Archive for the ‘G S McConnell’ Tag

West Cordova north side from Homer Street

Remarkably, all the buildings in this 1919 Vancouver Public Library picture are still standing today, almost unchanged in appearance in over 100 years.

We looked at the history of the big warehouse in the middle of this image in two earlier posts. On West Cordova it’s numbered as 401, while on Water Street it’s 342 Water Street. It was developed as a three storey building that later had two floors added. It was built in 1899 as The Burns Block, but became known later as the Buscombe Building. William Blackmore was hired by John Burns to build a three storey stone building, and in 1911 Grant and Henderson designed two additional floors at a cost of $13,500, which was executed in a grey Gulf Island stone matching the earlier phase of the building. We’re not completely sure which of two possible John Burns developed the building, but we suspect he was a Scottish born businessman who arrived in the 1890s when he was already in his 60s, and retired. His son, Fred Burns, was already in Vancouver, dealing in plumbing and engineering supplies.

To the left of the warehouse are two significantly older properties. The Jones Block was developed in 1890, and designed by N S Hoffar, who recycled his design (with an extra window on the top floor) for the McConnell Block next door, also in 1890. Most census records suggest Gilbert Smythe McConnell was born in Quebec around 1857, although his death certificate and the 1891 census said it was 1855. That Census has his name as Guibert, which is probably more accurate, before he switched it for convenience to Gilbert. An 1891 biography tells us much more about Mr. McConnell “Mr. McConnell was born in Argenteuil County, Quebec, in 1856, where he attended school. When fifteen years of age he entered the employ of Green, Sons & Co., of Montreal, wholesale dealers in men’s furnishings. He remained with this firm for seven years, when he received the appointment as Indian agent in charge of the Touchwood Hilt district, Manitoba, in which service he remained for about six years. At the breaking out of the rebellion in the Northwest, in 1885, he was appointed one of the transport officers on Gen. Middleton’s staff’. He returned to Woodstock after the rebellion had been quelled, and was married to the eldest daughter of Wm. Muir, of that town. Mr. McConnell came to Vancouver in 1886, shortly after the fire, and has since been actively identified with the city’s interests. He built about thirty houses, including a couple of brick blocks, and has been interested in various enterprises. He served for two years in the City Council. He started his present business, as a wholesale importer of gents’ furnishings, hats, caps, etc., about three months ago, and has already a very large trade. He owns and built the building he occupies, which is a three story brick, fronting on Cordova and Water streets.”

His wife, Nettie Agnes was from Ontario and ten years younger. They married in Woodstock, Ontario in 1886, and their children were born in British Columbia; William in 1888 and Florence in 1890. Gilbert died in 1934.

We haven’t found a contemporary reference to who the ‘Jones’ in the Jones Block was, but H A Jones had his offices here the year after it was completed. Harry Jones was originally from Liverpool, born there in 1851, and had been in Vancouver from before the 1886 fire. He developed several buildings in the city, and was married at least three times.

Running off the picture to the left is the Holland Block, completed in 1892 and designed by C W H Sansom for James M. Holland, an American lawyer. On the right of the Buscombe Building is the Homer Street Arcade which dates from 1912, designed by Stuart and White for the ‘Thompson Bros’ (actually Thomson), and built by the Burrard Construction Co for $30,000. It was an unusual building for Vancouver: an arcade linking Water Street to Cordova, with an entrance across the street from Homer Street, (which presumably explains its name).

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