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

Sunday, September 5, 2010

East End Irredenta - Strathcona North of Hastings - Part 2

This is the second part of a two part posting on the history and built heritage (and lost heritage) of the oldest part of Vancouver's East End, Strathcona north of Hastings Street. Click here to see the first half. We now continue our tour of the built heritage and the history of Strathcona, north of Hastings. Vancouver's oldest Anglican Church, St. James, was built on the old Hastings Road, (Alexander Street) in the early 1880s.

St. James Church on Hastings Road (Alexander Str) by Harry T. Devine ca. 1885 Ch P15
This church was of course destroyed in the Great Fire of 1886 and a new location was found for the parish church at Gore Avenue (Vancouver's original skid road) and Oppenheimer (East Cordova Street) Street. Many people are familiar with the current St. James Church, designed by architect Adrian Gilbert Scott. It's art deco lines and conical roof stand out as unique among Vancouver's Churches. However, this building, thought by some to be one of the best samples of architecture in Vancouver, is the second church to be built on this site. Before the current building was built in 1936, a wood framed building stood on the location, similar in size and design to St. Paul's Anglican Church that still stands in the West End. Here are a number of pictures.

St. James Church 1892 CVA Photo Ch p76 - Bailey Brothers
By 1907, St. James had a steeple added to it.

VPL 18794 St. James Anglican Church 1907 Philip Timms
St. James Interior 1936 - Philip TimmsVPL 18793
301 East Cordova St. James Interior 1936 Philip TimmsVPL 18790A

Port P756 Clergy in front of St. James' Church - ca. 1886
This group portrait shows Reverend Ditcham, Reverend Wright, Archdeacon Woods, Reverend Clinton, Reverend Charles Croucher, Reverend Small, Bishop Sillitoe, Reverend Edwards and others in front of St. James Church circa 1886.

St. James is of the High Anglican or Anglo-Catholic tradition. Ritual is a very important part of litugical worship. The incense-filled atmosphere at High Mass at St. James verges on Byzantine. Here is a great picture of a procession down Cordova Street taken in 1908 by Philip Timms.

Look at the house on the NW corner of Gore and Cordova. Here is another picture of it below. This house was built in the 1880s for Arthur Willis Sullivan the son of Vancouver's pioneer Black family Philip and Josephine Sullivan.  Arthur's father Philip had arrived in BC from the USA in 1859. Philip died in 1886. His wife, Josephine operated a restaurant for a number of years in Gastown.

231 East Cordova - A. W. Sullivan house c 1889 Bailey & Neelands
Here is a picture of Phillip Sullivan, Arthur's father.

Port P858
Here is a picture of Josephine Sullivan, Arthur's mother, taken in 1889.

Mrs. Josephine Sullivan CVA Photo Port P67.3
Arthur Sullivan and his brother Charles Edward Seals Sullivan signed the petition for Incorporation of the City of Vancouver. The Sullivans were staunch Methodists. Arthur was known as one of the early musicians of Vancouver, as a singer at the Princess (East Pender) Street Methodist Church, and as an organist at St. James Anglican Church.

Arthur's wife, Annie E. Thompson, was caucasian. She was born in New Brunswick in 1861. Though the Sullivan home is long gone, its former location on the NW corner of Gore and Cordova is important in terms of Vancouver's Black history and also for the fact that one of Vancouver's earliest mixed race (Black/White) couples lived here.

But back to St. James Church. Attached to St. James' Church was St. Luke's Hospital, later St. Luke's Home. The original building was built in 1888 by the second rector Father H. G. Fiennes Clinton and Sister Frances Redmond.

St. Luke's Home in 1889, CVA Photo Bu P671
St. Luke's Home 1896 Bu P292
Sister Frances, known in later life as Vancouver's Florence Nightingale, was born in England. She was the wife of Dr. William Charles Redmond, Royal Navy Reserve. After the Redmonds came to Canada they settled first in Winnipeg. Mrs. Redmond went to Montreal where she trained as a nurse and midwife at Laval University, and also became an Anglican deaconess. After the great Fire of 1886 Sister Frances came to Vancouver in 1887 at the request of Father Clinton. She became the first district nurse here and practiced midwifery, and nursed women and children in their homes.

Sister Frances in 1894, CVA Photo Port P128.1
St. Luke's was one of Vancouver's and this Province's earliest hospitals. It functioned as a hospital until its demolition in 1925. The current building was built shortly after and has operated as a nursing home ever since. Sister Frances opened the first training school for nurses in Vancouver, taught students and supervised their clinical work. It was under Sister Frances tutelage, that Nellie Yip Quong studied midwifery, going on to provide those invaluable services to Vancouver's Chinese community.

347 East Cordova - St. Martha's Heritage House
It seems that 347 East Cordova was originally numbered 313.

Given that the part ofthe East End north of Hastings has some of Vancouver's oldest built heritage, a very large amount of its old houses and commercial buildings are now lost to us. immediately north of St. James and kitty-corner to the Sullivan house once stood an amazing old Italianate dwelling. I have not researched when this house was built, but it was old and sadly, there are no more houses of this exact style left in the city.

300 East Cordova on June 16, 1962, CVA Photo Bu P. 700.2 A. L. Yates
300 Oppenheimer was built in 1890 by contractor Thomas Beverly Spring. Stay tuend for a future post about Thomas B. Spring, who, according to his great great grandson in Sydney, Australia, had a rather interesting past. 

Just south of the Spring residence stood 306 (later 320) Gore Avenue.

320 Gore Avenue, in July of 1956 - Bu P508.23 by A. L. Yates
The south side of the 300-block of (Oppenheimer) East Cordova has been completely rebuilt. None of the original houses still stand.

But in the 1880s, this block was where Vancouver's first Mayor, Malcolm Alexander MacLean lived at 334 Oppenheimer. Above is a section of the 1901 Fire Insurance Map for Vancouver. The house where Mayor MacLean lived is the last one on the east end of the south side of Oppenheimer. Rememberto click on the map to enlarge the image.

334 Oppenheimer - Mayor MacLean's Residence CVA Photo Bu N8
Lots 17 and 18, Block 56 of District Lot 196
In the early 1920s and 30s, a house six doors down was home to a Japanese family, the Kusakas who had immigrated to Canada from Osaka. The Kusaka's young son, Shuichi Kusaka 日下周一 went on to become a world famous theoretical physicist who studied at Princeton under Albert Einstein. There is a great Youtube video on Kusaka produced by the descendent of one of his Vancouver relatives.

Directly north of the site of Mayor MacLean's old house on the NE corner of Cordova and Dunlevy is a group of buildings owned by the Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement. For many years, this was the site of the Catholic Japanese Mission. One of the houses in the compound, 385 East Cordova, is reputed to be one of, if not the oldest standing house left in Vancouver.

You can see the house in this 1887 photo. The block without any development will become Oppenheimer Park. 385 Oppenheimer (East Cordova) is under the third annotation from the left. It would seem from the old directory listings that it was once numbered 333 Oppenheimer and, at the time this picture was taken, was the home of hardware merchant Thomas Dunn.

CVA Str P223 J. A. Brock 1887 Cordova near Heatley

333 Oppenheimer in 1887. closeup of a section of CVA Photo Str P223
 Thomas Alexander Dunn, besides being a hardware merchant, was one of Vancouver's original ten aldermen. Here he is in the famous Harry T. Devine photo reenacting the first city council meeting after the Great Fire. Dunn is the third man from the left standing in front of the tent, just under the City Hall sign.

CVA Photo LGN 1045
Thomas Dunn had his hardware store on Cordova Street in the Dunn Miller Block which now houses the Army & Navy Store. Here is a studio portrait of Thomas Dunn and his family taken in the 1880s.

CVA Photo Port P179
Thre 400 block of East Cordova has been entirely redeveloped. This photo may be one of the few in existance, or at least in scanned and online, showing some of the houses on that block. This picture, showing a baseball game taking place in 1965 on the home turf of the Asahi Tigers shows about eight houses that once stood on this block.

400 block East Cordova Baseball at Oppenheimer Park VPL 42936

Before we head east into the 500 block of East Cordova, there are four, rather imposing Edwardian Box houses on the east side of Jackson facing Oppenheimer Park. 230, 236, 242and 248 Jackson were all built in 1905, just south of the Japanese Methodist Mission in 1905 by two women: Alexandra Mcdonald and Amy McCrae.

230-248 Jackson in 2010 
230 Jackson
236 Jackson
242 Jackson
248 Jackson
Behind 248 Jackson is 513 East Cordova.

513 East Cordova
This is another view of a sliver of the house that can be seen from between two of the Jackson Avenue houses.

This has an old lane house behind it which looks quite old. Here are two views.

A little bit further down the street is a curious building at 549 East Cordova. To me it looks like an old building but maybe not. The 1941 map of Nihon Machi (Japan Town) put together by the Japanese Canadian National museum in Burnaby shows this address as the site of the Honpa Buddhist Temple with Rev. E. Mitsubayashi residing there. Other information I have on the Honpa Buddhist Temple had it at 604 East Cordova on the site of the present Union Gospel Mission building. It could be that this building was actually the priest's home. More research is required. (Sadly, since this post was first uploaded, this building has been demolished).

Here is the view from the back.

And another one...

Going to the north side of the 500-block of East Cordova we come to the orignal site of the East End School.

CVA Photo Sch P46 Oppenheimer Street (East) School in 1887 or 1888
Here is another photo. Apparently the street address for the school was 504 Oppenheimer.

CVA Photo Sch P21 The East School in 1892 
There are a number of interesting buildings on the site now, including a brick three storey apartment building and three old houses: 518, 522 and 526 East Cordova.

 East Cordova was built in 1908. The original owner was someone named Lena Carlson.

522 East Cordova was built in the 1907 by carpenter Louis Godo.

Chinese Signage on 522 East Cordova
526 East Cordova was built by a marine engineer named Frederick Webster in 1909. This house was the Japanese Catholic Mission School until 1918 when it was bought by Kenta and Hatsuka Tanaka. According to the research done by Dr. Audrey Kobayashi, they are the ones who were responsible for putting the Gomon (Japanese family crest or coat of arms) on the front gable.

526 East Cordova
526 East Cordova - Detail
I am not so sure if this is actually the case, because the Gomon looks like the Gomon of the Tenrikyo Religion. The 1941 city directory shows this address as the location of the Vancouver Tenrikyo Church and th home of Rev. S. Tashiro, a Tenrikyo priest. It may be that the Tanakas were followers of Tenrikyo. You can find out more about Tenrikyo by following the links.

The 600-block of East Cordova has the largest number of intact heritage houses in the neighbourhood, some, because of their association with their builders are historically significant.

Prior to WWII, 604 East Cordova was the site of the Hompa Buddhist Temple. This,the precursor to the current Jodo Shinshu Temple at Jackson and Powell, also served as a community centre.

Further down on the same side of the street is the beautifully restored Twambley House at 656 East Cordova.

This house has received Heritage Designation. It is a "B" modified. Here is what the heritage plaque has to say. Click on the image to enlarge it.

On the north side of the street are a number of houses in various states of repair. Some are in the process of being restored. Others need a lot of TLC.

605 East Cordova - 1889 by Thomas H. Boyd
Rear View of 605 East Cordova

611 East Cordova
627 & 629 East Cordova
This lot has two addresses: 627 and 629 East Cordova. 627 East Cordova was built in 1889 by M. L. Campbell. 629 was built by Italian-born hotelier Angelo Calori, the builder of Gastown's landmark Hotel Europe. There is a lane house on this lot. More research needs to be done but it may be that this smaller lane house is 627 and the grey house in the front is the Angelo Calori house. Here below is a picture of the lane house.

627 East Cordova?

631 East Cordova
633 and 637 East Cordova
637 and 643 East Cordova
647 and 649 East Cordova
653 East Cordova
655 East Cordova
655 East Cordova was built in 1905. For many years it was the home of widow Mary Jane Biggar and her son George. George biggar was a jeweller, optician, and watch maker (he must have had very good eyes for all that) who had a store at 143 East Hastings.

657 East Cordova
657 East Cordova is the other address on this block associated with Italian-born hotelier, Angelo Calori. Calori built this house in 1907. The first resident was bar tender Joshua Maton. Ionian capitals crown interior columns. The current owners are restoring the house and are replacing the lost capitals on the columns on the porch. Here is a picture of the rather dapper Angelo Calori. Sempre la bella figura!

665 East Cordova
The last two houses on the south side of the block are interesting... I say "two" because originally that is what they were, two single family dwellings. 671 East Cordova was built in the early 1900s by William Keddy, a miner, and 679 East Cordova was built in 1899-1900 by a blacksmith named Wilbur Watson. At some point these two houses were joined to make a single apartment building. I am not surewhen it happened or who did it yet, but the end result is rather interesting.

From here, we walk a block down Heatley to Hastings. On the way are three more Edwardian boxes, 313, 311, and 305 Heatley, all built in 1906 by an A. McRae. It is my belief that this A. McRae is the Alexandra McRae who was co-owner of the four houses on the 200 block of Jackson. The name is the same, the period close and the design of the houses almost identical.

305, 311 and 313 Heatley
305 Heatley
311 Heatley
313 Heatley
This tour of Strathcona North of Hastings has focussed mostly on the houses that still stand in the neighbourhood, but there are a number of interesting apartment and commercial buildings that are worthy of further investigation... That will be for another blog though. In the meantime, I sincerely hope that this walk around the oldest part of Vancouver's East End will spark some in interest in preserving the built heritage that we still have there. Here is the link to Heritage Vancouver Society's position paper on Strathcona North of Hastings.

Camelias blooming in front of 305 Heatley


  1. Wow - I can't believe that no one has ever left a comment! This is the secind time I've read this amazingly informative blog. Thank you.

  2. Thank you for the post... This area is the oldest part of Vancouver's oldest neighbourhood. So many people think of Strathcona (The East End) and the neighbourhood south of Hastings, but everything started here and it is important to remember the links the city has to its earliest roots.

  3. This is as cool as it gets! Great job!

  4. I grew up living at "627" East Cordova, the rear house, as a youth. At the time, the address was not 627, but rather 629 1/2 East Cordova. It wasn't until Canada Post started using Postal Codes were we required to change the house number. Both houses were once owned by my Grandmother until her death. The layout of the house was odd at the time. The "main" entrance, or rather the entrance closest to the alley is actually the front door. My grandmother had it actually nailed shut before to accommodate furnishing. The other entrance, which is only 10 to 15 feet apart was used as our main entrance led to a steep narrow stairwell and the kitchen/dining room. Original cladding one all wood. The Stucco that appears in this picture must have been a remodel after 1980s.

    1. My grandmother lived in that little white house during the late sixties, it was 629 1/2 then also. I remember those steep stairs up to the bedroom. I used to wander around the back yard of the main house (I was a little girl then) and remember it as being like a secret garden.

  5. This is so great. I've always been fascinated by this kind of thing. Thank very, very much :)

  6. Thank you SO much! This is my new neighborhood and I've been curious about the history - the North side gets forgotten...

  7. What a wonderful resource you have provided for family researchers. I am trying to trace the origins of 400 Cordova St. East...where my husband's grandparents were married in 1911. Rev HW Fraser presided...he might have been Presbyterian. Was there once a church on the site before the 400 block was redeveloped? Thank you.

    1. 400 East Cordova has come up often in my research, Rev. HW Fraser was the Presbyterian minister or pastor for First Presbyterian Church on the SE corner or Gore and East Hastings... 400 East Cordova is the address of H.W. Fraser so may have been the church manse or minister's residence. I have not seen any pictures at the archives... Unfortunately I am not in Canada at this moment... or I would check what the fire insurance maps looked like for 1912 to see what was there.

    2. This is a truly wonderful blog about historical Strathcona. I've seen pictures here that no one else has published (that I've seen) thank you so much for your hard work and relentless attention to detail, I feel like no address has been overlooked or deemed insignificant.

  8. This is so great, I LOVE this neighbourhood & live nearby.. VeRRy motivated to help preserve Vancouver's heritage!