Friday, December 24, 2010

A Wet, Grey Christmas

If you live in Vancouver and you find joy in a white Christmas you may find yourself disappointed many times. We tend to have wet, grey Christmases with lots of green grass and such.

But that doesn't meant that Vancouverites let the the lack of snow damage their Christmas spirit. We just decorate what is around.

It doesn't matter that there isn't snow covering the trees or the yards. Stringing lights and hanging decorations still lend a festive air when everything is green.

One of Vancouver, and BC's, exports is fish. In 1901 we had a peak year for salmon. Forty-nine canneries operated on the Lower Fraser river and nearly a million cases were packed.

Also in 1901 the Moodyville Mill closed. It had been the main source of export income for BC for twenty years. However it was found to be more cost effective to move the mill closer to the source of the logs rather than bring the logs to the mill.

When I was a child my family had an artificial silver Christmas tree, much bigger than this one. One year my father bought my mom a silver watch for Christmas then hid it on the tree. Of course just above her eye level. She almost tore the tree apart trying to find her present! My dad can be an oversized brat.

Back to history of 1901. W.H. Malkin Co. was founded at the address of 115 Water Street. In those days the water from Burrard Inlet came right up to the warehosue doors. A Malkin, William, was once mayor of Vancovuer and there are descendants to this day residing in the city.

This was at my dentist's office and I just thought is was so beautiful. Perhaps I will make something similiar for my place next year. Or not, depends how motivated I get.

1901 was the year that the City Hospital was incorporated under the name of the Vancouver General Hospital which it is still known by today.

Remember when I wrote on the Mountain View Cemetery and mentioned Sara Ann McLagan? It was 1901 when John McLagan, founded and editor of the Vancouver Daily World died. His widow, Sara Ann, then became the first woman publisher of a daily newspaper in Canada. (She was also managing editor, editorial writer, proof reader and occasional reporter.) 

The Province reported that in the year from June 1, 1900 to May 31, 1901 St. Paul's Hospital had admitted 561 patients, had discharged 506 of them, and still had 35 in beds. Some 25 patients had died, 11 of them within three days of entry. Catholics numbered 153, Protestants 383 and other religions 25. Males? 393. Females? 165. (The last two figures add up to 558, three short of the total. Hmm.) Fifty patients had been admitted with typhoid fever, and seven of them had died. The statistics go on for two long and detailed columns.

Have you ever noticed how many different Christmas trees are around/ There is the silver, artificial ones I showed earlier. My parents now use a ceramic tree.

My dentist's office had an upscale one.

And then there are the traditional trees.

Some say that the Christmas tree originated in the 16th century in Germany. Others say it is taken from a pagan Winter Solistice tradition. (According to some Christianity moved the date of Christ's birth from July to December so that it would coincide with pagan traditions. The Christians were having a difficult time converting some pagans and had to make adjustments to the religion. I don't know what is true and after all these centuries it doesn't really matter any more.)

In 1902, on March 29, Grand Master F.M. Young of the B.C. Grand Lodge of Masons laid the cornerstone for what was to become the Carnegie Center at Main and Hastings Streets. Mayor Thomas Neelands presided. It was originally called the Vancouver Free Library.

Doesn't this place remind you a large home from a period movie? It is one of the older homes on Victoria Drive, not far from where I live.

Are you aware of Clover Leaf Salmon? That is a product that has been around since 1889. The British Columbia Packers Association purchased 42 canneries in May of 1902 with Alexander Ewan as its first president.

On September 12, 1902 Charles Woodward incorporated Woodward's Department Store and three days later excavation began on the site at Hastings and Abbot Streets for the construction of a four storey emporium. It was there for many years and long time residents have fond memories of that store. The bankruptcy of Woodwards in 1993 saw the building empty out and stand vacant for many years. Finally in 2006 it was taken down and now it has found new life as a condo development with stores on the ground floor.

Even though the lot was 66 feet wide and 132 feet long it didn't cost Woodward that much. Eight feet below sidewalk level was a swamp which the city drained for Woodward.

Christmas decorations can be so much fun. They add that special touch to a home or business and help people get into the spirit of the season.

This will be my last entry for 2010. Next week I am going to try to focus on getting my novel finished - yes I am that close! But I wish all of you a very merry Christmas and may you be healthy and happy in 2011.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Duncan and Shelly

For those of you who have been following my blog you may remember when I showed a photo of this building. I said that I thought it was a historic building but couldn't find any information on it. Instead I wrote on a gorgeous mural that was the across the street. Thanks to the website I have now found information on it.

This is the Chinese Nationalist League Building also known as the Kuomintang Building or the Nationalist League Building. It was constructed in 1920 and is at the eastern gateway to Vancouver's historic Chinatown.

This building has historic significance for many reasons. One is that it was built by W.E. Sproat and is considered his landmark building. (Sproat usually built houses not commercial buildings) Sproat used a mixture of eastern and western styles which was common for structures built during this time.

Another historical fact of importance is the involvement in Chinese politics that this building has had. In 1920 the Chinese Nationalist League or Kuomintang (KMT) had this building built as their Western Canadian headquarters. After 1927 the KMT governed China so the league's influence in overseas communities increased.

The league that once governed this building was quite influential in Chinatown and raised money for relief back in China and contributed to educational projects in Vancouver. (The Chinese Public School was once a tenant in the building) As time went on though and more residents were Canadian born Chinese support for the KMT diminished.

The facts I have on this building are a little confusing. According to my source - which I have quoted earlier - this is known as the Shelly Building formerly the Duncan Building but as you can see it still reads Duncan Building outside. As well Equitable Real Estate, who now manage the building, refer to it as the Duncan Building.
Architectural firm, H.L. Stevens and Co. built this in 1911 and it was touted as being first-class, modern and fireproof. It is a good example of the commercial style with characteristics like grid like organization of the windows and wall surfaces. The elevations are divided into three sections: a base with large glass display windows, a mid-section where most of the floors are, and the attic, typically capped by a bold cornice.

The original owner and developer of this building, Howard J. Duncan, is a mystery. That could be because the building wasn't that successful to begin with. Location and timing - business rentals slowed in 1913 and with the advent of World War I soon after things were a bit sparse - contributed to the initial financial failure of the Duncan Building.

A real estate and financial firm - the London & British North America Company Ltd - acquired the building in 1916. But it continued to struggle and the top two floors were converted to use by the Young Woman Association.

In 1925 the building was purchased by Cora Marie Shelly who was married to entrepreneur and philanthropist, William Curtis Shelley. (Mr. Shelly was founded Home Oil, Pioneer Timber, Canada Grain Export, Nanaimo Sawmills, Canadian Bakeries, and Shelly Bakeries. He was also a politician)

I don't usually go inside a building but this time I did. And, as you can see, that was a good thing.

That's all for now. I hope you find the beauty around you.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Restoration and Renewal

Remember when I wrote on the Flack Block? (In case you have forgotten just click here and read about it again.) The reason I mention this is that a little while ago I met Tony Rogac while walking downtown.

Rogac is a stone carver with Architectural Stone Masonry (ASM) and he and his firm were brought in to restore certain aspects of the building. Such as the archway which was originally made from Newcastle Island sandstone - a quarry which has been depleted.

This building was built in 1899 to 1900 and thanks to weather, the nearby ocean, the poor economic state of the area, time and some neglect I am sure certain features, such as this, had to be entirely redone.

But they did it. Working from blow ups from historical photographs of the Flack Block in its glory years, these artists were able to recreate the magnificent archway that had been destroyed by time.

As I mentioned the original material used came from a now defunct quarry so a substitute had to be made. 80,000 pounds of Indiana Grey limestone was handcarved and then installed in place.

Exquisite work. Thanks Tony for sending me the photos.

Not that far from the Flack Block is the Army & Navy Block. You can enter this building from Hastings Street walk through, cross the alley and enter the rear of the Cordova Street side. I took photos from Cordova.

This three storey late Victorian Italianate structure was built in 1888 and 1889 for two of Vancouver's most important businessmen at the time: Thomas Dunn a hardware merchant and alderman and Jonathon Miller Vancouver's first constable and postmaster.

Architect Noble S. Hoffar designed 'the largest, most pretentious and important' structure in the city as the Dunn-Miller block was once referred to. Oh if they could only see the city now!
Initially this building had Thomas Dunn's hardware store on the lower floor and the upper floors were home to The Vancouver Electric Railway and Light Company, the city's first synagogue and the Knights of Pythias, a non sectarian fraternal order.

North Vancouver property owner A.H. Lonsdale purchased the building during the Klondike years and renamed it the Lonsdale Block. According to city records was listed as commercial/residential with rooms on the upper floors being available to rent.

Other notable residents include the Caledonian Society and the Bricklayer's Union. As well, druggists H. McDowell & Company were among the earlier tenants. What makes that notable is that this druggist was the first of its kind to open after the great fire and went on to become a leading business in its field in Vancovuer.

According to the heritage sign outside the Army&Navy purchased this building in the 1930s. But according to they have been there since 1948. I guess both facts could be true.

The Regal Place was built in 1908 by architects John S. and Maurice Helyer. Originally it housed the Vancouver Stock Exchange, which was formed in 1907,  as well as  financial agents, accountants, real estate agents, and architects. Imagine the sums of money made and lost here.

Don't let the downtrodden look to this building fool you. It was once in the center of Vancouver's business area and noted architects such as  John S. Helyer and Sons who not only designed this building but also the Dominion across from Victory Square which I have written on previously.

When the Province newspaper moved from Victoria to Vancouver in 1917, this is where it roosted before moving to 198 West Hastings.

Now Regal Place is operated by the Portland Hotel Society and it serves as housing for those individuals from the Eastside who are either without a substance abuse problem or are in recovery from one.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Chinese Freemasons and Silk

This corner building has the address of 1 East Pender. But that isn't what gives the building historical significance.

This is the Chinese Times Building. It has a row of retail spaces on the ground level and residential units on the upper. It was built in 1902 by leading architect W.T. Whiteway for his client Yip Sang.

Sang, as you may remember when I wrote on him earlier, was a prominent Chinese Canadian businessman. He was responsible for the Wing Sang Company and fathered 23 children with four wives. (Someone I spoke with today knows one of Sang's grandsons) Sang was also a social reformer and political activist. Born into poverty in 1845 he emigrated to North America and worked hard to gain the prosperity he did.

This building has also had two notable tenants. One being the Chee Kung Tong also known as the Chinese Freemasons. This fraternal order can trace its history back to the earliest Chinese immigration to British Columbia in 1858.  

Another noted tenant was the Chinese Times newspaper which was owned by the Chinese Freemasons. Both organzations were heavily involved in the politics in China.  The Times operated out of this building from 1930 to about 1990.
27 East Pender Street was constructed in 1910 by architect R.J. Macdonald. This building has a distinct Chinatown style with vertical proportions, four storeys high (some only have three storeys) one or more of the upper floors has recessed balconies and facing the street is building wide glazing.
The metal cornice, added in 1914, adds to the unique appearance of this building.

The ground floor of this building has been home to a succession of retail businesses such as a grocery store, a restaurant and a silk merchant. (Currently Bombast Furniture is there and their items look excellent.)

This was the silk merchant that resided at this address for many years. The owner, a woman in her nineties, died last year I think I was told and her obituary revealed some facts. Like that she used to design for Diana Ross and the Supremes and the ladies would often visit for fittings etc when they were in town.

This is the roof as you walk towards the door. Interesting.
Another historical fact to this building is another of its residents.

The Hon Hsing Athletic Association is probably one of the first organized Chinese martial arts classes in Canada. They were established in 1938 and are an example of clan based organziations endeavouring to provide activities to the younger people. The organization known as the Wongs were responsible for the formation of this athletic club and it wasn't until 1960 that they allowed non asians to join.

I admit that I was a bit sneaky today when I got this photo. It is getting pretty close to the area where I could be harmed if someone took offense to my taking photos but I was standing far enough away that hopefully no one really noticed.

This is the West Hotel at 488 Carrall Street which was built from 1910 to 1912 and was used for decades for the intinerant population of male resource workers. In the winter when the logging camps were shut down men would lounge on the sidewalk and then go into the bar to drink. Not much has changed except maybe the residents are not as productive in the summer.

Ming Wo Cookware has been around since 1917 but this building was built in 1913 and by the only identified Chinese-Canadian architect at the time, W.H. Chow. The structure has a lot of the same characteristics as its neighbour, 27 East Pender.

One of Chinatown's wealthiest and most successful businessmen, Wong Soon King, originally owned this building. He was not only smart in business but helped shape the physical form of Chinatown with his tireless campaigns on City Hall for improvements such as sidewalks.

Although the lower level is designated for retail the upper floors contain meeting rooms and offices and small residential rooms. In the first third of the twentieth century tenants included the Kong Chow Benevolent Association and the Hong Kong Club.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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