Archive for the ‘E E Hewson’ Tag

Richards Street – 700 block, east side (1)

Here’s a view south from West Georgia of the east side of Richards. Today it’s one of the more obvious candidates for a commercial tower, with a temporary surface parking lot on most of the site. In 1981 it still had buildings, and the user of the corner was the same then as up to last year. Budget car rental was operating in a 1948 art deco building originally designed as a car showroom for Colliers Motors.

Collier’s were a Chevrolet-Oldsmobile dealership, and Watson and Baxter were the architects; (Joseph F Watson and James Baxter). The building was one of the most flamboyantly designed streamline moderne buildings the city had seen, as this 1949 VPL image shows.

Collier’s Motors closed down in the late 1950s, and by 1981 when our phote was taken Budget car rental had taken over the lot, and the building became their office. Budget later moved across the lane, and the Colliers building became a Fido cellphone store, before it was demolished in 2007. The demolition permit was issued while the City’s workforce were on strike, and so a potential heritage designation was never considered. Ironically, that ensured that only commercial uses can be considered for the site in future, as heritage or existent non-market housing buildings are the only justifications for allowing residential development in this part of the CBD.

Next door to the 1948 building, down Richards, was the Burrard Hotel, at 712 Richards. It was designed by Dalton and Eveleigh for E E Hewson (who was an absentee owner, working as a lawyer in Nova Scotia) which opened in 1910 as the St Regis Hotel. Beyond that was a smaller hotel at 722 Richards. It was developed in 1923 by John Murchie, a tea merchant who ran his business here, while his family lived upstairs. In 1964 it became home to the William Tell restaurant, run by Swiss-born Erwin Doebeli. The restaurant moved to Beatty Street in 1983, and the site has been cleared for many years, although surrounded by new office towers it probably won’t stay that way for too long.

Image source City of Vancouver Archives CVA Str P23

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712 and 722 Richards Street

712-722 Richards

We looked at 712 Richards Street – the larger building – in an earlier post. It was developed in 1910 by E E Hewson, a Nova Scotia businessman, designed by Dalton and Eveleigh and built by Baynes and Horie. When it was built, and for over a decade after, there was a house to the south (shown in the earlier post). It was occupied by the Murchie family; John, who ran the Orient Tea Co, based initially (in Vancouver) on Cordova, and later on Pender Street (where Douglas and James Murchie were both clerks with the tea company). The company history says John Murchie immigrated to Canada from Scotland in 1894 and founded Murchie’s Tea & Coffee in New Westminster, BC. It also says that long before that, John had started his career in the tea industry with Melrose’s of Scotland, a prestigious tea import merchant in Britain.

John was first shown in Vancouver selling tea on Cordova in 1896. In 1901 some of his family were working with him at that address, John was managing with Grant and John R Murchie both clerks. They were living on W 2nd and the Census that year shows John was aged 45, his wife Sarah was 34. The census return suggests a different early history than the Murchie’s website – John had arrived in Canada in 1879 and Sarah and their older children were shown being born in New Brunswick. That ties in with a John Murchie of the right age living in Bathurst, Gloucester, New Brunswick in 1881; a clerk living as a lodger in the Grant household. He was shown as being a Bible Christian; in 1901 he was described as Brethren. In 1901 the children were Grant, aged 17; John R, 15 and Catherine, 12 – they were all born in New Brunswick. Gertrude who was 11, Archibald, 9; James, 7; Helena, 4; Hedley, 3 and Nicolas 2 months were all born in BC.

In 1911 all of the family were still at home, which was shown as 722 Richards. The clerk who recorded the family had horrible spidery handwriting, and some strange changes to the names. John’s wife is Annie, and their eldest daughter is shown as Chatrien. Nicolas is shown as Ninian, (and his birth certificate shows he was Nicolas Ninian Murchie) and there’s a final addition to the family; Douglas.

From August 1923 the street directory showed the Murchie family living at 720 Richards, and the Tea Company having moved to 722. That suggested to us that the building was developed by John earlier that year, and indeed there was a building permit in March 1923 for F. T. Sherborne to build a $6,000 store/office for him. Mr. Sherborne was a building contractor with an office on Granville Street and a home on Nicola Street, and we assume he designed the building as no architect was listed. In 1928 the insurance map shows the tea company occupying the main floor with a dwelling above. By 1930 the family had moved to 714 Homer, but the tea company was still at 720 Richards. A decade later Sarah A Murchie, widow of John lived at 720 Homer with James (proprietor of Orient tea) and Gertrude. John R Murchie had a rival business, Eureka Tea, on Dunsmuir Street. The family were once again ‘living over the shop’ – Orient Tea was also based at 720 Homer. By 1950 James D Murchie was running Murchie’s Tea Co on Robson Street, But John D Murchie was shown running the Orient Tea Co on Homer. That year 722 Richards was home to The Steak House; in 1940 it had been Jordan’s Café.

William TellBy 1981, as our image shows, 722 Richards had become the William Tell restaurant. The restaurant opened in 1964, run by Swiss-born Erwin Doebeli. The building was said to have been abandoned and mice-infested when he took it over, but became a success after initially struggling. In 2004 Doebeli reminisced with the Georgia Straight The first menu featured Prince Rupert shrimp cocktail or B.C. smoked salmon for a buck. “And, naturally, consommés, which is very European,” he says. Salad – then considered rabbit food – came with Roquefort or French dressing. You could have tournedos Rossini ($4.50, and someone claimed his prices were expensive) and pick Calona Crackling Rosé or real French Beaujolais off the wine list. Behind the scenes, tempers were uncorked too. Doebeli went through chefs like a hot knife through butter, 14 in the first eight months, until, he says, he became smart enough to realize that chefly pride needed to make its own mark on the menu.

The William Tell introduced Vancouverites (or at least those who hadn’t travelled to Europe) to the cheese fondue – it featured on the business’s postcards (where you can get an idea of the décor as well). The William Tell continued in business for more than 40 years, transferring across to Beatty Street in 1983, and closing in 2010, (when a review said the fondue was the only meatless item on the dinner menu.)

Today it’s a parking lot for a car hire company – waiting for the developer owner to finally take the plunge and build a commercial building that fits the Central Business District Zoning.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-E09.35

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Posted February 29, 2016 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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712 Richards Street

Here’s the block designed by Dalton and Eveleigh for E E Hewson in 1910, built at a cost of $36,000 by Baynes and Horie. It was at least the second building the architects had designed for Mr Hewson –  they designed another on ‘West Hastings between Cambie Street and Abbott Street’ in 1906. They also designed $1,200 worth of work for Mr Hewson at 120 West Hastings in 1913 – which confirms that was the earlier building – (it is still standing, and called the Golden Crown today). The Richards building was called the St Regis (before the St Regis Hotel was built) – and seems to have been rooms rather than a hotel.

When we first posted, E E Hewson was something of a mystery – there’s no sign of anyone with that name in BC in any census around the turn of the century. Although Dalton and Eveleigh’s entry in a 1913 biography refers to them being ‘architects to the Hewson estate’, it doesn’t mention any other information about any Hewsons. We know there was an E E Hewson who was Vice President of the Hinton Electric Company in Vancouver – because in the year the St Regis was built he wrote rather cryptically to the Hon W L Mackenzie King against the introduction of an 8-hour work day, but that wasn’t the developer.

There was also another E E Hewson who was a partner in a huge woolen mill in Nova Scotia – but there was no obvious link we could find to Vancouver. We’ve recently been able to confirm through a family contact that he is the original owner of 712 Richards. Edgar Ellis Hewson was a barrister as well as an industrialist who apparently was always looking for an investment opportunity. Initially it was thought possible he invested in Vancouver because of family connections in California where there is a branch of the Hewson family, although there were also relatives in Winnipeg. However, we now have a more likely connection. E E Hewson was born in 1870 in River Philip, Nova Scotia and died in 1957 in Amherst, Nova Scotia. He built his home in Amherst in 1907, a gorgeous Queen Anne revival mansion, which is a provincially registered heritage property. Baynes and Horie built 712 Richards and William Horie’s family also came from River Philip, a small rural community, so that seems to be a likely link between Mr Hewson and Vancouver.

This photograph dates from the 1920s, and we aren’t sure how long the building lasted here. It was still standing in 1981, at which time it was known as the Burrard Hotel (not the first structure to have this name, by any means).  These days the site is one of any a handful left in the city with its current use – a surface parking lot. It’s part of Budget Car Rental’s parking which was next door to the streamline moderne car showroom built by Collier’s in 1948 which later operated as an outlet for Fido phones until it was demolished a few years ago.Picture source:

City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-3098

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Posted November 27, 2012 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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