Archive for the ‘Otto Moberg’ Tag

400 block West Pender Street – north side

400 W Pender

Here are three buildings, each over 100 years old, that have survived on the same block. This 1947 Vancouver Public Library image shows the Niagara Hotel in the centre, built in 1913 and opened as the Hotel Connaught. It was designed by Otto Moberg for William Walsh. Next door is the taller, and narrower Hutchinson Block, designed by W F Gardiner for Dudley D Hutchinson. Gardiner used a design of centre-pivoted window frequently, but not exclusively used by Parr and Fee. The Connaught cost $55,000 and was built by H Murray, while the Huchinson Block, described as a reinforced concrete store & office, 8 storeys cost $60,000 and was built by Adkison & Dill in 1910.

niagara 1947When it opened the Hotel Connaught, run by local hoteliers White and Passarini, boasted a French chef, and fifty of the 120 rooms had a bath! (And in those bathrooms were “individual cakes of soap, little glass shelves and all the little dainty wrinkles that make for perfection“). The hotel boasted the first oil-fired heating plant installed in any hotel in the city. The hotel lasted a relatively short time as the Connaught; by 1922 it had become the Balfour Hotel, run by Albert Davis and only a year later it was rebranded again as the Niagara, run by E R Rickman and W A Badger.

The Heritage Statement of Significance identifies Walter William Walsh as the developer of the hotel; a successful lawyer and partner in Williams, Walsh, McKim and Housser. Originally from Montreal, after graduation he headed west and was called to the bar in Vancouver in 1899. Interestingly, biographies published in 1913 and 1914 make no reference to any property development activities, which made us wonder if he wasn’t the developer at all. Checking the Building Permit we found that William Walsh is named there. He was president of the Metropolitan Trust Co Ltd – so a much more likely candidate for a significant development (especially as they had offices on the third floor of the Hutchinson building next door). Born in Quebec he was aged 52 when the arrived in Vancouver in 1896. In Quebec he was a wholesale clothing merchant; here he reinvented himself as a financier. He had a new home built on Granville Street at Matthews in 1912 that cost $15,000, designed by N Murray who might easily be the H Murray who built the Connaught.

In 1947 the hotel was given one of the city’s finest signs, A replica Niagara Falls, 60 feet above the ground with 45 feet of spilling blue-vein neon water, cascaded down the building over four floors. Silver spray crashed onto neon rocks edged by neon evergreen trees. It was installed by Neon Products and designed by Laurence Hanson. Initially, after rebranding as the Ramada in 1998, only the lettering was changed. Then in in 2005 the dynamic elements of the design were removed, leaving just the oversized corporate logo.

Dudley DeCourcey Hutchinson arrived in the city from Winnipeg in 1906. Born in Barbados where his father, John Inniss Hutchinson was manager of a sugar plantation, he quickly established himself in the ballooning real estate business, and built his first investment on Pender. Keen to improve his financial position, Mr. Hutchinson appears to have been a little too keen on at least one occasion. Hired by Amos Fleming to broker a land purchase, he quoted $220 an acre for one piece of land. He successfully negotiated to pay only $180 an acre, but omitted to mention this to Mr. Fleming, thus pocketing the difference. On a second lot he claimed that he was going to have to pay more than an agreed initial price, and persuaded Mr. Fleming to pay that amount, while actually completing the transaction at the original price. Court records from 1908 tell the story: “The defendant then invested the profits he had made on these transactions in the purchase of four other city lots and the plaintiff, on discovery of the deceit and artifices which had been practised in connection with his business, brought the action for a declaration that the defendant was his agent and became trustee for him of the four other lots purchased by the defendant with the secret profits he had thus made, or, in the alternative, to recover the amount of the difference between what he had been obliged to pay for the two lots and the prices actually paid to the vendors for them by the defendant.” Having lost in court, and appealed and lost again, Mr. Hutchinson had to repay the difference in the price of the two transactions and not receive any commission. A year later, still aged only 25, he built the Hutchinson Block, and three years after that a West End apartment building, Grace Court.

When it first opened the Hutchinson Building had eight different real estate offices as tenants – and that was just on the ground floor. There were eight more on the upper floors, as well as others including the offices of the Diocese of New Westminster, the Central Coast Mission, the Western Canada Amusement Association, architects R M Fripp, and further up the building Claude P Jones, the Trussed Concrete Steel Co of Canada, the African Plume Parlor and Pacific Coast Lumber. By the end of the war, eight years later, the building was vacant. A year later it’s pretty clear that the building had been converted to residential use; half the tenants being women. There were a few offices on the lower floors; the Norwegian Consulate was here in the 1920s. Later the building got a name; the  Montgomery Apartment Hotel. Over time it became a more run-down SRO hotel the Park Hotel, until acquired by BC Housing who gave it an entirely new life with restoration of the high quality and highly detailed sheet metal cornices, spandrel panels and belt courses. The façade was fully restored to its original condition, replacing many of its prominent cornices and restoring the storefront to something closer to its original design.

The Empress, the smaller building on the corner is an even earlier structure,with rooms over retail space, built in 1906. The owner of the land was Chinese merchant Sam Kee who acquired the two 25 foot lots at the corner of Pender and Richards in 1904. Chinese investment outside Chinatown wasn’t encouraged, and the site was sold for $20,000 to William Walsh in 1905, who built the property in 1906 for $25,000, probably using Grant and Henderson as architects. He sold it to Oakland investors for $200,000 in 1909, and these days the building is the home of MacLeods Books.


800 block – East Hastings Street

800 E Hastings south side

On the right of our 1965 image is the Rice Block. We looked at Mr Rice’s earlier history, and his architect, Otto Moberg, in the previous post. The block, built in 1912 was initially called the Thistle Rooms, with the Thistle Restaurant, which was one of the retail units in the building on Hastings Street, run by Mrs. Lily Muir from 1913. The Thistle Rooms in 1914 were run by Joseph Duminie. He was born in Ontario, and in 1911 was still living there.

By 1920 D H Rice had started yet another career – he was General Manager of the International Advertising Co, living at 800 E Hastings (the alternate address for 404 Hawks). T Ozaki was running a grocery store at 804, James Haughton had a drugstore on the corner, and the Scottish Ham Curers were at 802 East Hastings. Strangely, there’s no mention of the rooms above, although there are residents listed in the directory giving their home address as 800 E Hastings. A year later the Ham Curers have become Sweid Produce, D H Rice is now “gen mgr Internatl Moving Bill Board”, and had moved again, to 1232 W 15th.

In 1922 he appears to have cloned himself – there’s an entry for “Danl H of Rice Inv Co” living at 1041 Comox (but oddly, cross checking there was nobody called Rice listed there – the Bonaventure Apartments, so maybe that was an error). That company had offices at 321 Pender, and there was also a listing for “Danl H agt Natl Life Assce Co r 800 E Hastings”

In 1923, Danl H was a broker, home was  now 1663 Robson. Lorne Rice was a dentist living at the same address: we identified Lorne aged 1 in 1901 when his parents were in Rossland where his father was a grocer. Lorne had moved out again in 1924, and in 1925 Daniel was now a salesman with Paddon & Vogel, real estate brokers at 445 Homer.

In 1926 he has a new business partner and yet another new home address: Danl H Rice of Rice & Nickerson h 2870 Laurel. Another Rice was living at home; Angela was a stenographer with Fleisehmann Co. Lorne was a dentist on Robson Street, and had his own home on Nelson Street. W D Nickerson and Dan Rice were now selling real estate from an office at 441 Homer Street – two doors down from his previous employers, Paddon & Vogel. Things stayed the same for the next few years: by the late 1920s Angela had left home and Daniel’s partner was no longer involved, but he continued in the real estate business, as did Mr. Paddon (but not Mr. Vogel) two doors away.

Once things started getting difficult in the real estate business and the 1930s recession set in, Daniel switched businesses once again. By 1932 he was manager of the Pacific Mutual Benefit Association, still living on Laurel. Lorne Rice had moved his practice address, and his home several times, but he was still a dentist, now on Granville Street. In 1933 Angela Rice still had the same job, but was living on W 13th. The Laurel Street address appears, but now the resident was Olive Rice, widow. The death certificate is confusing – it says that Daniel Rice was born in Ireland (which is quite possible, but it doesn’t match census returns describing him as American, or his brother’s birth in Minnesota). He was aged 62, described as retired, and living with his son, Lorne, on W 36th Avenue for 27 years (which as we’ve seen is very inaccurate, as they had both moved several times over the years). A year later Angela had moved in to live with her mother. Olive Catherine Rice, born in Ontario in 1874, wife of Daniel Henry Rice, died in St Paul’s Hospital in 1955. Her death was registered by her daughter, Angela Berts. A year later another of the Rice’s children, Lawrence, died in Golden aged 57. We assume this is Lorne Rice’s real name, born in Toronto in 1899, and married to Mary McDonald from Boston in Vancouver in 1924.

Two doors up the street is the Hastings Dance Studio, home to the Vancouver Table Tennis Club. It started life as an Italian venue, a hall for the Venetian Benefit Association, designed by R T Perry in 1928. Opening as the Silver Slipper Club, Stevie Wilson outlines in Scout Magazine how in the 1930s The Celestial Gents (Canada’s first modern Chinese swing band) played here, as did The Pony Pals, an early version of the 1940s BC country band The Rhythm Pals. After a period when it was called the Hastings Auditorium, (as in this 1965 image, with dancing on Wednesday and Saturday) in the 1980s it became the Viking Hall. It was home to concerts by punk bands including the Pointed Sticks, who played here in Dennis Hopper’s movie ‘Out of the Blue’. Now located in a part of the city where developers are eyeing up opportunities, and where the recently adopted Downtown Eastside Plan anticipates redevelopment, it’s long term future is probably in peril.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 772-20


Posted 28 September 2015 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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The Rice Block – 404 Hawks Avenue

Rice Block 1

The Rice Block is another of the city’s ‘1912 boom’ residential buildings. Sitting on the corner of Hawks and East Hastings, it’s history is surprisingly unpublished. Originally known as the Thistle Rooms (in the Street Directory) and the Rice Block (on the 1912 Insurance Map), the recent restoration plan was written without the development history. It was designed by Otto Moberg for D H Rice, cost $30,000 to build, and was built by S J Lund. Moburg was a Swede who was working in Washington state in the early part of the 20th Century and came to Vancouver having won a design competition for buildings at the Pacific Exhibition. He also designed the rustic Tea House in Stanley Park, as well as several residential blocks including this one and today’s Ramada Hotel on West Pender. A couple of years after he arrived, when it became apparent that there was a building recession, he headed south, ending up in San Diego. The building contractor, Sefanias Johnson Lund was a Norwegian, born in 1879 or 1880, and he had also recently arrived in Vancouver from Seattle. By 1920 he had returned to King County, and in 1930 (and until his death in 1956) he was in San Bernadino County in California.

We weren’t completely sure about Mr Rice’s early history. There’s a Daniel H Rice living in Grand Forks in 1900, running a grocery store with James E Rice. There were three Daniel Rice’s shown in the 1901 Census; one was 26, boarding in Chilliwack, originally from England and working as  CPR Labourer. The other was in Rossland in the Kootenay, aged 30, married to Olive with a one-year old son, Lorne. He was a grocer, and listed as an American. We’re reasonably certain the developer here was the American grocer. The English Daniel Rice was still working as a CPR Labourer when he was identified in the 1911 census – (although then he was aged 42). (There was a third Daniel Rice in British Columbia in 1901, a 29-year-old miner, living in Milford Creek. He unfortunately died that year; his death certificate recording the cause: “a blow from a bear”).

The first time we can find Daniel Rice in Vancouver is in 1905, as an Insurance Agent for New York Life, living at 552 Granville. A year later he’s manager of the Pacific Land Co, and has moved to 1255 Seymour, and in 1908 he’s living on Hornby Street. As well as the Land Co he was still acting as the BC agent for an insurance company; the Western Canada Fire Insurance Company. In 1911 he had offices on Homer Street, and was shown living at 404 Hawks Avenue – so we assume he redeveloped the site of his house with the apartment building.

Although his death notice says he was Irish, our belief that the Census records showing Mr. Rice was an American (and born in Minnesota) is strengthened through the fact that James E Rice was born in Chatfield Minnesota, and was Managing Director of the Western Canada Fire Insurance Co in 1912. He had been a telegraph operator with the CPR, was Chairman of the Finance Committee in Rat Portage at the turn of the century and moved to Calgary in Alberta in 1903. It would be a remarkable coincidence if he wasn’t a grocer in Grand Forks in 1900. He was eight years older than his brother, Daniel, who was 9 in the 1880 US Census, both members of a large family whose parents had emigrated to the US from Ireland.

Mr. Rice was mis-named on the 1911 Census as Daniel Rise, and his children were shown as Lorne and Angila. As in 1901, he’s shown as being American. The Daily World in the same year reported “D H Rice, formerly of the Pacific Land Company, Is located at 401 Homer street.” He owned motor vehicle licence #1881 in 1912, where he was shown registered to 924 Granville Street, which was the address of the Dissette Motor Co. In 1912 he had a partner in D H Rice & Co, Frank J Fitz Simmons. In that same year he built this building and also hired Halloran Construction Co to move and alter a house on Pender Street. He had moved again, this time to 1054 W 10th Av. A year later his partner is no longer associated with his company. In 1915 the Rice Block is listed for the first time, and Daniel H was shown living there, listed as a notary public and as an insurance agent. By 1917 he has given up the other business interests – he’s shown as Dan Rice, managing the furnished rooms as well as running the Thistle Café. His death was recorded in 1932, showing him born in 1870. His widow, Olive, from Ontario, was 80 when she died in 1955.

Our 50 year-old image shows that the building is in better shape today than when it was 54 years old. That’s because it’s just been comprehensively restored as part of the $144 million program where BC Housing in conjunction with several partners is restoring thirteen SRO non-market housing buildings. For the first time in many decades the building has a cornice. It’s modeled on the Woodbine Hotel nearby, as there are no early images of this part of East Hastings. Barry McGinn, the architect responsible for the restoration plan noted “The building’s pronounced cubic massing was originally relieved by an attractive projecting sheet metal cornice, and an articulated storefront complete with its own sheet metal cornice. The removal of the upper cornice, insensitive alterations to the storefront, painting of the red brick masonry and random replacement of the wood double hung sash with aluminum fixed/slider sash has rendered this, originally, attractive building a poor facsimile of its former self.” That’s no longer the case; the restoration has created an attractive anchor for the corner and the basis of another century of residential use, these days managed by Atira Women’s Resource Society.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 772-23


Posted 24 September 2015 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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