Early ‘Brief Lives’ of Richmond Apts

CVA 780-40 - [View of the Richmond Apartments and the rear of the Hotel Vancouver] Feb 1966

CVA 780-40 – View of the Richmond Apartments (915 Robson) and the south side of the Hotel Vancouver. Looking north-ish up Hornby. Feb. 1966. (Note: The parking lot adjacent to HV is where the hotel’s parking garage is located today and where, just a few years before this photo was taken, the ‘Famous Kitchen‘ was located (along with a couple other single family dwellings).

This post offers brief glimpses into the lives of a few early tenants who lived in Richmond Apartments at the NW corner of Robson and Hornby streets.∞

The Richmond block was built in 1910 (ready for occupation in 1911), just a few years after the Manhattan Apartments was constructed (in 1908) a couple of blocks up Robson. It was designed by Vancouver and Port Townsend (WA) architect W. T. Whiteway for the owner (and eventually one of its residents), Edward Hunt; there were 25 suites of various sizes. The Richmond block was demolished shortly after the image above was taken to make way for the current occupant of the corner,  the 777 Hornby building (built 1969). (I’m fond of this CVA image looking west up Robson from Hornby, with just a bit of the Richmond visible (mainly Eugene Wideman’s tailor shop at street level) as well as the former central branch of VPL under construction at the corner of Robson at Burrard; I figure the image was made c1956).

In 1911, suites were advertised for lease (unfurnished) at rates in the range of $40-50/month. Such a rate range may seem like a ‘steal’ to us today, but when held up to other comparable apartment rates in downtown Vancouver at about the same time, those at the Richmond seem to be on the high side.¹

Lucien  Draize (1888-1956)

Draize CarLucien Draize was born to August Draize and Marie Lochot in France and, presumably prior to leaving the country of his birth, married a woman 10 years his senior from Dijon, Pauline Antoinette Vautret.

Shortly after the century’s turn, the Draizes came to the relatively new country of Canada (he came in 1907; she in 1919). Whether they came directly to Vancouver or came to the city after some time spent elsewhere in the province, I don’t know. We know (from their respective death certificates) that they spent all their time in Canada in B.C. They lived for a couple of their early years in Vancouver (1922-23) in Suite 18 of the Richmond Apts.

Draize was in the business of importing/exporting merchandise. His chief imports were French goods. He worked out of the Northwest Building (today known as the Lumberman’s Building) at 509 Richards Street. M. Draize’s single claim to fame, as far as I could learn, was the advertisement shown here (which appeared once, in the 9 June 1923 issue, of the Vancouver Daily World).

Lucien Draize died at the provincial mental hospital at Essondale a little over 4 months after being committed there. He was 68. Pauline died the year following.

Eldon Sidney Hilliard Winn (1879-1961)

E. S. H. Winn, as he seems to have been commonly known, was born in Coburg, Ontario to James Winn and Jane Mills. Winn travelled from Ontario to Rossland, BC in the early years of the 20th century, establishing a healthy legal practice there.

He came to Vancouver and seems to have resided in various suites, from 1920 until about 1932, at the Richmond block. I’m guessing Winn married Agnes Rowatt (b. Perth, ON in 1879) c1920 in Ontario (as there is no record of them being married in B.C.; and her death certificate indicates that she lived in B.C. for 47 years; she died in 1967).

Winn was a lawyer (in fact, a King’s Counsel) with remarkably good connections (he was a prominent B.C. Liberal). He had the good fortune to be a law partner with someone who would go on to become a B.C. chief justice, J. A. Macdonald. He was appointed by the provincial cabinet to the Board of the Workmens (today, “Workers”) Compensation Board of B.C. in 1917 and, shortly after, became the Chairman of the Board for a very handsome annual salary of $5000 (later, $6500, and later still, $7500). Only two years into Winn’s quango appointment to the WCB and he was, evidently, bored. He assumed in 1919 the chair of the Social Welfare Commission which, according to the 19 November 1919 issue of the Daily World, would involve a number of points of interest: “mothers’ pensions, maternity benefits, state health insurance, and public health nursing.” Merely the foundations of today’s publicly funded health care system!

It isn’t clear to me when Winn retired from the WCB Chair, but there are news items that still refer to him holding that position in 1929. In that year, he also became a member of a federally-appointed advisory board on the Old Age Pensions Act.

Winn was a Supreme Representative of the Knights of Pythias.

He died at 81.

Frederick Neilson James (1870-1956)

Fred James was born to Charles James and Agnes Neilson in Ontario. James headed west in c1906, when he was in his mid-30s. In 1912-13 he was living in Suite 16 of the Richmond Apts.

It isn’t clear to me when he married Florence Vithy (I could find no record of a marriage certificate for them nor a death certificate for her). The only thing I can say with any confidence about Florence is that she pre-deceased her husband.

At some point, James became an officer attached to the Canadian Pacific Steamships line. Before 1913, he was aboard the Empress of India serving as the Purser. In 1913, he made a lateral transfer to the Empress of Asia. He retired in 1944 and died at age 86.

Eugene Wideman (1880-1969)

Widedman tailorEugene Wideman was born in France in the Alsace-Lorraine region. He came to Vancouver in c1911. He resided in the Richmond from its first year of occupancy, 1911, until 1916. He lived in Suites 4 and 21.

He married Blanche Imogene Trenary at some point (I could not find a B.C. marriage certificate)

Widemann was a tailor. He plied his trade, initially, at 654 Granville. Later, by 1915, his shop had moved closer to his then-residence at the Richmond; it was in the same block, but across the street. By 1935, however, after Widemann had long-since moved to another residence, he went ‘home’ to the Richmond — his tailoring business was moved to a retail space in the block at 923 Robson (see the image shown above).

Widemann was predeceased by his wife by a year. He was 88 when he died.

Henri Louis Isidore Aubeneau (1876-1960)

Henri Aubeneau was born to Louis Aubenau and Hortense Quintard in Therrezi, France. He moved to North Vancouver c1910. He lived there for much of his life in Canada with his wife, Marie Moran.

In 1926-28, Aubeneau lived in Suite 4 of the Richmond block. It isn’t clear to me what took him to the Terminal City to live.

His death certificate indicates that Aubeneau was proprietor of the Capilano Suspension Bridge. My friend, Maurice Guibord, has noted, however, that while Henri and Marie bought and operated the bridge for a few years, they didn’t make many changes to it. Maurice also notes that Aubenau had been a sailor and restaurateur at different points in his life.

He was predeceased by Marie in 1953. He was 84 at his death.

William Alvin Randle (c1890-1912)

William Randle was the son of Joseph Randle, a prominent resident in Nanaimo in the early 20th century. Randle was living in 1912, according to print media, in Vancouver at the Richmond Apartments that year, rooming with his friend, George Hunter. I couldn’t find any confirmation in the  1911/12 Vancouver directories that Randle and Hunter were living at Richmond Apts.  At first, I assumed this was either due to a clerical omission or because they rented their suite during the part of the year after the directory collected its information. But a more likely explanation is that William’s sister and brother-in-law, a Mr. and Mrs. Charles Coldwell, who had rented Suite 21 in 1911-12, had sublet the suite to William and George in 1912. Whatever the arrangement, it seems certain that the two men were living in Richmond Apts that year.

In early September, 1912, Randle and Hunter joined up with three other pals, George Hill, Percy Jarrod, and A. Woodworth, to do some deer hunting on Gambier Island. Their first day out, nobody got a single shot off. The next day, they decided to improve their odds and cover greater ground by splitting the five-some: Hunter, Jarrod and Woodworth took one side of the mountain;  Hill and Randle, the other.

I’ll allow Nanaimo Daily News (the town from which Randle originally hailed) to recount the rest of this sad story:

Hill started a deer, and in chasing it, became separated from Randle. He lost sight of the deer and a short time after thought he saw its tawny back in the brush and fired. His shot was answered with a cry. He rushed to the place and found  Randle dead, with a bullet wound in his neck.

Randle was hurrying toward his companion and was crawling under a log and lifted his head to see where Hill was when he received the fatal shot.

With difficulty, the body was carried the five miles through the woods to the beach where it was placed in [a] gasoline launch [and thence transported to the mainland].

 — Nanaimo Daily News, 3 September 1912

Randle was 22.

There was no later indication that I could unearth that this shooting accident was ever found to be anything other than that; no malicious motive was behind the shooting.

Indeed, the cause of the accident seems to have been principally the folly of not wearing bright, readily identifiable gear, so there was little danger of one’s clothing being mistaken for the hide of a deer.



∞The title of this post leans heavily (with thanks) on John Aubrey’s classic biographical work, Brief Lives (late 17th century).  I was reminded of this book (to which standard, this post doesn’t pretend to attain) by reflecting on a literary ‘retail past’ of this corner: it was home for many years to the chief store in the Duthie Book shop local empire.

¹A furnished suite in the Caroline Court apartment block (located — and extant — west of Burrard on Nelson), for example, was advertised in 1915 as being $30/month. And a suite in the Royal Alexandra Apts (located — and also extant, but with a name change to Strathmore Lodge — at 1086 Bute) was advertised, in 1915, at $20/month. The sizes of the suites in Caroline Court and Royal Alexandra weren’t indicated. Both were built in the same year as Richmond Apts, in 1911.


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