Dr E N Drier

E N DrierDr. Ezra Newton Drier was born in Woodstock, New Brunswick somewhere between 1870 and 1872. In the 1891 Census, when he was still living at home in New Brunswick he was shown to be born in 1871, although the 1901 entry says it was 1870. His second marriage in 1909 recorded his birth date as 1872, and his death certificate also said 1870.

He arrived in Vancouver, as best we can tell from Street Directories, in 1901. He practiced very successfully as a doctor, with offices on Pender Street and a home initially in the West End. Dr. Drier and his wife, Hope (also from New Brunswick) obviously also enjoyed travel. In 1902 he took over as the surgeon on an Australian liner, (owned by the Oceanic Steamship Company) the SS Moana, for a two month period. He hired W T Whiteway to design his house at 1101 Burnaby Street.

430 W PenderDr. Drier was a man with many interests; in 1905 he patented an arm splint, and in 1906 he hired Grant & Henderson to design a commercial block at 432 West Pender Street. His own offices had moved to the Fairfield Building on Granville Street, although by 1912 he was in the block he developed, and also lived there. Also in 1906 he conducted the installation of new officers of the Elks lodge; he was described as the “past exalted ruler, an officer of the supreme lodge of Canada

In 1907 it was reported in the Vancouver World that “Dr. E. N. Drier, of Vancouver, lately purchased a very beautiful site on the Capilano river overlooking the last canyon in D. L. 593. This block of land and adjoining tracts is believed to be the choicest on the river for scenery and location, and also being a most suitable situation for a hotel or sanitarium.” We’re not aware whether he actually developed anything on this site.

A year later, in June, it was reported that Hope Drier had died; “The deceased lady had been ill for some time. She was native of Richmond, N. B., to which place the remains will be sent on this afternoon’s train, accompanied by her husband and mother”

Early in 1909 Dr. Drier remarried, to Jessie Townsend Reid. Jessie was the daughter of a Scot, John Reid, and Alice Cockayne, and was born in Port Townsend although by 1901 the family were resident in Vancouver. The family had a daughter, Francelle, in 1910, and a son, Newton died at birth in 1911. After his marriage he took an extended trip to Europe with his new wife, but took up his medical practice again in his return.

Hampton Court 1243 Thrlow 1975 CVA 780-421In 1911 Dr. Drier (wrongly identified as Dr. Driver in the Contracts Journal) was involved in the establishment of a company called Western Securities, who had Grant and Henderson design Hampton Court, a six storey apartment building built by J J Dissette at a cost of $100,000 (seen here in a 1975 Vancouver Archives picture). The 1243 Thurlow Street address is actually the same as 1101 Burnaby Street – so Dr. Drier demolished his nine year old home to develop the apartments.

In 1916 he relocated to New Zealand, where he quickly gained a reputation of some importance. He was quoted in newspapers soon after his arrival: as a Canadian Dr Drier did not see many points in favour of a nationalised medical service (a proposal being debated in New Zealand at the time). In 1919 he was in Auckland, commenting on the Spanish influenza (which was, in his opinion, a separate illness and not really influenza).

The family returned to Vancouver in 1932. There’s a substantial collection of items donated by Dr. and Mrs. E Newton Drier in the Museum of Vancouver, showing they spent some time collecting in South Africa and New Zealand. In the year he returned Dr Drier donated his collection of 750,000 shells to the museum, and there are other important ethnological items in the collection from the Driers. He took on the role of honorary curator of the items.

Ezra Newton Drier died, aged 70, in Vancouver in 1941.

George Byrnes

George Byrnes has very little written about him, but he is important for having developed one of the first buildings after the 1886 fire – and it’s still standing.  Census records and newspaper reports from here suggest he was born in Sydney, New South Wales in 1840 or 1841, but we’ve recently heard from family members in Australia that he was born in 1839 in Dungog, about 200 kilometers north of Sydney near Newcastle, and then we found this Sydney Mail piece from 1897 which seems more specific, but is actually just confusing, as Dungog (where his birth was registered) and Tamworth (in the newspaper below) are some 250 kilometers apart. (Thanks to Dennis Donovan and Edward L’Estrange, who also added some of the information that follows).

His parents were Thomas and Frances (Fanny) A Byrnes and they had been married in Sydney, also in 1839. He was reportedly in the stationery business and then sheep-raising, before coming to Victoria “to join his mother, whose husband Mr. Byrnes stepfather was the proprietor of the Bee Hive and afterwards the St. Nicholas hotels, when they were the chief hotels of the city“. (obituary notice, Times Colonist). A photograph of Mrs Byrnes refers to her as becoming Mrs Lee, although she certainly seems to have been known as Mrs Byrnes at the Bee Hive.

George nearly didn’t make it to meet his mother; he was one of only three saved from the shipwreck of the Coya sailing from Sydney to San Francisco in 1867 – two were ship’s crew and he was the only passenger to survive. On the day she hit the rocks, Coya carried 29 passengers and crew. Among the travelers were six women, including the captain’s wife and daughter. Most were below deck enjoying tea.

The sea kept lifting her from rock to rock, crushing in the bottom,” recalled George Byrnes, a passenger. “With the sea breaking over us, nothing could be seen but a mass of hissing foam.”

George Byrnes, City of New Westminster archives

He went from Victoria to the Cariboo gold fields in the same year that he arrived, although he obviously maintained connections with Victoria as he was elected to Masonic Office there in 1870. He was appointed tax collector in 1873 and also Sheriff in Cariboo District at $500 a year.

George got married in Barkerville to Maria Neate (ne Halley) who was born 21 May 1849 in Dublin and had been married to William Collyer Neate, an Oregon pharmacist. Anecdotal evidence is that Maria lived in Portland, Oregon and then moved to British Columbia. They were divorced in 1874 and custody of the two childres Albert and Lily Mabel were granted to Maria and she married George in the same year. She died in Victoria B.C. June 29 1900 of a heart ailment after several months in hospital. Albert Neate died in a horse riding accident (in California) in about 1903 and after George and Maria died, Lily married James Sharp the manager of the Hudson Bay Company in Port Simpson where her daughter Hilda was born in 1906. James and Lily eventually left Canada and finally settled in Brisbane Australia.

Mrs Maria Byrnes & Miss Lily Byrnes, BC Archives

George was appointed Notary Public in Cariboo in 1876, and Commissioner in 1877. He was Involved with two different gold mining claims in Barkerville in 1878, one also involving P C Dunlevy and F J Barnard (of Barnard’s Stagecoach line).

In the 1881 census George was living in Richfield & Barkerville & Lightning, Cariboo, BC, aged 40 with Marie (ten years younger) born in Ireland, and Lillie Mabel (sic), aged 12, born in the USA. With them appear to be Elizabeth, George and Margaret Pinkerton, aged 5, 4 and 1. Two Pinkerton’s were partners with George in one of his Barkerville mines, and both were living alone in Barkerville in 1881.

George was paid to be the returning officer in Cariboo for the Federal election in 1882 – one of 5 in BC. He advertised a Portable Sawmill for sale in Barkerville in 1883, for Mr Robert Tatlow of Victoria (Tatlow was a real estate and insurance businessman who had been private secretary to the Lieutenant Governor, Richards, and who later moved to Vancouver).

August 24 1884, “The Card of Mr George Byrnes, late Sheriff of Cariboo, and now a valued resident of Victoria appears in this issue. Mr Byrnes, who is a gentleman of experience and ability, has leased the commodious building on the northwest , corner of Fort and Langley streets” (Times Colonist). By October he was selling lots in Hastings Townsite. His arrival in Victoria is noted in March 1886 on the Louise, from the mainland.

When Vancouver was in its infancy Mr Byrnes purchased a considerable amount of property In what is now one of the principal sections of the town , and which a couple of years ago became very valuable” (obituary notice, Times Colonist). One parcel was the site of the burned out Deighton Hoise – where Jack Deighton had moved his hotel before he died. George erected the Alhambra Hotel, although it also carried his name as ‘The Byrnes Block’. The new building was designed by Elmer Fisher, but not (initially) necessarily for George. The initial tenders for the stonework were handled by Rand Bros, a well-known firm of land agents; and the architect was still based in Victoria.

Once the project was underway, in April of 1887, George was identified as the client, and a publication in 1887 refers to ‘The Byrnes Block’ as being constructed.

The block has lasted extraordinarily well, and a recent restoration has returned it to close to its original appearance.

We know that George didn’t conduct his business by long distance from Victoria. He came to town, and ended up in a famous early image of Maple Tree Square, taken just before the 1886 fire. A 1929 Vancouver Sun interview with Harry Devine, the photographer of the 1886 image below identified the two men standing in the centre of the picture. “The man with his back to the camera is J M Spinks, pioneer realty man, and brother of the late Judge Spinks of Vernon. The bearded gentlemen with the derby hat, light coat and leather leggings is George Byrnes, Vancouver’s first auctioneer”.

In the 1891 census George, Maria and Lily were living in Victoria – George is now noted as aged 48, a two year difference from his 1881 entry, and four years younger than he really was.

He auctioned racehorses in 1894, owned land that was given up for construction of the new railway on Vancouver Island in 1895, was a Hospital Trustee in 1896 and was still advertising as an auctioneer in Victoria (one of several) in the Daily Colonist of 1898. His death, from a heart attack, was reported 13 March 1899.

Baynes and Horie

Edgar George Baynes and William McLeod Horie were partners in a construction business they started in 1893, and were responsible for constructing over a hundred of the city’s building. They weren’t just content to build other people’s projects; E G Baynes in particular developed a series of commercial projects and houses. They invariably built their earlier buildings without the involvement of an architect, so appear as developer, architect and builder on many Building Permits.

Baynes has a significantly higher public profile, although Horie was the older of the two. Horie’s name suggests he was of Scottish extraction – and several generations back this is true – his grandfather was born on Orkney in about 1794. His grandparents moved initially to Nova Scotia with their first child, Mary (born in Scotland), to River Philip where they had five more children including William’s father Joseph. They then moved to Port Daniel in Quebec where two more children were born and their family grew up. Joseph married Melinda Ramier, a Port Daniel native in her home town in August 1857. Over a period of 23 years they had ten children, including William – the oldest, born either in 1857 (family records) or in 1858, a year after his parents married (his birth date in the 1891 census) – or a year after that (1901 census) 

We know from family records that William Horie came to British Columbia in May 1889. He was a carpenter, and had married Mary Lawrence in October 1887. His son Roy is shown as being born in August 1889 in Quebec, so perhaps Mary joined him a little later and daughter Edna in British Columbia in December 1890. From their arrival in Vancouver the family continued to grow, Alfred was born in 1891, Harold in 1893, Frank in 1895, Maxwell in 1898, Gordon in 1901, Ivan in 1903 and Dorothy in 1906.

Edgar Baynes was born in September 1870 in Bocking, Essex. His family were farmers – and pretty successful ones if his parents subsequent move to Broxted Hall in Dunmow is any indication. He was the oldest of at least six children (from the 1881 UK census) and left school ‘early’ to join his uncle’s building and contracting firm. How early isn’t clear – but he arrived in BC in 1889 with his uncle, J A Franklin, having learned his trade as a builder. A 1914 biography of Edgar says they worked together for a couple of years, then he moved to the Squamish valley as a rancher (which probably explains his absence from the 1891 Census) before returning to Vancouver in about 1893 where he returned to being a builder, and teamed up with William Horie. Family records say it was actually a homestead up the Cheakamus River, upstream from Squamish, and that he rowed there from Coal Harbour to establish his claim.

He married an Ontario native, Margaret McAlpine in April 1899 when he was 28 and she was 25. They had four children, Doris Lillian born in 1903, Jean Hetty in 1904, George Edgar in 1907 and Margaret Anderson in 1908.

Baynes and Horie could tackle building both framed and masonry buildings. They later added poured in place concrete construction to the methods they adopted – some of the earliest in the city. Two of the earlier buildings they built that are still standing are the 1902 $7,000 brick and stone store designed by Thomas Parr for T McWhinnie, and the adjacent $12,000 buildings built in the same year for Borland and Brown and designed by Parr and Fee.

The building on the left was for T McWhinnie, the two on the right for Borland and Brown, both 1902. The last company in the buildings was BC Collateral.

In that same year they built a small brick store building on Main Street for $2,500 for themselves. They were also already picking up contracts from some important clients – BC Electric Railway Co had them build a wood and iron building on Barnard Street, and further larger contracts followed in later years. They picked up other important public clients like the Park Commission and the School Board, and the Canadian Pacific Railway. In 1905 the built another larger building for their own investment purposes on the corner of Howe and West Pender Streets.

Their contracting work expanded dramatically, in 1909 they had over $200,000 worth of contracts, and in 1912 11 projects worth over $475,000.

The company were involved in public works – in particular they erected the arch into Stanley Park. Edgar Baynes would become an active Parks Commissioner in later years.

As well as the projects developed by Baynes and Horie for themselves, Edgar Baynes increasingly invested in real estate on his own account. We’re assuming the projects recorded as being for for Edmund Baynes and Edward Baynes are his too – it’s fairly certain he was known as ‘Ed’ Baynes (and Mr Horie as ‘Will’) from conversations recorded by Major Matthews in the early Vancouver Archives, and there were no Edward or Edmund Baynes in Vancouver. In 1910 Baynes and Horie built this W F Jones designed building for E Baynes on the corner of Broadway and Alberta

In 1912 Ed Baynes built a $150,000 building on Howe Street, the Grosvenor Hotel.

Although that no longer exists, in the same year he also built a $45,000 commercial building on Powell Street, which he designed and built.

A couple of years later he had Sharp and Thompson design a number of houses which he built on West 42nd Avenue, two of which are still standing.

In the mid 1920s Ed Baynes built Vancouver’s first parking garage on Water Street, leased to Nagle Brothers. In 2009 it was restored and had 3 extra storeys added, but the original poured concrete structure looked like this before that significant change to the building’s appearance.

More to come

The Lightheart Brothers

There’s a new park in the Downtown South area, and to the north there is a 1910 building which these days is called Brookland Court. It was built by two brothers, who are referred to in the architectural history books as ‘the Lightheart Brothers’. They were builders who designed their own developments and owners of a factory on the site before they built the apartment building. Two other brothers are mentioned in passing as well. What hasn’t been noted until now is that there were in fact at least six different Lightheart brothers, all of whom ended up living in Vancouver and all of them involved in construction and development. None of the brothers are mentioned in any of the contemporary biographies of worthy citizens, or the Times Colonist newspaper, and there are no identified photographs in the archives, despite their significant development activities.

In the 1881 Census 32 year old Joseph Lightheart was living in Nottawasaga, Simcoe in Ontario, (on Lake Huron) a farmer who had been born in Ontario into a family originally recorded as being of German origin (although family members had been born in Nottawasaga at least back to 1800, and most seem to be of Scottish decent). His wife Alice, born in England, is also aged 32, their daughter Mary is 6, and sons William and Joseph are 5 and 3. There’s another brother – a 2 year old also (confusingly) recorded as William, but also called James. Ten years later Joseph and Alice’s family has grown – (although Mary died in 1887). There are now six sons, and Joseph senior is recorded as a labourer. William #2 is missing, but another son, Thomas, is recorded.

Two others had been born and christened between George and Oliver; Alice and Robert, twins, who like Mary may not have survived. A final child, a daughter, Emma, was born in 1893.

Only a few years after Emma’s birth William and Joseph had moved to Vancouver. In 1901 they both lodged with James A Johnston and his family, 25 year old William working as a builder and his 23 year old brother Joseph as a carpenter. They appear in the 1901 City Directory at 604 Hamilton Street, which presumably was their works yard. In 1901 William built a house on Burrard Street and in 1902  he built a house for George Whatmore on 8th Avenue. Joseph built a house in the same year on Burrard Street for himself, and it was a substantial house too – it cost $2,200. (At least two other houses were built by Lighthearts with different initials in 1901 as well, although neither of them seem to be in the street directory or recorded in the census of that year – so they could just be errors by the clerk compiling the register).

In 1902 they mysteriously disappeared from the directory records, but in 1903 there were six Lighthearts in town, five of them (George, Jacob, Captain Joseph, Thomas and William) all living at 1111 Richards Street, and Joseph R at 1262 Burrard. It appears that Captain Joseph is the brothers’ father. In 1904 the five brothers were listed living at 1111 Richards, the year in which Lightheart, W A and Bros had a factory at the corner of Seymour and Helmcken. J V and G E Lightheart (George and Jacob) teamed up in 1907 to build four houses on Cardero between Nelson and Barclay. Remarkably all four houses, which each cost $4,000 to build, are still standing today.

954-78 Cardero Lightheart

 In 1908 Joseph R and William were living at 1262 Burrard, and the other three brothers George, Jacob and Thomas were living at 1111 Richards with Joseph senior and Oliver, the sixth brother, was now living with them.

In 1909 there are some changes in where the family are living. Jacob was in partnership with George and living at 748 Bidwell, although George was still at 1111 Richards, as was Joseph senior, Thomas and Oliver. Joseph R was now at 1123 Richards, while William was still on Burrard Street. A mysterious Jacques Lightheart, capitalist, was listed living on Cardero Street, although there seem to be no other records of anyone with this name and he had disappeared again a year later.

By 1911 Emma had arrived in the city, and was living at 2941 Burns St (these days it’s called Prince Albert St) and George, Joseph Oliver and Thomas were living there as well. Jacob was at 1686 Barclay and William still on Burrard Street. 1911 was the census year – and how reliable the census data is can be see in the numbers of Lighthearts identified that year. William and his wife Winnifred and children William and V. (no name listed) are at Burrard St with their English born domestic, Edith Ponsford. Jacob and his Scottish wife Christine, their son Jacob and two of her relatives, John and Isabella Mowatt are at the Barclay St address. No other Lighthearts were recorded by the census, and Joseph senior is missing from the street directories – although he may have been in hospital as he died in March 1912.

In 1912 Joseph R had moved to Alberta Street, and in 1913 Jacob was in real estate and living at 1086 Bute (a building he had recently developed). From this point on a number of other people called Lightheart were living in the city making it more difficult to follow the family fortunes.

In 1921 Joseph’s widow Alice was still at Burns St, George was managing the Bute St building but living in Shaughnessy Heights, Jacob was living on Comox Street, Joseph on West 14th Avenue and Oliver on West 12th Avenue. William remains at Burrard Street. In 1927 Emma was a dressmaker, living at 2570 Spruce, Jacob was now listed as owner of Renfrew Lodge, built in 1925 at 2570 Hemlock Street, and Oliver was living on Cypress Street.

Renfrew Lodge, these days known as Hemlock Place

By 1931 Alice had moved to Stanley Park Manor on Haro Street, built that year, where Cecil Lightheart (almost certainly William’s son) was manager and William was the owner. (So he was probably developer as well, although now there’s a registered architectal firm designing the building, Hodgson and Simmonds).

Both Cecil and William had homes in Shaughnessy, and Louise, George’s widow lived there too. Jacob was now listed as proprietor of the Cambridge Apartments, and was living on Bidwell Street, and Joseph owned and managed Vallejo Court, on West 10th Avenue but lived on West 14th Avenue. As this was built in 1927, it’s quite likely another Lightheart project. Oliver owned the Malborough Apartments, on Jervis Street, built in 1928 and lived in West Point Grey.

The city’s early Building Permits show that various combination of brothers built seven substantial apartment buildings (as well as many houses) during the city’s growth spurt from 1909 to 1913. The first to be built were the Seymour Street building that William and Joseph built at a cost of $120,000 in 1909 on the company factory site, and a more modest frame apartment built by Thomas and Oliver Lightheart at a cost of $15,000 on Nelson Street these days called the Clifton Apartments. Jacob, probably with his brother George, built an apartment building on the corner of Bidwell and Barclay Streets that is no longer standing.

Brookland Court, the most altered of the Lightheart Brothers buildings (including an added floor) and these days non-market housing

Clifton Apartments 1909 and Nicola Apartments 1910

A year later Thomas built another apartment building adjacent to the Nelson Street building on the remaining half lot on Nicola Street, and a much more substantial $250,000 building on Bute Street, called Strathmore Lodge which he partnered in developing with his brother Jacob.

The Royal Alexandra Apartments, these days called Strathmore Lodge

In 1912 William built another apartment building on Fir Street at a cost of $140,000. That no longer exists, as the Granville Bridge off-ramp sits on the site. A year later in 1913 another Bute Street lot was developed by Oliver with a $200,000 apartment building called The Berkeley.

The Lighthearts

(Mary born 1875, died 1887).

William Akitt, born 1876 married Winnifred Maud Vickers, died 19 December 1966 aged 91. Son Cecil born 1907, died 1971, daughter born 1916, died 1920.

Joseph Robert, born 6 Sept 1877, married Jessie Martell then later Annie Hendry of Alberta (born 1909), died 9 April 1971 aged 93.

Thomas James, born Jan 1 1879, died April 1912 aged 33.

Jacob Valdone, born 11 April 1881, married Christina Mowatt, died 9 Sept 1955 aged 74.

George Edward, born 10.Aug 1883, married Mable Cairns of PEI 1915   died 17 June 1930 aged 46.

(Alice and Robert, born 1886).

Oliver Richard, born 30 Aug 1888, married Margaret Macgregor of PEI 20 March 1918, died N Van 20 Sept 1971 aged 83.

Emma, born 11 Jan 1893, married Grant Nicol Murchie, died 15 July 1962 aged 69.

James M Pattullo

J M Pattulo only built one investment property in Vancouver, in 1911. It’s still there, looking solid and impressive a century later, and Mr Pattullo’s story has connections to a number of other early investors in the city.

James McGregor Pattullo was born in Alton in Ontario on December 29th 1869. His mother’s family had emigrated from Scotland in 1833 to Caledon; (Alton is a very small farming community close to Caledon). His father, one of 14 children, was also born in Caledon into a farming family who had emigrated from Musselburgh in Scotland some time not long before 1830.

James was successful at school, and went to technical school (although we don’t know what he studied), supporting himself by working at the same time. Around 1887 he went to work for the Canadian Pacific Railway as a bill clerk in Owen Sound. In 1889 he went work as a cashier in Toronto and two years later to St Paul, Minnesota where he worked in the audit office of the Northern Pacific Railway Company. His next work was very different, in a woollen mill (probably owned by Reuben Smith) in Creemore, Ontario (a small rural town with, for no immediately apparent reason, a significant link to early Vancouver). His parents had moved there in 1984. He spent two years there, then went back to the railway company in St Paul for another two years. In 1899 he made the move westwards, working for five years as secretary of the YMCA, initially in Spokane and then for four years in Tacoma. He married Caroline Harrold (born in Georgetown, Ontario) in Spokane in 1899, and two daughters were born there; Mary in 1901 and Ruth in 1902. Caroline’s parents are described as “well known pioneer settlers of Fargo, North Dakota” where they ran stock on several thousand acres.

His final move was to Vancouver in 1905, where he is initially recorded as the manager of the Pacific Box Factory, living at 1066 Nelson street. In 1906 he was a signatory on a petition protesting the threatened loss of company lands on False Creek. Between 1907 and 1908 his status changed from manager to proprietor of the company, and in 1908 a third daughter, Winifred was born.

1911 was clearly a big year for the family. They move to a new address, 1230 Comox (indeed, to a new house as it was built in 1910). James is now listed as ‘retired’ – not bad for a 41 year old man with three small children. (Actually, he joined the Northwest Trust Company, Limited in that year, and subsequently became Vice President).The architect for his new house was J P Matheson, who lived next door at 1242 Comox in a house he designed that was also completed in 1911. Across the street at 1205 Comox is R V Winch. The family had Caroline’s mother, 80-year old Mary Harrold living with them, and a servant, Ada. It is likely that the family fortunes changed after Caroline’s father died, aged 80, in 1909.

A year later Matheson’s design for a substantial seven storey apartment building was completed. Built by the Dominion Construction Company, ‘Caroline Court’ costs $150,000 to build, and is presumably named after Caroline Pattullo.

The family stay at the Comox address until 1916, when they’re shown as resident in suite 70 of Caroline Court. By 1920 another James Pattullo has moved into the building to suite 50. James Burleigh Pattullo is a barrister who has practiced in Vancouver for a number of years, and comes from the same Ontario family as JM (their grandfathers were brothers). James B Pattullo’s younger brother, Thomas Dufferin Pattullo has also moved west, living in Prince Rupert, from where he will be elected to the Provincial Legislature and in 1933 become Liberal Premier of British Columbia.

James and Caroline lived for many years in Vancouver. Only one of their three daughters married (and she may have had her own adventures as it seems likely she went to Bolivia in the year she married, as a missionary). She died aged 30 in Vancouver.

Caroline Pattullo died, aged 77, on 21 January 1942. James died six days later, aged 72.

John J Dissette

J J Dissette built several houses as investments in Vancouver, none of which appear to survive today, although the house he built for himself in Shaughnessy is still standing. He earns his place here because he was responsible for a number of significant building contracts when Vancouver saw a huge boom in construction around 1911 – over $660,000 worth of construction permits in that year alone.

We know Mr Dissette was born in Simcoe County, Ontario (a fact shared with a disproportionate number of early Vancouver residents). His birth date moves almost randomly between 1854 and 1864, depending on whether it’s a Census, his wedding or his death where the date is recorded. His father was called John and his mother Mary (or Bridget). In some records, and later in his life the first ‘J’ in his name was for Joseph rather than John – which makes tracing him even more difficult.

There were two John Dissettes recorded in the 1871 Canada Census, both Irish born, both living in Simcoe, but only one family was Catholic. The Ramara Township history website has a family of 11 children, including John J who it is suggested was born in 1854 (at number 10). Richard Dissette is a brother, born in 1848 (whose son later moved to Vancouver and died in WWI). If this is the correct identification, J J was born in West Gwillimbury along with his ten brothers and sisters. There is nobody else with the initials J J called Dissette in any records, so if this is the same J J Dissette who moved to Vancouver he might have been somewhat older than later records suggest. (The death record for J J Dissette in 1938 suggests 1854 is correct).

J J Dissette, a contractor, was living in Minneapolis in the US for the 1895 Minnesota State Census (where he had been for 5 years) and the 1900 US Census, where both parents are recorded as being born in France. This wasn’t particularly accurate, as J J Dissette, a contractor was listed in the Minneapolis street directory quite a bit earlier in the 1880s. In 1881 there was a listings for J J Dissette, a moulder, living at the same address in Minneapolis as Edward Dissette, a carpenter. (A Minnie Higgins is also listed in the city, working for Segelbaum Bros). The 1900 US Census record says he arrived in the US in 1881, although a profile published in 1913 says it was 1884 when he moved to Minnesota (contradicted by the 1895 Minnesota Census and the Minneapolis street directory).

Despite the French-sounding name, all other documents (and a lot of other Simcoe based relatives) suggest that the family’s origins were in Ireland. Irish-French families called Dissette had been residents of Ontario from at least the turn of the 19th Century.

While in Minneapolis J J Dissette got married to Mary J Higgins – later recorded as Minnie Higgins – in 1887. Two years later they had a son, Louis, who died in his first year, and Mary herself died not long after in 1890.

He married again in 1901 to Mary L Holtz (or Mackenzie – her previously married name). Although both he and his bride were Catholic, his wife was a divorcee ten years younger than him, with a four year old daughter. Her first husband was 23 years older than her, which might explain the divorce. John knocked several years off his age when he married (and even if there was really a 17 year difference rather than the 10 years official records suggest, her new husband might still not have seemed that old!) She was from a Swedish background, but born in Minnesota. Various other family members worked with J J Dissette in Minneapolis, including Edward, Michael and Philip Dissette. J J Dissette was described as a carpenter, then builder, then contractor, as he presumably became an increasingly successful Minneapolis builder.

The family are said to have moved to Vancouver the same year that he married (in 1901), and he was building houses a year later. He only shows up in Vancouver street directories in 1904, and Mary appears as well, running her own real estate business as  M L Dissette & Co.

By 1911 J J Dissette was a well known and successful contractor in Vancouver. The Census that year records John James aged 49 (May 1862) and wife Mary L aged 39 living at 1398 Georgia with Myrtle MacKenzie, Mary’s 14 year old daughter (she obviously gave the census clerk a definition problem as she is recorded as lodger/daughter). They have a 30 year old domestic living with them, Beatrice Ward-Weford.

In 1912 alone JJ Dissette & Co built the Lester Dancing Academy on Davie Street, got a $100,000 contract for West Point Grey’s school designed by McClure and Fox and started building a wool pullery at Yukon Street (no, we have no idea!) designed by Parr and Fee.

The company also built a workshop on Beach Avenue and a factory on Hornby Street designed by W T Whiteway. He built several of the Parr and Fee designed Granville Street blocks, including the one developed by Charles Fee, and could also build significant wood-frame buildings as well as the brick ones, being the contractor for H B Watson’s frame design for St Patrick Church on 12th Avenue. He also built apartment buildings, including one for the same architect on Georgia Street. On Water Street he had the contract for the Taylor Block.

In 1912 the company incorporated, adding ‘Limited’ to its title. There were four partners, including both John and Richard Dissette. There is a Richard Dissette who appears in records operating the Crosby Hall Hotel on Simcoe Street in Toronto from as early as 1878 (when he would have been 29 years old). It’s likely that he was John’s older brother. He died in 1924, and his son, Arthur died as a First World War aviator, and was reported to have been educated in Toronto, but relocated to Vancouver where he was in the automobile business. In 1914 the Dissette Motor Co Ltd was at 1254 Hornby, which was also Arthur’s home address. He was agent for Lozier and Oakland Motor Cars – Loziers were expensive luxury cars, built in Detroit, while Oakland were a little more modest General Motors factory.

By 1913 J J Dissette’s success has translated to a house in Shaughnessy Heights on Matthews Avenue. There is no record of who the architect was, but we can guess who built it. That year his recreations were listed as fishing, boating and horse racing.

It’s just possible that a little more of Mr Dissette’s construction work is still standing. He built two houses side by side on Seymour Street in 1904. These days they’re the site of the Penthouse Club, the facade of which is a 1930s structure. But inside it isn’t clear if existing structures were incorporated and expanded, or whether the whole building was new built in the 1930s.

In 1915 John is shown as the treasurer of the Dissette MacConnell Lumber Co, living at 1859 Napier (possibly an error, as he is at the Matthews address before and after this date). He appears to have merged with or bought into the MacConnell Lumber Co a year or so earlier. In 1916 he is still associated with the lumber company and is living at 1437 Matthews. It seems that he moved around 1916 (or perhaps joined up, although he would have been over 60 years old). In 1917 and 1918 Mrs Mary L Dissette is living at 1437 Matthews, and in 1919 there is a Mrs Dissette living at 1058 Nelson Street. No records show any Dissettes living in Vancouver after this date.

It seems that between 1919 & 1937 he may have used the name of Joseph J Dissette. In 1924 it appears (from his older brother’s obituary) that he was living in Detroit and from 1926 in Tampa, Florida, where he was involved in real estate and formed a loan company in 1930. In 1937, records show that Joseph Dissette was living in Mobile, Alabama, where he died on January 29, 1938. At this point his birth was listed as having been in 1854, in Canada (and while John is listed as father, his mother was Bridget O’Donnell). He was a widower, but the name of his deceased spouse wasn’t Mary, but rather his first wife, Minnie Higgins.

 

Parr and Fee

John Parr and Thomas Fee were architects – in terms of the number of buildings erected at the turn of the 20th Century they were the architects in town. They were responsible for designing over a hundred buildings, getting commissions in both the more established parts of town, (with many buildings on East Hastings Street) and on the newly emerging Granville Street. They designed the Hotel Europe, the Dunsmuir Hotel and the Vancouver Block among many other buildings.

In the 1891 Census John Parr was an architect, resident in Victoria, while Thomas Fee was married and living in Vancouver. Both Thomas Fee and his wife were born in Quebec. Donald Luxton says Fee had arrived in Vancouver with no money on the first train to arrive in Port Moody, walked to Vancouver and worked as a contractor and then studied architecture in Minneapolis for a year in 1889. John Parr, who was born in Islington in London into an architectural family, arrived in America in 1889 and moved to Vancouver in 1895, immediately designing several commercial buildings.

In 1895 Parrr and Fee went into partnership and turned out designs for buildings like the Ralph Block on Hastings Street as well as many houses.

In 1901 Thomas Fee, aged 38, was living with his wife Francis (3 years younger than him), his six year old daughter Olga, four year old son Blakley and his wife’s mother, Jane Paton aged 73. They were almost certainly living in the Broughton Street home that Parr and fee had designed in 1903 that still stands today (although relocated on the site in a 1994 restoration). Curiously, John Parr appears to have evaded the 1901 census takers. (The 1913 publication ‘Northern Who’s Who’ makes up for this by including a profile of Parr but ignoring Fee).

The first Fee House on Pendrell Street, and the adjacent Broughton Street 1904 house

Even when he was building his family home Thomas Fee was looking to add investment value. The permit for the corner of Broughton and Pendrell was for two frame dwellings, so almost certainly the house next to the Fee family home is Thomas’s investment property designed by Parr and Fee. By the early 1900s the partnership were amazingly successful. Many buildings on Granville Street were being constructed simultaneously.

Granville Street in the early 1900s. City of Vancouver Archives

By 1911 the Fee family had moved to a new house at 1025 Gilford Street (demolished in the 1960s), Frances has her name spelled correctly, Olga is listed with her full name, Olga Merle, Blakely’s name is recorded correctly as Blakely Fowler and Grace Helen aged nine is part of the household. Jane Paton is still alive, given her full name, Lucretia Jane, aged 83, and Frances’s sister Helen Elizabeth is also living in the house, along with Charles Fee, Thomas’s brother.

Meanwhile in 1911 Thomas Parr was living at 1064 Cardero (a house designed and built by C D Rand, a very active speculative builder, a year earlier), he was aged 55 and now living with his 48 year old wife Leila who was also a Londoner, and whom he had married earlier that year.

John Parr and Thomas Fee as illustrated in 1911

Thomas Fee owned 558 Seymour Street (possibly still standing although incorporated into the much altered club at 560 Seymour where A&B Sounds used to operate), and in 1910 added to a building he owned at 670 Smithe (on the corner of Granville Street – the building was redeveloped in 1983). He also owned 633-635 Smithe Street – now replaced by the Orpheum Theatre’s Westcoast Hall. Another building owned by TA Fee is now the 570 Granville Street office building built in 2000.

A number of T A Fee’s properties were shown as being designed not by him, but by the builders involved including 898 Granville, listed as being designed and built by Baynes & Horie in 1912. That building is one of very few associated with Thomas Fee still standing today, and looks very much like a Parr and Fee building – although not in terms of decoration.

Mr Fee also owned 70 Hastings Street (these days a vacant site), where he hired W T Whiteway in 1909 to design $3,000 of alterations.and 535 Granville Street where he designed and built the development – also now demolished.

In stark contrast to TA Fee’s extensive property development activity, none of the Building Permit data currently available shows John Parr as the owner.

While still receiving numerous commissions, the partnership split up in 1912 (although a few buildings were not completed until the next year). John Parr went into partnership with John Mackenzie and John Day and designed many more buildings over the next six years, until Day withdrew in 1918, Parr’s last know project was an apartment building on Beach Avenue completed in 1923, the year he died.

Thomas Fee also continued to practice, often designing improvements to his property portfolio. He was against Canada’s involvement in the Great War, and spent much of 1920-25 in Seattle. He was working through the 1920’s, and died in 1929.