Baron and Marquis James Canby Cyprian DeBiddle Cope

We first came across ‘Baron and Marquis James Canby Cyprian DeBiddle Cope’ in a post about the St Francis Hotel, that he developed in 1906 on West Cordova at Seymour. We’ve expanded the biography here, because the Marquis had an interesting story, and owned significant property holdings in the city.

Before the Italian titles and additional names, James Biddle Cope was born in Philadelphia. He was given his mother’s name, Biddle, as his middle name. The Biddle family traced their roots back to the earliest pioneer settlements in the 17th Century.

Canby was another family name, (his grandmother’s) that he added in 1876. (He later added the ‘De’ as well). His Cope family line stretched back in Pennsylvania to 1691, when his great great grandfather was born there to Rebecca Harland and Oliver Cope, who had been born in Avebury, Wiltshire, and travelled to join William Penn in the new colony in 1683, (possibly because they were Quakers).

Alfred, James’s father, was the wealthy owner of a Liverpool shipping line, and had three children by his first wife, who died following the birth of one of the last of their children. James was the only child of his marriage to his second wife, Rebecca Biddle. Strangely, although there are many images of James’s older half-brother, the paleontologist Edward Drinker Cope, we haven’t found any of James.

James was 20 when he married Mary Louise Saunders (who was also 20, from New Jersey) in Flushing, Queens, New York, in June 1873. They had six children over the next 16 years. He obtained a degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and was called to the bar of the State that same year.

The family travelled to England soon after their marriage. Their daughter Marie Louise was born in Oxford in 1875, Frances in Oxfordshire in 1877, Alfred Cope Biddle Cope in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire in 1879, and John in Gloucestershire in 1881. Frances’s birth was recorded in Jackson’s Oxford Journal, and the family were residents at Plas Dol-y-serre, Oxford. James was attending Worcester College, Oxford, earning a B.A. in 1878 and an M.A. in 1881. A family biography says, “he had planned studies at Oxford with the idea of entering the priesthood of the Church of England. Upon the completion of these studies, he also for a time became an officer of militia at Aldershot, and it was thought he might find promotion in the Army. This service, however, was not for long, and he soon took up the life of an English country gentleman, first in the beautiful “Cotswold House,” in the Cotswold Hills.”

The 1881 census confirms that James was living on his 200 acre estate in Gloucestershire, bought in 1879. There were a dozen servants and estate workers in the household. The family must have visited Italy during this period; their son, Alfred, died in San Remo in Italy in 1883. James sold the estate in 1885. Gladys was born in Bournemouth in Hampshire in 1886, and the impressively named Anthony Prosper Cyprian Mary Biddle Cope was born in London in 1889.

James still had property in Philadelphia as well, but his adoption of an Italian title was not well received in his home city in 1886.

In 1887 the local Emporia, Kansas newspaper reported ‘Marquis Biddle-Cope now lives in Rome’. An Arkansas paper had a slightly longer note; “The Philadelphia Press announces that “the Marquis – and Marquise Biddle-Cope are ‘coming back’ from Rome to start a salon in Philadelphia. They will never succeed, unless they call themselves Schmidt and spell saloon with two o’s”.

In 1888 the Lyttleton Times had an advertisement by Simpson & Williams, booksellers, for ‘Mad’ by the Marquis Biddle Cope. A contemporary review in ‘The Tablet’ said the book was “not suited for indiscriminate circulation” adding “it deals with things that should not be named – or even known”. He wrote at least two other novels, including Grey of Greybury in 1884, (still available today in re-print, but described as ‘undistinguished’).

A 1920s biography explained the titles that James adopted; “his interest had turned to the Roman Catholic Church and to Italy, and he and his family were baptized in that church. He gave large sums to the cause of Catholic education in Rome, and naturally was regarded as a distinguished convert.” The pope named him a Marquis of the Holy See in 1883 and the king of Italy named him a Baron in the kingdom of Italy in 1886 (presumably for his pro-Catholic views). He immediately added the titles on his books and other transactions (when he was allowed to). He was given the spiritual name of Cyprian Cope, which he also used until he fell out with the Catholic Church some years later.

In 1888 the family were at a home in Bournemouth; the ‘Marchesa Biddle-Cope’ advertised for ‘a strong active Girl for the kitchen’ and an under-nurse, who had to be a good needlewoman, for their home ‘Mentana’, Manor Road, Bournemouth.

He acquired another estate in Shropshire in England, Knill Court, where he was living in 1891 where he was listed as “Giacomo Canby Ciprious De Biddle Cope” and his son John was shown as ‘Giovanni’. In 1892 the family visited Rhyl, with the newspaper listing the visitors as  “The Marquis de Biddle Cope, The Marchioness de Biddle Cope, family & maid, Aston-on-le-Clun”. He moved on to Broadward Hall in the same Welsh border area. In 1895 Kelly’s Directory of Shropshire said the house was owned by Cyprian Cope esq., (and he already had a house in Verona in Italy at the time). In 1896 his daughter Frances wrote a long letter from the Hall extoling the benefits of wearing ‘knickers’ (the English description of knickerbocker trousers), for ladies when cycling. James sold the estate in 1900, the year his daughter Gladys died.

He acquired a great deal of property in Vancouver, possibly as early as 1890, but the earliest reference we have here is from an 1896 Court of Appeal judgement (that he won). “The appellant, who resides in England, owns real estate in Vancouver which returns a gross rent of $3,400“. The court case established that is the net profit was under $1,500 then no income tax had to be paid. In 1896 the Marquis was only seeing a profit of $1,100, so he didn’t pay income tax in Canada.

In 1897 his daughter Marie Louise married Edward Smith (actually Edward Ernest Douglass-Smith) in Brighton. The family stayed in England, and lived in Clapham, London; in 1925 they visited Philadelphia, sailing on the Zeeland. Marie was 79 when she died in Surrey, England. She had two sons, Eric in 1902 and Aubrey in 1899.

In 1900 James won a court case against James Summers, and had a piece of land on Nelson Street in the West End auctioned off. An earlier 1896 court case was reported in Victoria. His son had arrived there in 1895, and may have lived there, although he is never identifiable as a resident in street directories. It’s possible that John was the reason for this notice which appeared in a Victoria newspaper in 1899.

In 1902 his daughter Frances married Alberto Calenda di Tavani. He was born in 1865, and had been a Captain in the Savoy Dragoons, and his father was also a Baron, from Nocera in Italy. They had two children, Irene in 1903 and Gladys in 1905, (who died in 1912).

At some point in 1905 he was supposedly living in Verona, and his son, John, was living in Vancouver. The Province reported in September 1905 ‘Marquis de Biddle Cope Hurrying to Son’s Bedside’. ‘Mr. J. Cope, who is In the hospital being treated for the effects of a gasoline explosion In his residence at 518 Alexander street, is making very satisfactory progress. Mr. Cope, who is a steamboatman, had only been married a few weeks before the accident occurred. His father, the Marquis de Biddle Cope, who is one of the largest foreign property-owners in Vancouver, is now hurrying to the city. He had intended to be here shortly anyhow, but is accelerating his trip on account of his son’s accident.’

In 1905 John Cope had been a deckhand living in the rear house at 224 Prior Street. A 1908 publication, ‘The Prominent Families of the United States of America’ says John Cope married Elizabeth (‘Bessie’) Moore in 1905, and they had two children, Alfred in 1907 and Gladys in 1906. (They had two more, in 1909 and 1911). His accident nearly cost him his life, and made the lead story in the Daily World. Apparently pouring gasoline from a half-gallon can onto a reluctant woodstove isn’t the best way to get dinner prepared.

In April 1906 James was in the city again: “The Marquis de Biddlecope, one of the heavy owners of Vancouver real estate, arrived In the city last night from England to look after his interests here. He will likely remain on the coast for some time.”

We know the marquis, a he styled himself at the time, developed the St Francis Hotel across from the CPR train station in 1906.

He also developed a building on Cordova Street on a site that he may have acquired as early as 1890.


He may have developed other buildings, as he’s described as a major investor in the city (and apparently had almost unlimited funds), but building permits have been lost for some of the early 1900s.

In 1908 James had been living in Reno, Nevada. In 1909 he also owned the Yale Hotel, on Granville, commissioning the $20,000 eastern annex.

His son, Anthony Biddle-Cope was killed in action in 1915. While we haven’t found an image of his father, there was a newspaper article at the time of his death that included a picture of Anthony. He died while saving the life of a friend at Ypres in April 1915. Anthony was educated at the Barnabite College, in Florence, Italy; and was afterwards a Cadet on H.M.S. Conway, where he received the King’s gold medal. He was in the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, from 1910, and went to the Front with them on the outbreak of war as a 2nd Lieutenant.

A 1920s biography describes the Marquis’s later years: “Domestic difficulties, in which his friends could not at all sympathize with him, led to a somewhat wandering life on his part. He stayed for a time in Australia roughing it on remote ranches. He even acquired property in the Fiji Islands which he visited. More recently he had a beautiful home at Goritzia, near the Alps of the Austrian-Italian frontier. But the Great War swept over this territory and his home was almost totally destroyed. Meanwhile he had returned to America and lived for a time at Asheville, N. C. He also took a long voyage to the Fiji Islands, but has now (1924) returned to Europe.”

His son John, who would eventually receive the title of Baron, stayed near Vancouver. He entered Eastman’s Naval Academy in England at the age of nine. At the age of twelve he passed all the examinations for the Naval Training Ship “Britannia,” but poor eyesight disqualified him. He wanted to be a civil engineer, but his father wanted him to attend Oxford, so he somehow ran away to Victoria, in British Columbia. He worked for a time on a farm, and put himself through the Marine School at Vancouver. He was for several years captain of boats on the Gulf of Georgia and is said to have gained the reputation of being a skilled navigator.

On his death in Shaughnessy Hospital in 1955, John’s obituary noted that he had joined the Boer War from Victoria (where he had arrived as a seaman in 1895, when he was 14), one of around 7,000 volunteers who fought from 1900 to 1902 under British command. He applied for a land grant, which may have been his home in Wilson Creek on the Sunshine Coast. John and Elizabeth had four children; Gladys in 1906, Alfred in 1907, Beatrice in 1909 and Arthur in 1911.

Although the BC Directory doesn’t identify the family, or their address in the early years they were there, the Sechelt Museum has a photograph of the modest home that the family occupied. The four children attended the school in Porpoise Bay where they came by horse and wagon. The horse spent the day in a shed behind the school.

In 1914 John volunteered again, joining the Royal Canadian Navy. This was natural as he had progressed from a deckhand to master mariner. His wartime experience caused a threat to his eyesight, but he worked as fourth officer on the CPR’s Empress of Asia before losing the sight in one eye, and reduced in the other. He apparently retired to Wilson Creek in 1925.

Mary, The Marquis’s first wife, died in 1924. A Philadelphia newspaper said she had been visiting her parents there when she died. The reference to ‘domestic difficulties’ probably referenced his leaving his wife and children for a significantly younger woman, in Italy. Mary moved to Farnham, in Hampshire. Whether the couple ever divorced is unclear. She was buried in Northwood cemetery in Philadelphia as Marie Louise Cope, under a headstone that reads ‘In memory of our Beloved Mother’. There’s no mention of the Marquis.

In 1926 James published ‘Recollections of a non-conventional, changeful life’.

Despite his Roman Catholic title, the Baron had a second family, and an Italian wife. Initially we understood his five sons were all from his time living in Italy. His obituary in a US newspaper identified two sons, James in Washington and Thomas, a reporter on the Philadelphia Inquirer.

In 1915 the SS Duca D’Aosta sailed from Genova to New York. We knew that Irene Tavani was on board, the 11-year-old daughter of Frances, James’s daughter. She was sailing to join her family who were in Philadelphia. We were surprised to see she was travelling with Giacomo Cope, who was aged 62, a real-estate owner from Philadelphia. He was with his wife, Emilia, who was 41, and four sons, Tomaso, James, Edward and Roderick, aged between 2 and 12.

In 1917 Rodolfo Maria Alfredo Palesini Cope was born in the United States. His father was listed as Giacoeus Canby-Biddle Cope, aged 64, of Asheville, North Carolina. He claimed that he had been married to Donna Emelia for 15 years, and Rodolfo was their fifth child. Amelia Stefania Polesini, Rodolpho’s mother, was shown as aged 37, from Salerno.

In 1924 James Owen Cope, son of Baron and Baroness James Canby Biddle Cope di Valromita married Florence Davenport in Greenville, South Carolina, and the newspaper report said the couple would be living in Asheville.

In 1927 Selim Thomas De Hausted Cope married in Philadelphia. He was born in 1903 in Italy, and his parents were recorded as James Cope and Emelia Polesini. A genealogical study of the Cope family identified her as Emilia Maria Madelena Stephania Polisini.

It’s clear that several of James’s children wemt on to successful careers. In 2009 the release of Irish historical records mentioned Eduardo, one of James’s younger children. Eduardo tried unsuccessfully to kill himself in 1938 and was told he must leave the country or face prosecution for attempted suicide. Archived documents from the Justice Department show a series of investigations into suicides, including that of Dr Eduardo Cope di Valromita, who was working as a professor of Italian literature at University College Cork. Dr Cope tried to take his own life three months after arriving in Ireland, having become depressed. Baron Rodolfo Cope di Valromita was both an author and composer in Italy.

When he died in 1929, the Baron was living in Rome and using his Italian title. The New York times reporting “James Canby Biddle Cope, Baron Di Valromita, died on Tuesday at his home in Rome”.

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.

Both men were active trade unionists and served on the executive of the carpenters’ union in the 1890s. They 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.

307 Main Street, built in 1902

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

William Horie was also developing in 1912; he built a 4-storey warehouse on Howe Street that year which cost $50,000, and was built by the partners. It was only demolished in the 2010s to make way for Vancouver House, the condo tower that leans over Granville Bridge.

A couple of years later Ed Baynes 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 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.

In 1926 they developed the Harbour Block on Alexander Street.

Ed Baynes had been the president of Vancouver Builder’s Exchange from 1908 to 1912, and a member of the Vancouver Park Commission from 1924 to 1939. He was Parks Board Commissioner from 1924 to 1928 and had a term as chairman of property and sites committee, during which time he took part in acquiring park areas. As chairman he was involved in a plan to bring Brockton Point Oval up to International Track and Field Standards and installed the organ in Stanley Park Pavillion on October 27, 1946.

Edgar was elected Vice-President of the Vancouver Horticultural Society and Farmer’s Association in 1938. In December 1938 he was voted the Hotel Industry’s “Man of the Month”.

Will Horie died in 1940, but Ed Baynes continued to have a very active presence in the city. In 1942 he revived the road project of Squamish to Vancouver Highway as director of BC Automobile Association.

From 1938, he was a member of Kiwanis Club. He served as the director of the Canadian Club. He was also an honourary member of Vanderhoof Board of Trade and executive member of BC Manufacturers Association. He was also a member of the BC Hotel Association, Vancouver Entertainment Association, Canadian Town Planning Association, and Vancouver Property Owner’s Association. He served as chairman of building and property committee of Vancouver Preventorium for 15 years and also 10 years in the same capacity for the Alexandra Orphanage. He was a member of council of the Board of Trade, warden of Holy Trinity Anglican Church, and President of the Vancouver Historical Society. For 15 years he served on the executive of the Vancouver branch of Canadian Forestry Association. He was also a member of the Terminal Club, Sons of England, Marine Golf and Country Club, and the Vancouver Bowling Club.

Edgar donated an organ to the Pavilion Ballroom in Stanley Park on October 27, 1946. His name was released as the donor in October 1948. He died in 1956.

The Lightheart Brothers

Advertisement in a 1924 Evening Sun

Emery Barnes Park in the Downtown South area, is a new park that has been developed over a number of years. To the north of the block 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’, and in the 1920s it was known as The Lightheart Block. The brothers were builders who designed their own developments and previously had been 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 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 contemporary biographies of worthy citizens, 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). In 1861 he was living in a large family headed by William Lightheart who was a shingle weaver.

Joseph’s wife Alice, born in England, was also aged 32, their daughter Mary was 6, and sons William and Joseph were 5 and 3. There was 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 their daughter, Mary, died in 1887). There were now six sons, and Joseph senior was recorded as a labourer. William #2 was missing, but another son, Thomas, was 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.

Family history says William (known as Will) and Joseph arrived in 1898. Joseph worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway in the Crows Nest for two years – the railway offered free passage for two years work. The brothers had very little education; they were self taught. Their first job in Vancouver was stacking wood, then they worked as carpenters. Joseph briefly went to San Francisco, and fell in love with the architecture, and Will went to Alaska to check out the gold rush, but both returned to Vancouver.

1899 Lightheart family. [Pat Crawford]

In 1899 the family (without William and Joseph), sat for a studio portrait. This image shows Tom (Thomas), George, and Jack (Jacob) behind Alice and Joseph Lightheart, with Oliver and Emma in front.

William Lightheart, 1908 [Pat Crawford]

 The 1901 Census William and Joseph both lodged with James A Johnston and his family. 25 year old William was 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. That same year T J Lightheart applied for a permit to build a house at 1111 Richards. In 1901 William built a house on Burrard Street and in 1902 he built a house for George Whatmore on 8th Avenue. He’s seen here in a studio portrait dated 1902. Joseph developed a a substantial house costing $2,200 in the same year on Burrard Street. They built the Sash & Door factory on Seymour Street because they couldn’t get supplies for the houses they were building in Vancouver.

The rest of the family were living in Winnipeg in 1901; in fact, the entire family were shown there, including Joseph and William. Joseph senior, and all the older children were listed as carpenters. The family name was recorded as Lighthart, but all the names and birthdates were recorded accurately. Clearly the family didn’t stay long, but it fits with the information in his death notice that George Lightheart arrived in the city in 1902.

Sash & Door Factory, 1904. [Pat Crawford]

This might explain why, in 1902, the entire family are missing 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. Captain Joseph was the brothers’ father. In 1904 the five brothers were listed living at 1111 Richards, the year in which Lightheart, W A and Bros were shown having a factory at the corner of Seymour and Helmcken.

Over the next few years they became increasingly ambitious in their projects. In 1904 they were builders (but not developers) of a number of houses, in 1905 Jacob developed two houses on 9th Avenue as a speculative development, and a year later teamed up with George to develop at least eight houses costing over $23,000 to develop. Comprehensive records are lost in this period, so these are just what can be gleaned from newspaper coverage. The same brothers, (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. Thomas Lightheart was also building houses on Robson Street and on Comox Street.

954-78 Cardero Lightheart

Joseph Lightheart, 1908 [Pat Crawford]

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

In 1909 there were some changes in where the family were living. Jacob was in partnership with George and shown 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. ‘Jacques’ Lightheart, capitalist, was listed living on Cardero Street, which we think might be a reference to Jacob, who was called Jack in the family.

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

The first apartment to be built was the Seymour Street building that William and Joseph built at a cost of $120,000 in 1909 on the company factory site. There was a more modest frame apartment built that year 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. The family sash and door business wasn’t abandoned, the factory was located in Marpole in south Vancouver.

Clifton Apartments 1909 and Nicola Apartments 1910

In 1910 Jacob was living at 1686 Bidwell, although he had built a $9,000 house in West Point Grey the year before. The rest of the family were in the same homes as the year before. By 1911 Emma had arrived in the city, and was living at 2941 Burns St (these days it’s called Prince Albert St) in a house built by George in 1910, and he was living there as well with Joseph, Oliver and Thomas. Jacob was at 1686 Barclay and William was still living 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 – (It’s not as many as we know were actually resident in the city). William and his wife Winnifred and children William and V. (no name was listed) were at Burrard St with their English born domestic, Edith Ponsford. Jacob and his Scottish wife Christina, their 2-year-old son (also Jacob) and two of her relatives, John and Isabella Mowatt were at the Barclay St address (along with an English family who were lodging; Alexander and Elizabeth Mustard and their son, also Alexander). No other Lighthearts were recorded by the census, and Joseph senior was also missing from the street directories – although he may have been in hospital as he died in March 1912.

In 1912, Thomas built another apartment building adjacent to the Nelson Street building on the remaining half lot on Nicola Street, and planned a much more substantial $250,000 building on Bute Street, called Strathmore Lodge which the permit says he partnered in developing with his brother Jacob. However, he died that year, and the press notice said that it was Oliver who had originally partnered with him, and following his death would be developing on his own. We don’t know if the permit, or the newspaper were wrong.

The Royal Alexandra Apartments, these days called Strathmore Lodge

In 1912 William proposed another apartment building on Fir Street at a cost of $140,000. (We think it was never developed, and the Granville Bridge off-ramp sits on the site.) A year later in 1913 another Bute Street lot was proposed by Oliver with a $200,000 apartment building, but the ambitious project was also dropped.

That year Joseph had moved to Alberta Street, and in 1913 Jacob was in real estate and living at 1086 Bute (Strathmore Lodge, that 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 remained at Burrard Street.

The 1921 Census shows all five remaining brothers, and their families. William’s wife, Winifred Maud was from Manitoba and they had four children aged 14 to 8; Cecil, William, Frederick, and a daughter listed as Murfred. Joseph’s family were his wife, Jessie, born in the US, and a daughter, Marine, who was 3. Joseph was shown aged 62 (actually he was 43), and Jessie 38. Oliver was married to Margaret from PEI, and they had a one-year-old son, Lloyd, and a domestic servant, Louise Bestwick. George’s wife, Mabel was also from PEI, and they had two children, Margaret and Ralph, as well as sharing their home with Margaret Scott, an aunt, Winnifred Cairns, George’s sister-in-law and Hildem Johnson, their Swedish servant. Jacob’s wife, Christine, was Scottish, and they had two children, Jack and Clarence, and Christine’s brother, John Mowatt living with them. (There were still Lighthearts – presumably relatives – living in Nottawasaga in Ontario.)

In 1923 there were six apartment buildings proposed by the brothers, with three being built, two dropped, and one delayed. The Fairmont Apartments were built by Jacob and George on Spruce Street, Oliver built the Berkeley on his Bute Street lot, planned for a bigger building a decade earlier, and George developed Laurelhurst on Hemlock at 12th Avenue. Nearly a century later all three buildings are still standing.

The Berkeley

Laurelhurst [Pat Crawford]

Fairmont Apartments

In 1927 Emma was a dressmaker, living at 2570 Spruce (in a building developed and designed by George and Jacob in 1923) and Jacob was now listed as owner of Renfrew Lodge, built in 1925 at 2570 Hemlock Street. In 1923 he had designed a $50,000 building for the site – one of seven in the same neighbourhood that various Lightheart brothers had proposed to build that year. While several of the others were built, this site was delayed for an H H Simmonds design for a $90,000 building. Oliver was living on Cypress Street.

Renfrew Lodge, these days known as Hemlock Place

Oliver owned the Marlborough Apartments, on Jervis Street, built in 1928 and lived in West Point Grey

Marlborough Apartments 1928 [City of Vancouver Archives Bu N263]

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 and developer of the $700,000 building, although there was a registered architectural firm designing the building, Hodgson and Simmonds).

Stanley Park Manor

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. This was built in 1927, and had originally been submitted as a 1923 project by George Lightheart.

Vallejo Court

We’re not aware of any further projects developed by any of the family, although further permits may still come to light. It’s remarkable how many of the buildings developed by the brothers still stand today.

The Lighthearts: Children of Joseph Lightheart, born Orangeville, Dufferin, Ontario, 6 June 1848, died 7 March 1912, aged 63 and Alice Maud, born 24 June 1848, died November 1923.

(Mary Lightheart, born 1875, died 1887).

William Akitt Lightheart, born 29 October 1875, died 19 December 1966 aged 91. Married Winnifred Maud Vickers, (born 1881, died 1953).

A notice in The Province said “William Lightheart, owner of Boulder Island in Indian Arm, has died at the age of 91. A world traveller and apartment builder, who in his 80s made a habit of taking the first flight on new airplane runs, Lightheart last made headlines in August when the boulder his island was named for dis appeared. The 20-ton granite rock, which measured eight by 13 feet, was broken when the North Star Marine Salvage Co. tried to moor a barge to it. The rock toppled into the water and broke in two. Lightheart, owner of the island for more than 70 years once built a home there but it was destroyed by vandals. Since then he visited it regularly on Sunday outings.”

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

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

Jacob Valdone Lightheart, born 11 April 1881, died 9 September 1955 aged 75. Married Christina Mowatt, born 1881.

George Edward, born 10 Aug 1883, died 1930, aged 47. Married Mable Louise Cairns of PEI 1915, born 1889, died 1954.

(Alice and Robert Lightheart, born 1886).

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

Emma Lightheart, born 27 Jan 1893, married Grant Nicol Murchie, died 15 July 1962 aged 69.

The buildings:

W A (William) Lightheart; Burrard Street – $1,500 frame dwelling.
T J (Thomas) Lightheart; 1111 Richards Street – $1,400 frame dwelling.

J R (Joseph) Lightheart; Burrard Street – $2,200 frame dwelling.

(several projects where Lightheart brothers were builders, but not owner of the site).

J V (Jacob) Lightheart; 9th Ave – $3,400 2 dwelling houses.

J V (Jacob) & G E (George) Lightheart; Comox St – $6,000 2 handsome frame dwellings.
J V (Jacob) & G E (George) Lightheart; Pendrell St – $7,000 2 frame dwellings.
T J (Thomas) Lightheart; Robson St – $3,000 frame dwelling.
J V (Jacob) & G E (George) Lightheart; Pendrell St – $7,000 2 frame dwellings.
J V (Jacob) & G E (George) Lightheart; Nelson St – $3,500 2 frame dwellings.

T J (Thomas) Lightheart; Robson St – $6,000 2 frame dwellings.
T J (Thomas) Lightheart; Comox St – $3,500 frame dwelling.
J V (Jacob) & G E (George) Lightheart; Nelson St – $8,000 2 frame dwellings.
J V (Jacob) & G E (George) Lightheart; Nelson St – $16,000 4 frame dwellings.

T J (Thomas) Lightheart; Pendrell St – $7,000 frame dwelling.
T J (Thomas) Lightheart; 13th Ave – $3,500 frame dwelling.
T J (Thomas) Lightheart; Pendrell St – $2,500 frame dwelling.

W A (William) & J R (Joseph) Lightheart; 1102 Seymour St (Lightheart Block, now Brookland Court) – $120,000 apartment.
T J (Thomas) & O R (Oliver) Lightheart; 1460 Nelson St (Clifton Apartments) – $15,000 frame 3-storey apartment house.
T J (Thomas) Lightheart; 1642-1648-1656-1662 Robson Street – $13,000 4 dwelling houses.
T J (Thomas) Lightheart; 1141 Comox – $2,500 dwelling house
J V (Jacob) & G E (George) Lightheart; 1670-1676 Alberni Street – $13,000 6 dwelling houses.
J V (Jacob) & E (?) Lightheart; 944-958 Bidwell Street (Cambridge Apartments) – $30,000 frame apartment (redeveloped 1991).

J V (Jacob) & T E (?) Lightheart; 1086 Bute (Strathmore Lodge) – $250,000 brick apartment building.
T J (Thomas) Lightheart; 1020 Nicola St (Nicola Apartments) – $25,000 brick apartment building.
G E (George) Lightheart; 2941 Burns St – $2,000 frame building.

J R (Joseph) Lightheart; 1835 W 14th Ave – $3,000 dwelling house.
W A (William) Lightheart; 2236 Fir St – $140,000 6-storey apartment building (unbuilt).

O R (Oliver) Lightheart; 1146 Pendrell – $1,000 dwelling.
O R (Oliver) Lightheart; 990 Bute St – $200,000 apartment building (unbuilt).

J V (Jacob) Lightheart; 1591 W29th Ave – $8,000 dwelling.
G E (George) Lightheart; 4850 Connaught Drive – $8,000 dwelling.

O R (Oliver) Lightheart; 1146 Pendrell – $1,000 dwelling.
O R (Oliver) Lightheart; 1343 W33rd Ave – $7,500 dwelling.

J V (Jacob) & G E (George) Lightheart; 2570 Spruce (Fairmont Apartments) – $40,000 apartment.
G E (George) Lightheart; 2671 Spruce – $50,000 apartment (unbuilt).
G E (George) Lightheart; 2830 Hemlock (Laurelhurst Apartments) – $50,000 apartment.
G E (George) Lightheart; 2670 Spruce – $50,000 apartment (unbuilt).
O R (Oliver) Lightheart; 970 Bute (Berkeley Apartments) – $45,000 3-storey brick apartment.

G E (George) Lightheart; 2570 Hemlock (Renfrew Lodge) – H H Simmonds architect – $90,000 apartment.

G E (George) Lightheart; 2571 Oak – $50,000 apartment (1923) – developed by J V (Jacob) Lightheart; 1009 W10th Avenue, (Vallejo Court).

O R (Oliver) Lightheart; 970 Bute (Marlborough Apartments) – $45,000 3-storey brick apartment.

W A (William) Lightheart; 1915 Haro, (Stanley Park Manor) – architects; Hodgson & Simmonds $700,000 apartment.

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. In 1908 J J Dissette hired Henry B Watson to design an apartment building on West Georgia, on the corner of Broughton Street, overlooking Burrard Inlet; they would be named the Majestic Apartments.

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, obtained in 1911) 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.

R V Winch

Richard Vance Winch was born in Ontario in 1862 (although 1863 is recorded in some census entries). Despite becoming a very wealthy and successful member of Vancouver’s business elite, R V Winch does not appear to feature in any detail in any of the biographies published in the city through the years he was active. His early story does however appear in several books, some of them about the salmon industry where R V made much of his money. Here’s an example “He was born in 1862 in Cobourg, Ontario. He ran away from home at age 16, herded cattle and worked on the CPR, arriving in B.C. in 1893.” The 1871 census shows him aged 8 in Hamilton, where he was still living (aged 19) with his mother and father (a butcher, also called Richard) in 1881, and he was still a student. He arrived in Vancouver late in 1886, and was already in business by 1887. Whether he embroidered his story to match some of the other pioneers, or whether the accounts got the wrong Winch is unclear. There was a Winch family in Cobourg, so it appears that he was born there and moved to Hamilton, probably in 1871, the year his sister Elizabeth was christened in Cobourg. (Another sister, Julia, born in 1860, also moved to Vancouver and married George Bower who worked for R V and became a property developer himself, developing the Bower building on Granville Street).

Exactly how he raised his capital to start in business is also, at this juncture, unclear, but R V travelled extensively in the early years of his involvement in Vancouver. He sailed for San Francisco in September 1887, returning in December, and he went again in spring of 1888, and to Puget Sound at the end of the year, apparently on behalf of a company called Harning Bros (of whom there is no trace – although there is a salmon cannery run by Harlock and Co). In spring of 1889 he travelled to San Francisco again, this time with his wife.

In 1887 he was in business on Cordova Street as a fish and game dealer with Joseph Shupe, and apparently also living on the same street. The following year Mr Shupe is no longer associated with the Vancouver Market at 20 Cordova Street – it’s all R V Winch’s. In 1889 the address is the same, but the business is now ‘wholesale fruit and commission’ and Mr Winch is living at 412 Oppenheimer St (these days East Cordova). It’s likely that the Directories are mistaken about the address, as Major Matthews recorded that Mr Winch’s place of business in 1887 was 125 feet west of the southwest corner of Carrall and Cordova Street, then the principal business street, and the busiest part, of the City of Vancouver. This small wooden building was pulled down when the Dunn-Miller block was erected (in 1888). Mr Winch recalled “We supplied the Canadian Pacific Railway steamships and railway from Hong Kong to Banff with fresh provisions from that little store

Vancouver Market, Cordova Street 1888 – City of Vancouver Archives

In 1889 he was offering ice for sale – perhaps the business he was setting up in San Francisco. In 1890 the details are the same, but there is a telephone (#58), In 1891 he’s shown as being at 52 Cordova, and in 1892 he’s offering both fruit and fish and his credit rating is considered to be good. There’s another almost identical picture to the one below that has the Winch name board, and that’s numbered as 66 (in 1899).

We know that 52/66 Cordova was built for him. In 1889 R V Winch commissioned Thomas Hooper to design the Winch Block with shops and offices on Cordova. The building that’s on the site these days is a residential condo building, but the building was still standing in the 1930s. Here’s a picture of the building in 1896, by which point a Mr Bower has partnered in the game business (apparently R V Winch’s sister had married Mr Bower, who was from Coburg, Ontario).

Winch & Bower, Cordova St, 1896 – City of Vancouver Archives We have no other image of RV Winch. Mr. Bower has his hand on the barrel and Mr. Winch is to his right

W A Grafton, in conversation with Major Matthews recalls selling game to the company. “You see, I used to sell all the fish and game—deer and grouse—to the Hotel Vancouver at first, or to Coughtery, the butcher, and then I changed over to Dick Winch” (Winch and Bower.) “The biggest lot I ever sold to Winch was thirteen deer and sixty-seven brace of grouse all shot by my brother and myself on Bowen Island, and in two days; deer were ‘thick’ then. Winch gave me sixty-eight cents a brace for the grouse, and five cents a pound for the deer.

You could sell the deer only at the opening of the season. After that, you could not sell them; the market was glutted; they did not want them. After the Comox started running, they brought in too many from up north, but you could always sell blue grouse.”

A bit further east was the butcher’s store of Hayes and McIntosh, seen here in 1893. R V Winch’s building was one of the buildings on the right half of the picture.

The unit block of Cordova, 1893 – City of Vancouver Archives

One account of Winch’s life (one of those that have him running away from Cobourg aged 16) says he lost everything in a depression in the 1890s. This seems unlikely, as he had a new home built in 1899. The 1890 Vancouver Board of Trade Annual Report shows the annual catch associated with the two principle fishery related companies: R V Winch was easily the larger, with 120,000 of fresh salmon caught. He was in partnership with Mr Port of New Westminster, and they used the railway to ship halibut and sturgeon on ice to the east and into the United States. In 1899 he had bought out the Anacortes Packing Co for $26,000, and successfully packed the entire 40,000 case production. Taking a risk (which his partner wasn’t willing to pursue) he bought a further 26,000 cases of cans, and a second salmon run allowed him to pack those too. On the strength of this success the Alaska Packers Association bought out the Anacortes operation for $450,000, cash.

R V Winch was starting to entertain serious business success as the city’s growth took off in the early years of the century. His business interests widened to include insurance, importing materials (he lost a court case over losses associated with a cargo of Portland Cement on its was from the UK to North America), and most of all the salmon canning. His obituary in the Province (which is probably the source of the Cobourg/cowboy story) is probably more accurate in describing his business activities “he established the Canadian Pacific Canning Company on the Fraser River in 1893. In 1895 he shipped the first trainload of canned salmon ever exported from this province. They sold in Liverpool, England, for about $5 per case. It was a shipment of 30,000 cases, on which Mr Winch said he cleared $1 per case. His enterprise helped set up canneries at Nootka Sound and on the Naas, Skeena and Fraser Rivers. He also built a cannery at Anacortes. During his career he built and operated seven canneries and one sawmill. At one time these were valued at $1,600,000.” So after only 10 years of operations, In 1902, having built the company up, it was sold. “Mr. Winch acting as manager during the first three years, after which Mr. Alexander assumed the duties of that office, continuing as such for six years and proving capable, discriminating and far-sighted in the discharge of his duties. At the end of that time the company disposed of their interests to the British Columbia Packers’ Association”.

In the early 1900s R V Winch and Company were formed through the acquisition of Robert Ward and Company, a Victoria based commission merchant with connections to Winch through the salmon canning industry. (Over fishing was starting to make the salmon industry far less predictable or lucrative). The commission merchant was the typical Pacific-coast businessman of the time. He acted as broker, supplier, and insurance and shipping agent to a variety of entrepreneurs, in addition to importing and exporting on his own account.

In 1905 he commissioned a building on West Pender Street, designed by Grant & Henderson. As with the first building, it’s no longer in existence; these days the 500 block on the north side of Pender Street is Conference Plaza.

In 1899 Thomas Hooper had been hired to design the Winch family home on Comox Street, and it was Hooper & Watkins who got the contract in 1907 to design Mr Winch’s serious property investment. Construction took 3 years, was completed in 1911, and cost a reported $700,000. It was described as “an entirely modern Class A office building, the first of its kind in British Columbia” It’s something of a departure from some of Thomas Hooper’s other buildings – here he was given a generous budget so designed a Beaux-Arts Classical style stone-clad building (albeit on a steel and reinforced concrete frame) that would look at home in London or Paris.

The Winch Building in 1915 – City of Vancouver Archives

The building today is part of the Sinclair Centre

We get hints at the degree of success the Winch family enjoyed. In 1908 Mr and Mrs Winch visited Los Angeles. R V Winch bought a 1910 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost from Captain Clarence Mawson Marpole not long after Marpole had taken delivery of it. His steady advancement from his arrival in 1886 to his holding significant position in the business life of the city is shown in the Census entries. In 1891, Richard is aged 29, born in Ontario, a Methodist, listed as a Green Grocer, Bella is 25, born of Scottish parents in Ontario, son Richard is aged 1. Ten years later in 1901, Richard is age 39 (20 March 1862) with Bella, 38 and 11 year old son Fife, 8 year old daughter Gertrude, son Charles 6 and Harry 3.and Linda Carlson, their 21 year old servant. (Presumably Richard Fife Winch was known by his middle name to avoid confusion). In 1911 Richard is now born in 1863, wife is now Isabell and has lost 2 years in age, their 21 year old son is called Richard again, Gertrude is 18, Charles is 15, Harry 13, Donald 10, and the household is completed with a servant Edith Docksay aged 22 (probably mistakenly noted as male), a 19 year old cook, Hoy and a 48 year old gardener, Sing.

Winch’s business continued to prosper. He added property dealing to the commission and insurance businesses. (In 1920 for example the company was selling 4 houses in the West End).

R V Winch advertisement in Henderson’s Directory 1919

There are only a few records available that refer to Mr Winch in later years. In 1912 he acquired an orchard estate in Lytton, Earlscourt, and got Maclure & Fox to design a bungalow on the property (although it’s also referred to as the Mansion – so it was quite the bungalow! It burned down in 1993.) He continued growing apples on 17,000 trees until the late 1940s when a late frost decimated the crop. He worked the estate with David Spencer who owned the Vancouver Department store on West Hastings Street and his son, Colonel Victor Spencer, who had married R V Winch’s daughter. There are now films available of the life of the family, donated to the Vancouver Archives. They date back to the 1920s, and there are brief glimpses of R V Winch playing with his grandchildren at Jericho Beach, at his home on Comox Street, and at the Lytton ranch.

He died in 1952 aged 89.


J W Weart

J W Weart is not by any means a household name in Vancouver – although he almost had greater name recognition as ‘The Weart Building’ was announced, but then on completion became ‘The Standard Bank Building’. It’s still standing, but there’s no Standard Bank anymore so it’s now just ‘The Standard Building’. The Weart name does score greater recognition on a geographical scale, having both a mountain and (for the time being) a glacier named after him.

John Walter Weart was born in Brockville, Ontario in 1861 and worked first in a foundry in his home town in 1870 (aged 9!) and then as a carpenter in Belleville from 1873 to 1879. He then obtained a teaching certificate, teaching until 1882. He migrated west as far as Manitoba, working in the furniture business in Brandon and Deloraine, marrying his wife Minnie in 1883 and starting a family. He seems to have moved on to British Columbia in 1890, and in the early 1890s owned an 8 acre homestead which today is underneath Burnaby’s Metrotown Mall. He was worth including in the 1893 publication recording the credit rating of Lower Mainland residents where he only rated as ‘Good, but slow’ to pay. Weart studied law as a student with George H. Cowan from 1894 to 1896, worked a manager in a law office for two years and went on to practice law from 1898 to at least 1907. He had six children, three while living in Manitoba, every two years from 1884 onwards, (Arthur, Gertrude and John) and three more in British Columbia in 1890, 1893 and 1895 (Eva, Aileen and James).

He became involved in politics in the early 1900s. He was an unsuccessful candidate for a seat in the provincial assembly in 1907.He then became reeve of Burnaby serving there in 1911 and 1912. He was elected to the Legislative Assembly representing South Vancouver in 1915, and became Speaker of the House. At the same time he maintained his business interests which included being manager of the Investors Guarantee Corporation Ltd.

1912 photograph

Weart’s first involvement in property development was perhaps the most complex, and surprising. In 1894 a new Anglican priest was ordained in Vanvouver, Rev. Louis Norman Tucker.Within two months of arriving he had taken the chair at a special vestry meeting to decide what to do about the lack of an appropriate building. The next Sunday he noted in the vestry book: “Launched scheme to build Christ Church.” With only $288.87 cash on hand, Tucker enrolled the services of J.W. Weart, at that point a 32-year-old articling student-at-law. As a church publication explains “To rescue Christ Church, Weart devised a complicated scheme. He incorporated “The Christ Church Building Co., Limited Liability.” The company was authorized to issue up to 600 shares of stock. The value of each share was set at $100. One hundred shares went to the church in exhange for title to its assets, and 400 shares were sold to subscribers, most of them men in the congregation.

Each purchaser undertook to pay up to $100 per share if called upon, but initially only $10 was collected — at the rate of a dollar per month for ten months. This gave the building company $4,000 cash and an uncalled asset of $36,000. Weart then went to the Sun Life Insurance Company and, putting up the building company’s assets as secuurity, obtained a mortgage loan of $18,000. The church now had $22,000 in cash — $4,000 from the sale of shares, and $18,000 from the insurance company. Sun Life, however, as added security, insisted on writing three 20-year life insurance policies on certain church members. The building company agreed to pay a single, $10,000 premium for this insurance. Now they had $12,000 cash and a big mortgage at six per cent interest — high for the time. With city taxes, the congregation was obligated to pay $2,000 annually. To some it might have seemed a bit of a shell game, but Weart’s scheme worked: the recession might continue, but with the $12,000 the church was completed.”

In terms of property development, Weart was involved with the Exchange Building Company, whose property was constructed on Hastings Street near the Carter-Cotton building, designed by J S Helyer and Son (the designers of the Dominion Building up the street) and completed in 1909. Although the postcard of the time is labelled ‘Stock Exchange Building’ the stock exchange never moved in, and it was not the company name either. These days, minus the elaborate cornice and some other details it’s a single room acccomodation property called Regal Place.

J W Weart was also manager and solicitor for the Metropolitan Building Company. This was another Helyer designed building completed at the height of Vancouver’s big building boom in 1912. Sadly, it was demolished many years ago.

And as the manager of the Investors Guarantee Corporation Ltd he was important enough that initially the impressive 15-storey steel-frame building was called ‘The Weart Building’. Even more impressive as at the time there was, theoretically, a ban on any building going over 10 storeys in the city.

Completed (like the Metropolitan Building) in 1912, the building was designed by Seattle architects Russell Babcock and Rice (although Mr Russell did the work and received the credit). Completed on a similar scale and at a similar price to the Rogers Building, the Standard Bank Building had an all terra cotta face over a steel frame, but never got the elaborate tracery that seems to have been based on New York’s gothic Woolworth Building which had started construction in 1910.

Weart was named chairman of the Garibaldi Provincial Park board in 1927, which is how a mountain ended up named after him. He died in 1941. His obitiary in the Vancouver Sun ran to several inches; L A Hamilton had died on the same day (he was an alderman, surveyed, named and determined the city’s street pattern) and rated just 10 lines. (The reference to the Dominion Bank Building is probably an error – there’s no evidence of Mr Weart’s involvement in that company).

Jonathan Rogers

Jonathan Rogers was born at Plas-Onn, near Llangollen in Denbighshire, North Wales, and grew up speaking only Welsh. At 16 he moved to Liverpool where he worked at various jobs while perfecting his English. In May 1887, aged  22, armed with a legacy left to him by an aunt, Jonathan sailed for Montreal and crossed Canada on the first transcontinental train to Vancouver. Soon after he arrived, Jonathan attended the first public auction of parcels of CPR land within the newly created city. He bought four lots outside the area built at that time, although now located in the heart of downtown. He started work as a painter, and then became a construction contractor.

The massive speculation that had accompanied the arrival of the railway in 1887 was soon halted when the economic realities of building a new city set in, coupled with a collapse in lumber prices south of the border. Jonathan Rogers held on to his land through this depression and in 1893 partnered with the Hunter Brothers (Samuel and Thomas) to build a 2-storey building on Columbia Street, near Powell Street known as the Commercial Block.

In 1894 he announced that rather than leave the city (as many were preparing to do) he would be constructing a new building on Hastings Street. The first half of this development was designed by William Blackmore, who occupied it for his own offices once it was completed. The large windows used cast iron mullions to maximise the area of glazing. Four years later the gold rush in the Klondike ensured the city’s renewed growth, and Rogers engaged Parr and Fee to add a second half to the building. While almost identical to the first building, the window dimensions are just slightly different. Jonathan Rogers would almost certainly be unhappy with the current use of his buildings. These days they house the offices of the Marijuana Party and the Amsterdam Cafe. In 1916 Jonathan Rogers was the main organiser in Vancouver of the People’s Prohibition Association who successfully lobbied for the introduction of Prohibition in British Columbia (which lasted from 1917 to 1921).

In 1898 Jonathan built the second Rogers Block on Hastings Street. He also must have acquired the adjacent corner site to the east, as in 1903 he hired Dalton and Eveleigh to design the Royal Bank of Canada, one of the earliest buildings in the city to use reinforced concrete, in this case for the foundations and vaults that were over half a metre thick. He had been similarly innovative on his block in 1898 – to ensure construction could complete by spring 1899 he erected a huge umbrella over the entire building site.

The Royal Bank of Canada and Rogers Block not too long after they were built.

152&156 W HastingsJonathan continued as a contractor and builder and soon became involved in all kinds of construction work – offices, manufacturing plants, hotels, banks, even an electricity-generating station in the city’s significant building and real-estate boom. Although aged 35, the 1901 census found him living in rooms as a lodger – the Street Directory seems to record him as a painter and decorator living on Homer Street. In 1902 he married Elisabeth, a girl from Oswestry, a town near his ancestral home in Wales. They lived close to Stanley Park at 2050 Nelson Street in a large, elegant house named Argoed, (Welsh for beside the wood). Elisabeth became heavily involved in civic life as one of the founders and early benefactors of the Vancouver Art Gallery and the Symphony Society. In 1901 Jonathan had built a building at 156 West Hastings, designed by Parr and Fee. In 1904 the adjacent site was developed by Elizabeth with a similarly designed building using William Blackmore & Son as architect. (In 1940 the building was altered so both halves took on Blackmore’s design). In 1904 he also developed a 3-storey building at the corner of Robson and Granville, designed by T E Julian. He sold the building in 1905. He submitted plans for a another site further north on Granville as well, which we think was inaccurately described as a dwelling, but at $24,000 was really the commercial building that was developed on the site in 1905.

In 1907 Jonathan built a single storey (to the street) but 4 storey to the lane warehouse on Beatty Street. He sold it fairly quickly, as Robert Welsh owned it and added two additional floors in 1912.

Seeking to join in the new boom as a significant developer rather than just building modest buildings or other people’s projects, Jonathan turned to a Seattle firm of architects, Gould and Champney to design one of the most expensive buildings the city had seen.

Initially announced as ‘The Glyn Building’, although on completion it would bear the Rogers name, Jonathan spared no expense on his state-of-the-art reinforced concrete structure (the biggest the city had seen). The fifteen carloads of enamelled terra cotta came from Chicago. The ornamental iron was purchased in Minneapolis and St. Paul and five of the most up-to-date elevators were bought in Toronto. Nearly 60,000 feet of cork flooring and 60,000 feet of linoleum came from England and 8,000 barrels of California cement were used. During construction The BC Saturday Sunset said “The building is designed along the lines of the modern French Renaissance (with an) exterior of polished Glasgow granite, in combination with cream-colored terra cotta facing . . . All the interior finish woodwork is to be of hardwood with white Italian marble corridors and stairs throughout… The building will be a monument to Alderman Rogers, whose faith in the future of this city is exemplified in the erection of a building which, when completed, will represent an expenditure of nearly $600,000.”

In commissioning the building, Jonathan had been involved in a uniquely hands-on manner. The Engineering and Contract Record reported “The architect, A. Warren Gould, of the firm of Gould & Champney, and the owner, Jonathan Rogers, are at present visiting Chicago, New York and Toronto, their object being to interview the various manufacturing plans and dealers in high-class finish. The trip will probably include a visit to England, as it is possible they may purchase the terra cotta and special plumbing fixtures abroad.”

The same report noted “One wing of the building will be fitted up for doctors and dentists, for whose convenience special electrical and compressed air appliances will be introduced. They continued “the basement will contain a large cafe and kitchen, barber shop, etc., as well as heating and power plants, electric generators, and refrigeration machines for the cafe.”

Jonathan Rogers in 1916. City of Vancouver Archives photograph

By the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 Jonathan Rogers was a very wealthy man and a prominent public figure in Vancouver. He was elected an Alderman twice, served for 26 years on the Parks Board, 9 of them as Chairman, and was Chairman of the Board of Trade as well as being involved in a variety of charitable enterprises.

Rogers sold the 1912 building in September of 1927 to General F. A. ‘One Arm’ Sutton for a sum “exceeding $1 million” – the largest real estate transaction in the city to that time. Around 1940 he bought it back – although by then his wife Elizabeth was managing their interests.

Jonathan Rogers died in 1945 and left what at that time was a very large sum of money, a quarter of a million dollars, to various causes in Vancouver. The largest single bequest of $100,000 was given to the City of Vancouver to create a neighbourhood park in a poorer part of the city. After several delays, a park bearing the name Jonathan Rogers Park was finally opened in 1958 on 8th Avenue in Mount Pleasant.