The Dales House at 414 Alexander Street circa 1890 CVA Photo SGN 490

Monday, September 14, 2009

THE WEST END – It Wasn't Always Highrise Apartments

My interest in old houses really became intense once I moved to the West End from Richmond in 1982. My first apartment was in a building called The Viking at 1111 Barclay, across from Ewing Buchan’s house at 1114 Barclay, today known as the “O Canada House”. Back then, there were still quite a few old houses in the neighbourhood, even along Robson Street. I remember shopping for French language books and comic books in a shop in a beautiful old Edwardian Box on the south side of Robson near Bute or so. So much is changed. Later, I lived at 1220 Cardero, right across from Hy’s Mansion which was in Gabriola, Sugar King B. T. Rogers’ old mansion.

I worked downtown in the Bentall Centre and every morning would take a different route to work admiring the old mansions and houses along Nelson and Barclay Streets. Of course I loved Roedde House. There used to be a beautiful old Queen Anne just south of Mac’s Milk at Davie and Bute, and you can still see some beautiful old Victorians above the shops on some blocks of Denman Street. There was one magnificent rambling old house I remember on Nelson. It had a beautiful stone foundation and a rap around porch and a great turret. While I lived in the West End it was torn down and replaced with an uninspiring apartment building. 
It was seeing that building go down that spurred my interest in heritage preservation and it was seeing what went up on the site of that magnificent old building that made me feel that certain architects should be pilloried beside their work to discourage such abomination. (Okay, I know it is not really the architect’s fault but...)
In the early 90s I lived in an apartment building on Burnaby Street called The Princess. I found out that the penthouse on the small three story walk up at 1310 Burnaby I used to look down on just west of us was where Errol Flynn died on October 14, 1959. Across the street and to the West of Jervis is a high rise called Hendry House. It stands on the site of a former West End mansion build for lumber baron John Hendry (see above), who prior to moving to Vancouver lived in an even more magnificent mansion in New Westminster. (Photo of Hendry Mansion in New Westminster below)

In 1995, I left the West End and moved into a wonderful old Edwardian Box on Odlum Drive in Grandview Woodland with my ex at the time. It was this house that spurred my forays into house history research. In those early days at the City of Vancouver Archives, when I was still learning the very basics about how to research my house, I would take breaks from the old City Directories and pore over the old black and white photographs in the black and red binders there. One day I found a number of pictures of the house that once stood on the site of The Princess Apartments on Burnaby Street. Years ago, at the turn of the last century when Burnaby Street was lined with the mansions of the rich, 1340 Burnaby was the address of the mansion of CPR treasurer William Ferriman Salsbury. Just prior to World War I when the West End’s blue bloods moved to Shaughnessy Heights, a second mansion was built for Salsbury at 1790 Angus, but prior to that, Salsbury and his family lived on Burnaby Street in a magnificent wooden shingled fantasy house with an Ionian columned portico, turrets and a beautiful hipped roof.

The City of Vancouver Archives and the Vancouver Public Library’s Special Collections are full of similar amazing photos of what the West End once looked like. My fantasy is that every owner or manager of a West End highrise apartment would come down to the Archives for visit VPL Special Collections and order a large format photo of the house that once stood on their property so that it could be properly framed and displayed in the apartment’s lobby. It would add another layer of magic to the West End. If I had any say…

All photos except the second, third, and fourth are from the City of Vancouver Archives.
 BU P319 - 1114 Barclay
 BU P467, 468 and 469 - 1340 Burnaby
The second Photo is VPL #26847 and shows a house on Jervis (near Barclay?)
The third image if VPL Photo 1881 showing the Hendry Mansion on the NE corner of Burnaby and Jervis.
The fourth photo is a digital image from a book in VPL Special Collections of John Hendry's Mansion in New Westminster.


  1. Some of those sugary gingerbread confections are amazingly tacky (Hendry house?), I suppose impression was the entire goal. Amazing theme: West End residential magic. Thanks for posting this,

  2. Yes, thank you for posting so many of these interesting posts. I see so many parellels to my own life as I read your writings. I also worked at the Bentall Centre for a very short while and also in a place on 7th and Cambie that had associations with the new Bentall Centre. I also lived in an apartment on Barclay in 1968-69 owned by a wealthy lady who had an antique business on Granville just before the Bridge. Not sure who she was or which of the grand houses I lived in on Barclay. I think it was the now Seniors building. Wish I knew. I was on the very top floor with a skylight in the kitchen and a shared bathroom in the hall. I do not live in Vancouver now so mainly use the internet to look stuff up. If anyone has any info on the lady or the blue house on Barclay please post. As a young girl I even repaired my own buzzer to my suite. Noticed there was no longer a buzzer system on the Seniors building and it is no longer blue so is it the same house?

  3. This is fabulous, thank you! Walked by the Gabriola mansion today for the zillionth time and was compelled to look up some history when I got home. Thank you again for this wonderful post.

    1. Thank you so much! I hope you will check out my upcoming West End History Walk on Saturday, August 25th. Tour departs SE corner of Robson and Bute at 10am. Details can be found on the link.
      More house history and History Walk related info can be found on Instagram @historywalksvancouver