Archive for the ‘E D Farmer’ Tag

Granville Street – 700 block west side (2)

Granville 700 block west side 2

We already posted this same 1920s image of the corner of Robson looking north along Granville four years ago – before the reconstruction of the Sears store as Nordstrom. As we’ve shown in our last few posts, today’s building looks very different, having had a James K M Cheng re-clad with the top four floors of the building being repurposed from retail to office uses.

The building in the foreground, Granville Mansions were built in 1906 for William Farrell at a cost of $125,000. He was an Englishman, 50 years old, a partner in the brokerage of Farrell & Tregent. He lived in the West End on Nicola Street (at Pendrell). We couldn’t find a reference to an architect for the building, although initially we thought it might be W T Whiteway; or Dalton & Eveleigh. However, with Patrick Gunn’s sleuthing, we now know that this was the work of Saunders & Lawton of Seattle, the only project that we know of that they worked on in Vancouver.

In the early 1890s the Yorkshire Guarantee and Securities Corporation had taken a large interest in the New Westminster & Burrard Inlet Telephone Company. William Farrell was the manager of the controlling company. He worked to amalgamate it with smaller operations, eventually forming the BC Telephone Company Limited in 1904 with the other major stake held by Dr. James Lefevre. As president, William was the brains behind the expansion of BC Tel through the first 20 years. While he was president of the company they connected up the local exchanges in every community from Port Alberni to Victoria and Agassiz to Vancouver.

Wm FarrellWilliam Farrell moved to Vancouver with his wife Jessie Maude in 1891 as the first General Manager of the Yorkshire Guarantee and Securities Corporation. The company was backed by wealthy woolen merchants in Huddersfield in Yorkshire, and had extensive interests in early Vancouver, including a controlling interest in the Vancouver Loan and Securities Corp., and the city’s street railway. In 1897 the brokerage of Farrell & Tregent appeared in the street directory, and their entry continued to appear, although after 1906 William was referenced as President of the Telephone Company. In 1901 there were three children at home, Nora (11) Gordon (10), and Kathleen (2). In the 1911 census Gordon and Kathleen were still at home, with Sheila who was aged 6.  William had an 18 metre yacht built, named Sheileen for his three daughters. It was eventually renamed Kitchener and used in WWII by the Canadian army. Gordon Farrell served in the Royal Naval Air Force in WWI. He joined B.C. Telephone in 1919 as treasurer, was company president from 1928-58, and held numerous directorships (although the telephone company had been sold to US interests in the 1920s). It would appear that before he went off to the war, Gordon took over managing some of William’s assets; in 1913 G Farrell obtained a building permit for $300 of repairs to this building carried out by Electric Supply Co.

Mr Farrell didn’t always get exactly what he wanted. Initially the land was held on a lease from the CPR. The economics of development influenced the size of the building that was worth constructing. Initially Mr. Farrell planned an eight storey structure, but the lease CP were willing to grant only justified a four-storey building – which is what Mr. Farrell built. In July 1907 he applied for a liquor licence for the Mansions. His lawyer, Osborne Plunkett, tried to obtain a hotel licence. The Commissioner who awarded licences, Mr Hunt, disputed that the Mansions were a hotel, and suggested that Mt Farrell reapply for a restaurant licence. Mt Farrell wasn’t happy with this – it prevented the sale of whiskey (only beer and light wine) and it cost more. It appears he was unsuccessful, although he was able to obtain a permit to erect decorative street lights to the outside of the building.

In 1921 the building was sold to the owner of the building on the opposite side of Robson Street, Edward Farmer. The newspaper of the day said the building owned by William Farrell and Alice Lefevre was sold to Edward Disney Farmer, of Fort Worth, Texas, for $400,000. As a result the paper said the “Mr. Farmer is now one of the largest holders of real estate in the city, controlling as he does nearly a million dollars worth of business property on Granville Street“. It said that “Mr. Farmer has had quite a romantic career and is a man of outstanding and most attractive personality. He is an Englishman who came to the States many years ago and by his enterprise and business ability has amassed a very large fortune, his principal interests being in cattle and oil“. (Actually, Mr. Farmer was born in Ballybrophy, Ireland, the son of an Episcopal minister, although he did go to school in England. Some records say Mr Farrell had also been born in Ireland, but the census records say it was England, and birth records suggests it was Cheshire, like Jessie, his wife, and the older children).

Mayor L D Taylor lived in the Mansions for many years, as did his employee and future wife Alice Berry. In 1920 the Canadian Bank of Commerce moved in, hiring W F Gardiner to carry out the repairs, alterations and structural changes for the new bank. In 1923 there were further alterations to the building designed by Townley & Matheson. The Mansions were damaged in a 1957 fire, and eventually demolished to make way for the massive Downtown regeneration project in 1969, with the Eaton’s store located in this part of the site. (The image below show most of the tenants out of the retail spaces). There’s an unlikely connection to over 60 years earlier; in 1906 the Vancouver Daily World reported that “the most sensational rumor current in the city for some time was given publicity by a morning contemporary today, apparently with the sole purpose of contradicting it. This was to the effect that T Eaton & Co, the huge departmental concern with headquarters in Toronto and a branch establishment at Winnipeg, had obtained a thirty years’ lease for the purpose of carrying on a branch in this city” The paper went on to report Mr. Farrell’s plans for the Mansion, and noting that if Eatons has moved in “many business men think would be bad for local traders. A firm covering so many lines of goods, and with such immense resources, can afford top be content with a working profit of five per cent., and no small trader could live on such a narrow margin of profit as that“.

Robson & Granville nw 1

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 371-820 and CVA 2010-006.097



Christ Church – Georgia and Burrard

Christ Church

We’ve made several references to one of the city’s earliest churches, but we haven’t actually given it a post. It dates back to 1889 – or at least, the basement floor does. The congregation of 52 first met that year in the basement – apparently nicknamed the ‘root house’ at the time, but took a while to get the necessary finances together to compl;ete the building.

Despite the presence of CPR Executives in the congregation, including Henry Cambie, the company threatened to have the sheriff seize the land as they considered the half-built structure was damaging their land sales nearby. A number of other prominent Anglicans helped out, including Lacey Johnson, Henry Ceperley and W J Salsbury. J.W. Weart – a law student at the time – came up with a complicated scheme to establish a company that issued $40,000 of stock, and on the strength of the $4,000 raised by the parishioners then borrowed $18,000 on a mortgage from the Sun Life Insurance Company to pay for the building.

C O Wickenden was given the job of designing the church – not bad for an architect who had only arrived in the city the year before. Once building of thev main structure started – in July 1894 – things went fast and the church dedication service was in February 1895. The completed church is shown in this early picture (around 1900), and today it’s quite a bit bigger. In 1909 the first addition was completed, designed by Dalton and Eveleigh. The building was lengthened and widened to the north and a balcony added, increasing seating capacity to 1,200.

In 1929 the Archbishop of New Westminster constituted Christ Church as the Cathedral Church of the Diocese, and the bishop’s throne was moved from Holy Trinity in New Westminster. A year later the cathedral planned to expand again – this time designed by Twizell and Twizell. The land was acquired using funds from the estate of E D Farmer – the Fort Worth based real estate baron who built the Farmer Block, and who had died in 1924. The actual construction didn’t take place until 1937, once the depression was over. That’s pretty much the building you see today – although there has been extensive restoration and the roof and floor have been restored to their original appearance.

A 1970s proposal to demolish the church and replace it with an Arthur Erickson tower (that would incorporate a new church space) raised massive opposition. Instead a scheme was devised to allow the development potential of the site to be added to the adjacent site (Park Place – completed in 1984) and the cathedral became a designated heritage building. This was the first of many similar density transfer projects that has allowed some of the city’s older buildings to be saved – and even somewhat ironically an Arthur Erickson office building.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1376-174


Farmer Building – Granville and Robson sw

Farmer 1

Here’s a news story from an August 1922 Contract Record and Engineering Review. Vancouver had been through a tough decade – after 1913 very few new commercial buildings were added to the city. There had been a massive amount of building from 1909 to 1912, then the bottom fell out of the real estate market, and World War One intervened. So in 1922 even a 3-storey building warranted the description ‘Large Business Block’. (The typos are original – we left them in to show that we are not alone in typing errors – and we’re not charging a subscription!)

Large Business Block in Vancouver, B. C.

First Building of the Knid of Any Considerable Size to be Erected for Some Time —Work Already Under Way

A contract has been let to Messrs Adkinson & Dill, contractors of Vancouver, for the construction of a store and office block on the corner of Granville and Robson Sts., Vancouver, B. C. The contract price is about $112,000, and work was commenced at once, excavation for the basement and foundation walls being already practically complete.

The building will be of three storeys, the ground floor being of steel construction and the two upper floors in mill construction. The ground floor will be devoted to stores. The first floor will be fitted up for use as doctors’ or dentists’ offices, or as general business offices, and the top floor will probably be arranged as an assembly or dance hall, with anterooms suitable to the purpose.

The architects for the building are Messrs. Maclure and Mort, of Vancouver, and the owner is V. D. Farmer, of Fort Worth, Texas, U.S.A., represented by Messrs. Sharples and Sharples, agents, of Vancouver, B. C. This is the first business block of any considerable size to be erected in Vancouver for some time, but several other buildings of this nature are in contemplation or in the plan stage at present, and a revival of activity in this line of contracting is quite likely to ensue.

We finally traced who Mr Farmer was – and why someone from Fort Worth was building in Vancouver after a long post-war recovery. He was Edward Disney Farmer, (so E D, not V D) an Irishman who, after a public school education in England moved to Minnesota and worked in a flour mill until 1875, when he moved to Fort Worth, Texas. He spent the next few years employed as a construction worker for $1.50 a day, saving enough to become a cattle rancher in Texas. He maintained ties with his nephew who lived in Vancouver, and as he did in Fort Worth, once he was successful, he invested in real estate – and not just the Farmer Block. He was described as “a quiet, soft-spoken bachelor who avoided publicity and preferred to make his extensive charitable donations anonymously.”

The architects were actually Maclure and Lort; Samuel Maclure was a long-established architect, and Ross Lort had worked for him from the day after he arrived in British Columbia (in Victoria). After the war Lort became a full partner and ran the Vancouver office of the firm. We’ve come across Sharples and Sharples before; they were associated with the construction of another building immediately opposite this one, in the same year.

The building seems to have found tenants quickly. The Vancouver Drug Co had the corner store, next door was a confectioners store  run by Henrietta Owen, and beyond that along Robson the London Grill which became the London Cafeteria, as can be seen in the 1923 VPL image. Upstairs were Mae Dugdale who ran a beauty palour and chiropodists, Alphonse Errica, a tailor, Fred Anderson, a dentist and Edward Gallant, a chiropractic. The top floor was home to the Central Athletic Club.

Farmer 2

Over the years the tenants changed a lot. By the 1950s the office tenants included two chiropractics and a couple of Union offices. As this 1967 image shows the Western School of Commerce occupied the top floor, as they had from the 1940s. The building lasted until 2011. It’s just been replaced with an office and retail building incorporating the heritage facade of the former Bank of Commerce next door on Granville. Designed by Musson Cattell Mackey it will be home to Old Navy, the clothing store which will be on two floors, with 3 floors of office space above (apparently already leased).

Image sources: VPL and City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-54


Posted 9 November 2013 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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