Church Street (Lane)

CVA 677-413 - First Congregational Church [500 Georgia Street] ca 1905.

CVA 677-413 – First Congregational Church [500 Georgia Street] ca 1905. (Church Street was the lane to the right of the Congregational Church. There are homes visible in the image that fronted onto Church Street: the two homes that appear in the photo to be behind the church; also the partially visible home that is at right angles to the town houses facing onto Georgia (and to the right of the church).

It is not unusual to find a “Church Street” in a Canadian city. Even today, in our post-church-attendance era, streets called “Church” can be found in New Westminster, North Vancouver, and in the Collingwood district of the City of Vancouver (near Boundary Road).

For the first half of the 20th century (1898-1947), there was also a Church Street (known after 1920 as “Church Lane”) in downtown Vancouver.

Church Street downtown was one block long and was bounded by Robson (south), Georgia (north), Seymour (west) and Richards (east). Today, the former Church Street is in the middle of the TelusGarden development.

Church Street seems to have borrowed its name from First Congregational Church, which was at the SW corner of Georgia at Richards from 1888 until 1925. Why this lane was so-named (among many other contender lanes close to churches at that time (there were, compared with today, a lot of churches in downtown Vancouver) is a mystery.  (For another idea on what may have been the source of the street’s name, see this more recent post)

Church was occupied predominantly by residences; there were no identifiable commercial properties on the block for as long as it was known as Church. The residents were mainly what we’d today consider blue-collar workers: teamsters, loggers, carpenters, and sawyers were well-represented; real estate agents and other white-collar desk-jobbers, less so. The folks who lived on Church also seemed to be on the move; there were almost no long-term residents of the block. It’s probably safe to assume that most of the residences on Church were rooming houses.

There is one family name that recurs among the residents of the block, however: Peake. I wasn’t able to find much information about the Peakes. Michael (1866-1943) was the father; Maria the mother; John and Frank, sons; and there were also Thomas and Patrick who shared housing with the other Peakes at different times. I’m not sure how they fit into the family picture, but I’ll venture a guess: I think Thomas was a brother to Michael and Patrick was Thomas’ son.

What is clear is that Michael immigrated to Canada from Ireland in 1893 and he brought something valuable with him – in addition to his wife and boys. He came with a trade: he was a tailor. Michael and Thomas were apparently both able to get steady work as tailors at first with William Murphy, Merchant Tailor (at various Cordova Street addresses). After Murphy went into the stationery business, I don’t know where the Peake tailors got work, but there seem to have been a number of tailoring shops in the city, so I’m guessing it wasn’t too hard. During the lifespan of Church Street, John and Frank Peake worked as “labourers” or at various table-waiting jobs with local hotels (such as the Windsor).

There was at least one Peake living on Church St. from roughly the turn of the 20th century until 1915. On this street of transients, that was a very long time.


“Church Street” today…in the midst of the TelusGarden commercial/condo development. 2015. Author’s photo.

This entry was posted in churches, street scenes, W J Moore, yesterday & today. Bookmark the permalink.

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