Freeze, Varmint! (Or ‘Vacant Lot as Window to the Past’)


Str P338 – Vacant lots on the north side of West Hastings street between Homer Street and Hamilton Street. ca1889. Charles S. Bailey photo. Annotation with arrow showing “Arlington Block” added by VAIW author.

This very early Vancouver image by pioneer photographic professional, Charles Bailey, makes me chuckle.

Not only is it a clear and sharp photograph of a time in Vancouver which would be nearly inconceivable today, without such images, but it shows a little slice of life at the time. The gent in the foreground has, apparently, spied himself a varmint of some sort (although it isn’t visible to me) in what must be described as an unofficial midden of the period.

But where on Hastings Street was this photo taken?

There aren’t many structural clues left of the old town to guide us. But there is one: the Arlington Block. Happily, the window configuration at the rear of the Arlington (which faces onto Cordova at Cambie and backs onto the lane between Cordova and W. Hastings) is unique.  The Arlington is shown in the ca1889 image above and in the 2016 one (courtesy of Google) below.


Screen capture made from Google 2D view in December, 2016. Shows retail businesses fronting on the north side of West Hastings between Cambie and Homer. Note: Annotations and arrows in blue added by VAIW author.

The lot that was vacant in about 1889 is vacant today. But during most of the intervening years, it was occupied. The structure on the lot housed, for many years, the Clubb & Stewart clothing retailer. This building was known as the Rogers Block, after the owner, evidently. (Note: the ‘Rogers’ in question was not Jonathan Rogers of Rogers Sugar fame, it was an ‘E. Rogers’, probably Ernest Rogers, who was with B.C. Electric Railway).

The structure on its right (to the east) wasn’t there when Bailey’s image was made, but when it was established a few years later, it became home base for The King (photographic) Studio on the upper floors and R. A. Cambell and Sons (boots and shoes) on ground level. This structure still stands (today it houses Emery’s Cannabis Culture).

The building left (west) of the empty lot appears in the Bailey photo to have been little more than a wooden shack (it also appears in the cropped image below).


Crop of Str P18 – Looking west on Hastings Street from Cambie Street. ca1898. Note and arrow added by VAIW author.

The shack appears to have been a printer’s shop at one time. It didn’t last very long, however; it was replaced within a few years with the tall, brick structure (which is extant) that housed Buscombe & Co. (china and glass) for several years. More recently (1980s-90s), I have confirmed through a query of the current retailer in this building (Vinyl), the space was leased to Bond’s Bookshop (which I remember with fondness from my earliest visits to Vancouver; it had wall-to-wall books on the main floor and in the dimly lit basement. It has been so cleaned and brightened that the Vinyl space isn’t recognizable as the one where Bond’s once was!)

Before we close this post, you may be forgiven a nagging question. What became of the building that housed Clubb & Stewart and which was in 1898, and is again today, a vacant lot?

The building burned in 2004, taking with it, among other things, left-of-wing shop Spartacus Books.


CVA 677-642 – Hastings Street between Hamilton and Homer Streets 190-?. P T Timms photo.

This entry was posted in Charles S. Bailey, P. T. Timms and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Freeze, Varmint! (Or ‘Vacant Lot as Window to the Past’)

  1. lhhouben says:

    You are a real sleuth! A very interesting post. I have never heard of half of these buildings, but my favourite shop on Hastings is Dressew. (the building with the yellow awning) Was it a Woolworth’s before? Or something else. I’d love to learn its history whenever you have time.

  2. jmv says:

    Important bookstore history here!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s