Archive for the ‘Dr S J Tunstall’ Tag

Robson and Bute – north east corner

This image is labelled as the former Bute Street Private Hospital, seen in an Archives image taken somewhere in the 1940s to the 1960s. The Library have a copy too, and say it was photographed in 1960.

Dr. Simon J Tunstall was born in St. Anne de Bellevue, Quebec in 1854, and after qualifying in medicine in Montreal he headed west in 1881, working for the Canadian Pacific Railway in Lytton and Kamloops, where he established a medical practice. He was married by a ship’s captain in Victoria in 1885 to Marianne Innes, daughter of the naval storekeeper at the naval base in Esquimalt. In 1892 they moved to Vancouver, where Dr. Tunstall’s office was on Cordova, and they were living initially on Hamilton Street, then East Hastings, and in 1898 at 1036 Robson, with the doctor’s office moving to the Flack Block. The Tunstall family had moved to this house by 1905.

It first appears around 1900, home to Bertha Wolfe, a Jewish widow who had previously lived across Bute Street on the next block along. Described as a boarding house keeper, in 1901 she lived with her daughter, Ethel, her niece, Minnie Meyer, three Chinese domestic servants and eleven lodgers. Bertha (who was also born in the USA) had been married to Marcus Wolfe who was an insurance agent and real estate broker in Nanaimo, born in New Orleans and who died in 1896. In 1881 he was living in Hope, working as a clerk, living with Isaac Oppenheimer and his family. He shot himself in what was described at his inquest as “death by his own hand during a fit of temporary aberration”. He had apparently been in financial difficulties, so it’s unlikely that Bertha had the funds to build the house, although she may have been able to borrow them. She ran the boarding house here until 1904; by 1905 Dr. Tunstall had moved in. There’s no sign of Mrs. Wolfe in the city after this. Her daughter Babette, (Ethel was her middle name), married in 1906 to Alexander Green, who became a bank manager and in 1915 they moved to Victoria. In 1930 he drowned in the Thompson River in Kamloops while he was on a train journey from Vancouver to Toronto.

The Tunstall’s needed the large house; the 1911 census shows five daughters at home, aged 15 to 24. That year Dr. Tunstall built a garage, but in 1902 he had become a much more ambitious property developer, building a large commercial block on the corner of Dunsmuir and Granville. He maintained his practice until around 1912, when the house was sold and the family moved to West 2nd Avenue. He added an additional two floors to the Tunstall Block. In 1913 Marianne was living in the West End – Dr. Tunstall apparently suffering from problems with alcohol, entered a nursing home The Tunstall’s apparently moved again to another house on West 2nd in 1914, although Marianne had taken her daughters on a trip to Europe ‘for a year’ in 1913. Dr. Tunstall died in 1917, leaving an estate estimated at $250,000 (although eventually it was assessed at $134,000). His will had a disputed codicil, added in 1916, leaving funds to Emma Playter and her son. The Tunstall family members alleged that Simon had made the codicil while he was the victim of alcoholic dementia, but the case was settled in 1918 before it could be heard in court. Marianne stayed in Vancouver, and all five daughters married. Her second daughter’s husband, John Browne, died in 1920, and Marjorie and her three young children moved in with Mrs. Tunstall. Marianne died in 1935 aged 73.

The private Bute Street Hospital operated from 1913, run by Mrs. Mildred A Moran. The Province had earlier announced “Bute Street Lot Sold For $80,000: English Capitalists Buy Site of Private Hospital in West End: Will Erect Pressed Brick Business Block in Near Future”, but in practice the house was retained as the hospital. In 1913 (Emily) Pauline Johnson, the poet, died here of cancer, and in the same year, W R Angus, pioneer and developer of a house nearby. In 1917 hockey legend Fred ‘Cyclone’ Taylor had his ruptured appendix fixed, and despite fears that he wouldn’t be able to play again, was skating five weeks later. Fortunately the hospital saw many births as well as deaths: pioneer Vancouver oncologist Dr. Richard Beck was born here in 1913. The last year the hospital was listed was 1931; a year later it had become Minaki Lodge, and it remained a rooming house (again) until it was demolished, probably not long after this image was taken.

Next to the hospital (on the edge of the picture) was J McRae’s 1928 Robson Garage, designed by Townley and Matheson. By the early 1970s this was the site of a Texaco Gas Station, only to be replaced in 1985 with a 2-storey retail building that includes a London Drugs store, and smaller retail units on Bute Street, designed by Hale Architects.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 2011-010.1800

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Posted 13 September 2021 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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Tunstall Block – Dunsmuir and Granville – nw corner

Dr Simon Tunstall was born in Quebec, in 1852, qualified as a doctor at McGill University and moved to British Columbia in 1881. After practising in Lytton and Kamloops he moved to Vancouver in 1892 with his wife and family and seems to have gained a  favourable reputation which would extend to international recognition; when the American Medical Association met in Boston in 1906 Dr Tunstall was identified in the Boston press as a ‘distinguished visitor’ of the Association, and he presided at the Canadian Medical Association meeting in Vancouver in 1904.

In March 1902 G W Grant obtained a building permit worth $1,600 to build the foundation for a building on Granville Street for Dr Tunstall, and two months later another permit worth $22,000 to build a ‘stone and brick store’ which was built by D Saul. This is what’s shown in the image below; a three storey building on the north west corner of Dunsmuir and Granville. In 1909 Dr Tunstall spent a further $20,000 on adding to the building, Dissette and Dean carrying out the work and Grant again designing the building, by this time in partnership with Henderson. We think that may have been an additional along Dunsmuir Street.

Vancouver Archives identify the date of the image as between 1913 and 1920, but in 1912 an extra two floors were added at a cost of $42,000. The VPL image above from 1927 shows the completed building at five storeys.

Dr. Tunstall also had Grant and Henderson design a house for him on 5th Avenue in 1911, but it was for one of his five daughters, rather than for his own use.

In the early years of its existence the Tunstall Block’s tenants were (not surprisingly) doctors, including a husband and wife chiropractic team. The building was rebuilt as a 2-storey building in 1960, and then replaced again by the northern block of the Pacific Centre Mall, designed by Zeidler Roberts Partnership and not completed until 1990. In 2007 the corner of the block had a radical redesign by Janson Goldstein of New York for the new Holt Renfrew store, incorporating panels of slumped glass in the design.

Image source: Vancouver Public Library and City of Vancouver Archives CVA 660-326

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