Cobblestone Lane

1939 CVA 260-1013 #1F4C6A4
CVA 260-1013 – A Cobblestone Alley (Opposite 332 Water St, Homer Street Arcade). James Crookall photo, 1939.

These images were taken from roughly the same location. In both, the photographer was facing south in a back lane just north of Water Street in Gastown and opposite what  once was known as Homer Street Arcade and today is called Le Magasin.

Cobblestone Alley looking up to 332 Water Street, Le Magasin (Homer Street Arcade). Author’s photo, 2014.

From Rail/Industrial Park to Artificial Turf

Author's File, 2014.
Author’s File, 2014.

This green space on the outskirts of downtown today is known as Andy Livingstone Park. From 1915-1960s, the first Georgia Viaduct would have cut across the southern section of where the park is today. Before the artificial turf of the athletic grounds, there were rails and an ‘industrial park’. The northeastern False Creek rail flats, part of which are still in existence today (southeast of the park), extended into this region during most of the 20th century and, indeed, were part of the reason that the early Viaduct was constructed.

The following extended passage from a 2011 City of Vancouver Transportation report is helpful in putting the present into historical context:

The first Georgia viaduct, completed in 1915, was built to connect the eastern part of the City to the Downtown core. The railway yards and industrial area below created a barrier and the viaduct created a way to remove this barrier with a relatively flat connection to the bluff of the downtown.

Due to structural problems and ongoing maintenance issues Vancouver residents voted to replace the viaduct in the 60’s with a design that included two structures and continued to pass over the industrial lands of Northeast False Creek below. This viaduct design was based on it becoming the first phase of a larger freeway network that was planned.

In the late 1960s opposition led to the rejection of the freeway plan for Vancouver and today the only remnant of the freeway proposal is the eastern portion of the viaducts.

Today the area around the viaducts has a much different context then when they were built. The railway yards have been removed and the industrial areas are no longer present. They still provide a gently sloping east/west connection from Main Street to the downtown which provides a good connection for bikes and goods movement that is not present otherwise in this area, however they create a barrier for the area below and for linkages between Chinatown, Gastown and Strathcona to False Creek. 

The image below is one made by professional photographer, Jack Lindsay, probably sometime between 1940-48 of part of the rail yards beneath the first Georgia Viaduct.

CVA 1184-27 - Rail car loaded with lumber at the Canada Customs Sufferance Warehouse under the Georgia Viaduct. Jack Lindsay photo, 1940-48.
CVA 1184-27 – Rail car loaded with lumber at the Canada Customs Sufferance Warehouse under the Georgia Viaduct. Jack Lindsay photo, 1940-48.

Wild About Arches

SGN 1081 - [Arch on#1EFCAAA
SGN 1081 – Arch erected at CPR wharf (foot of Howe St) for visit of Chinese diplomat, Li Hongzhang. William M. Stark, photo, 1896

From the incorporation of Vancouver through the early decades of the 20th century, residents of Vancouver were nuts about erecting arches. Most arches were constructed to celebrate special occasions and visits of dignitaries. There are photographic examples in the City of Vancouver Archives of arches being constructed to celebrate:

As far as I know, with the exception of Lumbermen’s Arch, none of these stood much longer than the occasion for which they were erected. The arch-building craze seems to have run its course by the end of WWII. I’m not aware of any arches being erected to welcome home troops for VE or VJ Days.

But arches continue to have a following in contemporary Vancouver and the form can still be found today. Most notable is the Lumbermen’s Arch – first erected at Pender and Hamilton streets for the 1912 visit by the Duke and Duchess of Connaught, then moved to Stanley Park where it remained until it had to be demolished in 1947 due to its deteriorating condition. It was replaced by a more abstract, simpler arch in about 1952; it remains there today. Chinatown’s Millennium Gate (2002), and the Peace Arch (1921) monument at the Canada/US border crossing are two other examples of continuing local affection for the arch form.

1912 Arch N6.02 - [Lumbermans Arch at Pender and Hamilton for the visit by the Duke of]-2
CVA Arch N6.02 – Lumbermen’s Arch at Pender and Hamilton for the visit by the Duke and Duchess of Connaught, 1912.


SGN 1552 - [James H. Field seated with caligraph typewriter at 99 Alexander Street branch of C.P.R. telegraph office], 1912,  C. Bradbury photo
SGN 1552 – James H. Field seated with caligraph typewriter at 99 Alexander Street branch of C.P.R. telegraph office, 1912, Charles Bradbury photo

Charles Bradbury (1871-1950) is the amateur photographer who made this image. Camera Workers has this to say about bradburyhim: Originally from Great Britain, Bradbury emigrated to Canada from Borneo. A telegrapher, he photographed throughout the Vancouver region as well as along the Sunshine Coast. Peter Grant’s book on Vancouver Island postcard photographers notes that he worked at San Mateo Bay (Barkley Sound) beginning in December 1902, then supervised at Cape Lazo near Comox starting in 1908, and moved to another station on the Sechelt Peninsula (Sunshine Coast) in 1913. 

It seems likely that Bradbury knew James Field of the CPR telegraph office (which was located adjacent to where Columbia Street Pump Station on Alexander Street is today), probably through their common ‘day jobs’.

The typewriter and the telegraph behind it (and the glass insulator apparently serving as paperweight) on Field’s desk were early precursors of the communication technology revolution which was more fully realized later in the century with the dawn of personal computers, email, and internet.

Burrard Inlet Waterfront Reclamation

marine 1936-2014

These two images, made 78 years apart, were taken from roughly the same location. It is apparent from these images that in the years since the 1930s, much commercial waterfront land has been ‘reclaimed’ by building up and northwards. In the 2014 photo, part of the Vancouver Club is just visible on the far left, the Marine Building is on the far right (the glass tower under construction behind it is MNP Tower) and Park Place building is mid-image. In the earlier image, there’s a sign pointing towards the Vancouver docking point for car ferry service across Burrard Inlet (1904-1958). By the late 1950s, this service was redundant, due to the existence then of both a first narrows crossing (Lions Gate Bridge) and a recently completed new second narrows crossing (Ironworkers Memorial Bridge).

Memorial Chapel at First Baptist Church

Author's photo.
John Bunyan: Tinker, Writer, Preacher. Author’s photo.

The First Baptist Church Memorial Chapel has within it some of the most outstanding stained glass on the church site. The Chapel was dedicated as such in January 1958. (The space occupied by the Chapel has been part of the church structure at the northwest corner of Burrard and Nelson since it was built in 1910-11 and was used for administrative functions of the denomination of which FBC is part and later served as the study of the senior minister).

Christ in the home of his parents. Author's photo.
Christ in the house of his parents. Author’s photo.

These three stained glass windows were dedicated in 1963 by Padre James Willox Duncan (1906-2002) to the memory of Ester Duncan and of E.P. Miller. There is another window in the Memorial Chapel (not shown here) given in memory of Dr. Wayman Roberts by Mrs. Roberts; Dr Roberts died in 1955 while FBC’s senior minister.

Author's photo.
William Carey: Cobbler, Missionary and Scholar. Author’s photo.

United Services Centre

In 1943, a United Services Centre was established at 636 Burrard Street, where there is a park, today, between Park Place office tower and Christ Church Cathedral; across from Burrard Skytrain Station.*

The following excerpt from a historical report to the Rotary Club of Vancouver was presented in 2007 by Lorna Persson (see here for her complete report):

A United Services Centre was set up by the Rotary Club of Vancouver and was used as a recreation centre for men and women in the Armed forces on leave in Vancouver. The Rotary Ann’s (as we were called at that time) helped at the Centre as hostesses in the library, cloakrooms, and canteen. They worked long hours, as it was extremely busy serving 1,000 meals a day. The workers dressed in white and always looked crisp and fresh. The food was attractively served and very reasonably priced. Games, billiards, ping pong, and dancing [took] place in the evenings – to say nothing of the Wurlitzer which could fill your ears with music any hour of the day, along with a player piano.

The United Services Centre served over 1,000,000 service men and women who enjoyed its hospitality and recreation…. After the war the building was turned over to the New Veterans Branch of the Canadian Legion.

A slideshow appears below of CVA images, principally from the year of the Centre’s opening. There is also an image of Dal Richards playing the United Services Centre in this earlier-posted slideshow.

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*Note: Adjacent to the Centre  – and sharing the space now occupied by the park – was another WWII-related building for the P.C.P.C/A.R.P. headquarters; in case that acronym is as opaque to you as it was to me, it stands for Provincial Civilian Protection Committee/Air Raid Precautions. This group was responsible for coordinating local blackout conditions and other homefront-related protection measures.

Electric Vaudeville

CVA 447-395 Avenue Theatre. 1935 WE Frost
CVA 447-395 Avenue Theatre. 1935, WE Frost photo.

The building pictured above at the corner of Main Street and what was then the eastern end of the Georgia Viaduct is what was once a centre of Vancouver vaudeville, the Avenue Theatre building. The Avenue was a little off the beaten path (Hastings Street) of Vancouver vaudeville theatres, but it had a significant, although brief, period in the spotlight.  It first appeared in BC Directories in 1911 and it seems to have become a spent force by the early 1930s – just as motion pictures were eclipsing live theatre.

By the time this image was made, the Theatre had been closed for about four years and the structure apparently housed a variety of commercial enterprises (from a moving/storage facility to a shoe repair service). Within a decade, the building faced the wrecker’s ball to make room for the still-standing, late-art deco-styled, Murrin substation (one of BC Hydro’s network of electrical substations).

A slideshow with a few Avenue-related images appear below.

Related Sources:
• For a visual review of several other Hastings-area Vancouver theatres, see this slideshow compilation I assembled a few months ago.
• For a detailed history on the Imperial Theatre (better known to some contemporary Vancouverites, perhaps, as the Venus, a porn palace) which was across Main street from the Avenue Theatre, see this piece.
•Finally, this is an impressive scanned reference book assembled during the vaudeville period for vaudevillians. It includes the sort of information that players would want to know about a city (e..g., hotels near theatres, food/beverage purveyors, train ticket costs and timetables).

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Oyster Bar Cafe

CVA 447-290 - Oyster Bay Cafe Bldg, Carrall St and Cordova St. ca 1939 WE Frost
CVA 447-290 Oyster Bay Cafe Bldg, Carrall and Cordova Streets, ca 1939, WE Frost photo.

I walked past the new Boulevard Kitchen and Oyster Bar (part of the Sutton Place Hotel establishment (on Burrard Street near Robson Street) and I wondered how long this oyster-consuming place would survive. I was reminded, then, of what I suspected was a very long-lived oyster restaurant from Vancouver’s past: The Oyster Bar Cafe at 300 Carrall Street. I didn’t know how long the Oyster Bar had lasted, but I had a suspicion it was awhile. So I had a look in the BC Directories and I found listings for it from 1912 through 1948: 36 years.

Shifted Priorities for Central Burrard

1923-2014These images are from the 900 block of Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver. The two starkly show the differing priorities for the area over the last 100 years or so. In the early years of the 20th century, public education held sway in the neighbourhood (in addition to Aberdeen School, shown above, Dawson and King George Schools were within three-blocks).  In the early years of the 21st century, however, the property became far too pricey for public schools to retain. On the sites of these former public school buildings today are a grocery store (with a condominium above it), the Sheraton Wall Centre Hotel, and the Wall Centre condo tower.



It’s a Long Way… to Ypres, Passchendaele, and the Somme

The photo below honours the men and women who left for Europe during the 1914-18 war, to serve Canada. The Great War began, unceremoniously, a century ago today.

We are looking at Cordova (the street that extends to the right of the image) and Seymour Street. The St. Francis Hotel is where Grant Thornton Place (formerly Price Waterhouse Centre) is located today.

1914 Mil P276.1 - [Crowds outside the C.P.R. Station for the embarkation of the first overseas troops]-2
CVA Mil 276.1 [Crowds outside the CPR Station for the embarkation of the first overseas troops] of the Great War, 1914.

From Books to Burgers

1969 CVA 780-27 - %22The Book Barrel,%22 Theatre Row, [at 891 Granville Street]
CVA [The Book Barrel on Theatre Row (891 Granville Street)], 1969.
This image is a sign of the times (both of the 1960s and the 2000s). The 1969 image of The Book Barrel was taken at 891 Theatre Row (aka Granville Street), just north of Smithe Street.

Who could have predicted in the late 1960s that by the early 2000s, traditional paper-made books and the shops that trade in them would be facing serious and significant decline. Likewise, who could have forseen that 45 years after this image was made, the current occupant of this space – McDonald’s – would be operating 1,400 fast food joints in Canada. Quite a jump from 1967, the year that McD’s opened its first Canadian purveyor of burgers and fries in Richmond, BC.

I find it interesting that this shop (which, I believe, traded mainly in general stock used books) was open every day from 10am to midnight (except for Sunday, when it was open from noon to midnight).

It is very difficult to remember that events now in the past were once in the future – Maitland's Dictum


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