Archive for the ‘Fripp and Wills’ Tag

O’Brien Hall – West Hastings and Homer

The tenants of this building, William and Gertrude O’Brien, were so identified with it that it was named for them in the photo captions in the Library and Archives collections. Actually it pre-dated their involvement, and started life called the ‘British Columbia Land and Investment Agency Building’. Built in 1892, it was designed by Fripp and Wills. In the early years it was home to the Moodyville Land and Sawmill Co. Up to 1898 the building was also called the “Metropolitan Club Block” and sometimes the “Metropolitan Block”.

This early image was shot in 1898 (when the sidewalk was still wooden). The developer, The B.C. Land and Investment Agency were a London-based Real Estate and Insurance Agency which at one time were said to own or control half the real estate in Victoria.

The O’Brien’s were from Ontario; William from Nobleton and Gertrude from Barrie. They married in 1892, and moved west two years later. When he married, William was a musician, but on arrival in Vancouver he styled himself a “Professor of Dancing,” opening a dancing academy on an upper floor of this building. In 1894 the Daily World reported an ‘At Home’, where 40 couples danced until midnight, when luncheon was served, and then danced on again ’till morn’. Gertrude also taught dancing. In 1894 it was reported “Mrs. W.E. O’Brien, teacher of society dancing, is about to commence her children’s class, during which all the popular society dances will be taught, as well as some very artistic dances suitable for children’s exhibitions. For terms apply at academy, corner of Homer and Hastings streets.”

The O’Brien’s had four daughters – two sets of twins. In the 1920s they lived on Denman Street, and the 1921 census showed Gertrude no longer taught dance, and William was listed as proprietor of the hall for his occupation, although he was still listed in the street directory as ‘dancing master’. There’s more detail about the family on WestEnd Vancouver.

The hall was used for a variety of purposes: the first suffrage convention in the city was held here in 1911. The Pacific Lodge of the Oddfellows first met here in 1894, before moving to another hall nearby on Hamilton Street. In 1907 the first meeting of the Vancouver Automobile Club was held. The first official club rally was held on Labour Day, 1907 with a run around Stanley Park, where eleven cars started but only five cars made it all the way around. That same year the Canada Lumberman and Woodworker reported, rather mysteriously a “HOO-HOO IN BRITISH COLUMBIA. A Rousing Concatenation Held at Vancouver Last Month. On Friday, August the ninth, the mystic Black Cat again held court on the roof, in Vancouver, when the timorous purring of thirty-two unregenerated kittens was mingled with the yowls and caterwauls of nearly a hundred old cats. The session took place in O’Brien’s Hall, Hastings street. Snark J. D. Moody was again in evidence as leader

From 1928 the corner tenant of the main floor of the building was the Bank of Montreal. By 1930 the O’Brien’s were no longer shown in the street directory, and Wrigley’s Directory were the lessees of the O’Brien Hall. William and Gertrude were living in Vancouver again in 1939, in retirement, and Gertrude died in Vancouver in, 1951, and was buried in Mountain View Cemetery. William died in 1957, and was buried with her.

In 1940 a new branch of the Bank of Montreal had been built here, with the Bank occupying the eastern half of the partly-completed new building on a temporary basis, while the western (corner) unit was completed, and they were able to occupy their long term location. We didn’t know for certain who designed the 1940 building, but the style is similar to the buildings designed by Townley and Matheson for the Vancouver General Hospital around this time. In 1940 Townley and Matheson designed a business block for Dr. Worthington at Homer and Hastings, and as the other three corner buildings are all earlier than 1940, and still standing today, it seemed pretty clear that this is their work, and the building Permit from 1940 confirms that the $60,000 building was their work. Dr George Worthington was president of the Vancouver Drug Co, and in 1937 chaired the annual of the Vancouver Tourist Association dinner. Today the building is part of the Vancouver Film School.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 371-2041



West Pender and Seymour – nw corner (2)

Seymour & Pender nw

Here’s another view of the Delmonico Hotel, this time in 1956 – (our earlier post of this building showed it in 1935). According to the Vancouver Daily World in 1892 it was built for the Marquis of Queensbury to replace the St. Charles Hotel. The Marquis was a Scottish aristocrat with an interest in boxing and noted for his atheism, which was relatively unusual for the time.

1892 fireWe now know why he hired Fripp and Wills to design a new hotel – he owned the St Charles Hotel that was destroyed by fire in February of 1892, along with the Arlington Hotel that was next door. We originally thought he had built the new Delmonico on the same site as the St Charles, but we were wrong; the St Charles was on the south side of the street; the Delmonico was built across Pender Street.

Windsor Hotel 1889Or so we thought – until we noticed this image of the Windsor Hotel from 1889. It was on the corner of Pender and Seymour, run by H A Brocklesbury and W H Allen in 1890 and Ermatinger and Co in 1889. It’s clearly the same building that became the Delmonico, so the newspaper story iwas somewhat misleading. We haven’t found the developer or architect for the Windsor.

Described as a ‘handsome brick and stone building’, the Delmonico was added to and altered by architect J W Mallory in 1900, in the year that T Donovan was proprietor. A number of long-term residents lived at the hotel that year, including C W Mullen who was the treasurer of the Savoy Theatre. In 1910 William Steele had the hotel, and there were still several residents listed in the street Directory.

Like so many of the buildings we have looked at, the operators and the name change constantly. This is by no means a comprehensive study – just random examples. By 1915 the Delmonico name was being used by a cafe on Robson Street, and the residential part of the old Delmonico were the Terminal Rooms run by George Lamoureuc, upstairs from the Terminal Pool Room run by F Sim with two vacuum cleaner companies in the corner unit next door to the Gilt Edge Lunch. By 1920 the name had changed again, this time to the Mason Rooms, run by John Woolfe. The Pender Buffet was on the corner, run by Thomas Dixon. In 1930 they were the Manor Rooms with the Hollywood Taxi Co operating from the main floor with the Lions Gate Barbers Shop and central Shoe Repairs.

They retained the Manor Rooms name all the way through to this 1956 image, when the Pagoda Shop selling ‘Oriental Goods’ was the retail tenant on the corner, as they had been from the early 1950s. Nick’s Billiards was next door on one side, a barbers and a dealer in foreign stamps on the other.

The 1969 parkade that replaced the Delmonico (and the many other names over the years) is being repaired, so unlike so many of the city’s other parkades it looks as if it will have a few more years of life.

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Bu P508.68, 118 Hot P26


Posted 17 June 2013 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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West Pender – 500 block (2)

West Pender 500 block 2

Here’s a more recent view of the view west from Richards Street of the south side of West Pender. In a much earlier post we saw the buildings that were there in 1908. This 1980s picture, still before the Kingsley Lo designed parkade was built, shows how many had survived the intervening years.

Almost all the buildings were unchanged over the 70 year gap. We’re wondering if the building on the corner might have been a very early one. In 1888 T Prest commissioned William Blackmore to design stores and apartments on Pender at Richards, and if they were built, this would quite possibly be them as the 1901 insurance map only shows this corner of Richards and Pender developed; in 1902 it housed the Chinese Mission. However, Fripp and Wills were also commissioned to build a commercial block for J.M. Spinks, R.G. McKay and Dr. Powell in 1892 also at Pender Street at Richards – so that’s a more likely candidate as it comes four years after the Prest commission.

The first building past the parkade dates back to 1909 and was apparently the first of several investments by Captain Henry Pybus (he built more expensive buildings on Seymour and Richards a few years later). This two storey structure cost $11,000, and Captain Pybus had been based in Vancouver for many years. In 1897 he won the Blue Ribbon after setting the Trans-Pacific crossing record aboard the Canadian Pacific steamship ‘Empress of Japan’. In 1899 he was captain of a British flagged vessel, the Tartar, with a Chinese crew. The San Francisco Call reported a problem he ran into with that crew “The Chinese crew on the British steamer Tartar has been in a state of mutiny for three days, and it was only yesterday that they were brought to their senses. Captain Pybus threatened to send them all back to British Columbia as mutineers and fill their places with white labor or another Chinese crew. The threat had more effect upon the crew than all the persuasive eloquence of Consul Show Ting or the imperative orders of Consul General Ho Vow.”

When he built the Pender Street investment Captain Pybus was already aged 58, although he had a younger English-born wife and two daughters, aged 16 and 20 in the 1911 census. He had been born in South Africa and although his biography suggested he had come to Canada in 1901 when he was 50, the 1911 census says it was 1890, which makes more sense. He was described not just as a sea captain, but as a Master Mariner. His reason for being in the US with the Tartar was to transport US troops involved in military operations in the Philippines. Once in Vancouver he commanded all three of the CPR ‘Empress’ line ships.

The building (numbered today as 532 West Pender) still stands today, and looks very similar to when it was first built.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 772-1305


Posted 16 June 2013 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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West Pender – 500 block (1)

We’re on West Pender Street, and on the left, before Richards Street are the offices of the Confederation Life Association. In Toronto they occupied one of the grandest buildings in the city – in Vancouver their home was much more modest. These days it’s a parking lot (for now). Phillip Timms took this 1908 image now in the Vancouver Public Library collection.

Across the street is E W Maclean’s real estate office, possibly designed in 1888 by William Blackmore for T Prest. Alternately, Fripp and Wills were commissioned to build a commercial block for J.M. Spinks, R.G. McKay and Dr. Powell in 1892 also at Pender Street at Richards, and this might be the building. (We know who developed the other three corner buildings here).

Further down on the north side were a variety of trades and offices including the fisheries inspector, and the Monte Carlo Rooms (Mrs Lambert, prop.) At 521 W Pender Belding and Paul were silk manufacturers, perhaps suppliers to their neighbours, E and S Currie, neckware manufacturers. At the end of the block Mahon, Mcfarlane and Mahon had their offices. In 1919 they complied the survey when the City considered taking over the street railway system.

More change was coming to the block soon – on the corner a new office and store was designed by W A Doctor in 1909 for Joe McDonald, who also built it. At 532 in 1909 an $11,000 building was designed and built by Michael O’Keefe for Captain Pybus, and at the end of the block the Union Bank of Canada hired Waterson & Bryson to alter an existing building in 1910. Today there’s a 1990 parkade designed by Kingsley Lo, Captain Pybus’s building still stands, as does the former Union Bank building which may be Honeyman and Curtis’s design for ‘A St George Hamersley’ (more accurately, Hammersley) from 1905.


Posted 27 December 2011 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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West Pender and Seymour – nw corner (1)

Here’s the corner of West Pender and Seymour in a 1935 Leonard Frank VPL photograph; it hasn’t really improved over the years. What you can see is the Delmonico Hotel reported by the Daily World to have been built for the Marquis of Queensbury in 1892 to replace the short-lived St Charles Hotel, designed by Fripp and Wills. As we have now realised, it was a rework of an existing hotel, the Windsor, and the St Charles was burned down on the opposite side of Pender Street. The Delmonico was in turn lost to the current parking garage in 1969.

Just in the corner on the far left of the picture is another 1890s building – the 1896 Clarence Hotel. Notice too the Bank of Nova Scotia building in the background – the 1910 A A Cox designed building received a brutal modernisation that replaced all period details. Sandwiched between the Delmonico and the bank are the Crowe and Wilson Chambers, built in 1907.


Posted 25 December 2011 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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