Archive for the ‘H H Simmonds’ Tag

22 East 5th Avenue

22 E 5th

This is another Mount Pleasant industrial building, built in 1942 as the Cemco Electrical Manufacturing Company Factory. According to the recently published heritage statement for the building “Cemco commissioned the factory to house its expanding electronics business which supplied equipment for ships being constructed in local shipyards. Not much is known about the company, as is the case with many industries during the War which were subject to a certain amount of secrecy and security. Cemco remained at the site for a couple of years after the War ended, and then ceased to exist. Until recently, the building was occupied by N. Jefferson Ltd., a family owned textile supplier which has been operating since 1926 and continues to do so at a new location”

Cemco factory floor 1943Cemco weren’t as mysterious as this suggests, and they didn’t disappear after the war. They had been in operation since 1934, in the Mount Pleasant area, with S Darnborough as Managing Director. Before this new factory was built they were at 165 W 4th Ave. S Darnborough was Sidney, (although he was really T S Darnborough), and before Cemco he was president of Canadian Electrical Manufacturing Co (which would be CEMCO’s precursor), with a home on Osler in Shaughnessy. Before CEMCO, in the 1920s, Sid Darnborough was an electrical contractor, living on West 8th Avenue.

The company were still operating from this E 5th address in 1949, with Sid still running the company, having moved to University Boulevard. They were here in the mid 1950s but by then Sid had retired and B W Ball had taken over as President of the company. A year earlier they had expanded eastwards by adding a new factory in Granby, Ontario. At the time they were described as specializing in switchgear for industrial uses. They also made electrical instruments, street light fixtures “and many other products of a similar nature for industrial and commercial use”. The 1943 image of the factory floor shows what looks a lot like light fittings being assembled by a workforce with a high proportion of female workers.

A little more insight about the company is contained in a 1946 court case where the company’s salesman, Peter Van Snellenberg, sued for wrongful dismissal after discovery that he had added commission on the sales tax payable on a few of the orders he had obtained. He was dismissed in 1943 (the year our images were shot), so although the company has been described as ‘building radar and radio equipment for ships being built for the war’ (which they may have been doing), they were also selling their products on the open market. In 1958 the Federal Pacific Electric Company of Newark New Jersey acquired Cemco, where it was described as “engaged in manufacture and sale of electrical switchgear, air circuit breakers, air switches, load break switches, fusible breakers, cable terminal potheads and related apparatus for the distribution and control of electricity”.

The Cemco Factory was designed by Australian-born architect H.H. Simmonds, and used pour-in-place construction that retained the marks of the formwork. It supposed heritage value earned it a reprieve from redevelopment, but also permitted a larger office project (yet to commence) to be built behind the retained walls.

CVA 586-1783 and  CVA 586-1784


Posted 11 August 2016 by ChangingCity in False Creek, Still Standing

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900 Granville Street – west side (2)


900 block Granville 1

We’ve seen one building on this end of the west side of the 900 block of Granville Street in an earlier post – the Vermilyea Block (painted cream these days) – the fourth building along. Beyond it is a pair of warehouse-like buildings that today are Tom Lee Music. They’re a Dalton and Eveleigh design for C H Wilson, and so were once known as the Wilson Block.

On the corner (and just showing on the right of the picture) is an early rooming house. We’re reasonably certain this is another Parr and Fee building. A Granville and Smithe corner site was granted a building permit in 1906 for McCaulay & Nicolls, and those were still the owners of this building in 1915 and 1916 when two sets of repairs were carried out. Today they’re known as the Gresham Hotel, and they are non-market housing, converted from Single Occupancy Rooms  in 1993. When it was first built they were called the Gresham Apartments, and they don’t seem to have been occupied until 1909. The 1912 insurance map for some reason mislabeled the building as the Gresman Apartments. The City Drug Store were the first tenants in the corner retail unit – in 1967 it was Electronic World, selling TVs and tape Recorders.

The developers,  Macaulay & Nicolls, were insurance and real estate agents. We looked at John P. Nicoll’s history when we featured his house on Seaton Street. Charles H Macaulay was from Nova Scotia, born into a family that left Scotland in the late 1700s. He was part of the Canadian Pacific development team, working for the railway from 1887. In the same year he partnered with John Nicoll, 1898, he married his wife Ethel, and they had four children, Donald, Douglas, Margaret and John. As well as being a member of the Board of Trade and a Freemason, Charles was a member of the Terminal City, Shaughnessy Heights Golf Club, Jericho Country Club and the Canadian Club.

Next door was once another rooming house, the Henley Rooms, built for Mr Musgrove in 1910, and also designed by Parr and Fee (although with a traditional sash arrangement in bay windows, rather than the centre-hung design they often favoured). Baynes and Horie built the $18,000 property. We don’t know who Mr Musgrove was – there were only two people in the city  with that name at the time, and neither seem a likely candidate for an $18,000 investment. The rooms went through a lot of changing management – in 1911 they were run by Mrs. Maud Sherman, an American who had arrived the year before the 1911 Census and who only one lodger that year, Edith Cochran who had also arrived from the USA in 1910 and was listed as having no occupation. In 1912 the rooms were run by Mrs. Maud Ogle, in 1913 John Pausche took over, replaced by Norman Andison in 1915, Paul Parent in 1916 and Thomas Dyde in 1918, who finally provided stable management through the early 1920s. The building was demolished to be replaced in 1993 with the smaller building there today designed by Gower, Yeung & Associates. In 1967 it featured Mr. Mike’s $1.49 char broiled steaks.

Next door was the Studio Theatre, designed by H H Simmonds in 1948. It was one of his last designs, and he had been the architect for a series of theatres (really cinemas) from the early 1920s. It was still the Studio when this 1967 image was shot, (showing The Graduate), but not too long after it became the Eve, then the Lyric, and after that the Towne Cinema (with a protest outside the showing of Bob Guccione’s Caligula) and finally the Paradise Cinema, before it closed and fell into disrepair. Buying a liquor licence that once belonged to the infamous Pony’s Cabaret in the Downtown Eastside, David Kershaw and his partners transferred it to Granville and then began renovating the building as the Tonic Nightclub. More recently it became the oddly named Joe’s Apartment (which was still a nightclub, despite the name). Earlier this year the establishment once again reverted to the Studio name, with a record store and live music venue combined, and a fabulously faithful replica of the original 1940s sign.

Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-53


Posted 27 August 2015 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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The Biltmore – 955 Thurlow Street

Biltmore Thurlow

This 1928 Apartment building was a bit of a mystery. All we were able to find was that the architect might have been ‘Simmonds’ – H H Simmonds who practiced in the city for forty years. Then, thanks to a tip from the Heritage Vancouver Society (who are adding more and more building permits to their database) we were able to confirm the architect was indeed H H Simmonds, and the that developer was C S Gustafson, who spent $80,000 to develop it. Carl Gustafson was a builder (and the builder of this project) who had built houses in the West End as early as 1903, and developed the Clifton Hotel on Granville Street in 1910. In 1911 36-year-old Carl was identified by the census as Swedish (having arrived in 1890), living with his wife Hannah and their three sons and their domestic servant, and a lodger.

The building permit was issued in December 1928, and was shown in the street directory as ‘new apartment building’ in 1929, and occupied in 1930 The two fourth floor tenants were Claude Irons, the manager of the Burroughs Adding Machine Co and Laurent Maclean, a clerk with Customs. There’s no earlier building listed at this address on Thurlow – but that’s because it was on the corner with Barclay and the house that was there before was listed as 1100 Barclay. This 1955 Vancouver Public Library image shows the building has remained pretty much unchanged in appearance over six decades.

From 1898, for twenty years, the house on this site (designed by William Blackmore) was the home of George I Wilson, President of the Coast Steamship Co, a Scotsman who first arrived in Vancouver in 1887 in the dry goods trade and then made his fortune in the canning business (although in 1900 he was listed as a broker, with an office in the Flack Block). In 1920 Mrs C Parkinson was listed as occupant of the house here, but so too were clerk J J Morley, Robert Norman, an industrial surveyor, F M Robinson, another clerk with the S C Railway and Alex Wood, the local manager with the Rat Portage Lumber Co (whose wife visited Toronto that year). In the Daily World in 1920 Mrs. C Parkinson who lived here was holidaying at Seaton Lake in the Lillooet Valley. The newspaper also reported  that Marion G Buller, who lived at the house, registered a new Chevrolet Tourer from here. We assume that this was a very classy multi-occupied rooming house. In 1923 Mrs Nellie Rudd was listed as the occupant and in 1927 and 1928 James Pickford, a salesman lived at the house until it was replaced with the apartment building.


Posted 11 May 2015 by ChangingCity in Still Standing, West End

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