Archive for the ‘Sharp and Thompson’ Tag

418 West Georgia Street

418 W Georgia

This 1933 image shows a gas bar and two car sales buildings. Perhaps surprisingly, one is still standing (although perhaps not for too much longer). Already 20 years old when this image was taken, the building at 418 W Georgia dates back to 1913. The developers were the London & British North America Co, associated with several buildings in the city, including the London Building on Seymour Street developed the year before this one. Like other investment businesses in the city they raised their capital in London, with directors based there, but with a locally based board managing the portfolio in Vancouver. The architects were stettlerSharp and Thompson and Bruce Brothers built the $20,000 investment.

Initially the Forshaw-Ford Auto Co moved in, but a year later they had gone. The Ford was for Bert Ford, the managing director and co-owner – they actually sold Studebaker and Cole cars. Hamilton Read, a Vancouver lawyer, was the president of the company and Thomas Forshaw was the sales manager. Bert Ford joined the expeditionary force fighting in Europe, and was killed in action in 1916. That year the Model Service Garage moved into the building. Soon after the garage moved in the owner, William Tulk, reported that there had been a break in and two tires had been stolen.

Stettler cigarsBriefly after that the building was home to the Stettler Cigar Factory – described at the time as ‘the largest cigar factory west of the great lakes’, from 1917 to early in 1919. There’s a picture of the building when it was the cigar factory: titled “Group in front of the Stettler Cigar Factory, Vancouver Branch, Factory No. 10 at 418 West Georgia Street”, the Vancouver World article suggests this was the main (and perhaps only) factory, and Factory No. 10 (although it appeared on the façade) was a rather misleading title. The factory was moved from Stettler, a town in Alberta, and it appears that the company may have received financial support from the BC Government.

Stettler’s main product was the Van Loo cigar, sold at two for a quarter. F D (Fred) Carder ran the company, at least until it became bankrupt in the early 1920s. He arranged for O R Brener to buy the company, and was then hired by Brener as manager at $300 a  month. That deal went sideways when Mr Carder filed for damages, claiming he was also to receive shares in the new company, the Van Loo Cigar Co (we saw their product for sale on West Pender Street in an earlier post). We’re not sure who won the case, but the company factory in the early 1920s was on Water Street.

Knight-Higman Motors moved in after the cigar factory in 1920, and stayed until around 1923; they sold Ford cars. In 1923 Ray Knight bought all the company’s shares and it became the Knight Motor Co. The Daily World reported that “The same department managers and staff will be retained. A feature of the Knight Motors, Ltd., that will appeal to Ford owners is the service station and repair shop that is now in operation. Plenty of modern machinery to take care of Ford work and a flat Knight Higman Motorslabor charge that enables the customer to know In advance exactly what the cost of any repair work will amount to. Mr. Knight came to Vancouver in September, 1919, from Calgary, where he managed the Machin Motors, Ford dealers of that city.” He had initially bought out the interest of a Mr Ferguson on the Ferguson-Higman Motor Co. The October 1923 article claimed that the company had sold over 650 Fords so far in that year.

When the main 1933 image was taken, Stonehouse Motors were here: the painted sign on the wall of the building says they were Ford dealers, while the signs hung on the front say they offered both Oldsmobile – product of General Motors, and Chevrolet sales and service (also a GM brand after 1915). They’d moved in around 1926, managed by S B Stonehouse, and they initially took over the Ford dealership.

In 1945 the company was still known as Stonehouse Motors, but the President and General Manager was S G Collier, and they only sold GM brands. By 1947 the company was known as Collier’s Motors, and they built a new streamline moderne style showroom (now demolished) on the Georgia Street lot to the west of the lane that runs alongside 418.

We recently found a 1978 Archives image that shows the building occupied by the Ace Gallery on the eastern side, and an announcement of the ‘Future Location of Names Restaurant’ in the western side of the building. The space appears to have been vacant again in 1981 In 1985 there’s another image showing the building was vacant again, but a sign on the window said that a restaurant would ‘open soon’. We think that might have been a sushi restaurant. The gallery space was also available. The restaurant use didn’t last very long, and Budget Rent-a-Car were in the building from the 1990s. The building was demolished in 2018 to make way for an unusually shaped office tower.

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-4373, CVA 1376-336 and Trans N12


Posted 22 October 2015 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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110 and 118 Water Street

110 Water St Butler Hotel and Rowntree Company

Here are two buildings with remarkably similar design. That’s because they were designed by the same architects for different developers, about two years apart. The older building, closer to us, was completed in 1911, for Albert DesBrisay at a cost of $60,000 (although there was an initial $2,000 permit for the foundation as well). The other was for Dr Alfred Thompson, next to Winter’s Hotel. It was a rooming hotel, completed in 1913 and also designed by Sharp and Thompson; today it’s known as The Gastown Hotel. The historic statement for the building says it was called the Thompson Rooming House – although we can’t find any evidence of this. When it opened in 1914 it was called the Newton Rooms, and initially it was run by Martina Noten, and in 1921 by Mrs J W Bacher. In 1922 it changed to the Butler Hotel, run by Mrs. Charlotte Withyman.

As far as we can tell Dr Thompson wasn’t a Vancouver resident when it was built. There were Alfred Thompsons living in the city, but none likely to build a $65,000 hotel, and none were doctors. Instead we think he was the Alfred Thompson who was born in 1869 in Nine Mile River, Hants County, Nova Scotia. He was raised on a farm and worked as a clerk in his uncle’s store – but he was educated at a public school by private tutor and graduated from Dalhousie University with a degree of M.D.C.M. in 1898. He went to the Klondike in 1899 where he practiced medicine. In 1902, he was elected to the Yukon Council, and sat three times in the Canadian House of Commons, representing the federal constituency of the Yukon. A Conservative, he first sat in the House between 1904 and 1908, taking the seat away from his main rival, former Yukon Commissioner Frederick Tennyson Congdon. In 1908, Congdon won the seat back, but Thompson won it back in 1911, and was re-elected in 1917, remaining the MP for Yukon until 1921. In the mid 1920s Dr Thompson seems to have moved to Vancouver – there was a physician of that name here from 1925, and the former Yukon MP gave the Confederation Address in North Vancouver in 1927. Dr Thompson died in 1940.

We think Albert Desbrisay (or DesBrisay or Des Brisay, in some records) arrived in the area around 1889. Ralph Nickson, in conversation with Major Matthews, recalled that “Where the Canadian Bank of Commerce now stands at the corner of Granville and Hastings Street, there was a one-storey grocery store” (DesBrisay’s.). We’re not quite sure when that would have been, (and Mr. Nickson’s memory might have been playing him tricks): the corner of Hastings and Granville had a 2-storey building with a third storey turret already completed in 1888. In 1890 it was a grocer’s Berteaux & Co; Alex DesBrisay had a grocery store on the corner of 7th and Westminster (in Mount Pleasant) in 1890 and 1891, and from 1890 he was shown as also having a grocery store in New Westminster. In 1892 Alex was a clerk, and Albert DesBrisay was the owner of the New Westminster store, on Columbia Street.

In the 1891 census Janet Des Brisay was head of the household in New Westminster; born in New Brunswick, with her father born in Scotland. There are five children living with her including Alexander (but not Albert) and two Scottish lodgers, including a schoolteacher, Louise Walker. Janet was shown as being 60, and her youngest child, also Janet, was aged nine – ten years younger than the next daughter, Helena, who was a bookkeeper in a grocery. Alexander was listed as a ‘retail dealer in groceries’, and so was Percy, another son. If we go back to 1881 the family were still in New Brunswick; Solomon Des Brisay was head of the household aged 34, Janet was aged 50, and there were nine others in the family including two called Mary, Albert, Alexander and Merrill Des Brisay. Janet had been born in Miramichi, New Brunswick, and married Alexander DesBrisay in 1855. They had nine children before he died in 1873, in Dalhousie, N.B., from small-pox, aged 45.

Albert Des Brisay was the third child, born in 1859 in New Brunswick, married Margaret Paterson, and they had at least four sons (Albert G, Alexander C, Merrill and Harold A), and a daughter, Margaret. His son Alexander was born in Winnipeg in 1890, so that’s where we suspect the family were in the 1891 census. Harold was born in 1893 in New Westminster.

M DesBrisay & Co, manufacturer’s agents who initially operated from Cambie and Water were in the city on and off from 1900 to 1910, identified in the street directory as being initially based in Mission. Merrill DesBrisay (who had also operated in Nelson) lived in the city in West End from the early 1900s. Solomon Desbrisay arrived in 1903, selling clothing on Granville Street. In 1904 Alexander Desbrisay opened a grocer’s on Granville Street in 1904. His mother, listed in the street directory as Jeanette, lived on Davie (identified as also being the widow of Alexander C Des Brisay). In 1908 Alex Des Brisay was in partnership with Henry Owens as a commissioners agent, Merrill was president of the Unique Canning Co, and Solomon was still running his clothing store. Percy Des Brisay was working as a cruiser for the Rat Portage Lumber Co. In 1910 there were even more DesBrisays in the city: two Alberts (one in a rooming house on Westminster Avenue, the other, Albert G des Brisay in partnership with Alex as A & A Des Brisay, commissioners agents). Alex still had his partnership with Henry Owens, and both businesses were shown located at the same address on East Cordova. Albert had obviously arrived back in town as a successful businessman: he commissioned Sharp and Thompson to design a Shaughnessy Mansion in 1910, and later had a $13,000 house designed by Downing & Kayll in Point Grey in 1923.

The Des Brisay building had a rooming house upstairs from the date it was completed in 1914. They were initially called The Colonial Rooms – the name they still have today. The Des Brisay business was based here, but so too was Beaver Transfer and Hamill Bros. In 1915 the Great Western Telegraph Co shared the commercial part of the building with the Des Brisay company, along with Golden West Baking powder. The Des Brisay company finally disappeared from the building in the mid 1920s, although the Colonial Rooms were still operating. Janet (or Jeanette) DesBrisay died in Vancouver in 1914 (aged 83), and Albert in Penticton in 1932.

In 1942 when this Vancouver Public library picture was taken, Donaldson & Co (manufacturer’s agents) were operating in the commercial space under the Butler Hotel at 110 Water Street, as well as Gow Yuen and Rowntree & Co, wholesale confectionery. At 118 Canadian Transfer were in the commercial space along with Fire Master Fire Extinguishers, while the Colonial Rooms were upstairs at 122 Water St.


Seymour Street – 500 block east side (2)

500 block Seymour 1937

We saw a view of some of these buildings in our last post, in 1922. Here they are in 1937: Western Music operated the main floor of the tall building on the right (developed by Leon Melekov) and upstairs the Rexmere Rooms were still open.  We can find the names of the tenants, but not what all of them did for work. One was a chauffeur; there was a carpenter, a shoe shiner, a porter for the CPR, a longshoreman and a baker’s helper. James Minns, the owner of Olsen’s signs lived here with his wife, Louise. Elmer Steiner ran the Rooms, lived there with his wife Alice, and there was another Alice Steiner also living in the building (presumably a relative). The BC Music Festival shared the main floor for their offices.

We have drawn a blank on the developer or designed of the two-storey building next door. The 1922 image showed an old house on the site, so it’s more recent than that. There was a fire in 1959 that gutted much of the property, and it was subsequently rebuilt at the same scale as the building seen here. For years it was home to a&b sound, with Sam the Record Man in the Western Music Building. In 1937 it was Gehrke’s Ltd, who were printers and stationers, and operated The Pen Shop.

Down the hill, there was a permit for a 4-storey building costing $115,000 designed by Parr and Fee for Thomas Fee in 1910. That was never built; instead, a year later, a more modest single storey building was permitted for a restaurant, designed by Parr and Fee for E Farr, costing $20,000, which we think was opened as The Sussex Cafe. In 1937 McLennan, McFeely & Prior occupied the building with their hardware store. Mr Farr seems to have been a CPR employee; the only E Farr listed in the street directory was Edward Farr who lived on Burrard Street and was a masonry inspector for the railway company. He was also the only E Farr in the census in 1911: or rather, there was another but he was also called Edward and he was Mr. Farr’s son (still living at home, a stenographer with the White Pass and Yukon Route). His daughter, Alice Isabell was at home as well, aged 18. Edward senior was born in Ontario, but his children had been born in BC. Ten years earlier Mr Farr’s wife, Christina was recorded (12 years younger than her husband), and the children were recorded as Eddie, aged 12 and Alice aged 7. Christina was born in Scotland and had arrived in Canada in 1885, and died in 1907.

The three storey building (still standing almost unaltered today) was designed by Sharp and Thompson for Robert Kerr, and completed in 1910. In 1937 it was occupied by Clarke and Stuart as a printers: we’ve seen that company before in other premises, on West Cordova and their earlier store further east.

Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives Str N138


Granville Street – 1100 block east side 1

1100 block Granville

This image was taken just over 30 years ago, but there have been some big changes on the block over the years since 1981. The concrete monolith of a hotel is still at the end of the block. The Chateau Granville was only four years old in the original picture, designed by Hamilton Doyle Architects. Next door the 3-storey rooming house at 1134 Granville has been here since 1910. According to the permit it was built by J Hoffmeister for J Clomes (who claimed to design it) at a cost of $18,000. Actually it was John Clowes, who was living in Richmond in 1911, but in Vancouver in 1901. He was listed in the 1911 census as a carpenter, born in Quebec in 1849. He had lived at the address where the building was constructed from as far back as the early 1890s, in the city from the late 1880s, and was probably the John Clowes who died in Burnaby in 1922.

In 1981 there was a vacant site to the south of the Clowes Building, and it stayed that way for nearly 30 years. There had been buildings there, including a four storey $21,000 building designed by Townsend & Townsend in 1912, but by 1981 they had been cleared away. In 2013 ‘The Standard’ was completed here, the first market rental building completed under the City of Vancouver’s rental incentive program.

To the south is a 3-storey building – we haven’t been able to identify either a date or an architect, although it wasn’t there in 1920, when it was a 2-storey building. In 1981 (and today) it’s part of the adjacent hotel, in 1981 the Blackstone, today the Howard Johnson Downtown. When it was built it was the Hotel Martinique, (and in the 1980s the Hotel California) and it cost Charles Fee $100,000 to build. He probably wasn’t overcharged for the plans; his brother Thomas was half of the Parr and Fee partnership who designed it in 1911.

On the corner of Davie was a classic-with-a-touch-of-art-deco Bank of Nova Scotia, designed by Sharp & Thompson in 1930. It was finally considered an unwanted branch 70 years later, and in 2001 Architectura’s design for The Dance Centre (with input from Arthur Erickson) saw the Granville façade retained on the contemporary concrete and glass box on Davie.

Image source : City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-E03.23A


Posted 22 September 2014 by ChangingCity in Altered, Downtown, Still Standing

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1200 block Homer Street (4)

1200 block Homer 3

The main building in this picture is identified by the City Archives as Milne and Middleton’s. Actually that was different building – one that’s still standing today. This building is a late addition to Yaletown; it was built in 1948, and was first occupied in 1950 by R E Johnson and Co who dealt in plumbing and heating supplies. In this 1981 image there’s a public stenographer and a Mailing Services company advertising their presence. The building that replaced it in 2002 was technically a conversion, although clearly the Homer Street façade is almost completely rebuilt. It’s part of Rafii Architecture’s ‘Alda’ project that includes the new-build part to the south as well.

To the north was another site that went undeveloped until 1998 when ‘The Grafton’ was completed (although at least one realtor would have you believe it’s a conversion). Designed by Linda Baker, it contains 27 strata residential units over office and retail.

Next door is genuine conversion of a warehouse to residential uses, known as ‘The Ellison’. It was originally built for George Baker in 1929 and designed by Sharp and Thompson. We assume it’s the same George Baker who was a builder and who had been involved in building much of the area including both the Gray Block up the street and 1028 Hamilton Street. Howard Bingham Hill designed the 27 unit conversion and addition, completed in 2007 by the Holborn Group. For many years it was the home of the Ellison Mill and Elevator Co, although by 1950 it was multi-tenanted including National Carbon Batteries, Memba Pectin Co, Independent Biscuits, A J Sinclair’s upholstery supplies and J E Stark food distributors.

We featured the two buildings at the end of the block (including the Gray Block) in a post we wrote last year.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-E13.18


Keefer Street – 100 block


The tallest buildings that were on the 100 block of Keefer Street in the 1960s are still there today. The three storey building next to an old frame dwelling was over 50 years old in the original picture and is now over 100 years old. It was built by the Sam Kee Company in 1912 designed by Kennerley Bryan, and built by R P Forshaw at a cost of $16,000. Initially it was given a permit as apartments/rooms. Sam Kee was essentially a fictional character, the merchant who ran the company was Chang Toy. Today the building houses office space, a change that occurred many years ago as Sam Kee were running their business from here in the 1950s.

Further down the street and slightly older is the four storey $18,000 building built by the Vancouver Gas Co and designed by “Sharpe and Thompson” in 1910 (according to the permit – actually they were Sharp and Thompson). It was used as a warehouse in conjunction with the industrial gas plant built nearby, including storage of equipment. A few years ago it was extensively restored with an additional floor added on the roof. It now houses residential units, although they’re available as short-stay rental, and a new bar/restaurant called The Keefer.

In between is a two storey building that was built at some point after 1912; (we haven’t been able to tell exactly when), and which replaced an earlier brick building designed in 1901 by T E Julian for Hip Tuck Lung Co, one of Chinatown’s legal opium processing companies. It was probably built as stables as by 1914 McFarland & Co, blacksmiths were at this location, and by 1920 two more blacksmiths, Alex Foulds and John MacRitchie were here. From the mid 1920s into the 1940s a horse dealer, Ernest Atkinson, used these premises.

Beyond the Gas Company building Sam Kee and Kee Ling developed a $25,000 office/store designed by Vancouver’s only Chinese architect, W H Chow, in 1914. That’s probably the same building in the 1960s picture, although today the site sits vacant.

The two biggest changes are the revision of the road system to the west (and the addition of street trees, which almost hide the buildings in spring and summer), and the replacement of the Keefer diversion and Marshall Wells warehouses with the Sun Yat Sen Garden, with the International Village residential towers behind.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-474


Dodson Hotel – East Hastings Street

Dodson and E Hastings

The building on the left hand side of this picture is the end of the Templeton Block that we already featured here. Two doors to the east is the 5-storey Dodson Hotel. Unusually the building was indeed built by Mr Dodson and his name is still associated with it. Joseph Dodson arrived in Vancouver around 1889 and he was listed as a labourer in 1890, living on Powell Street. A year later he appears on the 1891 Census as a butcher, aged 47 with his wife, Jane and their four children including 18 year old Mary Jane, and Joseph who was 13. Joseph and Jane had lived in Barrow in Furness in Lancashire – that’s where Mary Jane was christened and where they were in the 1881 English Census. The 1911 Census suggests Mary Jane had arrived in 1891, so her father may have been getting established before the rest of the family arrived.

By 1894 Joseph had set up the Old England Bakery at 17-19 East Hastings – the same location that he later built the hotel and bakery we can see in this 1978 picture (and that’s still there today). In 1903 he had some work carried out to an earlier bakery on the site designed by T E Julian.

In the 1901 Census all four children were still living at home. The new bakery and rooming house was designed by Sharp & Thompson in 1909 costing $55,000. Dodson opened a new bakery in the new building and a couple of years later George Peters was running the Dodson Rooms upstairs. In 1909 August Kolle appears as a baker at the Dodson Bakery, joining both Joseph Dodson senior and junior – one a baker and the other a pastry chef at the bakery. It looks as if at least one of Joseph’s other sons, Robert, was a clerk in the business. In 1910 Joseph senior had retired and Joseph and August are joint proprietors in the business. August had American citizenship but was born in Germany, arriving in Canada in 1899 (according to the 1911 Census).

We don’t know exactly when – but August Kolle married Mary Jane Dodson some time before 1905. In 1911 they have three children, Robert, Mary and Wilhelm (August’s middle name). There’s no sign of them in the city before the 1909 Street Directory, and their two older children were born in the US in 1905 and 1906, so presumably that’s where Mary and August were living before returning to join her father.

Next door, the smaller two-storey building between the Templeton and the Dodson with the intact cornice was built in 1914. The permit refers to Mrs Cole Dawson, who had the Gray Brothers design the $11,000 project built by D G Gray. Mrs Cole Dawson had the Grey brothers repair a house in 1902, carried out repairs to the house that preceded the new Dodson Hotel in 1903 and Mrs C Dawson carried out repairs to a Main Street house in 1911.

We’re not at all sure who Mrs Cole Dawson is. There’s nobody of that name in the city directories or any census. Logically it’s a misprint for Kolle Dodson – and indeed, the family used the anglicised spelling of Cole for a while during the sensitive period leading up to World War One. Throughout 1913 there are newspaper references to a 6 storey building to be built by Mrs Cole Dawson on East Hastings, designed by J Dawson. John Dawson was an architect who seems to have had partnerships with two different partners, as Campbell and Dawson from 1910 to 1916 and with William Pentecost around 1911 and 1912. (Campbell and Dawson designed the Cobalt Hotel in 1913). We’re pretty certain that biographical references that suggest he’s John Wilding Dawson, who designed the City Market in 1891 are wrong. That’s because John Wilding Dawson left Canada for Mauritius and died there in 1914. We think he was more likely to be the same John Dawson who was a contractor in 1910. it’s likely that the plans for the 6 storey building never materialised as the economy went into a nosedive and the more modest Grey Brothers building was built instead.

We know Joseph Dodson died in his 80s in 1928, five years after his wife. August Kolle died in 1941, and Mary a year later. Today the Dodson is a privately owned Single Room Occupancy residence. Owned by The Dodson Foundation, the Community Builders Group operate the building. Dodson tenants, staff and volunteers have adopted a Whole Life Housing approach to wellness which features: affordable rent; assistance with addictions and medical issues; a breakfast and community kitchen program; housekeeping services; employment services; free laundry; and, an advanced pest control and room maintenance program.