‘Oops’ – 501 W. Pender Street

Bu P363 – Exterior of Provincial Government: Agent’s Office – 501 Pender Street. From l-r: Robert Alexander Burgoyne, Adele Mary Latimer, John Walker Mahony, Allan Peter Grant, and Frank Henry Behnsen.* Jan. 1914.

The image above has been on my radar for quite some time. Ever since I first saw it in the City of Vancouver Archives online a few years ago, I have assumed that the address shown for it – 501 W. Pender – was a CVA error. For this to be 501 W. Pender, it would need to be located across Richards from MacLeod’s Books. But from the first, I assumed that this was an early image of the space which MacLeod’s Books (and a variety of other retailers) has occupied for several years (at 455 W. Pender).

But I was mistaken.

CVA 772-1304. 1980s. 455 W. Pender before it housed MacLeod’s Books – here it was an antique shop.
VPL43367 501 W. Pender. The site of Cristall’s major appliance shop. 1955.

The image above truly was of 501 W. Pender; the building was a near twin of the MacLeod’s block, but not quite an identical twin! Two features that distinguish the building above from 455 are: (1) that “501” appears above the heads of the Government Agent staff; and (2) the fenestration (the arrangement of windows and doors) is different in the first image above when compared with 455. As you can see, the doorway is substantially wider on 501 than it is at 455. And, more tellingly, there are two windows in the second story (and the third), but there is only one window at each story above the 455 entrance.

CVA 810-98 – The parking lot at the site of 501 W. Pender. 1979-80.

How long was 501 at the NW corner? Well, it was constructed in 1905 and was demolished following a fire in 1962. On street level during 501’s last years was an outlet of Cristall’s appliances (it also had retail space on Hastings). After Cristall’s on Pender was demolished, it was replaced for 30+ years with – you guessed it – a parking lot. After it had been the Governement Agent’s office (for little more than a single year: 1913-14; it later moved into the Provincial Courthouse) what other sorts of retailers had the space? There was an auctioneer’s at 501 in the mid-1920s (Harvey & Gorrie’s); there was a hobby shop there in the 1930s; and by the 1940s, the hobby shop was sharing the space with a gunsmith and a postage stamp outlet.

Today, the lot (515 W. Pender) is the low-rise office-space (and very underwhelming) component of the Conference Plaza (1993-96 construction).

Google Street View Dec 2020. 515 W. Pender Street (where 501 W. Pender once was).


* I’m appreciative of help from Robert Moen of WestEndVancouver.wordpress.com in identifying in the correct (l-r) order the people who appear in front of the Government Agent’s office at 501 W. Pender St.

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