Archive for the ‘W L Tait’ Tag

752 Thurlow Street (3)

Our previous posts looked at the Women’s Building on Thurlow Street that became Oil Can Harry’s club in the 1960s. Before that building, there was a house here, built around 1894, and seen here in an image at the Vancouver Public Library dating from around 1900.

William and Mary Henderson Garden arrived in Vancouver from Helensburgh, Scotland, via Liverpool and a cross Canada train trip in April 1889. William opened up Garden and Sons Wholesale Tea and Coffee on East Hastings and Carrall. The Ceylon Tea Co (who also sold coffee), run by Charles Gordon was on the same block of Carrall Street (also listed as the Albion Tea Co).

The Garden family, (William and Mary and their two sons William and John) lived on Richards Street, but moved by 1895 into this new house at the corner of Thurlow and Alberni Street. Eve Lazarus has more about the family on her blog, including a wonderful family picture of William and Mary riding around Stanley Park on tricycles. William Garden died in 1897, but in 1901 his widow was still living here, along with John, manager of the Hamilton Tea Co, and William a clerk with the Hudson’s Bay Company. Two years later John was a salesman with William Ralph, and a year after that William and his mother had moved to Broughton Street and his brother John had apparently briefly left the city. In 1905 Jack Garden was living with his mother on Broughton, and William had his own house, initially on 7th Avenue, and by 1911 in North Vancouver where he lived with his wife Harriet and sons Hugh and Jack, aged four and two. Like many in the area, William now worked in real estate. Mary and her son Jack had moved to Haro Street; Jack was now bookkeeper with the Terminal Lumber and Shingle Co.

After the Garden’s moved out it was home to William Lamont Tate, who by the time he moved here was described as a retired sawmill and lumber baron, having sold his mill to the Rat Portage Lumber Co in 1903. During the mid 1890s he lived in Fairview, where his sawmill also operated, run with three sons. Like the Garden’s, Mr. Tait was a Scot, born in Dumfrieshire in 1847. He went to school in New York, and arrived in Canada in 1863. He operated mills in Gravenhurst and Orillia, Ontario, before moving to Vancouver in 1891.

Early memories of the mill were of a shingle mill – Major Matthews recorded that “Tait’s Mill (was) a small sawmill on the shore exactly where the bridge reached Third Avenue, and a few feet to the west of it; the mill was in operation in 1888 at the time the first bridge was built.” If the date is accurate, Mr. Tait acquired a mill that was already in operation. The bridge was on Centre Street (which was Granville Street), but on the south shore of False Creek. When he first started, Mr. Tait’s equipment was modest: W H Gallagher recalled “Tait’s little portable mill? He didn’t build it; he just set it on the ground; he was head sawer, tail sawer, and everything else. When the saw took a cut you had to wait two or three minutes for the boiler to get up steam before it would take another cut.”

Mr. Tait hired Parr and Fee to design two investment properties, The Manhattan (across the lane from this house) and The Orillia, further east on Robson Street. His other major investment, also designed by Parr and Fee, was his home, Glen Brae, an enormous house in Shaughnessy completed in 1910 at a cost of $100,000. (Today it’s the Canuck Place children’s hospice).

When the Women’s Building was built to replace this house, it appears that the house was moved rather than demolished. There’s a 1956 image in the City Archives of the back of the house, looking somewhat the worse for wear, but still standing.

As we noted earlier, today there are up-market retail stores in the Carlyle, a residential condo building completed in 1988 and given a significant retail renovation in the past year.


Posted 3 August 2017 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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The Manhattan – Robson and Thurlow


The Manhattan is a much-loved West End building that has survived for over 100 years. We took the contemporary image a couple of years ago, but fortunately nothing much has changed in the recent past. Lumber baron W L Tait hired Parr and Fee to design this building, as he did with his other significant investment, The Orillia, further east on Robson Street. His other major investment, also designed by Parr and Fee, was his home, Glen Brae, an enormous house in Shaughnessy completed in 1910 at a cost of $100,000. (Today it’s the Canuck place children’s hospice). Completed in 1908, when it opened there were 47 apartments and three stores on Robson street, a bakery, a drugstore and a skirt company.

manhattan-postcardWilliam Lamont Tait was a Scot, born in Dumfrieshire in 1847. His 1913 biography says “In shingle and sawmill business, Gravenhurst and Orillia, Ont, 1870. Came to British Columbia, 1891; operated lumber mills in own name, Vancouver, 1891-1903; sold out to Rat Portage Lumber Co., 1903. Married Jane Gray Donaldson, Orillia, Ont., 1871; has six sons and two daughters.” The Manhattan was started  in 1907 and completed in early 1908, with a wooden frame construction, and clad in Clayburn bricks.

Our image above dates from 1912. In 1908 the Daily World newspaper listed a $30,000 investment for an addition to the Manhattan which had been completed that year, but as far as we can tell nothing was built at that time. The postcard on the left dates from a little after the completion of the building, which clearly consisted of the structure still standing today.  Four years late, in 1912 Tait hired the Jewett Design Co to add what was described on the permit as ‘a four storey building’ next door to the east of the Manhattan costing $20,000. What was built actually had five storeys, so either Mr. Tait went back to the design of his more expensive earlier addition, or Mr Jewitt adapted his design which borrowed the details from Parr and Fee’s original building both in terms of brickwork and bay windows. The 1912 Archives image shows the fifth floor of the additional building under construction, with the frame complete. Today it’s pretty much hidden from this angle by the street tree.

Since 1982 the building has been a housing co-op, converted from market rental, with Thompson Berwick & Pratt and Norman Hotson Architects working on the design of the renovated building.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Bu P722


Posted 28 July 2016 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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The Orillia – Robson Street

In 1903 W L Tait, a prominent industrialist and sometime property investor, hired his favourite architects, Parr and Fee, to design a “frame terrace” of six houses built at a cost of $8,000. In 1909 he hired them again to spend an additional $7,000 to alter the building to create an unusual early mixed-use project. Once altered The Orillia, on Robson Street at Seymour, consisted of six rowhouses over a row of retail units.

Tait was associated with the delightfully named Rat Portage Lumber Co, and his business and property investments (including The Manhattan, further west on Robson)  made him wealthy enough to build his new home, Glen Brae, on Matthews Avenue – these days the house is known as Canuck Place. The Rat Portage name is a name of a town in Ontario (today’s Kenora) and comes from “portage to the country of the muskrat”. There was a lumber concern back east with the Rat Portage name and the BC company was initially associated with it. The Vancouver mill was where the federal fish wharf is next to Granville Island and Tait had a small shingle mill in operation by 1888. This is where the Rat Portage mill was built in 1902, until it burned down in 1933.

The Orillia saw a number of tenants over the 80 years it stood, including ‘Sid Beech’s Tamale Parlour’ (with noted Mexican specialities Ravioli and Spaghetti on the menu!) and a pool hall that also sold cigars. Towards the final years of its existence the Orillia had both the Funland Arcade and Twiggy’s Discotheque where the pool hall had once been located. We’ve also been reminded to mention that the building was home to Faces – the gay bar that was home to the best Saturday-afternoon tea dances Vancouver boys have ever experienced, and just one of about a half dozen in the immediate neighbourhood.

In 1985 it was demolished, replaced in 1989 by a 16 floor office building designed by Hamilton Doyle and Associates, sometimes called Vancouver House, but more often just 605 Robson Street. Beyond the Orillia you can see BC Telephone’s William Farrell Building, already nearly 20 years old in this 1961 VPL picture. Today the building is still there, but about 3 feet bigger with the installation of Canada’s first triple-skin insulation system in a ground-breaking energy-efficient design by Busby and Associates in 2000.


Posted 24 August 2012 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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