Archive for the ‘S B Birds’ Tag

Afton Hotel, 249 East Hastings Street

This is yet another 1912 Hotel that became an East Hastings rooming house. However, for a while it wasn’t in residential use. In 1913 it showed up in the street directory as ‘new building’. A year later Vancouver postal substation B was on the street level, and a variety of Canadian government offices located on the upper floors, including Agriculture, Fisheries, the Inspector of Weights and Measures and the BC Hydrographic Survey. That arrangement lasted just two years. By 1919 all the offices, and the Post Office had moved a few doors to the west to the McArthur and Harper Building on the corner of Main Street – the Post Office moving first, in 1918. This building was vacant, and in 1920 reopened as the Afton Rooms, run by J A McMaster, with A Theodore’s confectionery store on the main floor.

The building was designed by A J Bird, and his client was R B Hamilton. He’s proven remarkably mysterious, despite a few hints. Another permit for someone with the same name, for a new building on Main Street, identified him as ‘R B Hamilton of South Vancouver P.O.’ As this was developed as a post office, it seems very likely that he’s the same person. However, diligent searching of directories and other historical records hasn’t found any obvious candidates, so Mr. Hamilton remains an enigma. Equally frustratingly, while The Dominion Government got the permits to create the post office, the subsequent 1919 permit to alter the premises (presumably to residential use) was to N E Hamilton, and there’s no obvious candidate with those initials either.

The Ovaltine Café opened in 1942 and has a fabulous neon sign (with a distinctive arrow), made by Wallace Neon in 1948. (The name over the door dates back to 1943). It’s a rare remaining fragment of Vancouver’s ‘golden age’ of neon, when there was reportedly more neon in Vancouver than anywhere in the world, except for Shanghai.

The interior of the café has survived intact, and includes a coffee counter, booths, mirrors and varnished woodwork. The decision taken many years ago  to plant a street tree right outside the building means that for half the year the sign is obscured. Wong Kee Look first operated the café, which was recently named one of the world’s 50 best cafes in a London newspaper, and has featured in dozens of TV shows and movies from Da Vinci’s Inquest to ‘I Robot’.

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Posted July 30, 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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East Georgia Street – 200 block, north side

This 1960s image by W E Graham shows very little change in this part of Chinatown over sixty years. On the right hand edge of the picture are the Arno Rooms. Completed in 1912, they were designed by E E Blackmore and S B Birds for Leon Way Co. When they opened in 1913 they were called the International Rooms, but they closed within a year, and didn’t reopen again until 1916 when they were called the Sunnyside Rooms. Two of the stores were vacant that year, but a Chinese grocer, Wing Sun Co occupied the corner. There’s no contemporary sign of a ‘Leon Way’ in any document other than the Development Permit, and it’s possible that it was a Chinese name that was recorded by the clerk as he heard it.

Next door is 271 E Georgia, which dates back to 1905. There’s the original house structure set back behind the store front. The next two-storey buildings were built in 1938 and 1936. The three storey building to the west of these was developed by A Urquhart in 1911, and designed by Stroud & Keith. It cost $20,000, and Allan Urquhart was also listed as the builder. He had added to a house further down the street to the west as early as 1903, and in 1909 was in partnership with Roderick McLellan in a liquor wholesaling business. There were apparently three Urquhart brothers, all born in Ontario. Hugh, John and Allan were in partnership from around 1891 to 1911. In 1912 the main floor was a Chinese grocer’s Kwong Chong Co, with the Urquhart rooms upstairs.

Stuart & White designed the four storey building for someone recorded on the building permit as M K Nigore. The building cost $30,000 and was built by Dominion Construction Company, also in 1911. The street directory identifies this as the home to the Japan Rice Mill, owned and operated by K Negoro. There were two people with that name in the city in 1901, both arrived from Japan, one in 1898 and the other in 1911. As neither seem to have been identified in the 1911 census (at least not with that spelling), we don’t know whether it was either of them, and if so which one ran the Rice Mill. There’s a 1906 advertisement for the Rice Mill located on the opposite side of this block; the business got its rice from the Sam Kee Company’s wholesale rice importing business.

Beyond that, one of the oldest houses on the block has recently been redeveloped. 245 East Georgia was replaced with a nine storey rental building in 2018. Beyond it, in 2002 the Lore Krill Co-op replaced a warehouse designed by E E Blackmore in 1910 for T T Wallace, and home to Ah Mew’s produce business

Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1135-34

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Posted February 24, 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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Carrall Street – 400 block

None of the three buildings shown in this image (probably dating to early 1906) are still standing today. Indeed, we don’t think any of them lasted more than 10 years. We think the original brick building closest to us only stayed up for eight years, and was built in 1903. We’re pretty certain it was designed by W T Whiteway for Sam Kee, the company run by Chang Toy, described as ‘Brick & stone building’ and according to the permit, costing $12,000. The Sam Kee name can be seen on the building, and this is where the company was based for a while. Kwong Fat Yuen Co also had their name on the building; for a short while they operated as labour suppliers, and may have been related to a company of the same name in Shanghai.

The Daily World of June 19, 1903, confirms the building’s planning – with either a typo or price inflation: “Chinatown’s progress; A permit was taken out this morning for a building adjoining the tramway company’s property of Carrall Street for a Chinese firm. Mr. W. T. Whiteway is the architect. The building is to be two stories high and to be built of brick and stone. The cost is to be $13,000”. The building had a third storey added around 1907, but was demolished around 1910 and replaced by the BC Electric Railway Co’s building designed by W M Somervell, completed in 1911. That structure, still standing today as offices and a retail showroom, cost $350,000 and was built by McDonald and Wilson. No doubt Chang Toy made sure he was appropriately compensated for selling his property.

Beyond it to the south was the Chinese Methodist Mission fronting Pender Street. It was designed by Parr and Fee in 1899, and replaced only seven years later (soon after this picture) by the Chinese Freemasons Building constructed in 1906, for the Chee Kung Tong – a ‘secret society’ founded in the middle of the 19th Century by Chinese working in the BC gold fields. The permit, in summer 1906 was to Sing Sam, for a $20,000 3-storey brick and stone structure for stores & warehouse. Dr. Sun Yat Sen is reported to have stayed in the building, probably in 1911, while raising funds for his revolutionary Kuomintang party during his period of exile from China. It appears that the building may also have been mortgaged by the Tong in 1911 to support the revolution. In 1920 the organization changed their name to the Chinese Freemasons, although they are not associated with traditional freemasonry.

The original architect has not been identified; it could have been W T Whiteway who had several commissions in Chinatown. Alterations to the restaurant in the building costing $1,000 were designed by architect S B Birds in 1913; the owner was still Sing Sam. There was also a branch of the Bank of Vancouver on the ground floor. We don’t know a lot about Sam Sing, but we know he was wealthy enough to guarantee the $500 head tax for Fung Ying Quoy, and that he is buried in Mountain View Cemetery. He ran a store in the East Hotel (also designed by Samuel Birds), and in 1907 his business was based at 1 Canton Street, the address for which he received $335 in compensation for damage after that year’s anti-Asian riot.

The building was home to the Pekin Chop Suey House, whose slogan can still be seen today. The facades are all that remain of the original building; they were retained when the rest of the building was demolished in 1975, after a fire, and it was remodeled again in 2006 with architect Joe Wai restoring some of the lost heritage elements, and converting the upper floors to residential use.

Across Pender street was another Sam Kee property. We don’t know when he built this one, or who designed it, but it was 2 storeys, and already shows up on the 1901 insurance map – which was probably when it was built as before that the street directory suggests it was Cleeve Canning & Cold Storage Co and Bradbury & Brown’s stone cutting yard. This building lasted about 10 years, but in 1910 the city expropriated most of the land for road widening, leaving the company with a ‘useless’ (or so the City thought) six foot sliver. Chang Toy wasn’t too hard done by; the Sam Kee firm instructed its lawyer (W A Macdonald K C) to start negotiations for compensation of $70,000 to reach the desired value of $62,000. Then Bryan and Gillam were hired to design the $8,000 steel framed building that still stands there today on the shallow lot, completed in 1913, which added additional space under the sidewalk to squeeze in a barber’s store and bath house – but no secret tunnels.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 677-522

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500 block Richards Street – west side (1)

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We noted in an earlier post that the building on the corner with Dunsmuir (on the left of the picture) may not be purely a 1988 structure. This 1974 image shows that the Bible Society building shared similar dimensions, but looking more closely we think the façade at least would require a complete reconstruction to change the windows as much as they were. Next door the BC Stamp works is almost identical over the 40+ years. The building is shown as having been completed in 1926, although underneath is an earlier house. In 1896 it housed Mrs. S McDonald, Alex Wilson, William Taylor,  Mr. Bradley, Mr. Simpson and Dr. J A Mills, who had his office next door on the corner of Dunsmuir, and who built a house there in 1896. Mrs McDonald continues to be associated with the address for several years, although the street directory doesn’t always list anyone else, suggesting she was running a rooming house.

In 1901 Mrs. Sarah McDonald and Dr. J A Mills are listed here, but at separate addresses in the same building, and by 1903 Dr. Mills has moved to the corner property, and William McDonald a teamster has moved to 579 Richards and Sarah McDonald, widow, is shown at 581 Richards running a boarding house. She was shown running it in the 1901 census, aged 41, from Ontario, and with six male lodgers including a carpenter, a machinist and a CPR ticket clerk, and two female guests; Hilda Thompson, a 35-year-old chamber maid from Norway and Annie Maslin from BC, who was aged 30 and a Dining Room Girl.

S Astell had the house rebuilt in 1911 when the permit sought to have the house lifted and altered. This was Ontario-born contractor Sebastian Astell, who lived with his brother, wife, five daughters and one son on West Pender. Once completed, Hunter and Henderson, decorators occupied the basement and there were three separate suites; one was vacant, A Kjos was in another and Mrs. Nina H Perine was at the back.

These days it’s run as the Urban Hideaway Guesthouse, an apparently cash-only cross between a b&b and a hostel (with prices closer to b&b than hostel) with seven guest rooms. The BC Stampworks were in the building long before our 1974 image. The earliest we can find them under that name at this address is 1930 – which must make them one of the longest-running continuous business locations in the city. The company goes back to 1909, and as the previous occupants of the premises were Houghton & Smith Ltd, who also manufactured rubber stamps and other marking devices, that continuity is even longer. They had moved in only a couple of years earlier, moving from West Pender, and replacing Love & Co, who were auctioneers.

The more ornate four storey building on the right was developed by Captain Henry Pybus, built by the Provincial Construction Co, cost $30,000 in 1911, and was designed by S B Birds. We’ve seen another of Captain Pybus’s investments on West Pender Street. A Master Mariner, born in South Africa, in Vancouver he commanded all three of the CPR ‘Empress’ line ships. He was married to Florence, and had two children, Ann and Mary, both of who married into the Bell-Irving family. He retired in 1911, and lived in Vancouver until his death in 1938.

The date of construction suggests that Captain Pybus turned his savings into real estate on his retirement. He also became very active in the Art, Historical, and Scientific Association of Vancouver, where he was President from 1921 to 1927. The 1912 insurance map references the building as the Dunsmuir Rooms, although there’s no entry in the street directory until 1914 when Sarah L Shaw was running the establishment. In 1918 an advertisement in the Daily World offered “up-to-date rooms at $2 a week and up”. Today it’s the Hotel St Clair, although it’s more of a hostel with shared bathrooms, and very reasonable hostel rates for the rooms. (The hostel’s website will tell you “It was the first concrete building in Vancouver”. It wasn’t; the four storey building is wood frame and the front facade is clad in concrete that has been cast to appear like stone). A 1996 proposal to redevelop as a larger rooming house with en suite bathrooms behind the preserved façade was never pursued.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 778-379

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Posted November 14, 2016 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. 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, “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”.

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

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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 1960s 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 from 1902. 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).

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Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 800-452 and CVA 779-W01.34

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Posted December 10, 2015 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone, Still Standing

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East Hotel – Gore and Pender

East Hotel

The East Hotel started life as the Hotel Reco in 1912. The architect was S B Birds, who it is fair to say is not known for his use of an abundance of decoration on the buildings he designed. The owner was Lee Kee, a Chinese merchant who headed the Lee Yuen (or Lee Yune) Company, one of the more affluent businesses in Chinatown, and the hotel was run by Mrs Margaret L Kennedy. Mrs Kennedy had previously run the Russell Rooms on East Pender and in 1911 was living there with her three sons and her sister, Lily Mathews who worked as a waitress in a hotel. The sisters were born in Ontario, as was her 18 year old son, Earle. Her middle son, John, was born in Alberta 15 years earlier, and her 12 year old, Cyril, was born in BC. The hotel was built almost exactly at the same time as the Hotel Stratford across the street.

In the years before the hotel was built Lee Yune operated an opium factory on Market Alley, and were one of the two opium companies compensated for damages in the 1908 riot. (Their letterhead described their company as ‘Manufacturers of the Celebrated “E Y” Brand Opium). The company also imported and exported goods, and were involved in labour contracting. They were one of the four most successful businesses in Chinatown. Once McKenzie King successfully closed the opium manufacturing operation Lee Kee continued in business, including developing this $65,000 building.

There were various businesses on the ground floor including the H Wong Agencies; the upper floors provided housing (as it still does today). Sing Sam ran a store in the building, hiring Braunton and Leibert to design the store in 1913, and in 1915 another permit for repairs said the owner was called O’Connor and Sam Sing was the tenant. In 1915 one of the building’s tenants was the Halibut Fisherman’s Union, and in the 1920s the same location was the home to the Chinese Methodist Kindergarten. In 1930 the Little Rose Confectionery store was run by Gow Gooey and Miss L Hong. In 1939 the name of the hotel changes to the Hotel East and Jack Matsui was manager. (Japanese businesses had been in the building for several years before this). In 1950 the name sequence had switched to East Hotel as it is today, and Chong N Low was in charge. Our 1972 picture shows the building is much as today – except today the street trees hide the building.

Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-452

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