Archive for the ‘G P Bowie’ Tag

806 Richards Street

R&R (Montgomery Block)

Our 2003 ‘before’ image was taken shortly before the demolition of the Plaza Hotel. Despite the swanky name, the Plaza was a run-down SRO hotel with 33 rooms on part of a small development lot (only 12,000 sq ft) that was, at the time, potentially developable as a condo tower. A numbered company applied for the project which had 120,000 of space above ground, and 60,000 below grade as a 6-storey parkade. The tight site meant that a lot of the underground space was taken up by parkade infrastructure of elevators and ramps. A 3-storey podium was proposed with 16 floors of condos designed by Hancock Bruckner Eng & Wright, and a public benefit of space for the Artstart for Kids program, still running today. Back in 2003 Council took a less stringent approach to the loss of older SROs, and with payments to the replacement housing fund of $5,000 a room and an additional contribution to the affordable housing fund Council of the day approved the loss of the rental space.

The building, christened ‘R&R’ (Robson and Richards) was completed in 2006. The predecessor ‘hotel’ here started life as the Montgomery Block. Approved to be built in 1911 for J A Montgomery, it was designed by G P Bowie, and described as a “4 storey brick store & rooming house; marble entrance, hot water heating, plate glass front” costing $29,000 to build. Egdell & Dixon were the contractors, although Mr. Bowie supervised the work (which wasn’t always the case in those days). Mr. Bowie designed several larger residential buildings during the city’s early 1900s boom, as well as Yaletown warehouse projects. He was also responsible for the design of the lumbermen’s Arch in Stanley Park. He died in July 1915, fighting in Ypres.

The building was delayed a little – but in March 1912 the Daily World announced that Mr J A Montgomery of New Westminster would commence construction of his 4-storey building, which would cost $33,000 and was expected to be completed in June. In 1913 it was called the Richelieu Rooms, run by Mrs J E Conroy. The names of the proprietor changed frequently; every year we checked to see who was running the rooms found a new name –  in 1919 J A Trepanier was running the establishment, in 1925 O and H Agnew and in 1930 Mrs L H Smith. In 1940 Mrs A Chambers was shown as running the rooms, and in 1950 L T Taylor was running the now renamed Plaza Hotel.

John Alexander Montgomery was born in Drummondville, Quebec and was married to Fannie, also from Quebec. She had been married to Rev. Simeon Huff and had two children, but he died in 1900, and she remarried in 1906, having two more daughters, Jean and Joyce.

John Alexander Montgomery, who had lived in New Westminster from 1887, was described as “one of the best known and most highly respected men of the city, each year having chronicled an increase in his prosperity and his additional security in the esteem and confidence of his fellow citizens. He was born in Drummond county, Quebec, and is a son of James and Jane (Bothwell) Montgomery, pioneers in that province, where the father engaged in farming.

John A. Montgomery acquired his education in the country schools of his native community, and after laying aside his books was obliged on account of conditions at home to earn his own livelihood. In choosing an occupation he took up that for which he was best fitted by early training and environment, turning his attention to general farming. For a time he assisted his father with the work of the homestead, afterwards becoming connected with railroading and following this by a period of activity in the mines. Seeking broader scope for his labors and better opportunities, he came to British Columbia in 1887 and, recognizing immediately the splendid future of New Westminster, took up his residence here. He invested heavily in land, and during the twenty-six years of  his residence here, has continually added to his holdings until he is today one of the most extensive owners of valuable real estate in the city. All of his business interests are carefully and progressively conducted and his success rewards many years of well directed and honorable labor.”


The Percival Building – Hamilton Street


The Percival is one the more dramatic transformations from when our 1981 photo shows that this Hamilton Street warehouse facade was mostly blocked up. The concrete window infill was added to the 1912 building after a fire in the 1950s. The building structure today is a mix of poured in place concrete, reinforced concrete floor beams and masonry brick walls which was how it was designed by G P Bowie – being described as a “six-storey brick & concrete warehouse”.

Although it’s sometimes called the Stewart and Cromie Warehouse, and that was the name of the owners on the permit, it appeared in the Street Directories from the year it was finished as the Percival Building. The most likely candidates for having built it are Robert Cromie, who was Manager of Foley, Welch and Stewart who were railway contractors based in the Winch Building. Mr Cromie was later well connected, as his wife was the daughter of Vancouver hardware magnate Edward McFeely. He was originally from Quebec and only 25 years old when the building went up. There’s also a connection to the Vancouver Sun, as this 2012 article by John Mackie explains

“The Sun was launched on Feb. 12, 1912, at the crest of a boom that had seen Vancouver’s population quadruple in 10 years. But the boom went bust as foreign investment stalled around the First World War, and the paper floundered financially. In 1915, The Sun was rescued by an infusion of cash from railway contractors Timothy Foley, Patrick Welch and John Stewart. Foley, Welch and Stewart had cut a shady deal with the provincial government to fund the Pacific Great Eastern railway, and thought a newspaper might be useful in advancing their interest in the PGE. But the deal became a scandal, and they had to repay $1.1 million to the province. In the midst of the scandal, running an unprofitable newspaper wasn’t a priority, and the trio gave control of the paper to Stewart’s secretary, Robert Cromie. One story has it that Cromie fished out some Sun stock that was being thrown out from a wastebasket, which gave him control of the paper. Robert Cromie’s grandson, Ron Cromie, says “family legend” is that Cromie was “given The Sun in lieu of wages owed him for a construction company McConnell [or Foley, Welch and Stewart] also owned that had gone bankrupt.” In any event, Cromie managed to make the paper profitable after acquiring financing from the owner of the Seattle Times and then buying up some competing Vancouver papers (The News-Advertiser and The World) to increase circulation.”

In 1995 the building was given a comprehensive restoration and converted to residential uses on the upper floors. Marshall Fisher Architects and Acton Johnston Ostry were the architects of the newly named ‘Del Prado’ – although these days as often as not is known by its original name – The Percival Building.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-E13.32