Archive for the ‘Sharp Thompson Berwick Pratt’ Tag

Central School – West Pender Street

This was the most prominent school building in the central part of the city, when it was built in 1889. It was an impressive structure for a city that was only three years old. Thomas Hooper won the contract to design the building, (with Balston Kenway, the supervising architect for the Provincial government) seen here in 1902. In 1892 the High School was built on Dunsmuir Street, at the back of the same lot. It can be seen in the background, on the right.

Central School was the first masonry built school, and opened in 1890. The principal, Alex Robinson noted in 1891 the difficulties of running a school with untrained teachers. “An earnest desire to promote the advancement of the pupils was noticeable in the work of all the teachers, and any cases of failure that may have occurred in the teaching of the particular branches are to be ascribed rather to inexperience than to a lack of enthusiasm. A Provincial Normal School is urgently required. As matters stand at present, to place over divisions containing 75 pupils and upwards, young teachers fresh from our High Schools, whose knowledge of method has been acquired by the reading of some text-book on the subject, is manifestly unfair both to the pupils and teachers themselves.” A ‘Normal School is one where teachers were trained in the ‘norms’, but it would be 10 years before one was built in Vancouver.

The School closed in 1946, and was demolished in 1948 to make way for the first Vancouver Vocational Institute building. This was a novel enterprise, initiated by the School Board, and designed by Sharp & Thompson, Berwick Pratt. There was significant unemployment during the depression, and many men went untrained straight to the war. There were many returning veterans needing training for peace time employment, and high school graduates needed specific pre-employment training. The Vocational Institute (and today, Vancouver Community College) offered courses to train for many trades that traditionally required a three or four year apprenticeship – which weren’t available in sufficient numbers.

The high cost of the building (two million dollars) and its large equipment content, meant an intensive utilization of the facility was planned from the first day. It was used in the evening for part-time apprenticeship and vocational upgrade courses as well as the full-time day programs.

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives Sch P27 and Vancouver School Board.



Posted 3 March 2022 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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1590 Powell Street

The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada published a Journal for 50 years from the 1920s. It was heavily eastern-centric, mostly featuring buildings in Toronto and Montreal, but very occasionally it featured western buildings. For some inexplicable reason a 1946 edition of the Journal featured an architect’s sketch of the new Powell Street premises of Alliance Ware, a national supplier of plumbing and bathroom suites. The building was designed that year, and completed in 1947 – there’s a slightly out of focus Archives image of the building from that year. It was a fairly early work of Sharp, Thompson, Berwick and Pratt. A year after the building was built, Crane Co, another US based plumbing supplies company took over the business, but it remained as a separate but integrated part of the new, larger entity.

Vancouver these days isn’t an industrial city, but in 1946 this was a new plant to make bathtubs, kitchen sinks and other porcelain-on-steel products. The factory was an early example of a green building – a manager explained in 1958 “The excess heat from the furnaces for making bathtubs is enough to heat our Powell Street plant”. (That year Crane opened a large new vitreous pottery factory in Coquitlam). When it opened, the Journal of Commerce published further details, and the same illustration. The company built a powerhouse on Franklin Street, and the building has a steel frame with concrete block walls, built by Armstrong and Monteith Construction. Allied were an arm of Dominion Rustproofing, whose rustproofing operations moved from here to West 1st Avenue to accommodate the new building.

Today the building has been changed relatively little, and is the warehouse and headquarters of Relaxus, who supply massage equipment, essential oils and related products throughout North America. Currently PPE has become an important and expanding part of the company’s business.

The building to the west, 1516 Powell, was built here in 1912, designed by Townsend & Townsend for S Flack, and costing $50,000 to build. By 1921 the rooming house was owned by Credit Foncier. Samuel Flack was manager of Flack Estate and Investments, from Ontario, born in 1866, and the earliest we find him in Vancouver is in the 1891 census, when he was a streetcar conductor. Samuel died in 1928, and his death notice says his father was John Flack and his mother Ellen Fallis. He married Ida McGillvray, who was ten years younger in 1901 in Ontario. When Samuel died in 1928 he was described as “pioneer real estate broker of this city”. The couple had two sons, Chauncey and Cyril, and two daughters, Kathleen and Eleanor. Ida was 90 when she died in 1964.

As far as we can tell, while Mr. Flack had his offices in the Flack Block, that was a convenient location for him, but he was not a relative of Thomas Flack who was a successful English-born miner, who had developed the building in 1899. The rooming house opened before 1914 when it was called Manvers Lodge, run by D Pettigrew, offering ‘completely furnished suites’. By 1930 it had become the Terminal Hotel, and then the Wicklow Rooms by 1940. In 1978 it finally got a $200,000 makeover, reported in the Vancouver Sun in depth. “John Brown, a 71-year-old retired welder who lived at the Wicklow on and off for about 11 years before the renovations and who moved back in last week after the renovations were completed, stirred a pot of home-made stew. “Cockroaches were just about packing it away,” he said. “There was no warm water and only a dribble of cold water. Sometimes the heater would go and there would be no heat.” Brown, who lives on a $200-a-month pension, now pays $95 each month for a warm, comfortable sleeping room with wall-to-wall carpets, a small refrigerator, a bed, chairs and a kitchen table. It’s now named ‘The Flint’ and run by Atira Housing Society. Jesse P Flint owned and ran the adjacent rooming house to the west at 1514 Powell, and somehow his name has mistakenly got attached to this building.


Posted 26 November 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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West Georgia and Broughton Street

This view westwards was taken by Ernie Reksten in 1965, mid-block in the 1400 block, looking at the buildings on the south side of West Georgia. On the far side of Broughton is the Georgian Towers hotel, dating back to 1955. Designed by Sharp, Thompson, Berwick and Pratt, and built by Marwell Construction, it replaced houses that were first developed on the site, overlooking Burrard’s Inlet. The tower started life in 1955 as a rental apartment building before being converted to a hotel in 1958. In the late 1970s it became apartments once again, and the adjacent parking lot closer to us saw a strata tower developed, ‘The George’, completed in 2002. Plans have recently been submitted to replace the seismically challenged 1955 building with a 49 storey tower that will replace the 162 rental units on the lower floors and add an additional 193 strata units.

Closer to us, on the east side of Broughton were the ‘Majestic Apartments’, developed around 1908, and designed by H B Watson. He was hired by contractor and investor J J Dissette. It was a classy building in its earlier days; one of its first tenants was Thomas Spencer, son of retail impresario David Spencer, and manager of the family’s Hastings Street store. A couple of years later Archie Barnes Martin, the managing director of Pacific Mills was in Number 5, and in the mid 1920s Samuel Emanuels, an auctioneer, notary public and for a while the Brazilian vice-consul lived in Number 6.

By the mid 1950s there were still 15 tenants living in the apartments, including Eileen Burden, secretary at Pemberton Insurance, Robert Adamson, an immigration officer, Ronald Woods, a manager with the Hudson’s Bay Company, who shared a suite with Frederick Woods, janitor with radio station CBUT and his wife Kathleen, proprietor of Kay’s Fabrics. John Whelan, a waiter at the Drake Hotel beer parlour was in Number 4, and Marion Watmough, a bookkeeper with BC Equipment at Number 11. There were several other retired and widowed tenants, Constance Lobeck who operated the elevator at the Hotel Vancouver and George Luchuk, director of the Arcade Whist Club.

The entire block was redeveloped in 1999 with a Chinese backed pair of condos, designed by IBI, called ‘The Lions’. On the part of the site where the Majestic stood, the project includes a small commercial component, with recessed retail stores along West Georgia.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 2010-006.022



Vancouver Community College – Dunsmuir Street

The Downtown campus of the Vancouver Community College started life as the Vancouver Vocational Institute, designed by a leading local architectural firm of the day, Sharp Thompson Berwick and Pratt. It was one of the earliest examples of the International Style in Vancouver, and the Pender Street façade is still looking much as when Bob Berwick designed the two million dollar building in 1948. On this side of the block, Douglas P Faulkner was the VSB’s supervising architect when a significant expansion of the Vocational Institute took place in 1961.

Here on Dunsmuir Street the façade of the building is quite different from our 1974 ‘before’ image. A 1983 expansion added a new larger structure on the corner with Cambie, and reclad the street wall with reflective glazing. Today the whole building is a heritage structure, although it’s unlikely that redevelopment of this later and heavily altered element would raise many objections.

This part of the Community College was built on the site of the 1892 High School, which in turn was re-purposed as the city’s Art School in the 1930s.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 778-68


YWCA – Burrard and Dunsmuir (2)

We saw an earlier version of a YWCA building in this location in an earlier post. This later building was much bigger; and didn’t really last very long. We think our picture dates from the late 1970s or possibly early ’80s. The low-rise part of the building here dated back to 1951 and was designed by Sharp, Thompson, Berwick, Pratt, while the residential tower was added over a podium with a pool and gym, designed by Vladimir Plavsic & Associates and completed in 1969. In 1995 there was replacement YWCA hotel on Beatty Street, and a new YWCA (designed in-house by Bentall’s Charles Bentall Architects) on Hornby Street. Two years later the old YWCA building seen here was imploded.

After a few years delay the site became part of Bentall Five, a new office tower built in two phases – the top 11 floors were completed in 2007, three years after the first 22 (when sufficient tenants had been found to make the additional space a viable scheme). To enable the phased construction to occur, a staging area had to be retained, and that’s where Musson Cattell Mackey’s Cactus Club Café was built once their design for the office tower was complete.


Posted 28 August 2017 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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Bank of Ottawa – West Hastings Street

Here’s the Bank of Ottawa on the corner of Seymour and West Hastings in 1912. The new eight storey building was designed by W Marbury Somervell, but probably slightly changed by Somervell and Putnam (as it has a 1911 building permit in their name). It cost $225,000, and pictures of the construction show a reinforced concrete frame rather than all steel. The building bears a very strong resemblance to the BC Securities Building which is three blocks away and completed a year later to HS Griffith’s design.

The speed that construction could be completed on commercial buildings can be seen from the Contract Record report of September 1910. Work was just starting on the building site, clearing the existing buildings and excavating the basement, and it was expected the whole thing would be complete by May 1911, with occupancy coming a month later. There were 16 offices per floor above the banking floor, and the quality of the building was obviously aimed at all the other office buildings competing for tenants “The entrance to the vestibule and lobby will be handsomely done in marble, while the floors above will be trimmed throughout in birch and finished with mahogany. Other features of this latest addition to Vancouver’s tall buildings will be a vacuum heating system throughout, hot and cold water in all the offices, the Durham plumbing system, mail chute equipment, vacuum cleaning system for all the offices, and commodious toilet rooms on every floor.” The successful contracting bid came from McDonald and Wilson who started work in October 1910 and as far as we know completed on time.

In 1919 the Bank of Ottawa were merged with the Bank of Nova Scotia, and it stayed a branch of the new owners for over 30 years. In 1956 noted local architects Sharp, Thompson, Berwick and Pratt were given the design job of enlarging the bank building. The new project stripped the old building to its frame, replaced the small tobacco store with the billiards room behind (The Maple Leaf Club in 1946) that was next door and the restaurant with rooms over beyond that, and created a simple new office building which was nearly twice the size of the original. A more recent building upgrade in 1987 added an elegant projecting metal cornice to the building.