Archive for the ‘F J Hart & Co’ Tag

West Hastings Street – 100 block, south side

This row of early buildings were almost totally abandoned by the turn of the 21st century, but today they’ve all been restored to architectural splendour, and active use. In 1981, when the ‘before’ shot was taken, the area was already in decline, but Woodwards was still open across the street, so there was still a draw to the neighbourhood. The White Lunch cafeteria on the left occupied the main floor of half of one building, and the whole of its neighbor to the west. The building on the extreme left is the Henderson Block, designed by G W Grant for Henderson Brothers in 1899. (We noted their history in connection to another building they developed in 1911),

The next building is the Ralph Block, designed by Parr and Fee for William Ralph, and also completed in 1899. Several historians point out that when it was opened here in 1913 by Neil and Thos Sorenson the White Lunch name reflected a policy of serving and hiring only white people. That changed later, but the name lived on. Elements of the restaurant’s past were still visible in mosaic floors when the buildings were restored in 2009. Initially the White Lunch was only in the Ralph Block. The Henderson Block restaurant in the 1920s was the Honey Dew restaurant.

Parr and Fee’s design for Ralph’s block used cast iron to allow for larger windows. The use of brick piers enclosing cast iron mullions was pretty remarkable in a city only thirteen years old. Ralph was a wholesaler and retailer who sold McClary stoves, ranges and furnaces, as well as Cleveland and Rambler bicycles. The Statement of significance for the Ralph Block will tell you that he started out as a bridge builder who specialized in iron structures for the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Dominion Bridge Company. That’s actually an entirely different William Ralph, who came from Quebec.

The William Ralph who developed the Ralph Block was said in the 1901 census to be aged 36, living with his 27-year-old wife May, their infant son, John, and his brother and sister, Ross and Eva. He was from Ontario, as was May. In 1891 he was a boarder, aged 30 and listed as a store merchant, (with his store on Carrall Street) lodging with Peter Larsen at the Union Hotel on Abbott Street. He first appeared in Vancouver in 1888 as a tinsmith, working for R E Dodds. By 1911 William had aged to 51, and there were two younger children at home (Robert and Kathleen), but no John. There was also a servant; Hettie McLeod. In 1921 Robert and Kathleen are still at home with William and May, and William’s sister, Isabel also lived with them.

The next building, 130 West Hastings was probably built around 1906, and was first occupied by F J Hart & Co, real estate agents. By 1981 the original appearance had been disfigured; an exemplary restoration has recreated something much closer to the original appearance of the building. The company was involved in insurance, real estate, mortgage loans and investments, and incorporated by Frederick J. Hart in 1891 when he was only 21. It had its head office in New Westminster, with this branch office in Vancouver as well as Victoria, Chilliwack, and Aldergrove. Frederick was from Newfoundland, and his wife Alice was English. In 1901 they had two children, a servant and Alice’s sister living with them in New Westminster.

Over the years this block of buildings gradually deteriorated and had no legal active uses (although some were sporadically used, often in unauthorized ways, despite their condition). The redevelopment of Woodwards and the attraction of older spaces for tech and startup companies has seen the whole block restored and returned to active use over the past 10 years.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-E16.20

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