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

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Felsteins of Ferndale... Keefer... and East Pender

Over the past couple of years I have been fortunate enough to do house history research work for a number of realtors. Sometimes this is for a full house history booklet that is given to the realtor's client as a housewarming gift. Other times it is a smaller project that gives a realtor some historical background on a property she or he is trying to sell—something that adds cachet to, and stimulates interest in the property being sold. Though not a full-blown, indepth study, sometimes these smaller projects can turn up some pretty interesting stuff.

Last week I finished one of these smaller projects for two realtors who have been great clients of mine, Ruth Chuang and David Jones. The house they wanted to research was at 2057 Ferndale, very close to my daughter's high school, Templeton. Ruth asked me to look and see if I could confirm that the house had been built in two stages... Perhaps there was some neighbourhood lore about this. She didn't explain that to me, but I went to the City of Vancouver Archives and got to work. This is a summary of what I found out.

2057 Ferndale was built in two stages on the south half of Lot 6 in Block 49 in District Lot 184 by two separate owners over a period of two years. On April 21, 1909 an M. W. Taylor applied for water service for the property. Then some months later, on August 30, 1909, M. W. Taylor applied for a building permit to build a framed dwelling estimated to cost $400. M. W. Taylor is listed as the owner, architect and builder of the house.

The 1909 and 1910 directories have a number of listings for M. Taylors but none for an M. W. Taylor. A search of the 1901 and 1911 Canadian censuses turn up no record of an M. W. Taylor, so he is a bit of a mystery. The house was built at a time when Vancouver was booming and real estate speculation was rife. Many people came to the city to make a quick buck during the boom and then moved on. M. W. Taylor was likely one of those men.

I went and looked for a fire insurance map of the neighbourhood. The one you see at left shows the immediate neighbourhood around the house in 1912. Quite a few of the lots were still undeveloped in the neighbourhood. Although MacDonald School at Victoria and Hastings is clearly shown on the map, my daughter's High School, Templeton, has not yet been built. The blocks where it will be later constructed though are occupied by Vancouver's Isolation Hospital. Hmmm. I wonder how many people at Templeton realize that little piece of history. (BTW, you can click on any of the images in this blog and they will enlarge).

On the map, what is now called Ferndale Street, was back then still called Keefer.  You can see 2057 Ferndale on the south half of Lot 6 on block 49. It shows as a plain rectangle. There is not much in the way of interesting detail on this map.

Another search of the building permit records got me the piece of information I was looking for. On August 18, 1911, a carpenter named David Felstein applied for a building permit for an addition to his house at “2054 Keefer Street”. The addition cost $150.00. After going through the city directories for a number of decades I did some research online in the BC Archives Vital Events listings, then went to the 6th floor of the main branch of the Vancouver Public L and found that David Felstein was born in Russia on April 1, 1859, the son of Aaron and Tresa Felstein. His wife Annie was born in Russia in April of 1870, the daughter of Aaron and Pearl Kravitz. The Felsteins had at least three children at the time the house was built: Benjamin Myher born in “Poland” on July 25, 1900, Pearl, born in Russia on June 15, 1904, and Jacob, born in Russia in 1907. For a number of years, David Felstein is listed as "Henry" Felstein. From 1918 onward, David changes professions going into the second hand junk trade, listed during some years as a peddler, then later in the 1930s as the proprietor of a junk and second hand container store at 1322 Frances, near Clark Drive. The Felstein family lived at 2057 Ferndale until shortly after 1950 when the house was bought by carpenter Henry R. Southwell and his wife Mildred.

A glance at the fire insurance map for September 1927 shows that the Felsteins kept chickens in their back yard. There was also a small garage to the west of the house off Keefer (Ferndale). Note how the house is numbered 2054, which must mean an East Pender Address as all the even numbered houses should be on the south side of Keefer. I am not sure what this is all about. There is no alleyway behind the house so I haven't seen what this looked like, but until the lot was subdivided and a house built on the north side of Lot 6, the main entrance of the house early on may have been on the north side of the building.

The Felstein’s were Orthodox Jews. They attended the Schara Tzedeck Synagogue at Heatley and East Pender in the East End. There are no pictures of the Felstein family in either the City of Vancouver Archives or the Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia, but there are two pictures taken by David Felstein’s son, Benjamin Myher Felstein, in the Jewish Archives. One of the pictures shows a group of men gathered for prayer inside the old Synagogue at Heatley and Pender. The two men standing in the back of the photo are relatives of the photographer.
Though disappointed that I couldn't find a picture of the Felstein family, I was thrilled to see that some of the men immortalized in the picture were people who lived in houses I had researched on East Georgia, Union Street and Princess Avenue in my neighbourhood, Strathcona. Thanks to this piece of research work from Ruth and David, another couple of pieces of my East End history puzzle had fallen into place.
Photo L.00001 from the Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia has a caption which reads: 

"Led by Rabbi P. Wohlgelernter, the Chevra Chovevi Torah are worshipping at regular morning service.

Top: L-R: Ed Kravitz; Samuel Kravitz.
Fourth row: L-R: Yudah Tischler; Itzik Berger; Schmil Hersh (Hayit) Hyatt; Mnachem Mendel Farber; Daniel Yochlowitz.
Third row: L-R: Alexander (Berezofsky) Barratt; Isaac Lipovsky; Samuel Klausner; unidentified; Gershen Bobroff.
Second row: L-R: Shmuel Gurevitch; Leiser Rome; Maurice Kushner; Solomon Stusser; Maurice Goldberg; Benjamin Baltman.
First row: L-R: Abraham Levinson; David Meier Davis; Rabbi Solomon Wohlgelernter; David Morris."

The names that are bolded above I have come across doing house histories in Strathcona. It was great to be able to put faces to some names.

I did an online search to see if I could track down any living relatives of the Felsteins but could not find any. If you read this and are a relative, I would love to have a picture of David and Annie Felstein or any of the children mentioned in this blog.

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