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The original 1936 building which replaced one of the three houses on the site. CVA 99-4477

I recently had the pleasure of leading a walk in the West End for the Vancouver Heritage Foundation as part of their Sunday coffee series at JJ Bean.

Their newest location on Bidwell is behind the preserved facade of Maxine’s Beauty School.

The most oft asked question about that location is the tunnel that supposedly connected the Rogers’ mansion Gabriola on Davie with a bootlegging operation and/or brothel based out of Maxine’s.

Apart from the general absurdity of the idea – the elevation change between Gabriola, and Maxine’s, would have made the proposition an incredibly expensive engineering feat – it’s forgotten that Maxine’s was built in 1936 (with additions in 1940) long after prohibition ended in BC and three years after it was repealed south of the border. So there was no need for any bootlegging operation let alone tunnels in the building. And the idea that the ‘first tunnel was used by sugar magnate B.T. Rogers to access the bordello at his leisure’ is absurd because Rogers died in 1918.

The idea of the brothel probably stems from the name Maxine’s. It sounds sexy. But alas, though sexy, it was just a beauty school. Instead of a silly cliche, what we do have is a story of an enterprising woman who built a successful series of businesses here in Vancouver and Seattle. I think she deserves some recognition.

So Who Was Maxine?

Miss MacGilvray in a 1917 advert from Spencer's department store advertising her beauty lecture

Miss MacGilvray in a 1917 advert from Spencer’s department store advertising her beauty lecture

 Screen Shot 2014-08-29 at 10.02.03 AMThe Maxine in question is Maxine E. MacGilvray from Wisconsin, who came up and operated a beauty parlour and beauty school in Vancouver. Her name first appears here in connection with beauty products sold by Spencer’s department store in 1914. Trained in California, she gave talks on skin care at the store and would later open the first of her parlors in store.

She had a hair salon in the 600 block of Dunsmuir for years and in the 1920s took over the ground floor of a house at 1211 Bidwell Street to open second location. This was followed shortly with the opening of her Maxine College of Beauty Culture next door.

With the opening of her beauty school, MacGilvray began manufacturing her beauty products in Vancouver in a small factory at 999 East Georgia Street near Glen Drive. Shortly after establishing the Max Chemical Company she hired a young Welshman, Ivor Ewan Bebb as an apprentice. Ivor had arrived in Canada in 1924.

Four years later Maxine and Ivor were married in Washington State (he was 26 and she was 36). By 1931, the company was moved to 1223 Bidwell to join her other enterprises and was renamed the Max-Ivor Company. 

Ivor Bebb is in the back row and Maxine is in the front row on the left.  CVA 99-4100

Ivor Bebb, back row, Maxine front row on the left. CVA 99-4100

In 1935, the couple hired architect Thomas B. McArravy to design a new building to replace the original school on Bidwell. The design is a cute Mission Revival building which was expanded in 1940 by architect Ross Lort. This is the preserved facade we see today.

Since the 1930s, Maxine and Ivor had maintained a Seattle residence and apart from their cosmetics business they opened the Max-Ivor motel in Seattle. Built in 1943, and located on 4th Avenue South, it originally had 20 rooms, maid service and steam heat. 

Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 2.58.29 PMScreen Shot 2014-08-30 at 3.23.13 PMBack in Vancouver, the beauty school closed in 1942 and they converted it into the Maxine Apartments. By the late 1940s, advertisements show it as an apartment hotel, it would later became a full blown motel.

Maxine died in 1952 and Ivor moved to permanently to Seattle and concentrated on running an expanded Max-Ivor motel.

Sources: 1940 US Census, Skagit County marriage licences, immigration records, Vancouver World newspaper, BC Directories and Chuck Flood’s book, Washington’s Highway 99 

An amazing evening of food and entertainment. And you get to support the Garden too. Get your tickets now – they go fast!

Screen Shot 2014-08-20 at 1.57.57 PMWe forget sometimes what Vancouver used to look like before we got down to some serious city building. The overall impression of the downtown was that it was a sea of parking lots and garages. Here’s a shot from the Archives (CVA 515-25) looking south along Richards, Homer and Hamilton streets from Georgia.


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From Chief James Hobart, Spuzzum First Nation

Dear Friend in Heritage Tourism:

The Spuzzum First Nation on behalf of the Alexandra Bridge Project Partners invites you to join their petition drive to restore the historic 1926 Alexandra Bridge. MLA Laurie Throness has promised to personally deliver this petition asking Transportation Minister Todd Stone to show leadership in preserving this Canadian transportation icon. We need as many signatures for MLA Laurie Throness to put before the Legislative Assembly by September 15.

The online petition is here. A hard copy is here: Preserve the 1926 Alexandra Bridge Petition

We ask for one signature per copy of the petition (volume counts when presenting a petition to the Legislature).

Hard copies of the petition can be sent to:

New Pathways to Gold Society
c/o 380 Main Street
PO Box 29
Lytton, BC

Attachments via Email can be sent to:

You can also check out the New Pathways to Gold Society website or the Save the Alexandra Bridge websites for more information.

Please join with us in helping to preserve this priceless heritage tourism asset for the benefit of all Canadians. Kukschamc!

Chief James Hobart,
Spuzzum First Nation

Screen Shot 2014-08-08 at 5.38.49 PM“I also think that an effort should be made to provide a number of public squares, planted with shade trees and provided with seats, where citizens could resort in the summer and enjoy fresh air. They would add much to the attractiveness of our city and remove that appearance of sterility which at present strikes a stranger so forcibly.”

From Mayor David Oppenheimer’s retirement speech
January 1892

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 1.12.43 PMLooking at a portion of this 1888 view of Burrard Inlet (CAN P105) from the Leferve Building at Hastings and Seymour, you can see the CPR’s offices on Cordova, the plank roads and wharves beyond. Looking closer and you can see the photographer didn’t think there were enough steam engines in the photo, so he’s pasted in one.


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Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 1.01.09 PMThe magazine rack at the Marpole BCER station in 1921 had the run of the mill publications on display, but up high on one rack is an issue of Saucy Tales. Begun in 1916, Saucy Stories lasted for 127 issues. Originally published by Nathan & Mencken it was soon sold to the Inter-Continental Publishing Corp. It cost 20 cents an issue. The covers could get quite racy in the 1920s.

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Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 2.51.16 PMAlso on the rack are Short Stories, started in the 1890s and published until 1959. In the 1920s and 1930s, it was best known as a publisher of Western stories.

Young’s Magazine was published from 1897 until the 1940s. The Secret of the Night remains a mystery, it is not the detective novel by Gaston Leroux. Current Opinion began as the literary magazine Current Literature: A Magazine of Record and Review in 1888, it was absorbed into The Literary Digest in 1925.

Photo: CVA 99-3548

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As Prince George celebrates the 1st. birthday of the prince, it’s interesting to see this item from April 1913

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A little later than usual, here is the list of walks this summer
All walks are $10:00 (cash or credit card) No reservations, just show up at the location listed.

The Main Street Waterfront – August 6th 7:00 pm
The shore line of False Creek has changed dramatically in the last 100 years. On this walk we’ll explore the history and development of the former waterfront from Terminal Avenue to Chinatown.

Meet at the corner of Station and National St

East Meets West: the zero point – August 20th 7:00pm
Ontario Street is the dividing line for the street numbering system in the city. It is also the line between the massive CPR land grant and parcels owned by others. In this walk we’ll look at the contrast between the neighbourhoods either side of this line.

Meet at Ontario and 23rd Ave

Vernon Drive: art, scrap, taxis and a lost shoreline – September 3rd 7:00pm
False Creek once reached as far as the bluff at Clark Drive and before the eastern basin was filled by the railways there were many residents that enjoyed water views. On this walk we’ll explore the quirky history of this street

Meet at Venables and George Street

Strathcona: the other side of the tracks – September 10th 7:00pm
Between the train tracks and Clark Drive sits a an interesting slice of the Strathcona neighbourhood where houses, factories, and other uses are jumbled together. And there’s the rather wonderful Admiral Seymour School.

Meet at the pedestrian overpass on Raymur Avenue

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Just 1000 friends, staff, and relatives enjoying a day
trip to Saltspring Island.

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