ashore.

Stevens undoubtedly chose Dominion Construction to undertake his investment because Charles Bentall was a staunch member of the Methodist church, and Dominion had in-house architects who could design their projects, acting as design-and-build contractors. More recently it was restored by designed Robert Ledingham when it became a 25 unit strata, and has a period lobby, carpets and lighting fixtures, with what is claimed to be the city’s last brass-gated bird cage elevator.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Bu N261.1

Posted April 30, 2015 by ChangingCity in Still Standing, West End

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1014 Homer Street

1014 Homer - General Motors

In 1931 Dominion Construction built this 3 storey building on Homer Street. It’s a reinforced concrete structure, a technique Dominion were familiar with building. but it was the financial structure of the developer that was novel. While the recession hadn’t really bitten, Dominion’s boss, Charles Bentall, started to use the recently created New Building Finance Company to keep his construction workers employed. General Motors wanted a new building, but they wanted to lease it, and Dominion were the contractors and designers and were prepared to help finance the construction. When the time came, rather than the New Building Finance Company funding it the building ownership was taken on by the Selman family, owners of Canadian Wood Pulp and Tank Limited.

Our photo shows the building a year after construction, and General Motors continued to occupy the building until 1950. They had offices for their finance division as well as their warehouse (presumably for parts). A couple of years later Barr and Anderson, plumbers, moved into the building, and at some point it became known as the Stall Building.

Eighty years on the building looks remarkably similar to when it was built, but the occupants are quite different. Today the tenants, among others, are architects, a book publisher and a computer store. And somehow, (possibly during a 1986 renovation) while almost every building that had a fancy cornice has lost it, the Stall Building managed to acquire one it never had.

Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-4156


Posted February 15, 2013 by ChangingCity in Still Standing, Yaletown

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