Archive for the ‘G W Grant’ Tag

Granville Street – south to the Pacific Centre

Granville south 3

This early 1974 image shows the second of the ‘dark towers’ of Pacific Centre under construction. The IBM Tower, as it was first known, was a shorter sibling to the TD Tower to the south and slightly west, completed a couple of years earlier. The steel framed towers were designed by Cesar Pelli who was at the time working for Victor Gruen Associates in Los Angeles. Many descriptions identify the design as ‘Miesian’ after the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who perfected the simple structured office tower – one of the best examples is the Seagram Building that he designed in 1958. In Canada his Toronto-Dominion Centre was the real thing; like the Pacific Centre it was developed by Fairview Corporation five years earlier than the pacific Centre in 1967, with Mies as design consultant. Vancouver’s was similar in many respects, but the towers’ colour was slightly richer; more brown when the sun hits it than the dark bronze of most Mies buildings.

We can date this image from the construction of the tower, and from the street. In 1974 Granville was designated as a transit mall, and general traffic was removed. The 2010 redesign widened the sidewalks and straightened the streets. Public consultation responses also led to the street trees in this stretch of Granville remaining in place. (Elsewhere they were replaced with more appropriate varieties than had been planted previously).

The ‘Dark Towers’ of the Pacific Centre as they were known at the time (and not the “towers of darkness” quoted more recently) were not universally welcomed. Later phases of the project were approved on the understanding that they’d be lighter coloured; the Cannacord Tower (as it’s now called – it started as the Stock Exchange Tower) at 609 Granville was completed in 1981 with a paler beige finish. It was the fourth tower to be completed after the Four Season Hotel, which was also lighter. Here the glazing and panels on the office are pretty much the same dimensions as the darker towers; it’s just the colour that changed. McCarter Nairne are credited with the design, but Cesar Pelli was still involved.

After nearly a decade another phase of the mall was built to the north, with a corner store for Holt Renfrew. It replaced a modest 1960 2-storey building and was redesigned a couple of years ago by New York designers Janson Goldstein as this image (and an earlier post) show more clearly. It replaced the Tunstall Block built as 3 storeys in 1902, and 1909 (when 2 more floors were added). The small building next door with the arched top floor windows was originally designed by G W Grant for builder (and owner) Bedford Davidson in 1903. A year earlier the same team had built the two small buildings two buildings further north (hidden by trees in the 1981 image), while the four storey building with the Ingledew’s Shoes mural is the work of Hooper & Watkins who designed the building in 1907 for Gordon Drysdale (with a later addition by S B Birds).

Granville & Dunsmuir nw 1

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 800-452 and CVA 779-W01.34

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The Twigg Block – 608 Granville Street

Twigg Block

In 1900 five rival architects teamed up to produce an illustrated guide to Vancouver – appropriately title ‘Vancouver of Today Architecturally’. One of the partners was G W Grant, who chose to feature The Twigg Block. Although the address isn’t identified, the photograph shows it was at #608 and was a confectioner’s, so that narrows the location to E Minchin & Co on Granville Street. 608 Granville was 50 feet south of Dunsmuir, and on the 25 foot lot that was owned by Mr Twigg, G W Grant designed an extraordinary building. Son of a Nova Scotia farmer, Grant initially moved to New Westminster in the 1880s and designed over 100 buildings there before opening a Vancouver office. While the Granville Street building was relatively modest in scale, it looks almost as if it was designed as a 3-D catalogue for all the styles of window available – recessed, bay, pedimented and square.

Although they don’t seem to feature in any of the biographies of the day, the Twigg family – or probably more accurately the Twigge family – were both wealthy and active in real estate. Major-General John Twigge and his brother Samuel Knox Twigge, came to Canada in 1887 and to Vancouver before 1890. They were the sons of Captain John Twigge of Dublin. Mrs. S.K. Twigge and her two daughters came in 1891. They lived in a house on Pender Street, jointly owned by the two brothers, and built before 1901. The Major-General, whose title is invariably referenced, is said to have been the developer of a Water Street warehouse in 1898, although his brother, S K Twigge is also often found associated with real estate in the city, and he owned the Granville Street lots. On at least one occasion he picked up a site when unpaid taxes led it to become available at a significant discount. In 1890 John Hill Twigg was recorded buying land from Robert Tatlow (so that’s the Major-General). In 1891 the brothers bought 150 acres of land in Whonnock, where the Canadian Co-operative Society built and operated the Ruskin Mill on a few acres of their property. Samuel Knox Twigge is shown on the assessment and collection records of the period until 1905, when he sold the land. He was also involved in the creation of South Vancouver in 1891, and there’s an island in the Fraser River named Twigg Island (but after a nephew, Conley, who had a dairy farm there).

Twigg 2 CVA 371-2100In 1893 S K Twigge and architect R McKay Fripp ended up in court disputing costs on a pair of houses Twigge had commissioned. He lost the case. In 1897 the Board of Trade sent Major General Twigge (late Royal Engineers) to the Third Congress of Chambers of Commerce of the Empire in London.

S K Twigge died in 1906, and his widow may have returned to England. His two daughters stayed in British Columbia; Sidney, who married in 1910, moved to a ranch in the Chilcotin, although in the 1920s she moved to England after she was widowed in the First World War. In 1909 she hired Maclure and Fox to add a $3,000 extension to the Pender Street house. Her sister Mary had married in 1896, and died at Alkali Lake in 1934.

We hadn’t appreciated that Samuel Twigge so liked W G Grant’s design that he built it again. This extract from a 1900s picture of the block shows that a second building was built to the south which is apparently an almost exact replica of the first. There’s another image of this block in the city Archives that shows both structures were built by 1893.

Today the site of the first half of the Twigg Block is the entrance to The Hudson, a 423 unit condo building that was completed in 2006 and designed by Stantec Architecture.

Image sources: Vancouver of Today Architecturally,  City of Vancouver Archives CVA 371-2100 (extract)

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Posted 16 June 2014 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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Johnston-Howe Block – West Georgia and Granville (3)

Granville & Georgia 3

This is the third time we’ve featured this corner. This image was taken in 1933, when it was 33 years old and known as the Georgia Granville Building, rather than by the names of the developers. One earlier posts was taken after this, in 1970 when it was nearing the end of its life and the other in 1928. Many of the businesses have changed in only five years. con jonesIn this corner shot it’s possible to see Con Jones’s ‘Don’t Argue’ tobacco store (Don’t argue: Con Jones sells fresh tobacco). Jones was an Australian; an ex-bookie who was successful in Vancouver in the tobacco trade, and sports-mad to the point of building Con Jones Park near the Pacific Exhibition Grounds for his lacrosse and soccer teams to play in. Darling’s Drug store ran around behind the corner store with entrances on both Robson and on West Georgia Street. Next door on Granville Street was Al-Walters, a men’s furnishing store. Al was Al Divire, and Walter was Walter Matoff. They didn’t last long here – in 1932 the store was vacant, and in 1934 it was I P Blyth’s optometrist store and Potter’s jewelers.

On Georgia Street there was Winifred’s Lunch, run by Paul Udesen, open at 7am and closed at midnight. Beyond that was the Georgia Hat Shop, and the Winifred'sPackard Taxi Co had the last store (the only business who were in the Georgia part of the building in 1928). Upstairs the sign on the window says Anabelle’s, but there’s no business with that name in the city that year or the year before, and although the top floor window says it is the Lilas Moore Dancing School, the street directory says that had relocated to Hornby Street. The Maxine Beauty Salon was operating upstairs, one of three locations run by Miss M MacGilvray, including the location on Bidwell Street in the West End. One unit upstairs was in  residential use; the home of Henry J Hickey, and his wife Vera.

The building was designed by G W Grant for Benjamin B Johnston and Samuel L Howe, and we examined some of their background in the earlier posts. Ruddy-Duker had one of their many billboards erected on the roof of the building when painted signs and huge posters adorned many more buildings than they do today.

Today there’s a retail frontage that forms part of the Pacific Centre Mall, with bronze office tower that was known as the IBM Tower for twenty years.

Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-4306

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Posted 28 February 2014 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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Granville Street – 500 block west side (2)

500 block Granville w side 2

Here’s the southern half of the 500 block of Granville Street. The picture was taken in 1981 from half-way up the block looking south to Dunsmuir, and really very little change had occurred since this 1905 VPL image.

500 block Granville 1905 VPLThe building on the right, closest to the photographer was the Inglis Reid building, originally designed by G W Grant for builder/investor Bedford Davidson in 1902 for $8,000. It was substantially rebuilt at a cost of $22,000 in 1922. The smaller building to the south was known as the Anderson block. The biggest building on this end of the block 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. Like many of our successful businessmen and developers, the Drysdale family lived in the West End at 825 Broughton. Gordon and his wife Maria, and both their older children were born in Nova Scotia (George in 1888 and Janet in 1892), but their youngest son, Norman, was born in BC in 1895.

Dunsmuir and Granville north 1981 CVA 779-W01.34The smaller building to the south was another designed by G W Grant for Bedford Davidson in 1903, at a cost of $10,000. The one building that has changed is the corner block; originally also a Grant design for Dr S J Tunstall, it was replaced in 1960 with a smaller 2-storey structure (seen better in this companion 1981 image)

Today the Pacific Centre’s north building occupies this entire part of the block, completed in 1990 and designed by Zeidler Roberts Partnership. In 2007 the Holt Renfrew store at the southern end of the block was redesigned by New York designers Janson Goldstein who had local glass studio Nathan Allan Glass Studios create a unique ‘slumped’ glass facade with convex panels of individual quilted glass pillows.

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-W01.35, Vancouver Public Library and CVA 779-W01.34

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Posted 10 February 2014 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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125 West Pender Street

125 W Pender

In 1922 when this image was shot, the building was the Vancouver home of Ames, Holden, McReady, a Montreal based Ames 1911shoe manufacturer. They were an early example of a company created by a financier rather than a family business: two existing family businesses were merged and completely reorganized in 1911. McReady’s was started in the 1860s by three leather merchant brothers. By 1895, James McCready & Company was considered one of Montreal’s major factories, producing 12,000 to 15,000 pairs of boots and shoes for men, women and children per week, which was considerable at the time.

At least one of the pre-merged companies was located in the city by 1910, but were on West Hastings. The newly combined Ames-Holden-McReady initially located on Cordova, and Damer Lumsden Co were in this building, a rival shoe wholesaler. Before that it was vacant for a while, and from its construction until 1911 it was occupied by the company who developed it, Henderson Brothers.

When it was built in 1902 it was built for Mr Henderson and designed by G W Grant; built at a cost of $25,000. As there were three Henderson brothers, we can’t be sure which of the three was referenced in the permit; Thomas, Joseph or William. henderson 1897All three came originally from Quebec, and they ran a wholesale drug company. In 1901 Thomas lived with his wife Margaret, son and two daughters, and his brother Joseph. While the census said he lived in Vancouver, the street directory said he was in Victoria.

The earliest reference to Henderson’s in Vancouver we can find is an advertisement from 1897, when it shows they were partnered with an earlier company with Mr Langley, a Victoria based druggist. A J Langley, originally from Staffordshire, founded his drug supply company in Victoria in 1858. Thomas and Joseph Henderson originally partnered with him around 1886. Victoria Illustrated in 1891 said the company’s business “extends North far beyond the mark of civilisation”.

The brothers obviously did well. By 1908 the los Angeles Herald was reporting “J. N. Henderson of the firm of Henderson Bros., wholesale dealers from Vancouver, B. C, registered yesterday at the Lankershim. Mr. Henderson and his brother and partner, T. M. Henderson, with their nieces. Miss Muriel and Miss Evelyn Henderson, are passing the winter season in California. The brother and nieces are now at Redlands, but are expected in Los Angeles today”. In fact Joseph had been visiting California regularly for health reasons.

By 1912 Henderson Bros still exist, but Thomas, living at 1844 Barclay Street, was a director of National Drug & Chemical Co who were listed as occupying the West Pender warehouse. Henderson Bros are described as “Associated with the National Drug & Chemical Co” and only William and Thomas are listed as being associated with the company.

Like 137 West Pender, this building was demolished (in fact much earlier; before 1945), and eventually replaced in 1989 by Pendera, a 113 unit non-market housing building developed by the Downtown Eastside Residents Association.

Image source: City of Vancouver archives CVA 99-3506

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Posted 3 February 2014 by ChangingCity in Gone, Victory Square

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559 Granville Street

559 Granville

One of these two buildings has completely gone; swallowed by the Pacific Centre Mall. The other retains part of its facade, rather oddly hoisted slightly higher into the air and changed from a store front to what looks like a canopied emergency stair outlet to the street.

Back in the 1960s or 70s when this picture was taken, the building to the south was the home of butcher James Inglis Reid, ‘The Larder of the Wise’ who also offered the slogan “we hae meat that ye can eat”

The Vancouver Archives have the full history of the company on their website, (and there’s a display from the store in the Museum of Vancouver as well). “James Inglis Reid (1874-1952) was a Scotsman, born in Waterside, Kirkintilloch Parish, who immigrated to Vancouver in 1906. Reid found employment with Edgett s Grocery; however, he soon established his own business. He sold hams and various types of bacon, including Ayrshire, which he cured himself. Following the commercial trend of Vancouver at the time, Reid moved his place of business to 559 Granville Street in 1915. Reid incorporated the business as James Inglis Reid, Ltd. on December 24, 1930. It was at the Granville Street address that Reid achieved financial success, wide renown, and a permanent place in the history of Vancouver.

After Reid purchased the property situated at 559 Granville Street in 1922, he began an extensive renovation. The building comprised three stories and a basement. The top floor was converted to a baking area and a kitchen for the production of fresh sausages and other products. The second floor included a business office, locker room, lunch room, storage area, and a space for maturing cheese. The basement was home to the smokehouse, curing operations, coolers, and storage for supplies. The ground floor of the building remained the retail area; however, it was enlarged and the counters and floor were transformed by the installation of white and black marble during the renovation. The lane side of the ground floor had a receiving dock for deliveries, a cooler large enough to hold whole sides of beef, and the main area for meat cutting. The two year renovation was completed in 1924. Nine years later, Reid installed a structural awning over the Granville Street sidewalk. The awning featured (in neon signage) the phrase, adapted from Burns Selkirk Grace, we hae meat that ye can eat that was closely identified with the business.

The multitude of on-site operations and a skilled staff allowed James Inglis Reid, Ltd. to offer a wide selection of fresh meat, hams, bacon, and sausages. These operations included the daily cutting of sides of beef, hogs, and lambs; the curing and smoking of hams and bacon in the purpose-built, fire-brick enclosure ( the smokehouse ); and the production of sausages in the third floor kitchen. In particular, the employment of Horatio Nelson Menzies, a fellow Scotsman and experienced butcher who was hired in 1917, helped James Inglis Reid, Ltd. become very well known for its house-made Scottish specialties such as white puddings, black puddings (blood sausage), and most notably, haggis. Production figures indicate that four to six tonnes of haggis was made and sold annually. Reid s haggis was prepared and shipped to townships throughout British Columbia, other Canadian provinces, and to customers in the United States.

Reid was proud of his Scottish heritage and did much to promote its traditions in Vancouver. He was a founding member of the Scottish Society of Vancouver. In addition, the shop served as a gathering point for those interested in Scottish traditions and culture. The celebration of Robert Burns birthday was an annual event. Haggis was supplied to fraternal organizations, churches, businesses, hotels, steamships, and individuals throughout British Columbia for Burns Night Suppers. In addition, the left front display window of 559 Granville Street was decorated with Burns portrait, selected quotations from the poet s work, and memorabilia.

Following the retirement of James Inglis Reid in 1945, Gordon Young Wyness, Reid s son-in-law, became manager of the business. Wyness, an engineer by profession, had gained management experience while working for Burns & Co. Ltd., a meat packing firm, and Canadian Industries Ltd Ammunition Division. He had an understanding of the demands of running a small business since his family had owned and operated a general store in Saskatchewan. James Inglis Reid Ltd., under the guidance of G.Y. Wyness, prospered for another forty years. Throughout his stewardship, the business refined its operations while maintaining its traditions ( Quality First, Value Always ).

By the middle of the nineteen-eighties, commercial patterns had shifted away from the factors that decades ago had attracted Reid to the Granville Street location. The shop was now an anomaly among the financial institutions and large chain stores that dominated downtown. Consequently, the decision was made to close the business when Cadillac Fairview Corporation began the expansion of the Pacific Centre Mall north of Dunsmuir Street. James Inglis Reid, Ltd. ended retail business operations in 1986.”

Both these buildings were built by the same builder for the same owner in the same year – 1902. That builder – and owner – was Bedford Davidson, who sometimes designed his own buildings. Here he employed GW Grant to design both, spending $10,000 on the first building to the north in 1902 and $8,000 on the one beside it that would be occupied by Mr Reid. It was effectively rebuilt by him when he occupied the building, with McCarter Nairne designing the $22,000 work. The earlier (by 3 months) building next door was completely altered with the addition of a highly decorated tera cotta art deco facade in 1930 for what was then called the BC Lease Holders Building, soon to be the long-term home of the Hunter-Henderson Paint Company.

In 1990 the Townley Matheson facade was incorporated into the Zeidler Roberts Partnership final phase of the Pacific Centre Mall, with three floors of retail and an 18 storey office tower.

Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-786

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Templeton Block – East Hastings and Carrall (3)

Templeton Block 1940s 2

By 1941 the Templeton Block was over 50 years old, but was still in a busy part of town, across from the BC Electric headquarters of the streetcar system. When we last saw it in 1926 it had a huge hoarding on the roof. By 1941 it was almost back to how it looked over forty years earlier. Dr Harry Dier had his offices here from the early 1930s – in 1935 his nurse was a relative (perhaps his daughter), Enid. That year there were five other doctors still here (as in the 1920s) but Dr Dier, a dentist, was the only one to advertise his presence.

The Seven Little Tailors and the Baltimore Cafe were in the building to the end of the 1930s, and the tailors were still there in 1941 right on the left edge of this picture. The cafe has become D Handel’s barber shop, and just as in 1926 the United Cigar Stores is still on the corner. Along East Hastings G A Govier is selling hats and the Howard Jewelry store had closed in 1940, replaced by H Frome’s OK Exchange Jewelry store. As well as doctor Dier there were two doctors and the ship’s chandler’s office of H T Nelson.

In 2001, much of the building was renovated by the Portland Hotel Society to provide a gallery space called The Interurban.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Bu P297

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Templeton Block – East Hastings and Carrall (2)

Hastings & Carrall

In 1926 this corner was buzzing. In the 25 years since 1901 (when our previous blog image was taken) the city’s population had risen from 29,000 to 200,000. The Seven Little Tailors had competition from the 3 Big Tailors in the next door building two doors down, while William Dick had paid for a huge billboard to try to get customers to his East Hastings store just to the east along the street where he claimed to have 4,000 suits ready-to-wear. The pressure to move from this earlier business district to the CPR’s Granville Street hub was apparent – by the end of the year Dick’s clothing store had moved five blocks westwards.

The building on the corner was already 35 years old when this picture was taken. We last saw it when McTaggart and Moscrop’s hardware store and the Mint Saloon had moved in around 1901, Both operations were still there in 1906, and William D Wood was still running the Mint. By 1911 Knowlton’s Drugs had moved into the building, and on Carrall there was a branch of the Bank of Toronto.  In 1916 it was the Olympic Confectionery store with a taxi office for the Big Five Auto and Taxi Service to the north, and Knowlton’s Drugs  were at No 9 E Hastings – a location the we think the same company still occupy today, although the numbering has changed a little). Upstairs were doctor’s offices as well as the Shipmasters Association. By 1920 Albert Doane’s clothing store was next to the Blue Funnel Motor Line, the Confectionery store and Knowlton’s Drugs are still there, with six doctor’s offices on the upper floors. Beyond Knowlton’s was a shoe store and the Hastings Lunch.

Our 1926 image shows that between the Seven Little Tailors (who also offered cleaning and pressing) and the United Cigar Store (who had replaced the confectionery store) the Baltimore Oyster Saloon had opened. The Dairy Maid was next door on East Hastings, the Howard Jewelry Company were next door and then Knowlton’s Drugs. The doctor”s offices were still upstairs, although one was vacant. Beyond Knowlton’s was the Acme Clothing Co. While the Seven Little Tailors appear to be owned by Philip Pearlman, his height (or his six partners) was not disclosed in the Directory.

Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-2257

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Templeton Block – East Hastings and Carrall (1)

Templeton Block 1900s 1

In 1886 33-year old William Templeton (possibly with his friend Joseph Northcott) built a grocery store on the north-east corner of Hastings and Carrall. It was lost in the fire when it burned with the rest of the city. Templeton and Northcott were then reported in the 1886 Vancouver Herald to be erecting a two-storey brick building to replace it. Templeton was born in Belleville, Ontario; Northcott was Joseph Northcott from Bristol in England whose family had also settled in Belleville. Northcott had fought in the US Civil War in the New York Heavy Artillery Volunteers, married, had seven children and then moved to Granville in 1885. He and William Templeton paid $1,800 for the corner lot, and theirs was said to be the second brick-built structure completed after the fire.

Quite soon the former partners went separate ways, although we can’t tell for certain who was in this building – William Templeton and Northcote and Palmer were both shown as operating a grocery stores on Carroll Street (sic) in 1887. However, it’s likely to be Templeton as he had the Ontario Grocery at the corner in 1888, another relative (presumably) J Templeton ran his bookmaking operation from the Ontario Grocery and Northcott had returned to Belleville. A year later just William was in town at the same address. In 1891 he commissioned C O Wickenden to design a new building on the same site – presumably the one still standing – (somewhat earlier than its Heritage Designation suggests). That same year he failed to unseat David Oppenheimer as mayor after a particularly unfortunate episode where he mocked the mayor’s accent.

Six years later Templeton successfully stood as mayor. He was in favour of building a smelter in the city, extending voting hours so  more working men could make it to the polls, and removing the provision that candidates for civic office own property in Vancouver. As Mayor, he presided over the meetings of the anti-Chinese league and pushed for higher head taxes.

Vancouver’s sixth mayor died a year after his election victory. It was suggested that he committing suicide by drinking too much sleeping potion after losing his bid for re-election. This is partly based on a somewhat ambiguous statement by Dr. Robert Matheson to archivist Major Matthews “Mayor Templeton’s death was due to the excitement and disappointment of his defeat, in the election, and an overdose of sleeping potion” The successful candidate for mayor, Mayor Garden certainly seemed to think he was in some way responsible for Templeton’s death, issuing a statement suggesting if he had known this was the outcome of the election he wouldn’t have opposed Mayor Templeton. Templeton was aged 45 and left a widow and four children. At this point he had become a pork packer, with premises on Carrall and Water Street as well as a house on Barclay Street in the West End.

Following Templeton’s death a fruit and confectionery business was run by Sinclair Harcus in the corner building.  In 1901 Mrs Templeton (who was still living on Barclay Street) hired G W Grant to enlarge the building at a cost of $3,000. Following completion McTaggart and Moscrop’s hardware store moved in, and the Mint Saloon (which you can see in the picture) was established, run by W D Wood.

Image Source; City of Vancouver Archives CVA 677-640

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5 West Hastings Street

5 W Hastings 1920

The fancy stone clad building at the corner of Carrall Street and West Hastings Street today has been there just over 100 years – the Merchants Bank was built in 1912. The red brick building next door pre-dates it. The official records say it’s from around 1904. There’s a photograph with a suggested date of 1898, with the edge of the four storey building at 5 West Hastings just showing, but Street Directory records suggest that is a bit too early.

We think this is a building designed in 1899 and completed some time during 1900. And we believe we may have identified who built it, and designed it. In January 1899 The Province newspaper announced that on Hastings Street, near Carrall Street, G W Grant would supervise the construction of a four storey block for B.B. Johnston & Co. There are insurance maps published by Charles Goad and Co available for Vancouver in 1901, and they identify the number of floors for every structure. Checking those maps, there are no other buildings shown at four storeys on Hastings Street on either side of Carrall Street – just this one. While today the building to the west is 4 storeys, it started life as a 3 storey building, and we have a photograph of it to confirm that. Although not immediately obvious as a G W Grant design, looking at the Ormidale Block which is also on Hastings, designed by Grant a year later, it’s possible to see a number of similar design elements and almost identical brick and terra-cotta detail.

We’ve recently identified Mr Johnston as the co-developer of a building lost to the construction of the Pacific Centre Mall. Here’s an early description of his life. “Mr. B. B. Johnston is a native of Toronto, where he received his early education in the schools of his native city. After leaving school he entered the mercantile agency office and subsequently published The Mercantile Agency for the city and country. This he conducted successfully until 1881, when he removed to Emerson, Manitoba, and engaged in real estate. Here he was very successful in his operations and accumulated considerable wealth. He took a prominent part in the upbuilding of the gateway city, was a member of the council, serving one term and declining a re-nomination and was also Justice of the Peace for the Province of Manitoba up to the time of his departure for Vancouver, in 1889.

Upon his arrival here he engaged in the real estate and commission business operating alone until December, when he formed the present partnership with Mr. Douglas. Mr. Johnston is a Notary Public for the Province of British Columbia. The firm soon forged to the front and are to-day amongst the heaviest dealers in real estate in Vancouver. They do a general real estate business, buy and sell property, rent houses and negotiate loans on real estate securities for residents and non residents in England, Eastern Canada and the United States. The firm controls and has the exclusive sale of some of the most desirable property in the city and vicinity and controls the sale of several valuable additions and sub-divisions notable among which are Sub-divisions 628 and 629 on Mount Pleasant, beautifully located, bounded on the east by Westminster Avenue and on the west by Ontario Street. Although progressive they are alike conservative in their transactions, and all business placed with them receives prompt attention, and the most careful supervision is given to all negotiations and transactions of landed interests.”

5 West Hastings was first occupied as a lodging house around 1900 with Mary Gowdy in charge. She was aged 45 in the 1901 census, was head of the household, had four children at home aged 17 to 26 and seven boarders (including a 15 year old and a couple in their 30s, Nora and Samuel Woods – apparently he was American and a hairdresser). She was born in BC in 1856 but we haven’t managed to trace her in the 1891 or 1881 census records. In 1905 Mrs Caroline Tyler is running the rooms; in 1907 W R Carpenter took over, Mrs Ellen Bullock in 1910 and Lydia Smith in 1912.

A year later it became the Drexel Rooms, which it remained into the 1980s – so that was what it was known as in 1920 when our VPL image was taken. We think the owner then was Harry Jones, who also developed the adjacent Beacon Hotel. He carried out repairs to both 7 and 9 West Hastings in the late 1910s and early 1920s.

More recently it became a Single Room Occupancy hotel called the North Star Rooms, although it has been empty for many years (closed in 1999 for repeated code violations) except for a brief period when it was squatted in 2006.

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Posted 17 January 2013 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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