Archive for the ‘Thomas Hunter’ Tag

Hunter Block – West Hastings Street

We caught a glimpse of this building when it was on an early hand-coloured postcard. It was lost in 2004, (the same year that we shot the ‘before’ image) after a fire destroyed the structure. The building dated back to 1890s, developed by the Hunter Brothers who also built a smaller building on Granville Street in 1892. Samuel and Thomas Hunter (and not James, as some surprisingly inaccurate official records suggest) were contractors and developers. Samuel arrived first, in 1891. Thomas was here in the same year, and in 1892 he got married. As the Daily World reported: “Wooed and Married. In Homer street Methodist church on Thursday evening Thos. Hunter, of Hunter Bros., contractors, was married by Rev. Robert R. Maitland, assisted by Revs. E. Robson and J. F. Betts, to Miss Jennie Simpson, daughter of Theodore Simpson, Seymour street. The groom was supported by his brother Sam and Jonathan Rogers“.

The wedding record shows that the brothers were from ‘Wilfred’, (actually Wilfrid, near Brock) Ontario, and Jennie had been born in New Market, also in Ontario. When she died in 1937, she was recorded as Jane Maria Hunter, and census records also record her as Jane, although her marriage certificate and the newspaper report called her Jennie. The 1911 census found the family headed by Jane’s father, Theodore Simpson, (born in England) and Jane and Thomas with their 17 year old son who was named after his grandfather.

Samuel was a year older than his brother, and they had been part of a large family headed by William, from Nova Scotia and Elizabeth, who was Irish. At 15 Sam was already working as a labourer, and when he first arrived in Vancouver worked as a machinist. Only a year later the brothers were building a modest commercial building on Granville Street for a local landowner, John Twigge, and a year later partnered with Jonathan Rogers (who was at Thomas’s wedding) on a commercial building on Powell Street. By 1896 only Thomas is listed in the street directory, and it would seem that Samuel (who would have been aged about 30) may have died in 1895; there’s an 1896 newspaper report that says ‘the heirs of the late Samuel Hunter of this city, received $2,000’ in an insurance payout.

The building was therefore only associated with Thomas Hunter. There’s a permit approved in 1902, designed by Blackmore and Son, costing $15,000 to construct. Thomas was the builder, and he stayed in Vancouver, and continued to act as a contractor and builder for many other projects. Several were investments built for his own portfolio, including about a dozen frame houses and an apartment building on Nelson Street in 1909. He also built a Parr and Fee designed commercial building on Cordova for his father-in-law in 1903, and there was a Parr and Fee commission for a three storey block in 1906, also on Hastings (and it’s possible that the Blackmore commission was never built, and this was a Parr and Fee building).

In 2004 we photographed the building early in the year, only a couple of months before the local press reported the fire that destroyed the building: “The three-alarm fire raged through a two-storey building at 311-317 West Hastings, gutting the Blunt Brothers, a marijuana-oriented cafe that billed itself as “a respectable joint.” Smoke from the blaze on the edge of Gastown could be seen as far away as White Rock.

Vintage clothing store Cabbages and Kinx was also destroyed, as was Spartacus Books, a long-standing left-wing bookstore.”

As historian John Atkin noted at the time: “The building that has major damage [311-317 West Hastings] is a wonderful building with an amazing sheet metal facade to it, lots of pressed tin.  It was very rare in Vancouver because the original overscale pediment that sat on top of the building was still intact.  Those are one of the first things to fall down in windstorms or whatever, and here it was intact.”

Today the site remains one of the most obvious redevelopment opportunities, with some parking, and the odd movie shoot occupying the space.

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Posted November 8, 2018 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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Commercial Block – Columbia Street

Commercial Block

The Commercial Block was one of the most advanced buildings in the city – when it was built in 1893. Welsh entrepreneur Jonathan Rogers teamed up with Samuel and Thomas Hunter to build a two-storey and basement building on Columbia Street near Powell Street. It was the first building to have an electric elevator – and it had three of them. Each three bays of the building was a separate warehouse, although there was no indication of this arrangement on the facade. William Blackmore designed the building in a robust brick and stone design and once it was complete Thomas Hunter became the owner.

When it was first built the earliest tenant was a hardware company. By 1900 the building inexplicably took even numbered addresses (although it was on the odd side of the street) and had the Toronto Type Foundry, VW and FW Mitchell, brokers and merchants, and the Parsons Produce Co. In 1906 Cosens and Kindon, commercial merchants, had their warehouse here, along with the Terminal City Rice Mills and Western Oil and Supply Co. Sometime around that time a 3-storey extension was added to the north (although the architect is unknown). It was completed by 1908 when McLennan McFeely & Co (who had a massive warehouse next door) started using the rear of the property as well. M R Smith & Co were in front, manufacturing biscuits. McLennan McFeely would eventually use the entire premises in the late 1930s when they built an overhead link over the lane.

In 2002 Arcadian Architecture supervised the restoration of the building, and today it houses a variety of office users.

Image source City of Vancouver Archives LGN 481