Archive for the ‘Wilson Block’ Tag

The Wilson Block – 929 Granville Street

Although Parr and Fee had most of Granville Street’s design work sewn up, it wasn’t a complete monopoly. C H Wilson commissioned Dalton and Eveleigh to design a warehouse that he then built in 1910 for $75,000. Crowe and Wilson (the same Wilson) had built a single storey building to the left of the warehouse in 1904, which they designed themselves.  The 1910 warehouse is the right hand building in the picture – if you look closely you can see that the left hand set of four windows are slightly different from the right hand six. W T Dalton had designed many buildings developed by Crowe and Wilson over the previous decade. Quite a few years later – but by 1927 – the second part of the building was added to the south – (a single storey building was given a permit for the site next to the Wilson Block in 1921 to owner W W Monbeleous).

Charles H Wilson had arrived in Vancouver three weeks after the fire in 1886 from Ontario and rapidly joined the real estate boom as both a contractor and real estate broker. He was successful enough to have an area called Wilson Heights named after him (and 41st Avenue was Wilson Avenue for a while). He was elected Alderman from 1902 to 1905.


Initially furniture companies occupied the premises; in 1916 it was Standard Furniture, joined in 1917 by F Buscombe and company, the china and glass company founded by Fred Buscombe, and at this point in the company’s history run by his brother, George. Fred developed a number of significant buildings in the city, but we think here the company was a tenant.

In the 1920s the Manufacturers’ Association of British Columbia used the larger building as a showcase for BC produced goods – which suggests a somewhat more important role for this part of town than would be the case today. The building had the rather misleading slogan ‘B. C. Art Gallery’ painted on. By 1939 when this picture was taken William Worrall’s furniture emporium had taken over the building and advertised their 42,000 of space over five floors. William was an Englishman who arrived in the city in 1911 and by 1924 was an auctioneer on Pender Street. In 1926 his furniture store could be found at 1058 Granville.

In 1989 Perkins and Cheung designed the substantial renovations for Tom Lee Music, a company who opened their first store in Hong Kong in 1953. The small single storey building to the left of the warehouse also dates back to 1910 and was designed by A J Bird for J R Reid. The building to the right is the Vermilyea Block.


108 West Cordova Street

In 1898 the Klondike gold rush was in full swing, and having a doubly important impact on the 12 year old City of Vancouver. While successful prospectors were already returning with enough money to commission investment buildings (like Thomas Flack), Vancouver merchants were making money equipping the miners scrambling to catch the tail end of the boom. William Kerfoot ran a clothing and furnishing business with his brother-in-law James Johnston (who had married William’s sister, Deborah, in Emerson Manitoba in 1881). They opened their store in G W Grant’s 1887 Wilson Block in 1890 or 1891 (when they appear in the street directory for the first time).

Like other city businesses they quickly cashed in on the massive upsurge in demand that accompanied the would-be miners, and this 1898 image shows a mule train about to head out loaded with supplies. In the background is Dougall House, built in 1890. Today this corner of the Woodwards development, designed by Henriquez Partners, is partly occupied by the Nesters Market supermarket, part of Jimmy Pattison’s retail empire, reintroducing a food store where Woodwards Food Floor used to be.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Str P336


West Cordova and Abbott (and Woodwards)

We’ve already referenced the Wilson Block on the corner, owned by real estate broker W B Wilson. He had a series of important tenants including Rand Bros real estate (who initially set the development of the Alhambra Hotel going before George Byrnes took it on), a barrister, D S Wallbridge and the Vancouver Gas Co (C D Rand secretary-treasurer).

The building behind it, up Abbott Street is the first Metropole Hotel, built in 1892 to N S Hoffar’s design for English investors Town and Robinson. For 1894 and 1895 there’s an odd Directory entry “Hotel Metropole vacant” but by 1898 Hodson and Dempsey are proprietors, and in 1900 when this VPL photograph was taken William Hodson was the proprietor, and George Parker was the Manager.

By 1904 Woodward’s Department store had been established on the vacant lot on the corner of West Hastings, next to the Hotel Metropole (at that time managed by Atkins and Johnson) . The Hotel remained standing until 1924 when Woodwards expanded southward, and the Metropole name transferred to an existing hotel, the Travellers Hotel on the opposite side of the street. W T Whiteway designed the 1903 4-storey Woodwards building, and Smith and Goodfellow the vertical expansion of Woodwards in 1910. Today’s heritage restoration was designed by Henriquez Partners as well as the 32 storey tower on the corner.


Here’s a Vancouver Sun image dated to 1908 that shows the 1903 store with its new addition on the Abbott and West Hastings corner and the restored (and seismically rebuilt) Woodwards building, now used as offices and a childcare. The Metropole Hotel can be seen a bit further down Abbott Street. As the addition by Smith and Goodfellow wasn’t added until 1910, the image must really date from at least then.