Archive for the ‘Gibbs Boys Club’ 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