Archive for the ‘Dr James Whetham’ Tag

Crown Building – West Pender Street

We have looked at the north-west corner of Seymour and Pender twice, seven years ago, and again in 2013. The building on the corner was the Delmonico Hotel, built in 1889 as the Windsor Hotel. It opened in September, described in the news as ‘a new and costly undertaking’. “On Monday next the Windsor Hotel will open for business under the management of Messrs. Brocklesby and Allen, both late of Hotel Vancouver. These gentlemen are thoroughly familiar with the business, and propose to run a first – class house. The table will be second to none in the city and the rooms, well furnished and comfortable, will he kept in the best style. The bar will be well stocked with wines, liquors and cigars, the finest that can be supplied, and no pains will be spared to make the Windsor the favorite resort of the permanent and transient public. Its close proximity to the railway station and the steamers is a great point in its favor, and one tired travellers will highly appreciate.” The partnership lasted all of two months; by November Mr. Brocklesby was in sole charge.

The building had been announced in 1888, and the Daily World identified the developer, the enterprising Dr. Whetham. He commissioned N S Hoffar to design another investment property in 1888, but we haven’t found an architect listed for the Windsor. He was a qualified doctor, but had abandoned medicine for real estate development before he arrived in Vancouver in 1887.

Next door to the west was the Crown building. It was six storeys of white glazed brick, with centre-pivoted windows, which was the signature design of Parr and Fee, who designed a series of almost identical buildings on Granville Street; most are still standing today. The Crown was built in 1907, and the Daily World reported the architects, and the cost of the building ($75,000), as well as the developers, Martin & Robertson. They were importers and suppliers of dried foodstuffs, and we looked at their history in connection with their Water Street warehouse, built a few years earlier than the Crown.

Robert Martin was born in 1851 in Ontario and in 1901 lived in Vancouver with his wife Lydia, who was English, with their four children, and their ‘lady’s help’, Caroline Watson, and Jin, the domestic. Arthur Robertson was a Scotsman who was seven years younger than his business partner, and looking after the company’s other warehouse, in Victoria. They had been in business from the city’s earliest days: in 1894 they were advertising in the Daily World as agents for JOHNSTON’S FLUID BEEF – which was claimed ‘Eclipses All Meat Extracts and Home-made Beef Tea’.

Their investment building was occupied in multiple small suites, with a wide range of professional services. Architect J H Bowman had his practice here in 1911. A year later the Canada Lumberman and Woodworker magazine was published from here, and contractor Walter Hepburn had his offices here in the same year. Robert Martin had a number of other commercial investments in the city, including one a block east of here.

When Ernie Reksten took this picture in 1968 the buildings were about to be demolished, to be replaced with a parkade (with retail units on the main floor). It was completed in 1969, and looks like it should pass it’s 50th birthday, although Downtown parkades are becoming valuable redevelopment opportunities, and it seems unlikely that it will last for many more years.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 2010-006.010.



Posted December 13, 2018 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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163 West Cordova Street

163 Cordova

This retail location is seen in 1897 when it was the offices of the British Columbia Electric Railway Co. That was the year the company took over existing streetcar and interurban lines in southwestern British Columbia in 1897, and operated the electric railway systems in the region until the last interurban service was discontinued in 1958. It was created from the bankrupt Consolidated Railway and Light Company (forced into receivership due to a streetcar accident in Victoria). That company had been created from ten earlier companies – three of them also bankrupt and founded in 1890 and 1891.

The Electric Railway Co were tenants in a building that had been constructed nine years earlier, designed by N S Hoffar for Dr. Whetham – we saw the building in an earlier image.

Major Matthews identified the men as: Mr. Stein, Mr. McDonald, Mr. Jackson and Mr. Wilcock. There are three McDonalds working for the BCER – Mr McDonald is either HA McDonald who was a lineman, William McDonald who was the lamp inspector for the Electric Railway Co, or possibly Angus McDonald, the line foreman for the railway. Mr E H Willcock was a clerk for the railway company that year, although he would be a motorman in a couple of years.

We’re not sure if the identification of the other gentlemen was inaccurate, if the street directory failed to identify them, or whether they were connected in some other way with BCER (or just keen to be photographed). As far as we can tell, there were no BCER employees called Stein (although there was an accountant with an office on the 600 block of Hastings nearby). Similarly we haven’t found anyone called Jackson at BCER, but there were two businessmen on this block of Cordova, one a jeweler and the other the co-owner of the Savoy Hotel, a couple of doors to the east.

The almost windowless building that replaced Whetham’s was the first of only two buildings completed for Project 200, a massive redevelopment plan that would have seen the entire waterfront of Gastown bulldozed to create a row of towers over a waterfront freeway. This rather more modest structure was built in 1969 as the home of CNCP Telecommunications – the first serious hi-tech investment in the city, designed by Francis Donaldson and developed by Grosvenor Estates. The company was created as a joint venture between the CP and CN in 1967, merging the different networks used by the two railway companies. It became an early telecom business; was bought by Rogers in the 1980s, renamed Unitel and was later acquired by AT&T Canada. (It’s now called Allstream).

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Bu P171


Posted July 30, 2015 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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West Cordova Street – east from Cambie (1)

Cordova east from Cambie

The ‘after’ shot in this image was taken a couple of years ago, but nothing much has changed here recently. The ‘before’ was dated as 1899 and the Savoy Hotel is down the street on the left, and Stark’s Glasgow House is on the right. Closer to the camera, on the left (behind the tram) was the Whetham Block, developed by Dr Whetham who also built the Arlington Block that we’ve caught a glimpse of on the opposite side of both streets. This building came a year after the Arlington, so was built in 1888, and was designed by N S Hoffar.

Whetham, like many early Vancouver developers, came from Ontario. His father had been a flax and hemp manufacturer in England, who moved to Canada, established himself as a general merchant and then died, leaving a widow and three young children. His son, James Whetham is said in an early biography to have taught, then headed west, farming in Manitoba in 1878. Somehow he managed to study medicine (his biography says ‘in winter’) in Toronto and then Portland, Oregon, while living in Spokane Falls. He only practiced medicine very briefly before moving on to develop real estate, initially in Spokane Falls and then in 1887 in Vancouver.

By 1889 James Whetham had the sixth largest land holdings in the city, was on the board of trade and was a city alderman. He was boarder in the Hotel Vancouver. That year he founded Whetham College on Granville Street with backing from David Oppenheimer, Henry Cambie of the CPR and James G Keith, manager of the Bank of British Columbia. James’s brother, Charles, had married in 1886 when he was Modern Language Master at Upper Canada College, Toronto after two years at Johns Hopkins University became the headmaster. (He had actually moved to Vancouver before 1889 and opened a real estate office in the Whetham Block). The recession of 1893 saw the college’s demise, the first post-secondary teaching institute in British Columbia. Charles moved back to become a fellow in the French Department of the University of Toronto, but returned in the mid 1890s to a farm he had bought in Whonnock. Dr James Whetham died in 1891, aged only 37, of what was diagnosed as typhoid fever.

In 1969 the almost windowless building that replaced Whetham’s was the first of only two buildings completed for Project 200, a massive redevelopment plan that would have seen the entire waterfront of Gastown bulldozed to create a row of towers over a waterfront freeway. This rather more modest structure was home to CNCP Telecommunications – perhaps the first serious hi-tech investment in the city, designed by Francis Donaldson and developed by Grosvenor Estates. CNCP was created as a joint venture between the CP and CN in 1967, replacing the different networks used by the two railway companies. The company became an early telecom business, was bought by Rogers in the 1980s and renamed Unitel and was later acquired by AT&T Canada (now called Allstream).

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Str P209


Posted March 17, 2014 by ChangingCity in Gastown, Gone

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West Cordova from Abbott (1)

We’re looking west up West Cordova Street from the junction with Abbott in this 1889 Vancouver Public Library image. Somebody at the studio of Bailey and Neelands took the photograph – both the Bailey and Neelands families moved west from the same small area of rural Ontario that a number of other successful Vancouver pioneers came from. The only building in common in both pictures is right at the end of the street and almost out of sight. That’s the Arlington Block, developed by Dr. James Whetham in 1887, almost certainly using N S Hoffar as the architect. The pink building is the Panama Block, built in 1913. The block on the left is G W Grant’s first known project in Vancouver “commercial block for W B Wilson, 1887”. It was illustrated in an 1887 promotional publication “Vancouver – Pacific Coast Terminus of the CPR”.

There are several businesses that will be very successful on this side of the street including G E Trorey, whose business was later bought by Birks jewellers. (When Birks took over they also got the clock Trorey bought in Boston for $2,000 in 1905. When they moved their business to its new location they also moved the clock, which became the Birks Clock). Johnston and Kerfoot are there, who outfit many Klondike excursions in years to follow, and McClennan and McFeely, who will grow a trading empire in the city. Bailey Brothers, the photographers, are based about half way up the street, just before Kurtz and Co’s cigar factory. On the right is the Cosmopolitan Hotel, the Savoy Theatre (designed by William Blackmore), a Chinese company, Kwong Hang Chung Co (showing they weren’t all confined to Chinatown) and Rae’s Boot and Shoe Co, among others.

In between the two photographs Woodwards took over the entire south side of the street, and these days it’s the base of the 43-storey Woodwards W tower by Henriquez Partners with a mix of condo and non-market housing above retail, including Nester’s Market. Most of the right side is Henriquez’s redesigned Gastown Parkade, but the Cook Block from 1901 and the 1911 Runkle Block designed by G L T Sharp are both still standing.