Archive for the ‘Thompson Berwick Pratt and Partners’ Tag

Hornby Street – 900 block (2)

900 Hornby west

This 1981 corner shot is from a comprehensive survey of the city taken that year of almost all the Downtown streets. It shows the corner of Nelson Street with Hornby, and the massive bulwark base that was covered in mosaic tile, with the tower of the BC Electric Company’s headquarters rising above. Today the tower is still there, but it looks quite a bit different, The original 1957 tower was designed by Thompson, Berwick, Pratt and Partners and was the first significantly tall building south of Georgia Street. Ned Pratt was the lead architect, but Ron Thom, who had apprenticed with the company, also played a significant role and was made a partner on the building’s completion. The narrow tapered design allowed every desk to be no more than 15 feet from a window, and the blue, green and black mosaic tile patterns were designed by artist B.C. Binning. The original curtain wall of porcelain coated metal panels covered an innovative structural system of cantilevered floors supported by a central service core with slender external supports.

If the design had a flaw, it was the street frontage to Hornby which was definitely ‘back of house’. In the early 1990s the company moved on to a new headquarters, and by 1995 it had taken on a new role. The frame was stripped and re-clad (with a residential code glazing system that also allowed more light into the units, and opening windows). There are 242 residential condo units, and 100 office units. Paul Merrick Architects designed the conversion, called The Electra, and they managed to redesign the Hornby frontage, and the corner, to introduce retail units and liven up the previously dead frontage.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-W07.21


Robson and Hornby – nw corner (1)

Robson & Hornby nw

This is the corner of Robson and Hornby in 1945. The Richmond Apartments, developed by Edward Hunt in 1910 are on the corner. A Spencer and Company were selling real estate from the store on the corner. The O’Neil Company (selling glass and tiles to builders) were next door in a building later used by Williams Bros, photographers.

Next door was the Famous Kitchen Cafe, which somewhat confusingly advertised ‘Famous Steaks’ with a huge neon chicken. (The Hotel Vancouver is in the background). 785 Hornby opened as The Devonshire Cafe, and in 1928 it was recorded in the street directory as the Richmond Arts Building. Richmond Arts Co obtained the permit in 1927 for a $15,000 building built by Dominion Construction. Before this there were houses here, similar to the houses further down the street next to the hotel. They were built before 1901. By 1938 the cafe was Helen’s Tea Room, and one of the houses was being used as a government health laboratory.

Today there’s an office building addressed as 777 Hornby. It’s been there for a while – having been completed in 1969. It’s divided into many small offices, with several lawyers and medical offices. According to a brochure in the Archives the architect was Frank Roy. He’s an architect with an extraordinarily low profile for such a large building. We can find for him as the designer of the glu-lam curved Safeway supermarket recently replaced on Granville in Marpole.He also designed St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Steveston.

The architectural practice who supervised construction of the Hornby office building was Thompson, Berwick, Pratt and partners.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 586-4162


1728 Comox Street

Here’s a somewhat battered house on Comox Street in the West End in 1968.  Our image is from the MLS listing which offered the house for $62,000, although the listing suggests ‘Try all reasonable offers’ as the building ‘Should be sold as apartment site only’. It was heading towards demolition as the West End saw ramped up densities and rental and condominium towers replacing older housing.

We know who built the house – it was E R Squair who designed and built it in 1912 at a cost of $1,000 for Mr Koenigsberg. Ernest R Squair only seems to have been in the city for a few years, and 1728 Comox was one of his first works as a contractor. Squair designed and built a number of houses in the city, although this is the only one we know of in the West End. Ernest was born in London, emigrated to New Brunswick in 1907 and died in Victoria in 1962 at the age of 86.

His client was Maurice Koenigsberg, manager and presumably proprietor of the Koenigsberg Jewelery Co who were wholesalers and manufacturers of jewelery on West Cordova Street. He must have been doing well in business; in 1911 he was living on Thurlow Street aged 35 with his 22 year old wife Etta and three month old daughter Ruthlene. Both Maurice and Etta were from American Jewish families, Maurice was from St Paul, Minnesota although Etta had been born in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Etta died young, aged 49 in 1937 and Maurice died in 1948. The family were here until 1928.

A year later, in 1929, the DeCarlo family moved in. Michael DeCarlo was a chauffeur, and had previously lived on Homer Street. Michele (as he was accurately named) and his wife, Margaret, had met and married in Nice, although he was from Messina in Sicily, and she was Scottish. They went on to have four children, all of whom apparently married in the 1920s, before they moved here. However their daughter, Marie moved back in with them, with her 7-year old daughter Margaret. Marie’s husband, William Middleton, a New Zealander, had disappeared some years earlier, pursued by fraud accusations. Margaret, known by the family as Peggy, went to school at Lord Roberts Elementary and as a teen had singing and dancing lessons at the June Roper School of Dance, that opened in 1935 on Seymour Street. Marie was keen for Peggy to have a career in showbusiness, and the earliest date we know she worked was aged 17, when she was a dancer at the Palomar Supper Club on Burrard. A year later she got her break in Holywood, dancing at the Florentine Gardens. She had adopted her grandparent’s name, and he middle name, so Peggy Middleton became Yvonne DeCarlo. She was briefly deported back to Canada in 1940 by immigration officials, but was legally able to work in the US in 1941, and a star was born. He grandparents continued to live here until 1944, when Michele retired and moved to West 3rd Avenue, and this became a rooming house.

Today the site is the relatively huge private gardens of a 19 storey condo tower, the Sandpiper, built in 1976 by Daon Developments. The tower’s architect was Jim White, a long-time architect with Thompson Berwick Pratt and Partners. Over twenty years earlier White had designed the Dal Grauer Substation on Burrard Street with Ned Pratt.