Early Days of Labour

1903 Fl P2 - [The Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners with their Labour Day parade float at Seymour Street and Dunsmuir Street] Alfred A Paull
CVA Fl P2 – The Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners with their Labour Day parade float at Seymour Street and Dunsmuir Street. Alfred A Paull photo, 1903.
This image appears to have been shot on Dunsmuir Street, facing west towards Granville. The Bank of Montreal building at the time was located on the northeast corner of Granville at Dunsmuir and is the castle-like structure visible behind the float. The Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners fought for (and won for its members, during a strike) a 9-hour working day.  For details on the history of the Amalgamated Society (and later representatives of these trades), see this link. For more on Labour Day and organized labour celebrations generally, this is a helpful article.

Note that the sidewalk on Dunsmuir Street in the image above (1903) consisted of wooden plank structures, apparently petering out part way between Granville and Seymour Streets! These wooden sidewalks were the norm in early Vancouver, evidently. This is how Mrs. J. Z. Hall remembered early Granville Street (when speaking with Vancouver’s first archivist, J. S. Matthews, in 1931):

Of course, the sidewalks on Granville Street were three planks, and you had to watch out. At the Hotel Vancouver they were four or five feet above ground, and we had to be careful when wheeling the baby carriages—we wheeled our babies then—or you would tip baby and all, over. We used to hide our things under the sidewalks. Go to church on Sunday, and leave all your stuff under the sidewalk, and pick it up when you came out. (Matthews, Early Vancouver, Vol 1, p. 24)

My curiosity is piqued as to just what sorts of “stuff” Mrs. Hall and others hid beneath the plank sidewalks before Sunday services.

The Unsung Legacy of Eliza Chalk (1862-1915)

 The following article was written for the 125th anniversary of First Baptist Church in 2012. It was one in a series called “Who Was Who in the Pew”. It is reproduced below with a couple of minor edits, but is substantially identical to the original.

Eliza Chalk’s brief moment of fame at First Baptist Church came on September 4, 1917. Nearly two years after her death.

A single paragraph in the minutes of the Board of Deacons meeting on that date reads: Mr. Morgan mention (sic) that the taxes on the lot left the church by Miss Chalk would have to be paid otherwise it would be sold at the tax sale. It was thought best to let it go as it was not worth what was against it.

This minute, which takes about one-quarter of a minute to read, piqued my curiosity about Miss Chalk and her gift to First Baptist. A gift which, apparently, the church did not accept.

Eliza Chalk was born in England on March 13, 1862. She was raised by her father (a widower) in the town of Taunton with her sister and two brothers. She emigrated to Canada in 1906.

The 1911 census records show her as a lodger at that time with Owen and Mary Fuller and their family at 2395 West 6th Avenue. The Fullers and Miss Chalk identified themselves as Baptists. I suspect she was a live-in maid for the Fullers, who had four youngsters at the time.  The Fullers were members at First, and it is possible that they were Eliza’s initial connection to the church.

1907 Str P124 - Main Street September 1907 South of Ferris Road [49th Avenue]
CVA Str P124 – Man posing on Main Street South of Ferris Road (49th Avenue). Just a few blocks away from where Miss Chalk bought her home 11 years later. 1907.
That Miss Chalk became a property owner is remarkable. Her lot was located in the community of South Vancouver at 6438 Ontario Street. This is just north of 49th Avenue – near the geographic centre of the City of Vancouver, today (scarcely a block from Langara College) – but in 1915, it would not have been an exaggeration to refer to this area as “the sticks”. When she bought the property, it could not have been worth much. But given Eliza’s probable monthly wage of roughly $30/month, she must truly have been a first-class scrimper and saver to have made any real estate down-payment.*

Eliza suffered from a condition known as “cardiac dropsy”, what is known today as “cardiac endema”, and it seems she ultimately died from this condition at the relatively young age of 53 – just 2.5 months after buying her lot.

Eliza’s name does not appear in the membership rolls of First Baptist. Indeed, aside from the paragraph in the minute book of the Board of Deacons, I couldn’t find any reference to her in any of the church’s official documents. It seems safe to conclude that she was an “adherent” at FBC. We did not use that term in Eliza’s time, however. When referring to someone who was not a member, we’d often use the term “stranger”.

Thankfully, Eliza did not consider the congregation at First Baptist Church to be strangers. She apparently considered us “family”.

*Star Rosenthal. “Union Maids: Organized Women Workers in Vancouver, 1900-1915. BC Studies. No. 41 (Spring 1979), 53.

Other Sources: Ancestry (Library Edition); BC Vital Statistics: Death Records (microfiche); and the dedicated staff of reference librarians at Vancouver Public Library ( especially the Special Collections staff at Central Branch).

War Dance and Carnival, 1917

There was a four-day fundraiser called the War Dance and Carnival held May, 1917 on the Cambie Street Grounds and the adjacent ‘old’ Georgia Street Viaduct. The Carnival was sponsored by the B.C. Commercial Travellers’ Association in aid of four charities: the Red Cross Material Fund, the return of soldiers from the Great War, the Canadian Patriotic Fund, and the Royal Naval Service Fund. Entertainment at the Carnival included singing, dancing, fireworks, and acts including that by Harry Gardiner, “the Human Fly”.

The “official photographer” of the Carnival was pro photographer, Stuart Thomson (shown below in front of his studio at the corner of Georgia at Richards; he is the one standing on the tailgate of the automobile).

CVA 99-1145 – Truck outside Stuart Thomson’s studio:shop decorated with banners. Stuart Thomson, 1917.

However, we are indebted to James Crookall, an enthusiastic and fine amateur photographer for most of the the scenes of the Carnival itself. I will be showing all of Crookall’s images of the event that are available online at the City of Vancouver Archives and will remark on each.

ca1918 CVA 260-1052 - [Sideshows at a wartime carnival on the Cambie Street Grounds] J Crookall
CVA 260-1052 – Sideshows at a wartime carnival on the Cambie Street Grounds – James Crookall, ca 1918 [1917].
  • Far left, a person is dressed in what appears to be a Polynesian grass skirt.
  • Beatty St. Drill Hall is in the background at left (the banner hanging from the upper part of the drill hall indicates it’s the regimental home of the DCOR (Duke of Connaught’s Own Rifles).
  • Few of the banners announcing sideshows are legible. The one on left announces “Taking a Wife” at the top. The third from the right reads “Igorot” at the top . Fourth banner announces “Head Hunters” and seems to say “Dance of Victory” at bottom. None of the other banners are readable by me.
  • There is a sign affixed to the lamp post at far right announcing that there is a “Ladies’ Rest Room” (the smaller print below is not readable by me, although I assume it indicates where the rest room is located). Judging by the cross in the center of the sign, it appears that the rest room was a service offered by the Red Cross. For more information regarding the state of “public conveniences” in early Vancouver, see this fascinating article.
ca1918 CVA 260-1059 - [Entrance to the carnival on the Cambie Street Grounds] J Crookall
CVA 260-1059 – Entrance to the carnival on the Cambie Street Grounds – James Crookall, ca1918 [1917].
  • This is one of two images by Crookall of the entry to the carnival. Tickets were purchased (just out of the frame to the left) and then bills could be exchanged for “change” for rides and other events within.
  • On the far left, there is a sign posted to the wooden fence which announces that the “official photographer” is Stuart Thomson; his business address appears on the sign. What the posted sign says that is adjacent and to the right of Thomson’s sign, I do not know.
  • There appears to be a figure walking on a high wire over the Cambie St Grounds. Could this be Harry Gardiner, “the Human Fly”?
CVA 260-1045 – People heading towards a wartime carnival at the Cambie Street Grounds, James Crookall, ca1918 [1917].
  • The camera, in this image is facing east (toward the Drill Hall); further evidence is the ‘punny’ “Western Front” sign announcing the carnival’s western gate beneath it. This is a wider view of the ticket gate noted earlier.
ca1918 CVA 260-1048 - [A Red Cross booth at a wartime carnival at the Cambie Street Grounds] J Crookall
CVA 260-1048 – A Red Cross booth at a wartime carnival at the Cambie Street Grounds, James Crookall, ca1918 [1917].
  •  Shows the Red Cross booth. This appears to have been located somewhere on the Georgia Street Viaduct (given the lamp post behind the booth and left); it bears a strong resemblance to Viaduct lamp posts (see also next image for more lamp posts).
  • There is a sign posted on the left side of the booth pertaining to a “university platoon”. What this means, is unknown to me; the other words on the sign are unclear.
ca 1918 CVA 260-1050 - [The Georgia Viaduct decorated and closed to vehicular traffic during a carnival] J Crookall
CVA 260-1050 – The Georgia Viaduct decorated and closed to vehicular traffic during a carnival, James Crookall, ca1918 [1917].
  • The camera appears, in this photo, to be facing southwest (the Vancouver Block and Hotel Vancouver #2 are visible to the right of the image; the Beatty Street Drill Hall is nearer to the centre/right of the photo) and looking across the ‘old’ Georgia Viaduct. The viaduct was closed to vehicle traffic during the carnival.
  • Note the streetcar tracks on the Viaduct; they were installed when the viaduct was constructed, but were never used (for safety reasons; the original viaduct was very poorly constructed).
ca1918 CVA 260-1051 - [The Georgia Viaduct closed to traffic during a carnival showing military displays and a refreshment stand]  Jms Crookal.jpg
CVA 260-1051 – The Georgia Viaduct closed to traffic during a carnival showing military displays and a refreshment stand. James Crookall, ca1918 [1917].
  • In this photo, the camera is facing northeast; the Georgia Viaduct is visible behind the “Ice Cream and Soft Drinks” sign.
  • Note that the entry to this section of the carnival (with a more military tone to it with military engineering tents dominating the scene) has been decorated, apparently, to create a (sanitized) sense of walking within a ‘trench’, similar to those in which our ‘boys’ were doing in Europe. There are two sentries standing at attention (bottom right) with bayonets unsheathed!
  • There is building with an Asian-styled roof, and a partly legible sign on it indicating that there are Chinese “noodles” and “tea” to be had within.
  • The Main Street (then, Westminster) bridge appears to be visible to the right and in the background of the image.
ca1918 CVA 260-1049 - [Crowds at a wartime carnival at the Cambie Street Grounds] Jms Crookall.jpg
CVA 260-1049 – Crowds at a wartime carnival at the Cambie Street Grounds, James Crookall, ca1918 [1917].
  •  A sign at center-left announces “Graffort & Burtons Colored Musical Comedy and Minstrel Show”, including the drama of “Madam Eudora Burton”.
  • To the right of the ferris wheel is a sign that reads “Ladies”. Near there, it seems safe to conclude, is where the Ladies’ Rest Room was located.
  • To the far right is a tent with the annoucement on it “Your Picture Made.” This, I assume, was where Stuart Thomson, the “official photographer” of the carnival, was hanging his shingle for the duration of the carnival.
ca1918 CVA 260-1054 - [A ferris wheel during a wartime carnival on the Cambie Street Grounds] James Crookall
CVA 260-1054 – A ferris wheel during a wartime carnival on the Cambie Street Grounds. James Crookall, ca1918 [1917].
  •  This is a wider perspective of the earlier image showing the ferris wheel. The photographer seems to be standing just outside of the carnival site.
  • The more complete Stuart Thomson sig apparently reads “Your Picture Made: While You Wait” (no small promise in 1917).
ca1918 CVA 260-1060 - [Crowds surrounding a building during a wartime carnival on the Cambie Street Grounds] Jms Crookall
CVA 260-1060 – Crowds surrounding a building during a wartime carnival on the Cambie Street Grounds, James Crookall, ca1918 [1917].
  • I suspect that this very well-attended event is the crowning of Miss Vancouver (see below).

A song was commissioned of Wilson MacDonald for the carnival. It was called (unoriginally), “Song of the Carnival”. Josie Siddons was crowned “Miss Vancouver” at the Carnival; her portrait appeared on the cover of the sheet music.

Screen shot 2014-08-28 at 3.15.08 PM

HV Fantasia

This HDR image is one I made about a year ago when I was feeling particularly sorrowful for the loss of the predecessor of the current Hotel Vancouver – the much more architecturally interesting hotel that was located two blocks east of its present location, where the TD Tower (or ‘Black Tower’) is today. It occurred to me prior to taking this shot that although the Black Tower has little to crow about when compared with the grand old lady who stood on the site previously, one of its advantages is that it has a highly reflective, glass surface. Add to that the fact that there are no tall structures interrupting the reflection on its face of the current hotel (thanks to the Robson Square, formerly Courthouse, property), and I realized that it makes a good canvas for a fantasy image of today’s Hotel Vancouver standing on the site of yesterday’s hotel.

Reflection of today’s Hotel Vancouver (located on Georgia between Howe and Burrard Streets) in the TD Tower (on Georgia between Granville and Hornby Streets). Author’s photo, 2013.

Grand Old Lady

hotel van

This yesterday/today combo shows the current Hotel Vancouver (#3, on Georgia between Burrard and Hornby) and the much more interesting and beloved second incarnation of the hotel (at Georgia between Granville and Howe), where today looms the ‘black tower’, aka TD Tower. In the 1931 image, you can just make out the Birks Clock on the southeast corner of Georgia and Granville (in front of what was then Birks and what today is the much less imaginative structure that houses London Drugs. The 2014 photo of the current HV shows green netting around part of the current HV; they are giving the building a face-lift.

What Price Liberty?

St Francis, Holy Rosary Cathedral. Author’s photo, ca2012.

These images, of St Francis in the lane adjacent to Holy Rosary Cathedral, were made a couple of years apart: the first, ca 2012; the second, 2014. In 2012,  Francis was caged within a wire enclosure. I found him liberated from the wire when I returned to take the 2014 photo. I cannot be sure of it, but it looks as though his liberty came at a price – several of the fingers were broken off in 2014 (I don’t recall that being the case in 2012, but I cannot prove it; I didn’t include his hands in the earlier image).

St Francis, Holy Rosary Cathedral. Author’s photo, 2014.

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 (332 Water). For another view of the 2014 scene, see this posting on the “Van Photos” site.

Le Magasin building from (formerly entirely cobblestone) back lane north of Water Street. Author's photo, 2014.
Le Magasin building from (formerly entirely cobblestone) back lane north of Water Street. 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.

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


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