Archive for the ‘E W Houghton’ Tag

500 block Granville Street – west side (4)

Here’s another image of Granville Street; the west side of the 500 block looking north from Dunsmuir in 1910 in a Vancouver Public Library image. On the corner is the Tunstall Block, built in 1902 by D Saul for Dr Simon Tunstall at a cost of $22,000, designed by G W Grant. In 1909 he added two more floors at an additional cost of $20,000. That suggests that our Vancouver Public Library image isn’t as dated from 1910, but probably from a year earlier. The next three-storey building to the south was another designed by G W Grant for Bedford Davidson in 1903, at a cost of $10,000.

The biggest building on this end of the block (two doors down from the Tunstall), was the four-storey Gordon Drysdale block, built for his dry goods business in 1907 and designed by Hooper and Watkins with an addition in 1912 by S B Birds. Next door to the north, the smaller building was known as the Anderson block, dating from before 1888 when there’s an Archives image of the building standing alone on the street, with the fire brigade filling their fire engine with water outside. At the time C D Rand and Co, the real estate company, operated from the building.

The fifth building down is the Inglis Reid Building, another G W Grant design for builder and Investor Bedford Davidson, who also owned and built the building beside it in 1902. It was effectively rebuilt by J Reid when he moved in, with McCarter Nairne designing the $22,000 work. The steel frame is where in 1909 Miss Spencer decided to replace her eight year old 3-storey building with an 8-storey steel framed office, designed by E W Houghton of Seattle.

None of the buildings on this side of the street are still standing: today this is part of the northern block of the Pacific Centre Mall, designed by Zeidler Roberts Partnership and completed in 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.



Posted 16 October 2017 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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Granville Street – 500 block west side (1)

500 block Granville w side 3We’ve seen all of these buildings in earlier posts. Today the extension of the Pacific Centre Mall has swallowed up the earlier buildings on the block, which we also saw looking south, up Granville Street. The Bower Building and closer to the camera, the Leigh-Spencer Building were both replaced by a new Bower Building in 1995. To the north, on the corner of the lane, the original Grand Trunk Pacific offices were replaced by Ingledews shoe store in 1980. And closest to the camera is 559 Granville, the BC Lease Holders Building with a 1930 facade on a 1902 building. Now just the facade remains, hoisted higher onto the wall and missing its storefront.

Our 1981 image shows that the Pender Place towers, designed by Underwood, McKinley Wilson & Smith had been standing at the end of the block since the early 1970s.

Image source: City of Vancouver archives CVA 779-W01.36


Leigh Spencer Building – Granville Street

500 block Granville 2

Philadelphia Rosa Williams was probably born in 1832. She married a clergyman, Leigh Spencer, and they seem to have had five children. (Rev Spencer’s name was probably Oliph Leigh Spencer, but he was always recorded as Leigh). His family had founded All Souls College, Oxford, and there had been other members of the clergy over the years. Rosa Leigh Spencer, their daughter, was born in 1857 (or 1858) in Harpenden in Hertfordshire, England, and she had three older brothers including one called Oliph, born in 1852.

Rosa’s father was the vicar of Renhold, Bedfordshire from 1859 to 1885. The family seems to have had additional financial resources as the Rev Spencer paid for the restoration of the church building. In 1881 the family who were living at home – her father, mother Philadelphia and sister Maude had three servants. (There were three sons not recorded as living at home). Her father died in 1886, and Miss Spencer found herself single, in her late twenties, and apparently comfortably off. She set off for Canada that year; it seems likely that she may have joined her brother. We are almost certain that the O L Spencer, barrister, who practiced spencer 1894in Vancouver from 1893 is Oliph Leigh Spencer. In 1891 he was in Ontario, although we have been unable to identify his sister in the census that year. In 1894 however she was certainly in the province, if not in the city, as she had an unfortunate (and expensive) incident in Nanaimo (recorded on the left).

In 1894 O L Spencer was a barrister with Armstrong and Spencer, living at 233 Dunlevy. A year later he was living on Comox Street, In 1898 he had rooms in the Badminton Hotel, and was the president of the Vancouver Bicycle Club. A year later he had rooms in the Metropole Hotel and in 1900 his office was in the Flack Block and he was living on Barclay Street (where he stayed for several years). That year, for the first time R L Leigh Spencer was listed (with an office but no home address) and a year laterspencer 1901 there was a home address – 872 Burrard

In 1902 O L Spencer was elected as a Park Commissioner. Their mother was still in London in 1889, acting as exectutor to Charlotte Sophia Campbell, Baroness Craignish, who died that year at the same address that Philadelphia Spencer lived (3, Welbeck Mansions, Cadogan Terrace). She must have joined either her son or daughter some time later as Philadelphia Rosa Leigh Spencer died in Vancouver in 1902 aged 72. In 1901 R Leigh Spencer was recorded in the census, born in England, arrived in 1886, in real estate, living alone, aged 37. (Actually, she was 43). Her brother doesn’t seem to have been recorded. In 1900 Miss Spencer was involved in mining near Nelson. A Nelson Tribune article refers to Miss Spencer as ‘the only lady promoter in spencer 1900 nelsonthe province”. In 1902 she owned land in Cumberland, another mining district.

In 1901 we assume that the Miss L Spencer who built a $5,000 building designed by ‘Mr Grant’ on Granville Street was Rosa. The building was only 25 feet wide, and the pictures that exist for the early 1900s show a building which seems to have an unusual oval window on both the second and third floors. We’re assuming Mr Grant was G W Grant, a popular architect during this period. His design for the Ormidale Block (still standing on Hastings Street) a year earlier also features an oval window. In 1904 O L Spencer was the secretary of the Vancouver Yacht Club, and then on the last day of 1905 the Times Colonist announced his sudden death from pneumonia while on a visit to San Francisco. This entirely unexpected turn of events appaently left his wife a widow. We have been able to confirm that this death, and therefore O L Spencer was almost certainly Rosa’s 54 year old brother, as the San Francisco funeral home registered the death of Oliph L Spencer in 1905. His wife was Annie (nee McDougall), and in 1884 Oliph Leigh Spencer was born in Toronto, so it appears he had at least one son (who died in Ganges on Saltspring Island in 1965), and two daughters, Dorothy and Vivian born in 1888 and 1889.

In 1909 Miss Spencer decided to replace her eight year old 3-storey building with an 8-storey steel office, designed by E W Houghton of Seattle. That’s it closer to the camera, next door to the Bower Building (built a year or so earlier). Known as the Leigh Spencer building it took a year to fill, but by 1913 had a variety of tenants, the Lock Tie Brick Co Ltd, Acme Manicuring Parlors (on the fourth floor), several real estate offices, three barristers, Painter and Swales, the architects, the Vancouver Press Club on the seventh floor, and on the top floor “Leigh-Spencer, Miss”.

In 1910 Miss spencer built a $5,500 house at 2326 York designed by Cox & Thompson (who were generally builders). She lived in Victoria for a year (posibly while her house was being built).  At some point during her stay in Vancouver, in some reports and eventually on her death certificate Rosa had acquired an extra ‘Leigh’ (so recorded as Rosa Leigh Leigh-Spencer). She died in Vancouver in 1937, recorded as being aged 80, single. Today there’s another office building on the site called the Bower Building covering the 75 foot width once occupied by the Leigh Spencer Building and the earlier Bower Building. The new building is 14 storeys, designed by Eng + Wright in 1995

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Str P424


Posted 23 September 2013 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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The Opera House – Granville Street

This undated image is probably from around 1910, showing the newly expanded Vancouver Opera House. Pretty soon after the Hotel Vancouver was underway the Canadian Pacific Railway sought to make their part of the new city even more attractive by building a theatre next door to their hotel (to the south). Grandly (but fairly inaccurately) called The Opera House it was designed by Montreal architects John and Edward Hopkins in 1890, a father and son team who also picked up another CPR commission for the Lord Elphinstone Block, an office designed in 1888. The first vesion of the opera house can be seen below. (An earlier 1888 design by Bruce Price, ‘in the grecian style’  seems to have been abandoned).

(Confusingly there was another Opera House built at the same time, the Imperial Opera House on Pender Street – and there was also Hart’s Opera House on Carrall Street, the oldest of the three, but that was described as a ‘glorified shed’ with burlap walls and doubled as a roller rink – the CPR’s was easily the classiest).

The new street railway conveniently ended in front of the Opera House, completing in 1889 not very long before the Opera House opened in around 1890. It cost $100,000 to build and apparently was run at a loss, but that was made up for by the passenger traffic it attracted. Mr A P Horne of the CPR Land Department  recalled the first year of operation in a conversation with Major Matthews.

 “We engaged Sarah Bernhardt, the famous European actress, for two nights and one matinée, that was in 1890, and then again we had another play, ‘Willing Hands and Honest Hearts,’ in which John L. Sullivan, celebrated prize fighter, was principal. It was rather funny, one morning when we presented to Mr. Browning, as he insisted we do, a statement of the expenses and receipts, he picked up the paper and remarked, ‘Very satisfactory, you made quite a profit,’ and I, just a young man, perhaps thoughtlessly remarked the John L. Sullivan had been quite an attraction. Mr. Browning replied, ‘There was no fighting, was there?’ and I answered, ‘Yes, in the third set. He brought someone with him to knock out.’ Mr. Browning was astounded, and said he did not know what Mr. Van Horne would think of it; that he would have to tell him; but we never heard any more of it.”

In 1894 the Imperial closed, and the CPR had a monopoly. They ran it until 1896 then handed management to Robert Jamieson who managed several other BC theatres. While serious drama often played to a limited house (with 1,200 seats a small audience was noticeable) the Province newspaper in 1898 “complained about the vulgarity of ‘Leavitt’s Spider and Fly Burlesque Company’ while conceding that “a good many people appeared to enjoy themselves immensely”.

In the same year, 1898, the Savoy opened as a music hall, and a year later the Alhambra opened as a theatre. By 1906 US interests were booking the Opera House and by the time the Pantages Theatre opened on Hastings Street in 1908, Vancouver was an integral part of the North American touring circuit. There was a major refurbishment and enlargement of the theatre in 1907, started in May and completed in September, designed by E W Houghton of Seattle. The proscenium arch was widened by seven feet, the posts supporting the balcony were removed, the back of the theatre shifted into the foyer to add five extra rows of seating (bring capacity to over 1,700), and the front-of house space was rebuilt and widened. Despite this, the CPR were thinking of offloading the theatre, which they did in 1909 for $200,000 to a local consortium, who promptly flipped it for $300,000 to US based Sullivan and Considine.

The new owners as the Orpheum Theatrical Co brought in world class acts like Anna Pavlova and Ellen Terry who both appeared in 1910. They hired local architect James J Donnellan to expand and rebuild the theatre in 1912 at a cost of $160,000 after a fire destroyed all but the walls. The new design added offices on Granville Street and lasted until 1969 under a variety of changing names until it was demolished as part of the site assembly for the Pacific Centre Mall

Image source: Opera House, Library & Archives Canada, City of Vancouver Archives, Opera House 1891 CVA Bu P509


Posted 5 April 2012 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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Colonial Theatre – Granville Street

We saw the buildings that once sat on the south east, north east and north west corners of Dunsmuir and Granville already. Here’s the fourth corner; the south west corner. It held the oldest building of them all, built initially in 1888 as the Van Horne Building. Sir William Van Horne was President of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and there was no perceived conflict of interest for Sir William to acquire land and develop buildings on company property. It was in line with his responsibility to see the company’s investment pay off, so Sir William planned to build two buildings on CPR’s Granville Street holdings that were being promoted to drag the centre of the city westwards, away from its milltown origins. The first of his projects was on Granville Street at Dunsmuir, built in 1888 to the designs of Bruce Price. (Francis Rattenbury designed a second Granville Street building in 1903). Seen above in this 1887 illustration, it’s an impressive building for a one-year old city that just survived complete obliteration in a fire. Actually, the completed building was only half the size, but still impressive (as the 1909 VPL photograph on the right shows). The building lasted 24 years as an office, then received a dramatic $70,000 conversion to a cinema.

The 1912 building permit was to the Ricketts Amusement Co and the architect was E W Houghton, a Seattle-based architect originally born in Hampshire in England (who had redesigned the CPR’s former Opera House in 1907). Ricketts, who came from the same county, was the former lessee of CPR’s Opera House (just down the street from the building, and despite its title, a mainstream theatre). Ricketts probably ceased connections with the building before its completion; he managed the Imperial Theatre before retiring in 1915.  The 1913 opening saw the Kinemacolor Theatre offering movies, in colour – the first Canadian theatre with the system. Kinemacolor was invented by English cinematographer George Albert Smith, and marketed by American entrepreneur Charles Urban. Film was run through a projector at 32 frames per second, twice the normal speed, and then filtered through red and green coloured lenses to produce “the world’s wonders in nature’s colours.” A nine-piece orchestra accompanied the short films, and a baritone named George C. Temple “delighted the audience with some of the old songs.” Later, the theatre added a $10,000 organ to accompany the silent movies. The cinema failed to thrive, and was closed in 1914.

The theatre reopened as the Colonial in 1915 with Hector Quagliotti as the owner and for a time became the most popular cinema in the city. The pianist from 1917 was Paul Michelin, “The man with the Million-Dollar hands”, who could, it was said, play over 12,000 songs from memory. He also incorporated other sounds for silent films including train whistles, steam engines, and battle scenes, but was criticised by the Musicians’ Union because he was doing the work of a sound effects man. The sign for the cinema remained for many years – perhaps because it’s 7 feet high and 13 feet wide. It was removed before the building was torn down in 1972 to make way for the Pacific Centre Mall by stained glass collectors John and Derrick Adams, only to reappear in the Keg restaurant on Thurlow at Alberni, before it ended up removed from there too.

Towards the end of its life the theatre incorporated the Pauline Johnson confectionery store, a popular stop before the main feature. In earlier years it was one of Con Jones ‘Don’t Argue’ tobacconists stores (“Don’t Argue – Con Jones sells fresh tobacco”). Today there’s a 1981 corner office tower of the McCarter Nairne and Partners Pacific Centre Mall – the colours ‘brightened’ from the more sombre earlier ‘black towers’ to the south.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 447-399 (Walter E Frost)