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 1884. 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 moved to a new address, 1230 Comox (indeed, to a new house as it was built in 1910). James was 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 was 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 had moved into the building to suite 50. James Burleigh Pattullo was a barrister who had practiced in Vancouver for a number of years, and came from the same Ontario family as JM (their grandfathers were brothers). James B Pattullo’s younger brother, Thomas Dufferin Pattullo had also moved west, living in Prince Rupert, from where he was later elected to the Provincial Legislature and in 1933 became Liberal Premier of British Columbia.

James and Caroline lived for many years in Vancouver. Two of their three daughters married, Mary, in 1924, (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. Winifred, who also married, died in 1970.

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.

J M McLuckie

John McLuckie built many of the biggest ‘brick and stick’ warehouses in early Vancouver. There ought to be a lot of information about him – he was in the city for over 40 years, but there’s very little material in the records, which perhaps reflects his status as a builder in the society of the time. There aren’t even any photographs of him in the archives – just of the buildings he built.

He was born in New Kilpatrick, Dumbarton, Scotland as John Mcfarlane McLuckie, (often inaccurately written as Macfarlane) in July 1860 (and almost certainly not July 1862 as the 1901 census says). His father was William McLuckie, his mother Jane Leitch. From the 1891 census we know he was Presbyterian, and by 1901 he was married to Annette, a Catholic born in France, and they had a 6 year old son, Robert.

In all the census records John is listed as a contractor. The City Directories tell us where he was living. In 1888 he was living at the Greyhound Hotel on Water Street. So was James McGhie, initially recorded as a carpenter, later a contractor. McGhie and McLuckie  built the Town and Robinson block on Carrall Street in 1889. In 1891 James McGhie was occupying the former partners premises at 614 Hastings Street, and John McLuckie has moved to the Occidental Hotel on Water Street. In 1893 McLuckie built the extention to the new Court House with Edward Cook, located where Victory Square is today. In that year he was living at 818 Cambie Street. In 1896 he moved to live at 75 W6th Avenue in Mount Pleasant, where he lived for over 30 years, still being listed there in 1926, the year before his death.

In 1901 he built the Greenshields Building on Water Street and BT Rogers’ house ‘Gabriola’ on Davie Street. He completed the massive Refined Sugar Warehouse for Rogers’ BC Sugar refinery in 1902 (a five year job), and in 1903 he completed a warehouse at 353 Water Street. This was occupied by the W H Malkin company, and the heritage notes on the building say that McLuckie owned it and the Malkins leased it.

In 1904 he built the King Edward High School (the city’s first) at Oak and 12th – which burned down in 1973. He built the McLennan & McFeely warehouse (these days called Koret Lofts) in 1907, the various additions to the massive Kelly Douglas Warehouse (these days The Landing) on Water Street from 1907 to 1913, The Metropole Hotel (as the Traveller’s Hotel) on Abbott Street in 1910, the Fleck Brothers building on Powell Street, which he may have designed, also in 1910, the eastern half of the Malkin Warehouse (which some sources say he also designed) in 1912.

In 1915 his business premises were on Pender Street, and in 1918 he built the Abbotsford Hotel where his yard had been located. No architect is associated with the building, and the building permit (for $70,000) says he designed and built it himself.

He remained owner of the hotel until his death and it was sold by his son in 1929. It still stands today as the Days Inn Hotel, missing from the city’s Heritage Register but still a fine example of a 90+ year old building.

The Abbotsford Hotel seen 2 years after it was built in 1918, and in 2004.

His son, Robert also developed a building known as the McLuckie building, and sometimes as the Inns of Court Building, designed by Townley and Matheson in 1931 and located at the corner of Howe and West Georgia Streets.

His grandson, Bill McLuckie is a talented painter, and this is a part of a painting by him showing his grandfather (in the centre of the picture) with B T Rogers standing on the left.

The Malkin Brothers

Sticking to a ‘brothers’ theme for a while, here’s a new post on the Malkin Brothers. W H Malkin is the name most recognised in Vancouver, as his was the name on the company they owned, and he was the one who became mayor. Three Malkin brothers arrived in Vancouver a little later than some of the other people we’ve featured so far, but there are still several large buildings associated with their dramatic rise in the wholesale grocery business that they established at the end of the 19th century.

The Malkins were from the pottery town of Burslem in Staffordshire. Malkins had been making pottery in the town since at least the early 17th Century, had married into local pottery aristocracy (the Wedgewoods) and had made both china and tiles – the company only merged into a contemporary porcelain tile conglomerate in the 1960s. At the end of the 1800s it was a big family – In the 1881 English Census James Malkin (aged 52) and his wife Ann (48) were living in Longport House, Burslem, Staffordshire with 9 children, aged from 24 to 3, and two servants, Pricella and Ann. The brothers who arrived in Canada were James born in 1863 (or 1864 according to his marriage licence), who in 1881 was not living at home, William and John (the youngest child of the family, only aged 3 in the 1881 census).

James seems to have been called ‘Fred’ in the family (presumably to distinguish him from his father, also called James). In 1899 he married Julia Eldridge in Vancouver who was 12 years younger than him, born in Waterloo, Quebec. John – who would be known more often as Philip – was born in 1878 and in 1907 married Georgina Grundy, 5 years younger than him, born in Winnipeg. William (who following what seems to be a family tradition, was better known as Harold, although Vancouver knew him best as ‘W H’) was born in 1869, and in 1901 married Marion Dougall who was four years younger and born in Windsor, Ontario, a middle child of a family of seven children.

William arrived in Canada in 1884, joining his brother in Grenfell, Saskatchewan. There is some suggestion that the brothers had fallen out with another brother, Sydney, who retained the family pottery business in Burslem. Initially James was a wheat farmer, with a homestead granted in 1885, but drought, floods and generally tough times meant that not long afterwards William went to work as a bookkeeper working for a hardware importer, Sherlock, Freeman and Co. In 1889 James sold the homestead and moved to Lethbridge, Alberta, (pop at the time c2,500) initially working for a druggist but by 1891 also for Sherlock, Freeman and Co. In 1891 William switched to working for another Grenfell wholesaler, Osmund Skrine. Grenfell was (and still is) a very small community located in the Qu’ Appelle Valley, closely linked to the CP Railway which had been built through the prairies a few years earlier. Grenfell wasn’t incorporated as a village until 1894, and for the previous ten years (so through the period James and William were residents) it was affected by the North West Rebellion where it was initially unclear if the local native Band (who outnumbered the white settlers) would join the rebellion (although in the end they remained neutral). A sister, Isabelle, (or Belle) had joined them in 1886 as housekeeper.

Grenfell, early 1900s, University of Saskatchewan Library

Osmund Skrine appears to have been born in Bathford in Somerset in 1858, and he built two commercial blocks in Grenfell, one in 1892 and another a year later, both times hiring prominent Winnipeg based architects. In 1895 he opened a warehouse operation in Vancouver as a produce merchant at 121 to 123 Water Street replacing Stewart, Lewthwaite and Co. He lived at 1751 Robson Street in 1896, listed as O Percy Skrine. William presumably joined him in Vancouver, in a 1937 speech he recalled his arrival “When I came here, half the stores were vacant, there was only a population of 17,000, and the future of the city was far from being assured.” James had apparently already chosen Vancouver as home; family history says among other jobs he hodded bricks for the construction of the first Hotel Vancouver – although this seems highly unlikely as it was built in 1887

In 1896 the Malkins were all living at 617 Richards Street, W H (William) and J P D (John) were working for Osmund Skrine and Co, while J F (James) was a clerk with Major and Eldridge who were pork packers based next door to Osmund Skrine and Co at 125 Water Street. Their mother, Ann, (or Annie as she was generally known) had joined them (she arrived a year earlier after the death of her husband in Burslem). Presumably James married the bosses’ daughter three years later. The house was called ‘The Hawthorns’ and had two bushes brought from England planted on either side of the door.

In 1898 John, James and their mother had moved to Broughton and Davie (which was still uncleared forest further down the street) while William maintained the Richards Street home. In 1897 W H Malkin bought out Mr Skrine, (who was no longer living in Vancouver in 1898, or Canada in 1901) and changed the name of the company to W H Malkin & Co, with both his older and younger brother joining the company. The Malkins built a 5-storey warehouse at 137 Water Street in 1897.

In 1899 William and John were both living in Davie Street, and neither their mother or brother were in the city Directory, (but James had got married that year).

In the 1901 census James and Julia are in one household and the Directory of that year identifies their home address as 1400 Bute Street, His mother Ann is head of the other Malkin family in the city, with her brother and sister-in-law (who curiously get no mention in family biographies), her unmarried sister, Eliza, sons William and John (at this point he switched the order of his names and is now listed as Philip J). Her daughter, listed as Mary but who was always called Isabelle, or Belle is living there too along with 13 year old granddaughter Ethel Bryant, and their cook Ho Yew. The 1901 Directory has them living at 1273 Barclay Street, but sometime that year William moved to the corner of Davie and Broughton (later identified as 1406 Davie). They stay at these addresses for several years, (with Mary appearing as a resident of the Barclay address in some years, but not all of them). Ethel was sent back to England to attend boarding school in 1902.

In 1903 the company moved to a new bigger warehouse at 353 Water Street, built by J McLuckie. Finally they occupied an even larger bvuilding that they built in 1907 and extended in 1912 designed by Parr and Fee.

By 1908 The company have occupied this building as their business address, the company president is W Harold Malkin, the Secretary-Treasurer is James F Malkin, and J Philip Malkin is also working for the company as sales manager and has moved to 761 Cardero Street.

Unlike many other families in the city where we have to imagine what life was like, with the Malkin household we have a detailed description. Ann Malkin’s granddaughter, Ethel Bryant, orphaned at age 10 would arrive aged 12 and stay in the household (with  schooling in England from 1902) until she married, aged 31. At the age of 59, Ethel Wilson, as she became, would publish her first novel, and become a successful and important writer. She wrote extensive fictionalised family reminiscences in which she recalled the household activities. The strict Methodism of Annie Malkin set the tone; family members were non-drinkers, prayers were said twice a day, dances and the theatre were off limits. The descriptions of early Vancouver and life within a family bearing a renakable similarity to her own were published in ‘The Innocent Traveller’ in 1949.

W H Malkin in 1913

The family started leaving the West End as it started to lose its status and apartment buildings were appearing. W H was the first to leave in 1912, building the house that would give its name to a neighbourhood, Southlands, located on South West Marine Drive. James (Fred) Malkin moved a few years later to a spot further along the same road, and so too did John (Philip), locating across from the Point Grey Golf and Country Club.

James Malkin invested in a small way in property too. He built two houses on Bute Street in the West End, replaced many years ago with apartments. On the east side of the city in 1911 he also had S B Birds design a small, but very attractive, apartment and retail building, known as the Sandon Block, where Venables and Commercial Drive meet. These days it’s partly occupied by Uprising Bread and their cafe.

Annie Malkin died in 1919, aged 86. Belle and Aunt Eliza sold the Barclay Street house and moved to Englesea Lodge on English Bay. Ethel moved to live in the Langham Hotel, a respectable residential hotel on Nelson Street, near Burrard. In the following year she got engaged to a doctor, Wallace Wilson, and she married in 1921.

Like many of the successful merchants the family were involved in civic and professional organisations. W H was a Director of both the British Columbia Permanent Loan Co and the Pacific Coast Fire Insurance Co. He was President of the Board of Trade in 1902 and 1903 and was a member of the royal commission on provincial assessment and taxation in 1910 and 1911. He was very involved in the Methodist Church, and also a Freemason.

The company grew significantly, and specialised in importing grocery from England. They were the importers for Peek Freans biscuits, Chivers of Cambridge and Cadburys . Their 1897 premises were 5,000 sq ft in size – with the addition to their 1907 warehouse in 1912 they had 116,000 sq ft of space. The top floor was devoted to coffee roasting and tea blending, and the company sold a comprehensive line of spices, jams and tinned goods.

In 1929 W H Malkin became mayor, partly on a platform of reform to clear up what was seen as a corrupt police force (a perennial Vancouver issue, but on this occasion with some justification) and partly on a return to prohibition, backed by the Christian Vigilance League. Curiously, although as a staunch Methodist W H Malkin was in favour of prohibition, (and donated $1,000 to the cause) his company had been accused of selling ‘Malkins Best’ extract as an alcohol substitute during prohibition in the early 1920s.

W H Malkin in the 1920s - City of Vancouver Archives

He ran a city that had added 50% to its population overnight, as South Vancouver and Point Grey merged that year into Vancouver. It was a difficult time for the city, as the economy faced a huge downturn after the Stock Exchange crash and unemployment rose sharply. While he laid the foundation stone for the Marine Building, started construction of important infrastructure for the city like sewers and the CPR tunnel from Coal Harbour to False Creek, Mayor Malkin also faced the occupation of the relief office by the unemployed and by year’s end 7,000 receiving assistance, with no help from Victoria. W H Malkin lost the 1931 to the east side supported L D Taylor (who had been mayor before 1929 as well) but the new regime were no better able to respond to a collapsed economy than Mayor Malkin had been.

James (Fred) Malkin died in 1950, in his 90s. He had been the first family member to propose moving to Canada, had ridden the Hope-Princeton trail on horseback, driven a model T Ford to New York from Vancouver, and enjoyed blowing up stumps on his Bowen Island property. He had married the much younger Julia, ‘the prettiest girl in Vancouver’

John (Philip) Malkin died in 1952, the youngest and most gregarious of the brothers who travelled widely in the service of the company. He was president of Neon Products of Western Canada (so indirectly associated with the highpoint of Vancouver’s illuminated past). He was a member of the Terminal City Club, a keen (but self proclaimed ‘rotten’) golfer and listed his hobby in earlier years as yachting. He had come out of retirement during the war to work as director of purchases in the Department of Munitions and Supply in Ottawa. He had four children.

W H died in 1959 – a successful businessman who had been elected mayor, helped create the Burrard Bridge, taken on the role of ‘Colonel Malkin’ as the head of the BC Regiment and become a generous philanthropist who had funded the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, was the first Chair of the BC Cancer Foundation and funded the outdoor pavilion that would be called the Malkin Bowl in memory of his wife, Marion. He listed his hobbies as riding, driving and motoring (an interesting distinction).

The Oppenheimer Brothers

The Oppenheimer Brothers involvement in early Vancouver was pivotal in charting the city’s early course. Their land holdings and negotiations with the Canadian Pacific Railway ensured the success of the location they had risked their fortune on.

There were five Oppenheimer Brothers who we know left Germany for North America, David, Charles, Godfrey, and Isaac, as well as their brother Meyer, (the Gummo Marx of the family, as he is seldom mentioned). Only David and Isaac had a significant involvement in the history of Vancouver. Like their brothers, David and Isaac were born in Blieskastel in Bavaria, David in 1834 and Isaac in 1835 (or perhaps 1838 if an 1881 census entry is to be believed). Their father was a merchant and vintner, and their mother died when they were only three and four years old. After political unrest the five brothers headed initially to New Orleans in 1848, then Placer Country, California in 1851, and later Sacramento. David worked in real estate and the restaurant business in Columbia, California, where he married his wife, Sarah, another German immigrant in 1857.

As gold became harder to find in California, David moved on to work in Victoria in the supply business Charles had set up there in 1858–59. Their elder brother was almost certainly in the gold fields – a Godfrey Oppenheim petitioned Governor James Douglas in January 1860 to ensure continued access to mining on Cornish Creek. Meyer’s wife, Babette also held a mining licence in Barkerville. Charles Oppenheimer had been forced to leave the country at the end of the 1850s when a company he formed with T B Lewis and Walter Moberley to build the Cariboo Wagon Road was not repaid by the government for the work they had undertaken, and Moberley was arrested as a result for non-payment of debt. Although the government eventually repaid some of the costs, both Charles Oppenheimer and Walter Moberley were significantly out of pocket – although they did have a road.

David and Isaac followed the miners to Yale, expanding into wholesale business and opened new stores and warehouses in Hope, Lytton, Barkerville, and Fisherville.

Oppenheimer Brothers store, Front St, Yale, 1860 – BC Archives

An 1861 report from Lytton in the Colonist newspaper

In 1862 David and Isaac took over Charles Oppenheimer and Co

By the summer of 1866 they were operating their own pack-train, purchasing acreage near Lytton and in the Cariboo, and buying, developing, and selling lots in Barkerville. Both Godfrey and Mayer were in Yale as well, as both had sons born there in 1866.

Oppenheimer mule train in Barkerville 1868 – BC Archives

 Along with the significant profits, the brothers had low points. They faced trusteeship in 1866 and again in 1867, and a competitor took their business over, banning them from any involvement in running the company. Charles returned to buy that competitor out in 1871, reinstalling David and Isaac, who soon faced another loss when a fire destroyed their Barkerville building. They donated a fire engine to the town in 1872 before selling up there and continuing to operate in Yale until the early 1880s. Charles retired to San Francisco in 1873 and the partnership was once again dissolved.

David suffered a tragedy when his wife, Sarah died in 1880 (it was reported she was aged 40). The brothers nearly lost control of the company again in 1881, and another fire sapped their fortune as their ‘fireproof’ warehouse burned and they lost $170,000 of goods while holding only $49,000 in insurance. Although they rebuilt, they abandoned Yale for Victoria where David had already been conducting business, establishing an import-wholesale business on Wharf Street.

Although a less prominent partner, Godfrey had obviously also been involved from Victoria, but less than two months after the fire he died, being buried in a Masonic burial service in the Jewish cemetery near Victoria. He left behind Lena, his 32 year old widow, and five children aged 15 to 7 (one born every two years, Solomon, Isabella, Amealia, Edith and Milton). Meyer Oppenheimer and his wife Babette had by this point moved to San Francisco, perhaps with Charles who lived there until his death in 1890.

In 1883 David remarried, in San Francisco, to Julia Walters of New York, and became a father for the first time in 1884 when his daughter, Flora was born in Victoria.

The remaining brothers had already contributed to railway construction near Yale – now they looked to the opportunities the rail terminus might bring. This was not a new interest – as early as 1878 David had acquired 300 acres of land on the Inlet. In 1884 and 1885 he bought land in both Coal Harbour and English Bay in conjunction with other investors in the Vancouver Improvement Company.

The Oppenheimers may have lost property in the fire that destroyed the city in 1886. They certainly acted quickly after the fire to build a brick-built warehouse. Although the company that continues to exist today, the Oppenheimer Group, suggests it was established in 1887, there was an advertisement placed in the Colonist by T C Sorby, the architect, on July 23rd 1886 – less than 6 weeks after the fire – for a new brick building for the Oppenheimers.

Colonist, 23 July 1886

The building was apparently completed in 1886. (Certainly it was up by 1887). It is identified as a single storey building at 28 Powell Street that was still standing in the 1930s. (It is often thought that the Columbia Street warehouse was their first building.)

Oppenheimer warehouse, 1931 – City of Vancouver Archives

T C Sorby announced he was moving his practice from Victoria to Vancouver five days after placing the advertisement. By September he had a huge commission from the CPR to design the terminal station building and offices. Although it is sometimes referred to as the first brick building, it is more likely that the stores built by A G Ferguson at Carrall and Powell were started first.

 A second warehouse building on Powell at Columbia is usually attributed to N S Hoffar. He was definitely hired in 1891 to work on the building. This was quite possibly to enlarge and alter it, as the initial two-storey structure was clearly standing in 1890, (and is still in existence today, but with a third floor added)..

By 1887 both David and Isaac were firmly established in the new city of Vancouver. They had completed one of the first brick buildings, held (and were selling) huge tracts of land, and were both Aldermen in the newly elected City Council. A handbook of the city published by the Daily World that year carried a full page advertisement for the company and a testimonial to the brothers, which passed over the problems they had experienced in Yale only a few years earlier.

 In 1887 the Oppeheimer Brother’s lands were assessed at $125,000, third only to the CPR and the Hastings Mill. By 1889 their lands were worth $150,000 (despite having sold significant areas off in the two years) and the Vancouver Improvement Company, where they were significant shareholders, had $225,000 worth of land, having bought the mill’s lands. And two years later still in 1891 the brothers were estimated to be worth $200,000 and the Improvement Company $330,000. The Improvement Company was initially organised by David Oppenheimer with a number of Victoria and San Francisco based shareholders who acquired shares in the mill in order that they could control the mill’s landholdings. It also included a number of shareholders already involved in the city.

By 1889 David had become significantly more visible in the life of the city than his brother. Another profile of him that year describes the previous two years activity: “He was elected mayor by acclamation for 1888 and again for 1889 and stood for office for 1890, defeating his opponent with ease. Mayor Oppenheimer is connected with nearly every enterprise which is calculated to advance the interests of the city or the Province at large. He is a member of the Board of Trade and was president of that organization. He is president of the British Columbia Agricultural Association and of the British Columbia Exhibition association. He has done a great deal to advertise the Province by compiling pamphlets, showing the extent and resources of the country and distributing them in Europe and America.” His picture was also featured.

In 1888 David was elected mayor and Isaac re-elected an alderman. David was re-elected three times, twice by acclamation, finally resigning in 1891. As mayor David Oppenheimer established the basic civic services: water supply, sewers, fire department, streets, schools, and parks, and was mayor when Stanley Park was dedicated. His civic duties were often intertwined with his investments: the Vancouver Water Works Company, the Vancouver Electric Railway and Light Company, and the Westminster and Vancouver Tramway. He also helped establish a steamship connection between Vancouver and Australia and took an active role in the founding of the BC Sugar Refinery. He helped establish the city’s YMCA, the Alexandra Orphanage, the British Columbia Exhibition Association, and the Vancouver Club, of which Isaac was president in 1895-96. David was elected the first president of the Vancouver Board of Trade after its incorporation on December 12, 1887. Both David and Isaac were also prominent Masons.

In the 1891 census David is aged 58, and his wife Julia is 35. Isaac is recorded as aged 56, and his US born wife Celia is 38.

David died in 1897, so only Isaac was living in Canada for the 1901 census. In that record he is aged 65, and Celia has managed to lose 2 years and is only 46. Isaac, who moved to Spokane Washington in his final years, lived on until 1922.

When David died in 1897 his fortune was in decline and despite his reputation as a wealthy man, the provincial finance minister, John Turner, accepted the trustees’ estimate of $20,000 as fair value for the whole estate. That may not have been so unreasonable -The Vancouver Improvement Company was valued at over $300,000 but had an overdue mortgage against it. Similarly, Oppenheimer Brothers held nearly half of the stock of the British Columbia Drainage and Dyking Company, but their Pitt River lands weren’t selling after a flood in 1894. Even the grocery company wasn’t doing so well, although it was subsequently reorganized by David’s nephews and continues to operate in Metro Vancouver.

A G Ferguson – another capitalist

A G Ferguson is another important Vancouver pioneer developer. Initially his background was somewhat mysterious – we weren’t completely sure what his name was – on almost every document and publication he was referred to as A G Ferguson.

The earliest reference we’ve found for him is from his marriage to Marion Dixon in Pottawattamie, Iowa, in November, 1869. They appear in the 1880 US Census living in Santa Cruz, as Alfred G Ferguson and Marion, his wife, aged 36, born in Michigan. He was shown as being aged 37 born in New York in 1843; his father was Scottish, his mother English, and he was a Cement Manufacturer. The family already had a servant, 20 year old Susan Cassady, who was Irish.

He appears in the 1891 Canadian Census as Alfred Graham Fergusson, born in 1844 in the US to an English born mother and American father. His wife was correctly shown as Marion, born in 1843, there are two servants, 25 year old Annie born in Quebec and 22 year old Victor born in England, and A G’s sister-in-law, Grace Dixon is also living with them. We know Grace and Marion came from Mount Clemens, Michigan. Their significance in the Vancouver scene can be judged from the fact that their mother’s death (in Michigan) was announced in the 27 December 1894 newspaper.

Although the first name of Alfred is repeated in an 1894 Consolidated Electric Railway and Light Co petition, in the 1901 Census he is listed as Arthur G Fergusson, his wife is called Marrian and she was now born in 1841. This probably points to the census collector being less than rigorous with names. The Burnaby Museum still believe he was called Arthur, so the census collector is not the only error. A G had a brother, Arthur Northcote Ferguson, and that may be where the confusion arose. The 1901 household was completed by Elizabeth Orange, a companion, and Mabel Williams, a 24 year old domestic with James Williams, also a domestic aged 20 years.

Mr Ferguson was a tunneller, involved in the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. An 1899 Daily World publication tells how in I880 E B Deane (originally from Sydney, Australia) “came to British Columbia as bookkeeper for Mr A G Ferguson, who had a Iarge contract upon the CPR at Hope. Upon the completion of thia contract he returned with him to San Francisco, and later came back to British Columbia, this time to Kamloops, remaining there until that contract was completed.”

A G Ferguson was in charge of the Cherry Creek Tunnel work about 13 miles west of Kamloops in 1884. He almost certainly arrived in Granville in 1885; he doesn’t appear in the 1885 Street Directory, but his wooden building is definitely standing at the corner of Carrall and Powell Streets in spring of 1886, and Frank W Hart in a 1933 conversation recalled “Even in 1885, A.G. Ferguson was noted for being a C.P.R. tunnel contractor, and wealthy; a very nice man to boot. He built the Ferguson Block at the southeast corner of Carrall and Powell streets—burned down in the fire shortly afterwards”. In 1887 he’s still listed as a Civil Engineer, living on Hastings Street. By 1888 his description has changed to ‘capitalist’.

In June 1886, within days of the fire, Mr Ferguson confirmed he would build a ‘cottage’ high on the bluff at 815 Hastings Street. It was standing by 1887, and his near neighbour was Henry Abbott, first superintendent of the Canadian Pacific Railway (whose much-restored house still stands today). In 1888 he bought a Victoria-built Goodwin and Jordan piano for his new home.

Ferguson House, Hastings St – City of Vancouver Archives

The (second) Ferguson Block was built on the site of the first, almost immediately after the fire to a design by W T Whiteway. The Colonist described it in June 1886 as a fireproof block of seven stores. Fred Tatham (in a letter written in 1937) remembered “I arrived in Vancouver two days after the fire in 1886. I was on the platform, where the first train arrived, bedecked with flags. I also worked on the first brick building in Vancouver, the Ferguson Block”.

The second (brick) Ferguson Block in 1904 (City of Vancouver Archives) and as it is today with the addition to the south for Frank Filion

By 1901 the insurance maps show the building already doubled in size (the Fripp brothers were hired as architects to supervise the expansion in 1889). Ferguson also owned the next two single-storey stores to the south. In 1909 Parr and Fee added two storeys to these for their new owner, Frank Filion.

When the CPR sold off land, A G Ferguson was at the front of the line. It perhaps didn’t hurt that the sale took place in the Ferguson Block. Walter Graveley in conversation with Major Matthews in 1935 recalled the sale “Ferguson had his hand on the handle of the door; Ferguson was first; Dr. LeFevre was second; F.C. Innes was third; then came R.G. Tatlow; C.D. Rand was next, and I was behind C.D. Rand. The first three, Ferguson, Dr. LeFevre, and Innes had sat up all night in Ferguson’s office in the same block; the Ferguson Block was the wooden block on the corner of Carrall and Powell streets, where the C.P.R. had their first offices in Vancouver; we were waiting for the C.P.R. office to open; that was why we were there; there was no rush; we just walked in when the office opened that morning; Ferguson was first; he had his hand on the handle of the door.”

The speed of the growth of A G’s investments can be seen in the valuation of the assessed value of his property, In 1887 it was $20,000, in 1889 it was $100,000 and in 1891 it was $140,000. In that year his holdings were the sixth largest in the city.  In 1892 Mr Ferguson appears with a good credit rating, described as a ‘capitalist’ – the only person to bear that title out of 65 pages of names and credit ratings (although J W Horne, whose holdings were worth slightly more, was given that description in the City Directory).

Carrall and Powell Streets in the 1890s – Royal BC Museum

After the Ferguson block was rebuilt A G erected several other buildings that we know about (and perhaps more). In 1889 the Fripp Brothers (R Mackay Fripp worked with his brother, Charles, from 1889 to 1891) designed a three storey office and retail building on Hastings Street, on the corner of Richards. A G apparently selected lots on the corner of Hastings Street; another conversation with Major Matthews recalled that he owned the land where the Standard Building was built (see the entry on J W Weart). The building is shown below; it was on the southwestern corner, and became home to the Bank of Commerce.

In 1893 it was announced “A G Ferguson is to build a very handsome block on the corner of Hastings and Richards streets. It will be fitted with electric heaters and all modern Improvements.” Either construction was delayed or this is yet another building on the corner of Richards and Hastings, as an 1899 newspaper also reported a building for A G Ferguson, this one on the northwest corner of Hastings and Richards. This was probably the very handsome Bank of British North American building that was later taken by Spencer’s Department store and demolished in the 1920s.

Ferguson block, south western corner of Hastings and Richards – City of Vancouver Archives

In the same year he had the Fripp Brothers design an addition to the Whiteway designed Ferguson Block on Powell. (This suggests the block may not have been sold off soon after it was completed as is suggested in the Heritage Designation).

The Boulder Hotel in 1901 (City of Vancouver Archives) and today

In 1890 the same architects designed a two-storey stone faced hotel, the Boulder Hotel, which is still standing today on the corner of Carrall and Cordova Streets. Henry Gibb, a contractor specialising in stone cutting was first employed in Vancouver working for A G Ferguson, so is quite likely to have been involved with the Boulder. A G is described as the contractor responsible for erecting his own buildings, so his seems a far from hands off role. At some point between 1901 and 1910 a third storey was added, and today the Boulder is being restored. “There were very high ceilings in the Boulder. They had a fad for high ceilings then, the higher the ceiling the fancier the store; they had a fad for, well, sixteen feet ceilings were common.”

Like many of the other early merchant and developers in the city, A G Ferguson adopted a civic role as well as a business one. On the business side in 1887 he was a Director of the Coquitlam Water Works Company, supplying water to Port Moody, English Bay and places in between, and to New Westminster. The 1888 Engineering News-Record noted that “the Act of Incorporation provides that no Chinese are to be employed on the work”. A G was the only Vancouver based shareholder; most were from Victoria. In 1894 he was one of six petitioners establishing the Consolidated Electric Railway and Light Co.

A G had significant interests in mining. In 1894 it was reported“The Cinnabar Mining Co, Ltd, of Vancouver, has just been granted incorporation under the Companies Act, with a capital of $100,000 in $1 shares. The promoters and provisional trustees are R G Tatlow, A G Ferguson and C 0 Wickenden.” In 1895 he incorporated the Argonaut Gold Mining Company with two other partners, capitalised at $500,000 with two claims, the Eleanor and Londonderrry in the Kootnay area. In 1897 he held the mining rights to a mine on Ten Mile Creek at Slocan Lake and it was reported that “high grade ore is being taken out”.

His most prominent civic role was as Chair of the first Parks Board. Major Matthews recorded this history “Mr. Ferguson was an American, and when he was elected a park commissioner, while others were sworn in, he was excused that ceremony. He took such an interest in Stanley Park that, when the annual sum appropriated by the Council for its upkeep and development was exhausted, he himself invariably paid the bills to the end of the year. Being a civil engineer, he gave the grades for grading the roads in the park, acted as park foreman, and practically gave all his spare time to it, the other commissioners being agreeable to leaving it to him. Ex-Alderman Michael Costello told me that one year it had cost Mr. Ferguson five thousand dollars.”

A G’s sister-in-law, Grace Dixon, who was living with the family in 1891, married Henry Ceperley, another important land speculator and developer in the city who had arrived from his native New York in 1886. “Mr. Ferguson had no children of his own, nor had Mrs. Ferguson. Mr. Ferguson left a portion of his estate to his sister-in-law, Mrs. Ceperley, with the suggestion that, when she had no further use for it, it should be left to the city of Vancouver, and this gave us, ultimately, the Ceperley Children’s Playground at Second Beach. I believe Mr. Ferguson stipulated in his bequest that the money should be used for a park for children.” These days Ferguson Point in Stanley Park serves as a permanent reminder of A G Ferguson’s generosity.

Not all A G’s civic involvement was smooth sailing. In 1894 the Colonist reported “The new water commissioners will have to be elected by the people of Vancouver. It was thought by the council of 1893 that the waterworks could be far more profitably handled by three commissioners than by the Water and Light committee. Consequently Messrs A G Ferguson, R H Alexander and Cambie were elected by the people. The council of 1894 however, had scarcely been sworn in when they amended the Waterworks Commissioners’ by-law in such a way that the commissioners would have to receive all moneys for water works purposes through the hands of the City Treasurer. The commissioners were not satisfied with partial control, stating they were little better than a council committee. They resigned after holding office two weeks.”

A G Ferguson enjoyed an active social life as well as his business and civic duties. He was the first president of the Terminal City Club in 1899 (although the city’s merchants had been meeting together from 1892). He had a luxury steam yacht, the Nagasaki (probably built in Japan). He was the judge for the 1893 Vancouver Boat Regatta, on the executive committee of the citizens’ carnival committee in 1896 and in 1897 the second vice-president of the Camera Club. (His neighbour, Henry Abbott was president).

In his later years there are fewer mentions of Mr Ferguson, although his house is still standing, with his family living there in 1902. On 12 August 1902 The Colonist reported “Mrs. Ferguson, wife of Mr A G Ferguson, died at her home on Saturday. Mrs Ferguson was among the earliest residents of the city and prominently connected with charity work”.

In 1903 no building addressed as 815 Hastings is listed. In 1902 Arthur Ferguson was an attorney living in Omaha, Nebraska at the time Alfred Graham Ferguson’s final will was made in May of 1902. A G Ferguson died on the second of June, 1903, in San Fransisco, having been very ill for several months.