George Byrnes

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

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

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

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

George Byrnes, City of New Westminster archives

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

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

Mrs Maria Byrnes & Miss Lily Byrnes, BC Archives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

 

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.

J W Horne, capitalist

James Welton Horne was born in 1853. His mother was born in England and his father had arrived from Germany. In Canada he established a woolen mill, eventually becoming a partner in Clarke Woolen Mills in Toronto, where James was born. He died when James was nine, and as a result James left school to work on a farm to help support his mother and four younger siblings, moving to another farm in Pickering aged 11 where he was able to continue at school every other day until he was able to get work helping a church Minister when he was able resume full time schooling. 

At 15 he apprenticed as a mechanical engineer for five years, leaving his salary to accumulate and then investing the resulting $3,000 in the company, (or $5,000 – even contemporary records don’t agree) and being offered a directorship at that point. He sold out aged 22, and became an insurance agent until in spring 1878 he headed to California, but by summer was in Winnipeg (still a town of only 3,000) setting up an insurance and shipping agency, later adding loan valuation to his portfolio.

In 1881 it was apparent the CPR would be extended westwards, and speculation started to guess where settlements would spring up. As an 1889 publication explains: “Mr. Horne entered into an agreement with the railway company by which he was given a certain quantity of land at a fixed price, and on his erecting business buildings he was to have a rebate. He at once opened an office, or rather erected a tent on the prairie, divided his land into lots, opened and graded streets and when this preliminary work was accomplished began the erection of buildings.” He persuaded the government land agent to set up his office here, and then to get a post office, and thus the city of Brandon was established. Although his role is acknowledged in an 1882 publication “Brandon, Manitoba, Canada and her Industries”, which concludes “We may safely state that no man in Brandon has accomplished more for the welfare of the city than Mr. Horne, and in years to come he will be remembered as one of the founders of the Infant City, and a leader in laying the foundation of her greatness”  the ‘remembered’ part doesn’t seem to be true as his name doesn’t appear at all on the extensive ‘Heritage Brandon’ website. He was an Alderman, the Chairman of the City Board of Works and the province made him Commision of the Peace.

With an eye to repeating his success, Horne travelled to Burrard Inlet via California in 1883, but chose not to invest yet. He visited again in 1884, and bought some farm land, (his arrival from Nanaimo being recorded as J W Horn). In March 1886 he moved across and started serious land purchase (although many of his investments were outside the area torched by the fire).

It would appear that Mr Horne was married, but separated.  He was certainly living alone in 1881 according to the census of that year, and this is also true in 1901 when he is recorded as being single, and a boarder. In 1911 he is recorded as a widower, lodging, and he has added two years to nis age, now shown as being born in 1851. Somehow he seems to evaded the 1881 census. Searching the Directories of the period shows Mr Horne moving on a regular basis – and most of the time living in a hotel. And not just any hotel – at times it was the Hotel Vancouver, at others the Badminton and earlier the Leland.

Extracts from various Vancouver Directories

Once in Vancouver J W Horne wasted no time in acquiring, and then re-selling land. As he had in Brandon, he bought land from the CPR. They had of course been given it as an incentive to bring the terminus of the line to what would soon become Vancouver. Both David Oppenheimer’s land company and the Brighouse/Morton/Hailstorm partnership who owned the West End had given the CPR hundreds of acres. Once surveyed and in some cases cleared by CPR crews, the lots were auctioned off. Horne was an avid purchaser of land, both in the Gastown area and further west in Coal Harbour. At one point his assets were said to be second in value only to the CPR themselves. It isn’t recorded whether he had built anything to lose in the fire, but given the timing of his arrival it seems unlikely. Once the city was rebuilding, the demand for well-located lots heated up, and as a land agent Mr Horne had good sites to sell, and as demand rose so too did the prices. In 1887 1889 J W Horne’s assets were assessed at $40,000. in 1889 they were worth $125,000, and in 1891 $156,000, making him the fifth wealthiest landowner in the city (and the CPR and Vancouver Improvement Company were in the first and second spots).

This wasn’t only connected to land values rising – J W was becoming a very active developer too. It was said that “only four years after his arrival in Vancouver, Horne had built major brick blocks on most of Vancouver’s principal streets” 

Promotion by J W Horne (standing at the table, centre) using a burned log as a prop, 1886. - City of Vancouver archives

As in Brandon Mr Horne also built property – there it was to intice new business, in Vancouver it was just to be part of the massive growth taking place all round. In 1889 he completed a flat-iron building that backed onto the Springer-Van Bramer block on West Cordova Street.

Like Springer and Van Bramer he hired N S Hoffar as the architect. The block had elaborate cornice details and a turret (sadly, now gone) and a tiny juliet balcony on the snub point of the flatiron angel.

A year later he completed another building nearby on Cambie Street. Again, N S Hoffar was the designer. The block is unusual in having two retail floors behind the cast iron facade, with stairs up and down from the sidewalk. Among several significant tenants were the Bank of North America (1892), Rand Bros. Real Estate (1896) and G.A. Roedde, bookbinder (1896). In addition, Atlen H. Towle, architect of the First Presbyterian Church (1894) at East Hastings and Gore Avenue, had premises here. Between 1910 and 1925, several publishing and lithography firms had their offices here, no doubt due to the proximity of the Province and Sun newspaper buildings.

Another building still standing that can be linked to him is the Yale Hotel. Completed in 1889, designed once again by N S Hoffar, the Colonial Hotel (as it was initially called) was completed at a cost of $10,000. When completed it stood isolated from most development in the recently cleared forest near Yaletown’s railyards and lumber mills. The name the Yale was adopted in 1907 when new proprietors took over. In 1909 an addition was built to the east, designed by W T Whiteway. In 2011 a new condo block, The Rolston, was being built to the south of the building with a restoration of the hotel as part of the development.

J W had an additional financial operation in the city. He founded the Vancouver Loan Trust Savings and Guarantee with at least three other partners; H T Ceperley, H A Jones and R G Tatlow. Ceperley was Manager of the operation, and married to A G Ferguson’s sister. He had no money of his own, but was successful at managing other peoples’ and the Daily World commented that the company bought and sold improved and unimproved real estate. As in Brandon, Horne wasn’t content to just operate his business and make money. He stood for election as an Alderman, and topped the poll in 1889 and 1890. From 1890 to 1894 he represented the city in the Provincial Legislature, turning down offers to become a Minister because of the business he was still conducting in the city. An 1890 publication listed his many interests.

Not bad for someone who had only arrived four years earlier! His philanthropy included establishing and personally paying for the Stanley Park zoo. His business interests in the year following publication of the list above included creating an instant town that would become the District of Mission. The Mission museum tells the story “As a land developer and businessman, James Welton Horne had erected the city of Brandon by a railway junction on the Manitoba prairie. Successful in that endeavor, he saw the importance of the Mission junction and invested money to develop the downtown area of what he believed would be another future metropolis. This downtown was on Horne Street, down on the flats by the river. He had buildings put up to create a kind of “instant town”, and he bought great plots of land from the existing settlers. He drew up a map of his plots and divided them into neat lots, naming the streets after cities and states in Canada and the United States. The “Great Land Sale” was advertised in Canada and abroad, inviting potential settlers to buy into his dream. People came by from near and far, and there was a special train to bring people from Vancouver for the day. The St. Mary’s Boys’ Band played and the sale was really quite a spectacular event. However, the auction was less successful than anticipated, and not all of the plots sold. Nevertheless, Horne managed to come out on top. Today, while the streets on his initial map have very different names, three names remind us of his lasting legacy: James, Welton, and Horne Streets are in the heart of downtown Mission.”

The museum goes on to note that unfortunately, in 1894 the convenience of proximity to the Fraser River became inconveniene when the river flooded, and the town was later re-established further up the hill. His 1892 credit rating was good – and interestingly he is listed as a rancher on Lulu Island, another of his successful investments.

Mr A P Horne, who arrived in Vancouver in 1889, and was not a relative of James Welton Horne remembered meeting him in a conversation recorded by City Archivist Major Matthews in 1945. “Mr. Horne lived down on the corner of about Pender and Howe Street, and used to take his meals at the Hotel Vancouver. So one day I met him at the Hotel Vancouver; he said, ‘Good evening’ as I passed, so I sat down and we talked. He was a fine man. I think Mr. Horne was mixed with Mr. McKee in the street railway, what we call the B.C. Electric Railway now, and there were a lot of IOUs when it got into financial difficulty, and some of them were not Mr. Horne’s, but, as I understand it, he paid the whole lot of them.

“Anyway, we sat on the verandah of the Hotel Vancouver, and we were talking and he told me that he thought a lot of us young Englishmen. He said he didn’t play cricket or football or baseball, but he thought a lot of the young Englishmen who did. He was a very quiet man, I don’t think he belonged to any club; he was so busy looking after his financial interests. I think he married a” [blank]; “they did not live together and I think had agreed to separate.

“He said to me as we sat there that he had no ‘vices.’ Did not smoke or drink; collected his own rents, and had a rule that if the rent was not paid, he would collect 10 per cent extra when it was overdue. So I said to him that he was full of vice; that to charge 10 per cent extra interest was a vice; to collect interest on rent was vice. So I told him how much better it would be if he stopped charging that ten per cent extra on the rent. He told me that evening that he thought he was worth three million.”

 Mr Horne lived on into the 1920s, dying in February 1922. His significant assets were divided among his three sisters.

Thomas Dunn and Jonathan Miller

Thomas Dunn appears to have been better known to the early residents of Vancouver as Tom. His full name was Alexander Thomas Dunn, and he was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1852, moving to Victoria in 1883 and Vancouver in 1886. Jonathan Miller was nearly 20 years older, born in 1834 in Middlesex, Ontario, arriving in Granville (the precursor to Vancouver) in 1865 via the Cariboo gold fields. The two are linked in Vancouver for their decision to develop two linked, but technically separate buildings known (unsurprisingly) as the Dunn-Miller Block.

Tom Dunn was a hardware merchant; he started working for Douglas and McDonald in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket in 1869, staying there for six years. He sold hardware in England for two years, and arrived in Toronto in 1876, working for seven years again selling hardware before arriving in Victoria in 1883. In Toronto he had married and his first son, Thomas, was born. Seven more children followed, with the last being born in 1896.

Thomas Dunn & Family c1889 - City of Vancouver Archives

He arrived in Vancouver in February 1886, and set up his hardware business at Powell and Carrall in A G Ferguson’s building. Four months later he lost everything he owned in the fire that destroyed the city (his losses were valued at over $2,000 – including the piano that had just arrived from Victoria).

 He quickly rebuilt – he was said to have been the first store open after the fire – and soon moved to new store on Cordova Street.

He also had a house built, also on Cordova Street (although in those days it was called Oppenheimer Street). The house still stands, and is said to be the oldest in the city that can be dated with any accuracy. These days it is part of a Catholic Charity.

Business continued to boom as the new city built out fast, and in 1889 the new Dunn family home “Earlscourt” was completed in the developing West End, on the corner of Georgia and Thurlow. N S Hoffar was the architect, and he was also hired to to design the Dunn-Miller Block that housed the retail component of the Dunn business.

Thomas Dunn's in 1898 - City of Vancouver archives

Four years later William Blackmore designed another Dunn Block, this one on Granville Street at Pender, completed late in 1893. (It was demolished in 1949). N S Hoffar was once again the architect of a new a warehouse at Alexander Street, the Dunn Block, completed in 1899.

This building housed the offices of the Union Steamship Company for several decades. As the Klondike Gold Rush faded Tom Dunn sold the building to Boyd, Burns and Company Ltd., dealers in engineering and mill supplies.

Tom Dunn was heavily involved in the rapidly-growing city. He was elected as Alderman to the first City Council in 1886, donating money to buy both fire equipment and instruments for the City Band. In 1887 he was founding Vice-President of the Board of Trade (David Oppenheimer was President). His extensive business interests including President of the Vancouver Electric Light Co, and later in 1891 Vice President of the expanded Vancouver Electric Railway and Light Co.

In 1909 Tom decided to move to Prince Rupert which was seeing a similar boom to early Vancouver, but in 1912, for the sake of his wife’s health, he moved to San Diego, leaving his eldest son in charge of the business. He died three years later at the end of 1915, his wife four years after him in early 1920.

Jonathan Miller had a more eventful past. For a start, he had a series of almost entirely unrelated professions. Married to Margaret Springer (his cousin on his mother’s side) in 1856, aged 22 – in the same year he was appointed a Justice of the Peace.  Two children were born before Jonathan starting out from Ontario for the west with his brother-in-law Ben Springer (see Springer and Van Bramer). He worked in a store in New Westminster, and was elected to New Westminster council in 1864. One account of his life has him joining a crew looking for a route from Bute Inlet to the Cariboo Gold fields, narrowly avoiding an Indian massacre.

By 1865 he was in Burrard Inlet, logging what today we know as Stanley Park, many of the ‘skid roads’ have become the park trails. His wife and family joined him from Ontario and he had two crews logging the area until a dispute with Captain Stamp, operating the Hastings Mill, led him to move on and farm in the Fraser Valley. (Captain Stamp initiated many legal actions – he seldom won, but that does not seem to have deterred him. The fact that Jonathan Miller cut logs for the rival Moodyville Mill may not have helped relations with Catain Stamp.).

In 1871, with Stamp no longer running the mill, his replacement, Captain Raymur along with Sewell Moody the owner of the north shore Moodyville mill and Jack Deighton, the Granville innkeeper all petitioned the Provincial Governmernt to install a constable to deal with the fast-developing and often lawless town. The existing ‘law’, an Irishman called Tomkins Brew was living with his native family at Brockton Point and his policing methods (reported to consist of snoozing on a veranda, his white beard blowing in the breeze) were deemed inadequate.

A New Westminster magistrate appointed Miller as constable (Brew was named customs collector), the government confirmed the appointment and built a Court House, police station, jail and residence (albeit one small building serving all those purposes) on Water Street. Another constable was later appointed to double the police force.

Jonathan Miller in around 1886 - BC Archives

In 1872 Constable Miller got his name in the news. Two boats are spotted approaching Granville, apparently filled with settler’s belongings stolen from along the coast. Seeing the interested constabulary (Constables Miller and Handy) the two men in the boats, named Brown and Shipley, head out into the harbour. The police slowly pursued them, and found them at night on the beach at Jericho (believed to be named for logger Jerry Rogers, via Jerry’s Cove to Jericho). They discharged their rifles at the police, who returned fire, injuring one of the men. Thet escaped in the darkness, although the police retrieved the stolen goods. This being a slow news year, the local newspapers called it ‘The Battle of Jericho’.

His policing was obviously considered satisfactory, as Jonathan Miller held the job as Granville grew and the city of Vancouver came into existance. On incorporation Miller was named Returning Officer for the election, and despite suggestions that several votes were ignored while others appeared more than once, a mayor was elected. Turning down the role of Chief Constable for the new city, Miller was appointed Postmaster, a role he would hold through into the 20th Century. When the fire consumed almost everything he owned a few months after his appointment, Miller ran for the mill (which was not burned) carrying the post-office cash box with his spectacles balanced carefully on top. That was all he saved. His wife and family also escaped, his wife with nothing but her prayerbook.

When the city rebuilt almost overnight, the Millers joined in the action. The family moved to a fine house on the city’s west side, on Burrard Street. Along with other respected citizens including Ben Springer, Miller was an officer of the Vancouver Electric Illuminating Co Ltd. He also acquired some land on Cordova Street, and by 1889 was ready to build a sizeable investment, partnering with Tom Dunn.

The Dunn-Miller Block was by no means a straightforward development. For one thing, there were two clients. While Jonathan Miller owned his part of the site, Tom Dunn was a tenant. Mrs Emerson Lougheed, daughter of Chales Paull the landowner later recalled “Our home was on what is now Cordova Street, where the Dunn-Miller Block is. Mother leased our lot, sixty-six feet, next to the corner; Jonathan Miller’s lot was next to ours. Mother leased our lot to Thomas Dunn, the hardware man, for one hundred dollars a month for fifty years; that was in 1889; then when the Lonsdale people took it over, we sold in April 1912, the sixty-six feet for thirty-five thousand dollars. I don’t know what the Millers got for their lot, but we got $35,000 for ours.” As well as the family house there was a fruit and vegetable business for R V Winch. Edward Baynes of contractors Baynes and Horie recalled getting his first work in the city helping demolish the buildings and clear the site.

As this ‘Daily and Weekly World’ Illustration shows, the building wasn’t completely symetrical – but it was so grand that wasn’t really obvious. In its early days tenants included a subscription Reading Room, the city’s first synagogue, the Knights of Pythias and the Vancouver Electric Railway and Light Company (in which both owners had an interest). The building was sold in 1912 to Arthur Lonsdale, who added his name to the building. He had made his money holding the mortgage on the Moodyville mill, and foreclosing on it in the 1880s, picking up a valuable chunk of North Vancouver in the process.

More recently the Army and Navy Department store moved in following a refurbishment in the early 1970s – the last time it had serious attention.

While postmaster the Millers moved out of the Downtown in 1895, to a full city block at Birch and Alder Streets in Fairview where Jonathan was able to give full attention to his hobby – breeding and training race horses. His wife died in 1906, but he didn’t retire from the position of Postmaster until 1909, aged 75. After retirement Jonathan Miller moved to Long Beach in California.  Following a massive stroke in 1914 he returned to Vancouver to be looked after by several of his ten children before he died in the same year and was buried in Mountain View cemetery with his wife.