Monday, June 2, 2014

The Welsh Come to Vancouver

This week I want to tell you about another man who was instrumental in building Vancouver - Jonathan Rogers.

I have mentioned Rogers before in a post earlier this year, he was the first person to step off the first passenger train, which pulled into the new city of Vancouver. I wonder if the young Welshman had any idea how connected to Vancouver he would become.

Jonathan Rogers was born at Plas-Onn, near Llangollen in Denbighshire, North Wales. He grew up speaking only Welsh and at the age of 16, moved to Liverpool where he worked at various jobs and perfected his English.
Jonathan Rogers. Photo from the City of Vancouver Archives.
Roger's aunt left him a legacy and he chose to make a start in the new world. So in 1887, Jonathan sailed for Montreal and boarded the first transcontinental train for Vancouver.

 Not long after he arrived, Rogers attended the first public auction of parcels of CPR land within the new city. Jonathan bought four lots in which are now downtown though at the time that land was outside the area. He went to work as a painter and later became a construction contractor.

As you can well imagine, there was massive speculation with the formation of a new city. Especially one with all the promise and benefits that Vancouver has. That speculation was soon halted though when the economic realities of building a city were realized and then combined with the collapse of lumber prices south of the border. A depression had hit the area.
Many people were leaving the city in search of better prospects. But Rogers was smart. He held onto his lands. In 1893, he partnered with the Hunter Brothers (James and Thomas) to build a 2-storey building on Columbia street, near Powell. Rogers wasn't giving on the new city.

In fact, in 1894, Jonathan announced that not only was he not leaving Vancouver, he was building another building on Hastings Street. the first half of the building was designed by William Blackmore, who used it for his own offices after the building was completed. But I will tell you more about that on Wednesday. Including why Rogers would be very unhappy with what the building is used for today!

I am getting this information from the Building Vancouver blog.

I hope you find the beauty around you.