Archive for the ‘Gardiner & Mercer’ Tag

Heatley and East Pender Street – se corner

The building known today as Alexander Court started life as the city’s first purpose-built synagogue. In 1907 a new Orthodox Jewish congregation appeared, named B’nai Yehudah (also known as Sons of Israel). Their first services were held in a small rented home, at 14 West Cordova, but in 1910 the ‘Sons of Israel’ purchased property at Pender and Heatley and by 1911 a Synagogue was built large enough to hold 200 worshipers. W T Whiteway was the architect, and the building was located in the centre of the plot, facing Heatley Avenue.

The congregation was renamed “Schara Tzedeck”, upon being legally incorporated on June 14th 1917, and continued raising funds to build a bigger building. In 1921 a new synagogue opened, designed by Gardiner & Mercer as a Romanesque building that resembles the mission revival style of design. The original building wasn’t replaced, rather it was moved to the back of the lot next to the lane and incorporated into the new structure which had a capacity of 600. The undated but early image (left) shows that part of the building. Our main image dates from the 1920s.

The congregation used the building until the end of 1947, when they moved to a new building in Oakridge, an area where many of the congregation had also moved to. The old building was reused – although the street directory company weren’t exactly sure by whom, as the directory entry for 1948 just says “occupied”. By 1949 it was acknowledged that it was the Vancouver Boys’ Club Association, and it became the Gibbs Boys Club, sponsored by Rufus Gibbs, owner of Gibbs Tool and Stamping Works. This sounds like a heavy industry concern, but actually its main product was fishing lures. Gibbs lived alone, occupying an entire floor of the Patricia Hotel for 42 years, although he never owned a car or a TV. Mr. Gibbs died in 1968, and by the time W A Graham shot this picture in 1977 the building was boarded up, having lost Provincial Government funding. By then the building had some significant structural issues, and it was sold in 1980, and then sat empty for six years. It was converted to condos, designed by Spaceworks, in one of the earliest examples of adaptive reuse of a heritage structure in the city. One additional historical connection is worth noting; the first meeting of SPOTA: (the Strathcona Property Owners and Tenants Association) took place here on December 14, 1968. SPOTA were responsible for limiting the ‘slum clearance’ of the Strathcona area and its subsequent renewal.

Image sources: Vancouver Public Library, Jewish Museum and Archives of BC L-00391, City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1135-20

579 Granville Street

579 Granville

We’re reasonably certain this building was constructed in 1907, added to in 1912 and again in 1919. Hooper & Watkins designed a building for Gordon Drysdale in 1907 on Granville Street – and this is where that company was based. In 1912 the building had a $9,000 addition, designed by S B Birds of ‘mill construction’ – which we’re guessing was the top floor. In 1919 Gardiner and Mercer designed another $4,000 addition, “Repairs; addition of brick construction w stone trimmings to present premises; addition 25×40 ft, intended to furnish add’l accom. for firm’s growing business”.

drysdaleGordon 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. Like many of our successful businessmen and developers, the Drysdale family lived in the West End at 825 Broughton. He was born in Truro, Nova Scotia into a farming family with Scottish roots, and at 15 apprenticed with a mercantile company, setting up and managing a branch store in New Glasgow from 1881 to 1884 (when he was aged 25). That year he partnered with his brother, Dan, but they soon parted company with Dan moving west and Gordon running the business on his own until 1892, when he brought his young family to Vancouver, buying out the general merchants  Haley & Sutton on Cordova Street. He moved to the corner of Cambie & Cordova in 1899, and the to Hastings in 1903, partnering with Charles Stevenson as Stevenson & Drysdale. Victoria-based rival David Spencer wanted to open up, buying Stevenson out first, then a year later Drysdale, who moved to new premises on Granville Street.

A 1914 biographical portrait describes the business His is the finest exclusive store in Vancouver, or in all western Canada, an extensive stock of high-class goods being carried. The store is most attractive in all its equipments and appointments and courtesy on the part of all employes is demanded, patrons receiving every possible attention. The company was the first in Vancouver to inaugurate six o’clock closing, and in 1912 they introduced the plan of closing on Saturdays, during July and August, at one o’clock. They are practically the only firm in the city today who follow this practice and have naturally earned the thankfulness of their employes, whose loyalty to the house has been greatly increased by this measure. The store further enjoys the enviable reputation of employing only first-class help and paying therefor first-class salaries.

Drysdale's interior 1922 VPLThe employes are well treated and many measures are undertaken to contribute to their welfare and comfort. The business is a general dry-goods, millinery, and ladies’ and children’s furnishings establishment and they also maintain a carpet and draperies department. The fundamental principle upon which it is built is to treat the public fairly, and their reputation is that their advertisements are always strictly confined to statements of facts, and the public accept these advertisements absolutely for what they say. It has been the motto of the firm “never to misrepresent,” and that such conduct is appreciated is evident from their ever increasing patronage.”

Unlike almost all the successful businessmen we have come across “Mr. Drysdale is a member of no clubs or societies, preferring home life when not occupied with the cares of management of an extensive business.” The Library have a 1922 shot of the building’s interior, rather daringly featuring the lingerie department. Gordon died in 1932, aged 73, survived by his second wife, Hilda, Maria having died at home on Broughton Street in 1926, aged 64.

woodsNext door to the south, we looked at 559 Granville in an earlier post. By 1945, when this picture was taken, 579 Granville was occupied by tailors Paterson & Bell, and F W Beaton – civil and military tailor. They had their signs on the third floor, and shared the floor with manufacturers agents in other suites. On the second floor were Cluett, Peabody & Co who were agents for Arrow shirts and collars. The York Knit Mills had been here, but were replaced by Woods lingerie who had their advert peeking over the lace curtain. There was a wholesale jeweller on the top floor, and the main floor had Wilson’s glove and hosiery store and the Eden Café. When homeless veterans occupied the vacant Second Hotel Vancouver (two blocks up the hill) in 1946, the Eden supplied 150 meals.

 

 

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1184-1864

The Dawson Building – 375 Main Street

Judging from the building permit record, George Dawson owned a fair amount of property in the East End of Vancouver. The one major structure we know he commissioned was the block named after him at Main and East Hastings. It seems like a huge building in the context of three storey buildings to the east – and that was just as true when it was completed in 1911 at a cost of $180,000. The ‘architect’ of record was its builder, Bedford Davidson. George Dawson was born in New Brunswick, and it looks like an obvious connection could be suggested as ‘Building the West’ says Bedford Davidson was born in Tidnish, New Brunswick. Sadly, the connection breaks down when the 1901 and 1911 Census returns are checked – in both entries Bedford Davidson was born in Nova Scotia (although he does age from 25 to 39 in 10 years).

Davidson built a number of other substantial structures in the city, and eventually got into trouble for calling himself an architect without being a member of the AIBC. A comprehensive review of Vancouver’s early buildings suggested the architects were Gardiner and Mercer, which given the scale of the project might be true as it seems a bit ambitious for a builder to attempt. Since 1985 the building, now called The Ford Building, has offered affordable housing in 76 units. (Oh, and spot the lineman dangling in the 1920 picture).

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 371-809