Archive for the ‘J F Deeks’ Tag

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



Paris Block – 53 West Hastings Street

In 1907 Hooper and Watkins designed the Eastern Building on West Hastings Street, although there seems to have been a 1908 permit as well.  Although the Statement of Significance on the building says it was initially an apartment building, the 1908 and 1909 Street Directories shows a fur company, replaced a year later by a real estate company on the second floor, along with the Northern Club, and W A Clark, another real estate broker on the third floor. John F Deeks developed the building, but in 1909 Burton & Jackson, props. of the Strathcona Hotel carried out the conversion to a hotel (although Mr Deeks owned the building until at least 1917).

John and his wife Minnie had been in the city since at least the turn of the century; both coming originally from Ontario (John was born in Morrisburg, and was photographed as a competitive cyclist in the Toronto Wanderers team in 1893). John’s father, George, had been born in England but his mother was also from Ontario. John was born in 1868, 1869 or 1870, depending on which census you look at. The Deeks seem to have had at least two children, Marion, born in 1903 and George who died very soon after his birth in 1905. John was a successful hydraulic miner, finding gold at Pine Creek in Atlin in the early years of the century and selling out to the North Columbia Gold Mining Company in 1904.

In 1909 R T Perry designed $15,000 of alterations to the building for Mr Deeks (a substantial sum in those days, suggesting significant changes to the building). With these changes, by 1910 it had become the Strathcona Hotel, while a shoe store (initially Starks, and later McKeen’s) had the ground floor. Pierre Paris moved into the main floor in 1919, offering “Corrective Footwear Made to Measure” along with high grade shoe repairing. In 1913 W D Woods, obtained a permit to carry out repairs to the hotel. (As Mr Deeks still owned the hotel in 1917, Mr Woods may have been an agent, or possibly another operator of the hotel). It stayed as a hotel for many years; the Paris company closed down in the 1970s (soon after our 1978 image was taken) – although family members are still in the orthotics business elsewhere in the city. John Deeks died in 1935 and Minnie in 1937.

Next door the Miller Block was built-in 1947, and part of the seismic support for the heritage building includes the adjacent new Annex building by Gair Williamson, also by Salient.

As our image here shows, by the early 21st Century the building was in poor condition. Although in theory a Single Room Occupancy Hotel, in practice nobody had lived in the building since 1974. After two other owners, and several false hopes for refurbishment, a permit was issued in 2006 to allow a comprehensive  renovation of the building by Gair Williamson for Salient Developments, completed in 2008. The Acme Cafe moved in downstairs and 29 condo units were created on the upper floors.