Archive for the ‘Simpson Bros’ Tag

Denman and Davie Streets – ne corner

This corner is one of relatively few spots where the contemporary building is less significant than its predecessor. The pattern in the brickwork of this 1912 building suggested it had been designed by the father and son partnership of Townsend & Townsend. Sure enough, the permit from December 1911 shows them designing the $75,000 stores and apartments for Simpson Brothers, who also built it. To the north, a much smaller 2-storey building had been developed by S A Heaslip for $4,500 in 1908.

There were a lot of Simpsons in Vancouver, but fortunately the brothers were identified; William and Zach, (often written as Zack), both living in 1911 at 1811 Beach Avenue. They were boat builders, with premises a block from their home. Their father, Zachariah, was from Chorlton, Lancashire, where he worked as a tailor and draper. By 1875 he had come to Buffalo, New York, with his wife Ann. His brother John was also there, and in 1890 they headed west, to Canada, and Simpson Brothers, merchant tailors opened on Granville Street, with the brothers living on Beach Avenue. They were living in the same household in 1901, but that seems to be the last reference to John in Vancouver.

In 1891 the family inherited a sizeable fortune from an uncle, and started a boat building business. They rented boats to local residents and tourists from Simpson’s Boat House on Beach Avenue. Zachariah Simpson died in 1910, and his wife, Annie having died in 1907, aged 56, he left his $28,000 estate to his children, Maud, Zack, and William.

William Niagara Simpson was 35 when his father died, and was a boat builder. Later he became a master mariner, owning the ‘Roamer’ and a tugboat, the ‘Ocean Plunger’. His brother Zack managed the boat house business, and aged 35 he married Lydia Kleaman, who was 22 and from Ontario. Until 1944 he owned the boathouse and concessions at Lost Lagoon, which he sold to the Park Board, and continued to operate them on their behalf.

William Simpson died in 1936, and his brother, Zack in 1949. His widow sold the Simpson Block in the year following his death. Their sister, Maud, never married, and died in 1940. The Simpson Block saw a constant turnover of both residential and commercial tenants, as is normal in the West End. The new apartments were advertised as having steam-heated hot water, a phone in every flat, and a lift. (clearly the American words apartment and elevator weren’t in universal use in 1913).

Kirkham’s Grocerterias Ltd had one of their 20 stores here in 1928, but the chain closed down and the location was taken over by Safeway Stores in 1929, who remained here for many years. Originally the Denman Grocery Co had opened in the new building. Later, in the 1950s, their store was home to Crown Cleaners and Dyers, while Cunningham Drugs occupied the corner, replacing the Vancouver Drug Co who had been in the same spot in the 1920s.

In 1972, the Sands Hotel (located to the east, up Davie Street) planned a 23-storey addition on the corner, but it was never built. In 1975, soon after this image was taken, a fire damaged the Simpson Block, spreading from an adjacent building on Davie. All 13 suites were evacuated, and in 1976 the building was demolished.  It was replaced in 1979 with English Bay Village, a strata building with 10 units, designed by Richard Henriquez. A third floor, 2-level 1,753 sq. ft. 2-bed 3-bath unit with a rooftop deck (with full kitchen!) was offered for sale at $2.6m in 2021.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 447-370

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Posted 5 May 2022 by ChangingCity in Gone, West End

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