Archive for the ‘Wood Leggat and Vallance’ Tag

Wood, Vallance and Leggat – West Hastings Street

Wood Vallance Leggat Hastings 1908

We showed Wood, Vallance and Leggat’s West Cordova Street retail premises a few posts back. Like the Army and Navy store today, the company operated on both sides of the alley between Cordova and Hastings. Here’s the wholesale and office portion of the business, on West Hastings Street as it looked in 1908, six years after the company bought out Thomas Dunn’s hardware and ship’s chandlers business. However, on Hastings Street the previous business owner wasn’t Dunn, it was E G Prior who sold hardware and machinery.

Prior was a Yorkshireman who trained as a mining engineer, and worked in the Nanaimo coal mines. He was appointed Inspector of Mines in 1877, living in Victoria, representing that city in parliament from 1886 (and establishing his trading company a few years earlier on Yates Street). Prior was elected an MP but lost his seat in 1900 because of violations of the Electoral Act. He became Premier of BC in 1902, only to be dismissed in 1903 following a charge of conflict of interest, He remained an MLA until his defeat in 1904, and was appointed lieutenant-governor of BC in 1919, only to die in office in 1920.

Prior 1893E G Prior & Co were operating in Vancouver some time after 1891 (as this 1893 advert shows) and established the Hastings Street premises around 1900. They apparently didn’t sell the business to Wood, Vallance and Leggat as they had Thomas Hooper design a new warehouse on Beatty Street in 1910. The company also had premises on Pender Street that were expanded in 1901 by a Victoria architect, W R Wilson.

We haven’t been able to discover the architect of the Prior building which looks as if it was built in 1899. It could be W T Dalton, who designed a number of Hastings Street premises around the turn of the century. In 1903 Wood, Vallance and Leggat hired Dalton & Co – (presumably Mr Eveleigh) to design a $9,000 addition to the building.

Rex Theatre W Hastings 1950 VPLThe building in the picture didn’t last very long. Hastings Street had become an important public street, full of theatres and department stores, and wholesale warehouses were moving elsewhere.

In 1913 architect P M Jullien applied for a permit for the Rex Amusement Co to build a $40,000 theatre, and the Rex Theatre appeared soon after (it was operating by 1914). It’s listed as a 922 seat theatre, and was used for some vaudeville acts before transforming to a movie house. J A Schuberg, a theatrical impresario from Winnipeg bought a half share in the theatre in 1916 and by 1918 the Rex was described as the leading highclass photoplay house of the British Columbia metropolis” Schuberg’s First National Exhibitor Circuit Exchange of Canada distributed movies throughout BC and the prairies, with exclusive rights to Charlie Chaplin’s movies.

It was still operating in 1950 when this VPL Artray photo was taken, but in 1959 was closed to be incorporated into the adjacent Army and Navy store. Sadly, underneath that ‘modern’ metal screen there are no vestiges of the theatre facade – it was replaced with concrete blocks..

Photo source, City of Vancouver Archives CVA Bu P500


Wood, Vallance and Leggat – 8 to 12 West Cordova Street

Wood Vallance Leggat Cordova 1908

Thomas Dunn, born in Edinburgh, sold hardware in Scotland, and continued to do so when he moved to Canada in 1876. He arrived in Victoria in 1883, and in Vancouver in February 1886, four months before the new city burned to Dunn's 1898the ground. In 1889 he teamed up with postmaster and pioneer Jonathan Miller to build the Dunn-Miller block on Cordova Street, the pair hiring N S Hoffar to create a harmonious and heavily decorated brick facade, behind which a number of different businesses operated. In the bays furthest to the east, Dunn set up his hardware business. Here’s Dunn’s business in 1898, four years before he sold the business (but not his share in the building).  In the upper floors were a variety of public spaces and offices. The Vancouver Reading Room was here, and so were the offices of the Vancouver Electric Railway and Light Co (where Thomas Dunn was Vice President). In 1891 Vancouver’s first Jewish congregation celebrated the High Holy Days at the Knights of Pythias Hall, located on the second floor of the building. In the photo above you’ll see “Entrance K.P. Hall” over one of the doors.

The company that bought Thomas Dunn’s business was Wood, Vallance and Leggat. Andrew Wood was from Northern Ireland, and he was working in Toronto by 1846. By 1856 he was in Hamilton and running his own hardware business, and three years later he went into partnership with Matthew Leggat.

Leggat was a Scotsman who arrived in Canada in 1854. His wife, June, also arrived from Scotland six years later and while we don’t know when they married, they had at least three children, including a son John, and another three years younger, called Matthew like his father in 1871. They settled in Hamilton, and both Matthew senior and his son were still living in the same household in 1901 (with the help of a domestic staff of three). In 1880, as the Canadian Pacific worked its way westwards, the company set up in Winnipeg. Five years later they reorganized the business by bringing in two more special partners, William Valiance, manager at the head office, and Wood’s elder son, William Augustus, who had been with the firm since 1872. As Wood Vallance they became the largest wholesale hardware business in Canada. By buying in anticipation of sales and carrying huge inventories, the firm reduced its marketing risks. Its practice was to order by the carload: 10,000 kegs of nails from the Ontario Rolling Mills Company, 200 tons of wire from the Ontario Lead and Barb Wire Company, 40 tons of twine from the Brantford Cordage Company, and 1 million bolts from the Ontario Bolt Company.

When Thomas Dunn sold out to Wood Vallance, they seem to have turned to the younger Matthew Leggat to run the new business. In 1902, when he arrived in Vancouver, he lived at 1102 Seaton and was referred to as Matthew Hendry Leggat, treasurer and secretary of the company’s Vancouver operation. A year later he was at 1126 Seaton, and in 1909 at 27 West Hastings. (Our photograph shows the retail part of the company on Cordova Street in 1908) A year later he was listed as living on The Crescent in Shaughnessy. For some reason the 1911 census shows the family address as 1847 Barclay St, Matthew’s wife is called Anne and their son seems to have been called Hendrix – although Hendrie seems rather more likely, and later he was listed as Matthew, like his father and grandfather. The name Hendrie may have come from Matthew’s wife; the Hendrie family were another wealthy Hamilton industrial family, originally from Detroit. The Leggats are still shown living on The Crescent in 1930 – and Matthew Leggat’s son, Matthew, was living at home too, although the company had abandoned the Cordova location to the Sterling Hardware Company.

These days the Army and Navy store occupies the space, although only the first few metres of the store are original construction, the remainder of the structure having been rebuilt in the early 1970s.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Bu P500.2