Archive for the ‘W J Prout’ Tag

519 and 523 Powell Street

These two buildings were demolished many years ago, and for the time being are the location of one of the City’s temporary modular housing buildings. The building on the left pre-dated the 20th Century (and looked like it in our 1978 image), while the one on the right was developed in 1912 as an apartment building. It cost $9,000 and was designed and built by W J Prout for E McPherson.

We’ve noted Mr. Prout’s history in relation to a West Pender building. He was originally from Cornwall, and he was a builder who could design the project too; presumably shaving cost and time. His client was variously Ewen, or Ewan, McPherson or MacPherson. Probably the accurate version was Ewen MacPherson, born in Blair Athol in Scotland in 1851. His family ran the Tarbet Hotel on the banks of Loch Lomond. After travelling to Argentina and Australia, Ewen arrived in Canada in 1887 and settled in Harrison Hot Springs. He had a small farm that supplied eggs and milk to the Saint Alice Hotel, a significant property run by the Brown Brothers. In 1888 Jack Brown married Luella Agassiz, and two years later Ewen married her sister, Jane Vaudine Caroline Agassiz. The 1895 directory shows him as ‘E McPherson, gentleman.’ Jane was shown to have been born in Ontario.

In the 1891 census the McPhersons were shown living in New Westminster, where Ewen was listed as a hotel keeper, although the BC Directory shows him in Harrison Hot Springs. In the 1901 census the family were still in New Westminster, but Ewen was shown as a farmer, and there were three daughters aged 8, 7 and 5. (The street directory in 1900 still had him as a gentleman, and still in Harrison Hot Springs.) In 1908 he was in Agassiz, and farming. In the 1911 census all three daughters were still at home, and Ewen’s profession was described as ‘income’

All three daughters married; Florence was 23, shown born in Vancouver when she got married in 1914 in Vancouver to Hesketh St. John Biggs, an Australian. (Despite his impressive name, his work was as a meter reader and clerk with the British Columbia Electric Railway). The family moved to California in the 1920s. In 1920 Constance McPherson, aged 27, and shown born in Vancouver was married to James Hermon in Agassiz. In 1922 Edith was 26, born in Harrison Hot Springs, and was married in Vancouver to Ernest Baker.

Mr. McPherson was briefly proprietor of the Bodega Hotel on Carrall in the 1890s, although shown still living in Agassiz. The street directory for 1891 shows the proprietor to be Alexander McPherson, who was Ewen’s brother. Alexander also farmed in Agassiz later in the 1890s, so it appears the two brothers co-operated on their business activities.

Ewen first moved to Vancouver in 1910, living on Denman Street. His wife, Jane, passed away in 1916 after a short illness. Her obituary recorded the family traveling over the Panama peninsula in 1862 to join their father, who had settled in the area that would subsequently be named after him, after he had been to the gold fields in 1859. Ewen was 82 when he died in 1932.

Given it’s location in the heart of the Japanese community in the city, it’s not surprising that the buildings had Japanese tenants. In 1920 523 was the Kawachi Rooms, with M J Nishimura’s grocery store on the street. 519 however shows a different ethnicity, with Kashi Ram’s confectionery store. The census recorded him as Kanshi, and he was 35, single, and had arrived from India in 1911. Twenty years later Y Hayashi had his confectionery business at 519, and there were four residential units upstairs, and Mrs Taniguichi was living at the rear of the property. 523 had become the Calm Rooms, run by Mrs K Kawabata, and Tomejiro Isogai ran his ‘tranf’ business here – we assume a goods transfer firm.

By the end of the war all the Japanese had been forced into camps in the interior. 519 was ‘occupied’, and 523 was vacant, although the Calm Rooms were still in operation upstairs, run by Nils Engkvlst. In 1948 a new business took over the retail space under the Calm Rooms, the Three Vets Warehouse. They moved on very quickly, replaced by Aquapel Cement Paint manufacturers in 1950, with the Calm Rooms run by E W Haggstrom. That was the last reference to the Calm Rooms – there were no residences shown here after 1951, just a Scaffolding company, and later a construction company, suggesting a vacant building. 519 was still listed, but remained vacant through the mid 1950s. Our 1978 image shows 519 in use, but with no business name, and 523 with Downtown Glass Sales on the main floor, but no sign that the rooms above were in use.

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Posted 7 October 2021 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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177 West Pender Street

The building in this 1943 image has proved difficult to pin down. With help from Patrick Gunn, and some complex photograph comparisons, we’ve finally worked out its history. The main complication was that this block, for no obvious reason, had street addresses that at one time had no logical sequence. When it was given a building permit, this was recorded as 151 (and 155) West Pender, located between 169 and 183 West Pender.

The 1911 permit is to ‘architect’ W J Prout: the owners and builders were shown as Parks and McDonald, and it cost $35,000 to build. “W. J. Pront [sic] 1101 Hornby st., has been awarded the contract for the construction of a 4-story brick store and apartment building to be erected at 155 Pender W., at a cost of $35k, for Parks & McDonald, 641 Jackson. There will be stores on the ground floor and apartments on the three upper floors. Hot water heating and hotel plumbing will be installed. The permit was issued yesterday and plans were prepared by the owners.”

In 1911 William J Prout was a 37 year old lodger living at 1101 Hornby, a contractor who had arrived from England in 1905. He was born in Cornwall in 1874, and married Margaret Warwick, who was a year younger, and clearly hadn’t joined her husband in Vancouver in 1911. By 1921 they had been reunited; Maggie Prout, William Prout and their children Beatrice (23, a telephone operator in a store), Florence (21, a milliner), Williana (18) and Dorothy (12) were living on 24th Avenue. All the children, like their mother, had been born in Ireland, and they had all arrived in 1913. Their 21-year-old son, Herbert was no longer at home – he was born in Belfast, so that was probably where the family had previously been living. Mr Prout wasn’t really a qualified architect, he was a building contractor, but he designed at least seven buildings in the city. Usually he built his own buildings – this is the only example where someone else is listed as builder, but it’s likely that he was really the builder as well.

We looked for possible developers called Parks, and others called McDonald – and there were a number of possible candidates. While that combination of names occurs elsewhere, as Parkes and McDonald, we’re not sure it is them. William A Macdonald & Robert Parkes were lawyers, and they operated as ‘front men’ for the Sam Kee company when the Chinese investment business wanted to create a hotel or rooming house outside Chinatown. “Sam Kee owned five hotel sites and buildings in central Vancouver and leased from German entrepreneur Edward Stolterfoht two sites on which it then constructed hotels for sub-leasing.  In managing its hotels, the firm dealt firmly with civic officials through its lawyers R. R. Parkes and W. A. Macdonald, K.C. It was possible that this was one of Sam Kee’s investment hotels, with the Building Permit being submitted by his lawyers.

However, there were two men living at 641 Jackson in 1911 called Parks, and McDonald. Donald Bain McDonald was a miner, aged 45 and from Scotland, and John Parks was also a miner from Ireland, and aged 34. It would seem that they had been more successful than most miners – they also had an earlier investment apartment building on Powell street at Dunlevy.

The Calumet was run by Richard S Morrison, and claimed to have ‘Every Modern Convenience’. It was mentioned in the press quite a bit in 1916 when a Mr. Morrison leased a room that was used as a base for ‘vote rigging’ by the Liberal Party in a by-election that year. Paid recruits from Seattle were said to have impersonated thousands of absent servicemen using forged documents, in an extraordinarily complex, expensive (and apparently successful) scheme. In 1918 the Calumet became the Parks Rooms, and in 1919 H A Benjamin was running the establishment. Later it became known as the Parks Hotel.

The hotel use – and we think the building – ended in January 1951. Apparently The Daily Province started using the basement of the building that year, and had 500 tons of newsprint stored in the basement. The fire, once it got a hold, was stubborn and devastating, and created huge amounts of smoke. The image has a note saying “the fire was attended at 1:05 pm and struck out at 5:24 pm, “34 overcome with smoke and 18 were hospitalized.” We believe the building was destroyed (as was reported in the Times Colonist), although the Daily Province continued to be identified with the address until the mid 1950s. An early 1950s aerial photograph clearly shows a hole here. After 65 or more years as a vacant site, that could change as there are plans for a 10-storey non-market housing building to be constructed here.

Image sources: Vancouver Public Library and City of Vancouver Archives CVA 354-134

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Posted 24 April 2017 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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137 West Pender Street

This building has proved a bit hard to track down. It’s by no means a notable building, although it is associated with an exciting moment in the city’s history. It almost certainly was first built in 1915 as a 2-storey printing house (and offices) costing $15,000, and there is a permit for J N Bond as owner and architect, built by William Proust. We didn’t found J N Bond in any directory entry, or for that matter a W Proust. It’s almost certainly William J Prout, who was a builder in the city for many years. It’s also likely to be I Nicholas Bond, owner of an advertising company in the city. He was English, born around 1872 and had arrived in Canada in 1891. He went on to own an import company, and also a farm in Coquitlam.

We know that the occupant of the building from 1915, when it was built, was the News Advertiser, at that point published by J S H Matson. In 1917 the newspaper was bought out by the Daily Sun, and they took over the premises. The 2 storeys (to the street – there was one below on the lane as well) version of the building can be seen on the photograph of the adjacent building. It was either rebuilt or added to around 1923 to the 4 storeys seen here. (Jonathan Storey of Storey and Campbell owned the adjacent lot to the west, and in 1920 commissioned a $50,000 building designed by W T Whiteway to allow the Sun’s editorial offices to expand, but there’s no evidence that it was actually constructed.)

The Sun stayed at Pender Street until 1937, when a fire destroyed their printing plant (although not the offices seen here still standing in the early 1980s). The newspaper purchased the Bekins Building, rechristened it the Sun Tower (which is how we still know it today, although the Sun moved out many years ago). The Sun Tower had originally been built by L D Taylor for his World newspaper, so the use as a storage warehouse by Bekins didn’t last too long. They would occupy this building later – we’re  not sure if they swapped premises, or if it’s a strange coincidence.

In 1923 the newly enlarged building was the backdrop to Harry Houdini’s visit to the city. The escapologist successfully removed a chained straitjacket while suspended upside down in front of the building. It’s unclear who was was in greatest peril; Houdini, or the cameraman recording the scene.

Our image dates (we think) from the late 1960s, and the building was finally removed in the 1980s, and in 1989 Pendera was completed, a 113 unit non-market housing building that was part of the Jim Green era Downtown Eastside Residents Association development program.

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