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

Monday, June 30, 2014


I love it when I get surprises in my e-mail inbox, especially when they are from history researchers who come across something that relates to houses that I am researching or have researched, and especially when they related with Vancouver's East End's history. 

Some years back I received this amazing scan of  page from the October 28, 1905 Vancouver Province from a man named Nelson who over the years has been kind enough to forward me a number of great articles and photos he has come across through the course of his research.

From top to bottom, left to right these houses are are identified as the R. M. Barclay house at 345 Hawks Avenue, the T. A. Smith house on Vernon Drive, the G. F. B. Adams house at 790 East Hastings, the W. J. Miller house at 303 Barnard Street, the A. McNair house at 616 Carl Avenue, D. McCrimmon house at 804 East Cordova, the W. Ells house at the corner of Barnard Street and Carl Avenue, the G. H. Tom house at the corner of Keefer Street and Carl Avenue, and the T. Crawford House at 745 Princess Street.

The original addresses may be a bit confusing to those unfamiliar with the history of East End Vancouver's street names. Barnard Street is now Union Street and was renamed to avoid confusion with Burrard Street in the West End. Carl Avenue is now Princess Avenue, although for a very short time it was also named Oppenheimer Avenue when Oppenheimer Street was renamed East Cordova, and Princess Street, originally Dupont Street is now East Pender. 

Any of you who have come on my East End/Strathcona History Walks know that Dupont Street was the very first street in Vancouver history to be renamed, in 1888, because the people living east of Main didn't want to be associated with the drugs, gambling and prostitution going on in the unit and 100 block of Dupont, which was both Vancouver's first Red Light District and also part of Vancouver's Chinatown. By the way, Union Street, which had already been renamed from Barnard, was renamed Adanac, Canada spelled backwards, between Vernon Drive and Boundary Road in 1930 for almost the very same reason.

Now that I have you cross-eyed and confused, lets return to the houses in the image. Sadly, the Robert M. Barclay house at 345 Hawks Avenue no longer stands. 

Its location would have been on a lot where the Sole Food urban garden is now located on the west side of Hawks just to the east of the Astoria Hotel. The 1905 city directory lists Robert M. Barclay as a shingle saw filer. We know from his April 16th 1903 wedding certificate that Robert McKenzie Barclay was born in New Brunswick, the son of William Barclay and Margaret Ernie. His wife, Elizabeth Ellen Simpson was born in Miramichi, New Brunswick and that her parents were Henry Simpson and Jane Stewart. We also know that the Barclays were Presbyterians and were married at 400 East Cordova Stgreet, which was the Presbyterian Church Manse, by Rev. R. J. MacBeth.

T. A. Smith's house on the northeast corner of Vernon Drive and East Georgia, today numbered 1201 East Georgia, still exists.

It is one of the most impressive houses still standing in the eastern part of Strathcona which for the past 40 years or so has become known as Kiwassa.

This neighbourhood within a neighbourhood takes its name from the Kiwassa Girls Club which operated out of the old Firehall No. 5 building visible here in this 1909 picture taken of Admiral Seymour School students in the school grounds. From the 1930s to the late 1940s, the same building was known as the Vernon Drive Junior G-Men's Club where neighbourhood boxing legend Phil Palmer taught neighbourhood kids how to box. T. A. Smith's house is visible on the top right corner of the picture just down the street from the old firehall. Ontario-born Thomas A. Smith was the superintendent of the Small & Buckland Lumber Company.

Carpenter George F. B. Adams house at 790 East Hastings no longer stands... Its location is today the site of Buckshon's Pharmacy. As we can see on his marriage certificate, George Francis Bethel Adams was born in London, England, the son of George Adams and Letitia Mary Lewis. 

His wife Wilhelmina Critch was born in Brigus, Newfoundland, the daughter of Henry Critch and Ellen Mann. George was a Congregationalist and Wilhelmina was a Methodist. The marriage took place on the January 1st, 1900, the first day of the 20th century, and took place in a house at 930 Princess, which would have been on the block of East Pender east of Campbell Avenue were the Stamps Place Housing Project is today.

W. J. Miller's house at 303 Barnard no longer stands as well. Its location would have been on the northeast corner of Union and Gore Avenue. I point out its location on all my East End/Strathcona History Walks.

William J. Miller was an Ontario-born carpenter. It would have distressed the Baptist Miller family to know that a number of decades later that their house would be known as the "biggest whore house in the East End". You can read more about how I found out about this house's reputation in a chapter I wrote for John Belshaw's anthology VANCOUVER CONFIDENTIAL by Anvil Press. Needless to say, when Nelson sent me this image from the Vancouver Province, I was thrilled to find included a picture of this house. As far as I know there are no other photos of it in existence, but if you read this and have once, I hope you will contact me. I would love to know what colour it was and know a little more about the house.

 Agnes McNair's house at 616 Carl Avenue, now Princess Avenue, still stands and has been recently beautifully restored and renovated. This house was one of 9 historic houses on the 600 block of Princess Avenue that I did an in-depth research project for early on in my house history research career. The house was built in 1902 for Quebec-born widow of Archibald McNair, Agnes. Agnes and her shipper son Austin and schoolteacher daughter Muriel lived in the house for a number of years. 

The original single family home nature of East Cordova, originally Oppenheimer Street has been largely obliterated. There are some houses on the north side of the 300 block, four more on the 500 block, and then an almost intact enclave of late 1800s and early 1900s houses on the 600 block of East Cordova. Ontario-born Kelly Douglas & Company clerk Donald McCrimmon's house at 804 East Cordova has been replaced by warehouses. At the time of the 1911 census the house was still home to Donald, his wife Jane, daughters May and Maud, and Jane's parents Xavier and Flora Arseneau.

W. Ells house at 750 Princess Avenue still stands and has been beautifully restored. This house was built in 1905 by St. John, New Brunswick-born grocer William Ward Ells. Ells married his English-born bride Rose Lily Sheppard on January 1, 1906 in his newly built house. 

The Ells family moved to 700 Jackson Avenue on the SE corner of Jackson and Harris (East Georgia). William Ward Ells later became the manager of the Woodward’s Grocery Department. 

There seems to be some bootlegging history associated with this address...I came across this newsclipping on the Vancouver Police Museum website... unfortunately, there is no date and no information about which newspaper it came from... Detective Donald A. Sinclair lived for a time at my old house at 1036 Odlum Drive in Vancouver's Grandiew neighbourhood where my interest in house history research began.

Strathcona Elementary School's principal Gregory Tom's house at 602 Keefer (also found in the directory as 602 Princess) still stands. 

The house is oriented so that Principal Tom could easily observe the goings on at Strathcona School from both his front porch and his upstairs window. 

Principal G. H. Tom with students in front of Strathcona School June 10, 1903 CVA Sch P51

This beautiful Queen Anne revival house, mentioned in Wayson Choy's novels as the Chomyzack house, is a popular attraction on my East End History Walks.

The last of the nine houses included in the Province Article not only stands, but has been recently renovated and is part of a new strata project called Crawford Row that includes a new rowhouse facing Hawks Avenue that replaces a historic house that once stood there. 

This house, now numbered 799 East Pender, was for most of its history known as 795 East Pender. On October 30, 1902 a man named Thomas Crawford applied for water service for a house he was building on Lots 21 and 22 of Block 67 of District Lot 181. Six days earlier, on October 24, 1902 builder D. McDonald applied for a building permit for the frame dwelling with an estimated building cost of $1,400.00 on behalf of Thomas Crawford. Thomas Crawford is listed on the application as owner and architect. The building permit application also indicates that the originally planned orientation of the house may have been towards Hawks Avenue as Hawks Avenue, and not Princess (East Pender) Street was mentioned in the application. The house was built in 1902 and completed for occupation in 1903, the first year the house at 795 Princess (renamed East Pender in 1907) is mentioned in the city directories. For the years 1903 and 1904, a sawmill employee Thomas Crawford is listed, but from 1905 and 1906 two separate Thomas Crawfords are listed by the directories: the mill hand, and a delivery clerk for the CPR Sheds. 

This second Thomas Crawford, born in Ireland on October 21, 1868, is mentioned in the BC Archives Vital Events records, although sadly much of his past remains a blank. This Thomas Crawford came to Vancouver from Ireland in 1897 where he worked as a clerk and later a checker for the Canadian Pacific Railway. The names of his parents are not listed on his death certificate, although one can assume that the mill hand listed in the directories was probably his father.

The D. Mcdonald mentioned on the building permit application was a prolific builder. A search of the building permit records shows that he built quite a few homes in Strathcona, Mount Pleasant, Grandview/Woodlands and even Kitsilano and the West End in the early 1900s. Although he worked as a building contractor for others, several of the permit applications were for properties McDonald owned himself.

Mill hand Thomas Crawford drops from the Vancouver City Directories in 1907. In October of that same year, Thomas Crawford (then listed as a CPR Shed delivery clerk) built a smaller one-and-a-half storey house on the north half of lots 21 and 22 of Block 67 or District Lot 181—421 Hawks Avenue. In 1908, the year this rental property was completed and first occupied, Crawford moved out of 795 East Pender but lived off and on at 421 Hawks Avenue during World War I.

Thomas Crawford moved around a lot in the 1910s and 1920s. He is listed at 615 East Hastings in 1918, then 768 Hamilton, followed by 613 Hamilton and once again 768 Hamilton in the 1920s. The year the Great Depression hit, Thomas Crawford moved into the Lotus Hotel at Abbott and Pender, just west of Chinatown, then moved to the Abbotsford Hotel at 921 West Pender in 1933 then to the Benge Rooming house at 914 West Pender in 1936. He lived at the Benge until 1949 after which it becomes impossible to trace him with any certainty.

795 East Pender was rental property for most of its existence, and most of its occupants were working class. The last owner to live in the house was Grosvenor Hotel cook Tsan Quen Mah and his wife Wei Lan. They moved out in 1971.

After 1986 the house at 421 Hawks Avenue became vacant and shortly after 1990 it was demolished. At about the same time the house at 795 East Pender was divided into separate suites.
Nelson sent me similar articles relating to handsome homes in Mount Pleasant, Kitsilano, and other Vancouver neighbourhoods. Sometime in the future, I hopeto be able to write articles about the houses shown in those articles.
Thank you Nelson, and all of you who continue to send me articles and links to photos related to my research work. They are all very deeply appreciated.


If you like these stories about old houses and would be interested in seeing some of the houses from this article first hand, why not come out for a History Walk with me through Vancouver's Old East End. I offer 3 hour walking tours through Strathcona on a number of Saturday mornings in February/March and in August/September when I come back to Vancouver from my current home in Italy. 
You can find the latest schedule for my History Walks in the East End and West End here via this link. Private tours for groups of 5 or more are available on certain Sundays during the time that I am back and I can do these in English, Japanese and Italian. My contact information is published on the linked web page. 

In the summer of 2014, the last year I offered these tours throughout the whole year, TripAdvisor rated them 12th of 137 things to do in Vancouver. Even with my much reduced season TripAdvisor currently rates my History Walks 39th of 171 things to do in Vancouver (as of March 2018). 

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