Archive for the ‘J M Harper’ Tag

151 Water Street

We have waited to look at the history of this early Water Street warehouse until completion of the new office building that has been built behind, and above, the restored facade. Initially three additional floors were proposed to be added in a complementary ‘heritage’ style, but the plans were changed to add greater height in a contemporary style, set back to retain the heritage element’s integrity.

This was a 1912 warehouse developed by J M Harper and designed by A J Bird. Seen here in 1985, it had already transitioned to retail use, but it started life as a produce warehouse, built by Willis and Fisher for $16,000. Mr. Harper was an absentee developer, living in Kamloops where he was a partner in a wholesaling and retailing business supplying miners. He partnered with A S McArthur, both in the dry goods business and in property development in Vancouver, including a building at Hastings and Main.

J M Harper was often referred to in the press as Major Harper (having raised a mounted military unit in 1908), and he had extensive business interests. He was also an independent voice in the community. When Kamloops Board of Trade petitioned for the local Kamloops Band reserve to be reduced in size in 1913, Major Harper was one of few voices in opposition, “J.M. Harper merely pointed out that the Indians had never been treated fairly by whites and in any event Kamloops had a lot of room to branch out in without bothering the Indians.”

In the 1911 census James M Harper was aged 51, living on ‘income’, with his wife Elizabeth who was 48 and five children aged between 8 and 20. Both parents were shown born in Scotland, and we can track the family’s movements before settling in Kamloops; their oldest daughter, ‘Ena’, was born in Alberta in 1891 and Norman, their 18-year-old son in Manitoba. The other sons and daughter were born in BC. (Ena was Georgena in the 1901 census, born in the Northwest Territories, and Elizabeth was shown born in Ontario. In 1891 the family were living in Lethbridge, when Alberta was still part of the North-West Territories). From their son’s 1920 wedding in Vancouver, we can find his father was James Milne Harper, and his mother Elizabeth Paterson. James was born in Banffshire in 1859, one of 10 children.

Tragically, their son, Norman Stuart Harper, was killed on active service in the First World War. A postcard, written to his mother, showed up in a Washington state antique store. It revealed that he was in hospital in London in May 1918, having been injured landing his bi-plane. Less than two months later he was shot down and killed while on a bombing mission over Germany. He was buried by the Germans with full military honours, but his family only managed to trace his death in 1920. The 1921 census shows James and Elizabeth still in Kamloops, with three children still at home and Georgina Paterson, Elizabeth’s sister living with them. J M Harper died in Vancouver in 1937, already widowed.

The newly completed building attracted multiple tenants; Olmstead Budd Co Ltd wholesale fruit suppliers, Swartz Bros wholesale fruits, California Fruit Growers Exchange, Pacific Fruit & Produce Co and A Francis Tourville, produce broker. In 1920 The Foottit Co., Ltd became the tenants here, produce dealers headed by Harold and Ernest Foottit. A year earlier they were both working for F R Stewart and Co, a rival produce business whose premises were a few doors to the west. Harold was 39, and had arrived in BC in 1906. His wife Edith Longfellow arrived from England a year later, (they had married in 1905), and their son, (Harold) Raymond was born in 1914. Ernest was two years younger, and like his brother came from Hull. Ernest married Beatrice Thorley, who was also from Hull, in 1908, Harold Foottit was living in Vancouver when he died in 1968. Ernest died in 1971, in Seattle, where he was Superintendent of the Home Savings Building for many years, and was buried in Burnaby.

Their business didn’t prosper, and by 1923 W R Cook and Co had moved in here. Both Foottit brothers returned to working for F R Stewart. By 1930 the Independent Fruit Co had moved in, and a decade later the building was occupied by Slade and Stewart who were also in the adjacent building. Later Robison Cotton Mills used the warehouse, and as the area became more of a tourist destination in the 1960s an antique and contemporary art dealer took over the space. In recent years it became known as a destination for buying first nations art and artefacts, in Frances Hill’s store. Recently redeveloped, a flagship clothing store are fitting out the retail units while Microsoft have occupied the offices on the upper floors.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 790-2090

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Posted 18 November 2021 by ChangingCity in Altered, Gastown

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