Archive for the ‘Hooper and Watkins’ Tag

West Pender Street – 300 block, south side

There has been one building replaced since this 1975 image was shot by W E Graham. On the right is the Victoria Block, (today part of the Victorian Hotel). designed by W F Gardiner in 1909 for the National Finance Co. Next door, the miniature temple is the British Columbia Permanent Loan & Savings Co’s premises. It was designed by Hooper and Watkins in 1907, and was one of the first reinforced concrete structures in the city, costing $40,000 and built by A E Carter. On the outside it has a sandstone skin, while inside there’s marble, elaborate plaster ceilings designed by Charles Marega, and a gorgeous Tiffany-style stained-glass skylight, featuring leaves and fruit. The decorative castings were the work of Fraser and Garrow, who advertised themselves as being “perfectly at home in any manner of work that makes for the embellishment of interiors or exteriors.”

The developer was a local finance house whose founder was Thomas Talton Langlois, originally from Gaspe in Quebec. He arrived in in BC in 1898 when he was 31, and already a successful businessman. Here he organized the British Columbia Permanent Loan Co.; was president, of the National Finance Co. Ltd., the Prudential Investment Co. Ltd. and the Pacific Coast Fire Insurance Co. He also developed an Arbutus subdivision which had pre-fabricated craftsman style houses built in a factory on West 2nd Avenue, and then re-erected on site.

The building was completed at the point where the developer was facing a minor problem. The Times Colonist advertised “A REWARD OF ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS. A reward of $100.00 will be paid to any person furnishing evidence which will lead to the conviction of the person who has started or any other person or persons who are spreading a report to the effect that the British Columbia Permanent Loan & Savings Company is losing or liable to lose money through its connection with any subsidiary, company. The B. C. Permanent has absolutely no connection with any other company, either in the way of investments or loans, except a balance of one hundred and twenty-five shares, being one-twelfth of the Issued capital stock of the. Pacific Coast Fire Insurance Company, This investment was authorized by unanimous vote of the shareholders some six years ago and has proven an exceptionally profitable Investment. For confirmation of these facts we would refer any person to the company’s auditor, Mr. W. T. Stein, C. A., Vancouver.”

Thomas Langlois, like many successful Vancouver business people, retired to California. He moved in 1921, and died there in 1937 and was buried in Inglewood Park Cemetery. From 1935 the building became home to the Bank Of Canada. In 1979 it was altered to office space and renamed Park House, and in the past few years has been repurposed as an event space called The Permanent.

To the east is a former printing company building, which has been redeveloped with the adjacent site for Covenant House, a not-for-profit organization that supports street youth. The 1929 building was designed by J S D Taylor for McBeth & Campbell. The facade was renovated in 1948 by architect W H Birmingham. It was given Neo-classical treatments including a decorative cornice installed below the original corbelled brick parapet. In 1998 it was redeveloped and the facade tied into the new 50 bed hostel, designed by Nigel Baldwin.

The small brick building to the east (that looks like small houses) was redeveloped for the 1998 scheme, and had originally extended to the 1929 building site as well. It was developed by ‘National’ (Presumably the National Finance Co), designed by W F Gardiner and cost $7,000 to build in 1909.

At the end of the block Hooper and Watkins (again) designed the $25,000 I.O.O.F Hall, and Lyric Theatre in 1906. The main floor space these days is a furniture store.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1135-17

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Japanese Church – Jackson and Powell

This is the Japanese Buddhist church on the south east corner of Powell Street and Jackson Avenue in 1977. It was designed by Hooper and Watkins in 1905 as the Japanese Methodist Mission Church, part of the western religion’s efforts to convert the Japanese population to Christianity, The Japanese Methodist Mission was established in Vancouver in 1896. What became known as the Powell Street Church opened in 1906, and is seen on the right in 1908. The Powell Street Church began providing medical services at the end of the First World War, when the Spanish influenza hit. Hospitals in Vancouver were filled with Caucasian flu patients, and those who were ill in the Japanese community were unable to receive treatment.

In 1925 it became the Japanese United Church, and  In 1936 the church became independent, but just six years later the Japanese population were rounded up and forced into internment camps, and the church was officially closed and the Board of Home Missions approved a plan to permit First United Church to use the building. They in turn sold it to Welfare Industries, a service society of First United Church, 1953 for $16,000. The Japanese church finally re-established itself in 1978 with the purchase of the former St Luke’s Church in Cedar Cottage, on Victoria Drive. In 2009 the congregation were given an apology for the sale of the property, and in 2018 received a payment to compensate for the building’s sale.

In 1954, the Methodist Church building at 220 Jackson Ave. was purchased by the Buddhist Church, as Japanese returned to the coast after the War Measures Act was lifted in 1949. The renovated building was used until 1978 when a new temple was planned, completed two years later, and still in use today.

Image source; City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-293

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Posted 29 March 2021 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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Granville Street 600 block – west side

This side of Granville Street was demolished to make room for the extension of Pacific Centre Mall northwards. At the far end of the block in this 1953 image was the Colonial Theatre, a cinema converted in 1912 from an 1888 office building. We looked at its history in one of our early posts over 8 years ago. It was originally designed by New York architect Bruce Price for Sir William Van Horne. President of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Since then, the 1974 office tower that replaced the cinema has been reclad to a lighter colour, with double glazed widows.

Closer to us, just showing on the left of the picture was 679 Granville, a 1910 3-storey building designed by Dalton & Eveleigh for Henry Bell-Irving. In 1953 Purdy’s chocolate store was here, with the Devon Cafe. Next door, at 665 Granville, D’Allaird’s lady’s clothing store had obscured the facade of their building. It appears to have been built in 1904, with the St Louis rooms above retail, initially occupied by R J Buchanan’s crockery store, and Cicero Davidson’s jewelers. We think the site was owned and developed by Jonathan Rogers, who applied to build a $24,000 building on the three lots here in 1904 – described (somewhat inaccurately) as a ‘frame dwelling’. The whole building included both the D’Aillards lot and the building with mis-matched windows to the north. (It’s hard to see in the image, but one has a curved cornice, and the other a shallow pyramid). Mr. Rogers was a builder and identified himself as the architect too. D’Aillards Blouses Ltd carried out work to 651 Granville (just to the north) in 1925, so had been in this area for many years.

The next building appears to have two identical facades, but was developed as a single structure, also in 1904. It was designed by Parr and Fee for Mrs. Northgroves, and cost $15,000. We’re not really sure who Mrs. Northgraves was. She doesn’t appear in any street directory, or census, although she was listed as attending a function with many other women in 1913. There was a Miss Northgrave, who lived on ‘income’, with her sister (and he sister’s husband, William Walsh, who was listed as a ‘capitalist’ under occupation in the 1911 census). In 1905 and in 1908 Mrs. Walsh and Miss Northgrave left the city to spend the winter in Southern California. Mr. Walsh developed a number of properties in the city, including some designed by Parr and Fee.

The building with the four Roman arches beyond also dates from the early 1900s, and we’ve failed to identify the architect or developer. In the early 1920s it was owned by B. Holt Fur Company, who spent over $5,000 on repairs and alterations. In the 1910s P W Charleson carried out repairs to 641 and 657 Granville on several occasions, and ‘Charlson & Abbott’ to 665 Granville. (Percy Charleson also owned 800 Granville, two blocks to the south). Fraser Hardware also paid for alterations to 641 Granville in the mid 1910s, and were tenants here. Brown Bros appear to have owned the properties in the mid 1920s.

Down the street, the narrower four storey building was approved to be developed as an apartment building in 1912. Charles Williams of Acroyd & Gall claimed to be developer, architect and builder of the $29,000 project. This was one of very few building lots that had originally been developed before 1901 (when the only other building that had been developed was the 1888 office on the corner). Richards, Ackroyd and Gall were an Insurance, Finance and Real Estate agency and there was a civil engineer called Charles Williams who might have managed the development. It’s not clear if the project was for the company, or whether they were representing a client when they submitted the plans.

Next door, there’s a modest 2-storey building. It was developed in 1910 by W F Huntting, who hired Thomas Hooper to design the $13,000 investment. William Foster Huntting was the wealthy president of the Huntting-Merritt Lumber Company, and he had a Shaughnessy mansion built in 1912. He was born in Iowa in 1879, and was successful in business at a young age, founding his lumber company in 1902, the year he arrived in BC. He died in 1930.

There’s another small building to the north, designed by W T Dalton for Edward Bros, who spent $7,000, hiring E Cook to build it in 1902. Beyond that, (just before the cinema), is a building on two lots. It has a shallow bay window on the second floor, and was apparently called The Bower Block in 1907, when it was developed by G Bower, who hired Hooper and Watkins to design the $15,000 investment. George Bower built other Granville projects including a much larger investment on the next block to the north two years later, using the same architects.

Image source: Leonard Frank, Jewish Museum LF.00308

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West Hastings Street – unit block, north side

Surprisingly, we’ve only examined the history of one of the buildings on this part of the block. That’s the Strathcona Hotel, now renovated and turned into condos as the Paris Block. Long-time home of shoemakers Pierre Paris & Sons, it was designed by Hooper & Watkins and developed around 1908 by John Deeks, who had made money mining for gold in Atlin. He converted it to a hotel around 1910, with R T Perry designing the necessary  alterations.

To the west, the single storey retail units. They were almost certainly developed by real estate broker W A Clark, who had his office in the Deeks office building when it first opened. William Clark was from Ontario, and like many other Vancouver real estate brokers also developed property on parcels that they had acquired. In Mr. Clark’s case, he also built retail buildings on Granville Street, and a 5-storey apartment building there that cost $60,000, and another (still standing today) that cost $50,000. In 1904 he had W P Matheson design a $4,000 house on Broughton Street. It must have been quite full, as in 1911 he lived there with his wife Mary and five daughters, aged 10 to 19, and their Japanese servant. Over the years He paid for a series of alterations and repairs to these buildings as tenants came and went. The two building were erected in 1905, one by Mr. Clark, and the one to the west by McWhinney & Lewerke, although in subsequent years into the 1920s he seems to have owned both buildings. We don’t know who designed the buildings, but in 1905 the ‘Hardware Merchant Magazine’ announced “McWhinney & Lewerke, Vancouver intend erecting a three-storey brick block on Hastings street, adjoining the Rubinowitz departmental stores recently purchased by them.” As far as we know the project never proceeded.

In 1936 when our image was taken Model boots and shoes occupied half of one unit, and Westinghouse sold Electrical goods, lights and radios in the other half. Next door was the Thrifty Dress Shop and the Union Shoe Co who offered ‘Better Values in Novelty Shoes’. Model Express must be one of the longest-lived businesses in the city; they were still located in the same unit until a year ago, and are still in business two doors away today. Today they ‘are proud to be Vancouver’s #1 stripper store’ and specialize in ‘exotic’ footwear (heels can be over 8″) and matching lingerie.

The building dated back to 1903 when W T Whiteway designed the $10,000 build for B C Permanent Co. In the first few years it was occupied by the Rubinowitz Department store. Major Matthews, the City Archivist wrote about Mr Rubinowitz, and collected his portrait, taken in 1939. “Mr. Louis Rubinowitz came to Vancouver in 1892, took some interest in Jewish affairs, but never took an interest in civic or public matters; it is difficult to find what he did take an interest in – in a public way. He had a small general store at Steveston, and also one in Vancouver, both queer places, an assortment of goods scattered aimlessly about after the manner of a secondhand store. He was a very elderly man when he decided to contest the office of Mayor. He wore his hair in a most noticeable manner. A long flowing grey beard, almost to his waist, and the long, almost white hair of his head hung over his shoulders as far as his shoulder blades. Sometimes, on Jewish ceremonial days, he wore a long black morning coat and a “stovepipe” tall silk hat, and had a rather venerable appearance, somewhat akin to a Jewish patriarch. He presented an odd and eccentric appearance as he walked down the street.” Liebermann Louis Rubinowitz ran in both the 1926 and 1918 election, receiving around 200 votes (1% of the total) – in the elections.

In the early 1920s Olympia Confectionery occupied the corner; a few years later it was a drug store, The Cut Rate Drug Co. The 1936 image shows The Grand Union Public Market, which remained operating through to at least the 1950s when it had 16 different stalls, among them a butcher, a baker and an umbrella maker; a fruit stand, a branch of Cunningham Drugs, a magazine exchange, two egg stores and the Healthy Cocktail Bar, selling juices. Stong’s grocery were here too. In the early 1990s it was a Fields department store (no doubt hoping to borrow some of Woodward’s customers from across Abbott Street). Before it was demolished over 10 years ago it was a greengrocers, the SunMart Market. It’s still a parking lot today, but plans have been approved for a 10 storey rental building over new retail units.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-4889 and CVA Port P372

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500 block Granville Street – west side (4)

Here’s another image of Granville Street; the west side of the 500 block looking north from Dunsmuir in 1910 in a Vancouver Public Library image. On the corner is the Tunstall Block, built in 1902 by D Saul for Dr Simon Tunstall at a cost of $22,000, designed by G W Grant. In 1909 he added two more floors at an additional cost of $20,000. That suggests that our Vancouver Public Library image isn’t as dated from 1910, but probably from a year earlier. The next three-storey building to the south was another designed by G W Grant for Bedford Davidson in 1903, at a cost of $10,000.

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. Next door the smaller building to the north was known as the Anderson block, dating from before 1888 when there’s an Archives image of the building standing alone on the street, with the fire brigade filling their fire engine with water outside. At the time C D Rand and Co, the real estate company, operated from the building.

The fifth building down is the Inglis Reid Building, another G W Grant design for builder and Investor Bedford Davidson, who also owned and built the building beside it in 1902. It was effectively rebuilt by J Reid when he moved in, with McCarter Nairne designing the $22,000 work. The steel frame is where in 1909 Miss Spencer decided to replace her eight year old 3-storey building with an 8-storey steel framed office, designed by E W Houghton of Seattle.

None of the buildings on this side of the street are still standing: today this is part of the northern block of the Pacific Centre Mall, designed by Zeidler Roberts Partnership and completed in 1990. In 2007 the corner of the block had a radical redesign by Janson Goldstein of New York for the new Holt Renfrew store, incorporating panels of slumped glass in the design.

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Posted 16 October 2017 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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Winch Building – West Hastings Street

R V Winch developed one of the largest and most prestigious office buildings of its day. Five storeys, over a basement, designed in the Beaux-Arts Classical style, it was completed in 1911. Mr. Winch, originally from Ontario, started in the city as a meat and game dealer with a store on Cordova Street. We looked at his second retail location on that street in 1890. He had hired Thomas Hooper to design a retail store in 1889, and he returned to Hooper and Watkins in 1907 to design this building. Construction took 3 years, was completed in 1911, and cost a reported $700,000. It was described as “an entirely modern Class A office building, the first of its kind in British Columbia” It’s something of a departure from some of Thomas Hooper’s other buildings – here he was given a generous budget (initially costs were estimated at $380,000) so he designed a stone-clad building (albeit on a steel and reinforced concrete frame) that would look at home in London or Paris.

There was no cost-cutting on the interiors either; the interior woodwork was carried out by Stewart & Co of Guelph, Ontario, although most of the other trades were local. It was one of the earliest reinforced concrete buildings to be erected in the city, closely following the adjacent Post Office, (also completed in 1911, which is probably when our BC Archives image was taken) The six-storey building featured 312 steel grillage beams, granite piers and reinforced concrete floors. It contained 130 offices and two Otis Fensom elevators. The stone for the façade came from the Fox Island Quarry at the mouth of Jervis Inlet.

Initially there were many businesses with their offices here, including of course Mr. Winch himself. During the 1920s an increasing number of the offices were rented as federal government facilities, and the building was eventually purchased by the Federal Government for a number of departments in 1928. In 1939 the new owners added more office space, but reduced the interior design of the original by removing the first floor’s glazed domed ceiling seen in this early interior shot.

While still a Federal Building, and used as offices on the upper floors, the building was dramatically transformed in 1983 by Henriquez Architects with Toby Russell Blackwell into the Sinclair Centre, with retail stores as well as the government offices around a central atrium that combines four heritage structures.

Image Sources: Library and Archives Canada and City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1376-14

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Posted 22 June 2017 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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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. The newspapers that year refer to this as both The Bower Block and the Drysdale Building, so we think George Bower owned the site and partnered with drysdale in the 440,000 project. 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 at the back, “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”. There was another $8,000 alteration in 1925, designed by J C Day.

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

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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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Abbott Mansions – West Hastings and Abbott se

Abbott & Hastings

This solid-looking structure dates back to 1909, and was designed by Hooper and Watkins for Song Mong Lin Co, (a company owned by Mong Wing, a Chinese housewife). It was altered in 1941, when Townley and Matheson refitted it for the Imperial Bank of Canada; Fred Townley had initially designed alterations for the bank here in 1919. These days the 5-storey structure has 70 SRO rooms, but it started life as an office building known as the Loo Building. Mong Wing was married to a very successful Chinese merchant Loo Gee Wing, so her development of the building was almost certainly at his behest. We’ve written a great deal about Loo Gee Wing elsewhere; as far as we can tell he started his business life in San Francisco, moved on to Victoria (where he was said to be the second wealthiest private landowner after the Hudson Bay Company) and then to Vancouver, where he developed extensive business interests including a number of properties.

We think he moved to Vancouver not long before this building was completed: he was still living in Victoria in 1907. This building cost $80,000 to build; the contractors, the National Construction Company, got into financial difficulties, and their subcontractors, Coughlin Brothers, went after the owners to get the $1,700 they were owed. When they tried to get payment, they discovered that the property had changed hands, and Loo Gee Wing was now the owner, and he argued the builders lien didn’t apply to him. The judge in the case was not sympathetic to this view: “The facts are that the defendant Mong Lin, wife of Leo Gee Wing, was the registered owner of the property at the time the contract was entered into by her with the codefendant, and she so continues to the present time. I strongly suspect that the transfer of the property to her husband was a piece of Oriental jugglery perpetuated in order to embarrass lien holders.”

When it opened, the Loo Building had dozens of companies taking space: it’s not a big building, so they must have each occupied modest offices. As well as a number of real estate companies were the Canadian Freight Association, several physicians including Dr Dyer, the Vancouver Fiber Co, the Beaver Realty Co and W A Cumyow, the city’s most important Chinese interpreter. Up on the third floor were a chiropodist and a Corsetiere, an optician and an osteopath alongside timber agents and land agents. On the fourth were building contractors Hemphill Bros, the Hardman Hat Co and the Vancouver Financial Corp Ltd along with the Union Express, City Express and Diamond Express. Apart from W A Cumyow they appear to be Anglo businesses in a Chinese-owned office building.

By 1920 the building had become exclusively residential. It had been acquired by the London, British & North America Co, who hired W J Northcott to make alterations. An advertisement in the Daily World announced the change, offering two-room suites, disappearing beds and well furnished modern conveniences for housekeeping; “elevator, respectable, reasonable rates”. It attracted some important people in the city; Basil Pantages, manager of the Pantages theatre lived here; Dr Martin Kroeger, managing director of Vancouver X-Ray Institute lived on the third floor; George S Sellers of the Cedar Cottage Painting Co on the second floor.

By 1935, when Wilfred Minto was managing the premises they were known as Abbott Mansions. Just selecting the surnames starting with the first two letters of the alphabet we find James and Harry Almas of the Almas Coal and Refrigerated Fruit Stand lived here; (a unique and unexpected mixture), P J Beaudreault, a carpenter and his wife Deliah, Jake Biket, a waiter and his wife Viola, Alfred Brett, a trucker with the CNR and his wife Kathleen, R J Brooks, an assembler with the Ford Motor Co and Elsie and Mark Butcher – Elsie was a stenographer. Somebody listed as Aug Dandruff lived here too – sadly, we don’t know if they were a hairdresser. F Glen Mitchell lived here with his wife; he was manager of the Piggly Wiggly on Denman Street. There were two waitresses living here, one from the New Good Eats Cafe, and one from the Cairo Cafe. Dr. Henry Powell had his consulting rooms in the building on Abbott Street.

In 1955, the last year we have a street directory for, the Mansions were owned by the Yorkshire Corporation. There were still plenty of working people living here: a glove cutter; Anne Bowes who was cashier at the Pall Mall Café; a fireman; William Cooper, a tailor; a candy packer for Nabob Foods and Magda Curie, a waitress at Eatons. Unlike in earlier years quite a few residents were retired; several of the residents were widows.

By the early 90s the residents were poorer; the building more run-down. Many residents had health problems. Now run by the Central City Foundation, it offers 70 rooms to Downtown Eastside residents in one of the better-run SRO buildings.

Image Source City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1399-37

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165 Water Street

165 Water St

More of Water Street’s commercial buildings survive relatively unchanged than most other streets in the city. This is the Pither and Leiser warehouse, built in 1905 and completed in 1906 by E Cook for a Victoria-based import company. It cost $10,000 to build, and was described as “three full storeys, deep basement; large plate glass front windows and wide entrance; Fensom electric freight elevator; first storey bonded warehouse, top storey for sundry duty-paid goods”.

There were three Leiser brothers in Victoria: like the Oppenheimers in Vancouver they were born in Germany (in Kerpen near Cologne) into a Jewish family, and like the Oppeheimers they succeeded in trade, operating grocery import companies and making their fortune supplying the gold miners, initially in the Cassiar, in Yale, and later the Klondike. All three were Freemasons, as well. One of the brothers, Simon, had the largest wholesale grocery in British Columbia in 1890, and his daughter married an Oppenheimer in Vancouver. Another brother, Gustav, was a partner in the wholesale dry goods firm of Lenz and Leiser in Victoria. The third, Max Leiser imported and wholesaled wine and liquor, and also cigars. The company warehouse in Victoria was on Wharf Street and Max later developed other property in Victoria including the Kaiserhof Hotel on Blanchard Street designed by Thomas Hooper.

Pither and Leiser’s business dated back to 1858, when an alcohol and cigar import firm was established by A Casamayou. By 1888 it was known as Boucherat & Co, owned by John Coigdarripe (a Frenchman) and Luke Pither (from New York). Max Leiser bought his partnership in 1893, when the name was changed. They were importers of Mumm champagne, Gordon’s gin and Johnnie Walker and Whyte & McKay whiskies.

In 1912 George Joy was manager of the Vancouver branch, originally designed in 1905 by Hooper and Watkins. (The company had initially set up shop in the city in 1900). However, if the directories are to believed the business had just moved next door, to the west, into a newly completed building. Oscar Brown, a fruit wholesaler moved into this building and made some changes. It looks as if the design used the centre pivoted windows generally associated with Parr and Fee buildings, so they might be the designers. Pither and Leiser stayed in business through to 1921, despite prohibition in British Columbia from 1917 to 1921. (In Victoria it’s suggested that the company’s alcohol ‘sales’ rose significantly during the period of US prohibition).

pither & leiser Sept-09-1917The next occupants of the building were Oscar Brown, effectively switching places with Pither and Leiser. They were followed in 1922 by Clarks’ Fruit and Produce – seen here in 1924, and still occupying the building in 1940. They had been on the block since 1918, initially next door, then two doors down. In 1950 there was a dry goods wholesalers and a clothing manufacturing company in the building. For more than 30 years, with the transformation of Gastown into a more vibrant retail street, it is the Vancouver store of Hill’s Native Art.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Bu N54

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