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

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Homer - Recreation Park & What you see behind those people and things behind the lens




Some years back, I was hired by the developer of what is now called The Beasley Tower residence being built behind the old Homer apartment block at the corner of Homer and Smithe. They were mostly looking for old photographs, but I also did a history of the buildings that stood on the site. Like I always do, I included information on the surrounding buildings as well for context, and looked at a number of fire insurance maps from 1901, 1912, the 1930s and 1950s to see how the area had changed over those decades.

The first thing I found that interested me was that the Homer Block, though pretty old by Vancouver standards, was not the first building to stand on its location...



That prior to its construction in 1909, there was a house standing on its site, 345 Smithe Street, built by the same man who built 335 Smithe, the house that was just recently demolished to the east of The Homer. The original water service for the site was dated December 23, 1904 and was for a house addressed 345 Smithe. This house was completed in 1905, along with its neighbour, 335 Smithe, by 47 year-old English-born contractor and broker Edward Hobson. From what I could tell from looking at fire insurance maps and photos like the one above, 345 Smithe and 335 Smithe were built from the same plan.


According to the 1901 census, Edward Hobson was born in England in March 15, 1858 and came to Canada in 1885 with his wife Mary Reilly. At the time of the 1911 census, Edward and Mary were living at 1782 Davie Street in the West End. The 1911 census lists Edward as a financier.


Edward Hobson actually built four houses in a row along the 300 block of Smithe. On May 16, 1903, Hobson applied for water service for 301 and 311 Smithe, but neither of those houses appeared in the city directories until 1906, the first year that 335 and 345 Smithe appear. These two other houses were twins as well, but had a different plan from 335 and 345 Smithe.


The first occupant of 345 Smithe, was butcher turned real estate broker Albert E. Mullett, his wife Hannah and their four children. According to the 1911 census, Albert E. Mullett was born in England. his wife and three of their four children, all sons, were born in Ontario. The youngest son was born at 345 Smithe in 1908.

The first occupant of 335 Smithe, was a widow named Elizabeth "Lizzie" Sterling, who bought 335 Smithe from Hobson on August 14, 1905. The first occupants of 311 Smithe were BC Permanent Savings and Loan Corporation clerk Frederick H. Godfrey and his wife, Edna. The first occupants of 301 Smithe were American-born CPR locomotive sheds foreman Frederick R. Robson, his wife Mattie and their three children.


The Homer Block itself, was built during the latter part of 1909. Hobson, who was still the owner, applied for water service for the new block on June 29, 1909. The block had three addresses: 337 Smithe, which started out as a grocery store, and 339 Smithe, which was the address for the entrance to the apartments above. The Homer Street address, 890 (and later 892) Homer, which most people today know as the Homer Cafe, started out as The College Dye Works run by a man named William C. Barker. By 1912, this was McMillans Renovatory, and later was a barber shop, grocery, cleaners, and a number of other shops including a Japanese confectionery before it finally became a restaurant in 1952. For about two decades it was the Smithe Coffee Bar, and later Pauline's Cafe, then Rose's Coffee Shop and later Stratos Cafe.

It seems that the Homer Apartments started out with eight suites, then later ten and sometimes eleven suites. I wonder how many there will be when The Beasley is opened. Thankfully, The Homer itself has been saved as part of that development.

Here is a sample cross section of who lived in the apartments from the 1922 directory listing:

1. Charles L. & Marie Caze - CNR employee
    Adrienne Caze - cashier, Dominon Theatre
    Josephine Caze
2. Mrs. Minnie E. Halliday
3. ______ Nicholson
4. Charles J. Chandler - operator, Marconi Wireless Co.
5. Harry L. MacKinnon - boomer, BC Mills Timber & Trading Co.
6. James Tuff - teamster, Mainland Transfer
7. Vacant
8.  Mrs. Lily Williamson - cashier, Good Eats Cafe
9. William McCartney - salesman
10. James Enson - chauffeur, A. Macdonald & Co.

The most intriguing occupant, and someone I would like to find out more about, was cartoonist  Henry G. Crumplin. From what I could find out from the directories, he and his wife Edith Annie Crumplin lived in Suite #4 from 1911 to 1917. From 1916 to 1917, Henry was listed in Active Service. According to the 1911 census, Henry was born in England in May of 1881. His wife Edith was born in England in August of 1881. They both came to Canada in 1910. So far I haven't been able to find any of his cartoons. If anyone out there knows anything about him and can drop me a line, please do. I would really appreciate it.


But back to my search for images... My major base for research is at the City of Vancouver Archives. I am there so often that I must admit I get very proprietary about my usual seat close to the City Directories. I did a search of the photos there, using the address for The Homer and the name Homer, but not much came up. It was only after voicing my frustrating to the staff at the Archives that they came to my rescue. And this relates to my next discovery:



RECREATION PARK   Through looking at the fire insurance maps I discovered totally surprised me, was that just south of The Homer, on the blocks bounded by Homer, Smithe, Hamilton and Nelson, a site now totally occupied by high rise apartments, once stood a stadium and playing field called Recreation Park. For a number of years this was the home field of the Vancouver Vets (later Beavers) baseball team and also was the site of a number of lacrosse competitions between Vancouver, New Westminster and Victoria.




When you start researching a particular house or building, it always seems that there is something else interesting you will discover. This same stadium and playing field was also used for solemn civic ceremonies, like those marking the death of H. M. King Edward VII. There are a number of photos taken from the top of the grandstand showing the entire field covered with various military regiments lined up to mark the solemn occasion. On another occasion it was used by a visiting circus.


Recreation Park was replaced by Athletic Park which opened on April 11, 1913 near the south foot of Granville Bridge at 5th and Hemlock. Though pro-baseball glory passed to Athletic Park, Recreation Park seems to have continued on for a number of years more being used mostly by company based amateur teams.


Anyway, back to the pictures. If you can't find something by doing a direct, head-on search, come at your objective obliquely. Carol Haber, Archivist at the City of Vancouver Archives, astounded me, first by bringing out an 18 x 108 cm panorama print of a lacross game being  played at Recreation Park in 1911. You can see not only the grandstands full, but the also the windows and balconies of every house and building overlooking the parks walls crowded with people to see the game. Unfortunately, Pan P87 has not yet been scanned or I would have tried to include it in this blog.


But now for the oblique part. Carol also showed me that you could find literally dozens of photographs searchable under the subject "Baseball" at the Archives that have no mention of Recreation Park in the description, but which clearly show The Homer, or parts of it, and the houses that once stood along Smithe behind it. By searching the same way, I found even more at the Vancouver Public Library Special Collections. You just never know what sort of important piece of information or history you will find in the background of pictures that at first glance have nothing to do with the subject you are researching.

It was through these searches, inspired by Carol's help, that I was able to find some rather amazing shot of old residential district which once stood around Recreation Park, including some great shots of The Homer and the houses that Edward Hobson built along Smithe Street.(See pictures of baseball teams above)


But the story doesn't end here. Perhaps the biggest surprise and bonus of all was when I was doing some directory searches on the VPL Special Collections. I was standing by the directories, thinking about what year I needed to look up next when I paused to look at the photos displayed over the book shelves. There, right above my head (and the image is still there in the same place on the seventh floor of  the Central Branch of the VPL for anyonewho wants to go there and look) was another amazing panorama shot of the same block where Recreation Park once stood.

It is VPL photo 48502, taken in 1923 by the Dominion Photo Company. It shows the block where recreation park once stood, now demolished and empty of any buildings. There are a large number of trucks from a variety of companies: Almond's Ice Cream, Crescent Ice Cream and Fraser Valley Ice Cream, all lined up in a row. But the most amazing part about this one panorama image is that it shows that the Homer Block, up until the 1920s anyway, originally had little rounded turrets above the corner bays. This original detailing was for some reason later removed.

Hopefully, this original detailing will be reconstructed and added to the soon to be rehabilitated Homer Block as part of the new Beasley Development.
________________________________

Each new project I take on teaches me more and ends up providing me with bigger discoveries than I ever could anticipate.  I am very grateful for the guidance and support from the staff at the City of Vancouver Archives and the VPL Special Collections Department who have taught me the value of looking behind the people and buildings behind the camera lens. At the same time, I would like to recognise the contributions of those clients who hired me for a house history research job, and by doing so, have been part of resurrecting some very important pieces of Vancouver history.

Top colour photo of The Homer is courtesy of Bob Hare
Second colour photo showing 335 Smithe Street courtesy of Maurice Jassak.
1st Archival photo: 
  VPL 6885 - Recreation Park entrance, Philip Timms 1907
2nd Archival photo: 
  CVA 99-52 - BC Tel Baseball Team, Stuart Thomson 1910
3rd Archival photo: 
  CVA 99-3337 - CPR Baseball Team, 1921 by Stuart Thomson
4th Archival photo: 
  CVA 99-3206 - Hudson's Bay Baseball Team, Stuart Thomson 1920s
5th Archival photo:
  CVA 1477-222 - Mayor L. D. Taylor pitching a ball at Recreation Park, Stuart Thomson photo
6th Archival photo: 
  VPL 6767 Philip Timms photo of game a Recreation Park
7th Archival photo:
  VPL 6766 Philip Timms photo of game a Recreation Park
8th Archival photo:
  CVA 99-342 Lacrosse Game at Recreation Park, 1917 by Stuart Thomson
9th Archival photo:
  CVA Photo Port P.2.3 Memorial Service for King Edward VII
10th Archival photo:
  CVA Photo 677-1021 perhaps Greater Norris and Rowe Circus Recreation Park June 1908
11th Archival photo:
  VPL 6763 Baseball Recreation Park 1907
12th Archival photo:
  VPL 7196 Baseball at Recreation Park
13th Archival photo:
  VPL Photo 6727 Recreation Park, 1907 by Philip Timms

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

414 Alexander - A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words...


CVA Photo SGN 295 - 414 Alexander Street ca. 1890


Most people wouldn't make the connection, but she still stands, and this is how she looks today.

This house is not on the Heritage Register. Vancouver's Heritage Register, created in the 1980s, has not been properly updated since then. This is what is on their now. http://vancouver.ca/commsvcs/Guidelines/V001.pdf
Year by year, Vancouver loses dozens of its historic buildings because no one has bothered to check into their history. If they are not on the register, they are therefore deemed expendable, worthless... This is how the Heatley Block ended up in danger.

It is time that someone does something to remedy this issue. And this someone may end up being you and me, the concerned public. We cannot depend on City Hall, with all its budget and staffing restraints, to do this job alone, let alone in time. If the heritage register is going to be updated in a way that is timely and truly reflects the interests of the general public and local neighbourhoods, it is going to take the efforts of a broad spectrum of volunteers, including photographers, architects, and historians, to comb through their neighbourhoods street by street to locate and flag houses of architectural and local historical significance, and then do the basic research necessary for the limited staff at City Hall to do the rest. In my neighbourhood, the East End, steps are being taken so this can be done.

This is a call to all like-minded, history, heritage, and neighbourhood-loving people in Vancouver to start to do the same.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

1033 SEYMOUR - It started out Presbyterian before it was Penthouse

In the process of researching the Andrew Edward Lees House at 909 Richards (See earlier post below) I received a package in the mail containing the title searches for all the houses in the Downtown South. I of course plotted everything out in different files in anticipation of future research contracts (only one so far for The Homer--post coming soon). As I stated in the earlier post, 909 Richards was the oldest house then standing in the Downtown South/Yaletown area. The second oldest house was 1033 Seymour which stands beside and serves as the offices for the famous Penthouse Strip Club.


Here is what I found out about the house before it was bought by the Filippone family:

The lot that 1033 Seymour was built on was bought from the CPR on December 10, 1888 by William De Wolf. William De Wolf sold it on Oct 27, 1895 to Charles Henry Akroyd. He in turn sold it to Scottish-born Jane Aitken Grieve Rae on January 22, 1896.


Jane Aitken Grieve Rae’s husband, Scottish-born carpenter and contractor Thomas Miller Rae built the house in 1896 and the house made its first appearance in the Vancouver City Directory in 1897.


Thomas Miller Rae was born in Scotland on July 13, 1848. His wife, Jane Aitken Grieve Rae, was born in Scotland on February 15, 1852. Thomas came to Canada in 1884 and Jane followed with their three children, William Rae (born October 17, 1876), John J. Rae (born June 15, 1878) and Nellie Rae (born August 5, 1871) in 1885. In rural Ontario, Jane gave birth to another son, Thomas M. Rae, on April 8, 1887. Sometime between late 1887 and early 1890, the family moved to Vancouver because Jane gave birth to another son, Alexander Henry C. Rae on September 10, 1890 in Vancouver. Another son, Andrew John Ferguson Rae, was born in Vancouver on January 15, 1892. The 1901 census indicates that the family was Presbyterian. One can only surmise what the Raes might have thought if they only knew just how their house would be eventually used and what would transpire there.



Here is the Fire Insurance Map from 1901 showing the block bounded by Nelson, Seymour, Helmcken and Granville Streets. Note the Chinese laundry a coupleof doors down, and how there is no development at all along the Granville side of this block at this time.

The 1901 directory of course only lists Thomas Miller Rae, Nellie Rae and William Rae as living at the house. The 1901 census, lists all family members and gives slightly different information than the directory. Thomas Miller Rae (52 years of age) is listed as a carpenter making $500 a year. His wife Jane was 49. William Rae is 25 years old and listed as a bookkeeper—not a CPR machinist—and makes $750 a year. John J. Rae is 23, a bookkeeper, and making $500. Nellie Rae is 20 years old and a dressmaker making $220 a year. Thomas M. Rae Junior is 14 years old. Alexander Rae is 11 years old, and Andrew Rae is 9 years old.


Nellie Rae married Hugh Clifford Carscadden in Vancouver on March 21, 1906. Their first child, a daughter, was stillborn on May 17, 1907. Sometime in 1909 a son, Hugh Carscadden Jr. was born to them. Sadly, Hugh Clifford Carscadden Senior died in Yale on January 15, 1909 at the age of 33.



Here is theFire Insurance Map for 1912. It shows the the block, especially the Granville Street side, developed rapidly in the time since the last map was published. This part of Seymour Street is entirely residential. 

The 1911 census indicates that seven family members and two lodgers lived at 1033 Seymour. Though the directory lists Thomas Miller Rae as a contractor, the census shows no income for the previous year. He could have been retired or may not have declared. William is listed as a tram inspector for the CPR and makes $2100. Thomas, the plumber, makes $600 annually. Alex, the machinist, makes $400, and Andrew makes $90 working as a farmer. The two lodgers were English-born electrical inspector John Robert and Ontario-born machinist George Chaperon.


The house was sold on Jun 29, 1925 to American-born Essie Bertha Hicks on May 6, 1932. Essie Bertha Hicks was born on November 30, 1883 and came to Canada in 1890. She married American-born master mariner Squire Hicks in Vancouver on March 21, 1906.

The fire insurance map at left shows how the neighbourhood looked in 1940. It is around this time that the solidly residential aspect of this part of Seymour Street started to change. Remember, you can enlarge any image in this blog by clicking on the image.

On May 6, 1932, the house was bought by Joe Filippone and Maria Rosa Filippone, and the rest, as they say, is history...




Colour Photo courtesy of Bob Hare
http://www.flickr.com/photos/bobkh/sets/72157594340709228/

Saturday, September 26, 2009

East End History Walk a Success!


Thanks to everyone who came out for my history walk of the East End this afternoon. I had a lot of fun. I hope you did to. Feedback and suggestions for improving the tour are always welcome.

For those interested in reading more about the shootout that took place on East Georgia near Jackson, please read Lani Russwurm's brilliantly researched piece called "What Frankie Said". You can find it by Googling the title as above, or you can go to My Links below, click on Past Tense, which is the title for Lani's Blog, and do a search of the title there as well. It is a fascinating read. 

CVA Photo 371-891 shows house on 400 block of East Pender circa 1901. Sadly, this house no longer stands.

Wooden Cobbles Underneath Union Street?!?



Union Street is part of an east-west cycle path that stretches all the way from Boundary Road to the False Creek Seawall. I wonder if the cyclists that barrel down my neighbourhood road give more than a passing thought to the causes of the bumpity bumps they must experience in the 200-block of Union. Just in front of the new V6A development construction site, parts of the asphalt have come off revealing something surprising underneath. Speeding cars must experience them too. It is almost as if the ghosts of my old neighbourhood are working a bit of magic, telling the frantic passers by to slow down and pay attention to what they are passing by.



In August, when I was planning my first history walking tour of the East End, I did a run through of my route. That's when I found them. I was crossing the street from where the main part of Hogan's Alley was--the block bounded by Main, Union, Gore Avenue and Prior-- north toward where Vie's Chicken and Steak House had once stood at 209 Union. In the westbound lane of Union Street, there were three or four places where the asphalt had come off exposing of all things wooden cobbles. Now I have seen brick exposed in a number of places in the city. There is, or was, large sections of exposed brick in Victoria Drive between Powell and East Hastings. I don't know how old it is. In my imagination it was laid that way so that horses could easier climb the hill. Maybe it is not that old at all and has nothing to do with horses. If anyone knows the story, please let me know. 



Then there are large sections of East Pender, or is it Frances, on both sides of Clark Drive, where you can see granite cobbles that once lined some old BC Electric tram route. But nowhere had I seen wooden cobbles before.



Quite coincidentally, during a search for an article on the opening of the Connaught Hotel (see earlier post) in the February 28, 1913 Daily News Advertiser I found an article on those very wooden blocks. Rather than reiterate what is written there, have a read for yourself. Just so you know, and the article will talk about it, the cobbles were not left exposed like that, but were covered with a layer of creosote and sand. This method of road paving was supposed to be the best for horse traffic, which in 1913, still dominated our city’s roadways.



Remember that all images in these blogs will enlarge when you click them.

Since this piece was first posted, a friend of mine sent me a link to an article on Waddington Alley in Victoria. It is still completely paved with wooden cobbles. Here is the link: http://www.islandnet.com/~jar/streetscapes/topics/waddington.htm

Friday, September 25, 2009

909 Richards - The House that Andrew Edward Lees Built

Many years ago when I lived in the West End and worked downtown I went to a gym called The Nautilus in the 900 block of Richards. I used to walk there from the Bentall Centre where I worked taking various routes but would always turn south on Richards from Smythe and walk by an old ochre yellow house that had a little concrete bunker like structure in front of it that was for some years a ticket office and other years a hair salon called the Best Little Hair House in Vancouver.


This was years before my first forays into house history research. For me, the old yellow house and its concrete addition was a curiosity at most, one of a few and dwindling number of old houses in the Yaletown Downtown South area, a reminder that this part of Vancouver, then rapidly transforming into a high-rise dominated zone, was once a residential neighbourhood filled with beautiful old Victorian houses.


Flash forward to 2005. I am living in the East End and trying to make a go working as a house history researcher. I can't remember exactly how it happened, perhaps it was through a contact at City Hall, but I was contacted by a developer who had permission to demolish the old yellow house and replace it with a five to six story condo block.


For some reason, as part of his deal, the developer had to contract someone to do research on the building before it was demolished. I was hired to research the property for $2000. I was very glad to have the work, but it was the first time I was involved with researching a building that I knew was going to go.


As part of the deal, the city sent me the title search results for the address. By some slipup, they actually sent me all the title searches for every remaining house in the South Granville area. It was a fascinating read. From that package I found out two things: First, that the house I was researching at 909 Richard was the oldest house left standing in the downtown south area, and the second oldest was the house beside the Penthouse strip club on Seymour Street. Hmmm.


What I Found Out:
909 Richards was a two storey frame house on a stone foundation. It was built in 1889 directly opposite the original Pioneer Steam Laundry at 1912 Richards by Ontario-born sawmill owner and real estate broker Andrew Edward Lees. Lees had lived previously in New Westminster and Nanaimo where he worked in the sawmill industry. He owned an interest in New Westminster's Royal City Planing Mills and the Nanaimo Sawmill.

After briefly dabbling in real estate, Lees took a new direction in life, operating a men's furnishings store at 26 Cordova, then at 156 W. Hastings in the Flack Block for a number of years. There are quite a few pictures of this store at the City of Vancouver Archives and the VPL Special Collections.

Lees was Vancouver's Parks Board Commissioner from 1902 to 1915 (according to Vancouver City Archivist Major James Skitt Matthews' note on his portrait at the city of Vancouver Archives. his nomination papers for the 1906 election lists 909 Richards as one of three properties he owned in Vancouver at the time. During his tenure as Parks Board Commissioner, work commenced on both the Stanley Park Seawall and the Stanley Park Zoo. Lees Trail in Stanley Park is named after him. Lees lived at 909 Richards with his wife, Anna Elizabeth Lees, and their five children from 1890 to 1906.

Well this was exciting. Andrew Edward Lees seemed to me to be a pretty important man in our early history for a variety of reasons. So, what were we doing tearing down his house?

A look at the 1901 census records show us that Andrew Edward Lees was born on December 10, 1855 in Fallbrook, Ontario. He and his family were Methodists, and he made $1000 a year. His wife, Anne Elizabeth Playfair was also born in Ontario on January 29, 1863.  Their eldest son, William Frederick Lees was born in Nanaimo, BC on February 8, 1888. Their eldest daughter, Mary G. Lees, appears to have been born in rural Ontario on August 21, 1890. Jessie Lees was born in Vancouver on August 12, 1896. While the youngest, Laura Marjorie Lees, was born in Vancouver on April 11, 1899. Given that most births were home births back then, we can assume that Jessie and Laura were born at 909 Richards. Andrew Edward Lee's brother, George A. Lees, is also listed in the house by the 1901 census. He was born in rural Ontario on October 15, 1876. George was a merchant and made $600 a year.

In 1907, the Lees family moved to a house in a more fashionable part of the West End, 1270 Nelson (near Jervis), but continued to own the house at 909 Richards. In 1910, they finally sold the house to the family they had been renting it to from 1907, the DeGraves family.


The DeGraves family immigrated to Vancouver from Australia around 1903. Joseph DeGraves was a baker and ran a bakery at 2313 Granville Street near 8th Avenue. It was Joseph's wife, Eliza Jane (née Eizenhardt) DeGraves, who bought the house from Andrew E. Lees in May of 1910.

In 1911, the DeGraves family moved out of the house and some members, including Eliza and son Norman live at a house at 1150 West 12th. Another son, No. 10 Firehall Chief John Henry DeGraves lives with his wife Elizabeth at 725 West 14th. The house was rented out for a number of years before the DeGraves family returned to 909 Richards in 1915.


Joseph and Eliza DeGraves had four sons of which three were prominent in Vancouver history: Port Customs Collector, Norman J. DeGraves, Alderman and later newspaperman Harry J. DeGraves, and Fire Chief John Henry DeGraves. I will include some newspaper clippings detailing the lives and exploits of these three men later on in this post.


Of particular note is the pre-world War II article on the Japanese threat to British Columbia by Alderman Harry DeGraves. He was decidedly anti-Oriental. There are also a number of articles concerning then Assistant Fire Chief John H. DeGraves and his part in a scandal involving the firemen of Firehall No. 2 who supposedly taunted and insulted Vancouver policemen during the Post Office Riots of 1938.



The DeGraves family continued to live at 909 Richards until 1920 when it was turned into a rooming house. Perhaps "turned into" is not so accurate a statement. A look at the 1911 census shows a woman named Pearl Cullen living there with 15 lodgers. Two of them were female, the rest of them were male. If you look at the following pictures you can see that the house was divided into quite a few rooms or suites. This may have happened as early as 1911, otherwise it is hard to picture 15 lodgers living in a house that size.


Eliza DeGraves actually continued to own the house until 1928 when it was bought by a man named James Johnson Logan. No owner lived in the house until 1941 when it was sold to Italian-born George Battistel.


On December 23, 1946, Ruth M. Powley buys 909 Richards. She and her husband Lloyd H. Powley move in and operate a rooming house there until 1974. In 1953, Powley built the little concrete addition in front of the house which appears for the first time in the city directories as Lloyd’s Barber Shop.


Then from 1975 to 1979 the house and the barber shop stood vacant.


I should point out here that, of course, 909 Richards had other houses on either side of it. It had been part of a neighbourhood. 905 Richards lasted until 1935. 913 Richards lasted until 1949, then was demolished and turned into a parking lot. 911Richards lasted until 1963. There were shops and apartments along the 500 block of Smythe behind the Dufferin Hotel up until 1962.

909 Richards shows up as occupied again in the 1980 directory and was operated as a rooming house or apartments up until 2005. The little barber shop is converted into a jewellery store called The Chain Factory. This becomes the General Clock Repair in 1982. Then from 1983 to 1984 it operates as a real estate office for Scott Primrose, president of Town Group Heath Realty and Roseberry Estates. According to the title search information I had, Scott Primrose bought 909 Richards from Ruth Powley on June 1, 1981 for $200,000. Scott had “Roseberry House” painted in the transom window above the front door of the house.


From 1985 to 1992 the little building in the front is known as The Best Little Hair House In Town. Then from 1995 to 2000 it is the One Stop Ticket Shop.


The last year I included in my research project was 2001. That was the year the last of the so-called Criss Cross Directories was published. The 2001 listing for 909 Richards has the little shop once again as a beauty salon, this time it is called The House of Envy.


The fate of the oldest house in Downtown South was sealed on May 31, 2004 when Park Place Development Co. Ltd. bought the house for $800,000.


During the course of my research of the property, I got to tour throughout most of the building, including the rat infested basement. What I saw I documented with a digital camera. I was astounded at how solid the house was… how intact the original baseboards, door and window moldings, banisters, landing railings and the newel posts were. What was going to happen to all this treasure? Could any of it be saved?


I asked Nizar Manji of Park Place Development, the man who hired me, what was going to happen to all of the interior wood detailing. He told me that the demolition company had first rights to anything that was salvageable.


I would have loved to have saved a newel post or two and some of the door and window frames to use in my house (a 1908 rowhouse stripped of its interior detailing when it was renovated and turned into a strata in 1984). There was a beautiful sink in particular in one of the downstairs suites that I would have loved to have had but it seemed there was nothing I could do.

Even if the demolition people didn’t salvage anything, I really didn’t have the wherewithal or experience to salvage anything myself. The one friend who could have helped me was himself overworked and almost to the point of exhaustion, working to restore his own home on Dunlevy Avenue (that’s another upcoming post), so all I could do was wait and watch what happened.


I found out from someone, I think it was John Mackie from The Sun, that the house was going to be demolished the next day. So I drove downtown to see if I could get inside one last time to see if anything had been saved. I walked into the foyer and nothing had been taken. There were a couple of holes in the wall and some of the stair railings were broken, probably the last defiant gesture of some disgruntled displaced tenants, but nothing, absolutely nothing had been salvaged. The newel posts, the beautiful Victorian window and door trim. The beveled baseboards, and that beautiful sink; they were all there. The next day, all of it was smashed. All of it ended up as landfill. All that is left are these pictures.


Portrait of Andrew Edward Lees is City of Vancouver Archives Photo Port P1661.4

Photos of the Flack Block showing Andrew Edward Lees store are Vancouver Public Library Photos 5367 and 6675, both by Philip Timms.

Photo of Firemen standing in front of Firehall #2 on Seymour Street (where the Telus Building is now) is CVA Photo FD P. 30. Mayor L. D. Taylor (with top hat) stands beside the Fire Chief. Assistant Fire Chief John Henry DeGraves stands on the right.

Photo of Alderman Harry DeGraves pinning something onto an unidentified lady's coat is CVA Photo Port P816.

Second and third colour pictures courtesy of Maurice Jassak (See My Links for Maurice's other photos of heritage houses and buildings in the Lower Mainland). 

All other photos by author.