History · urban design · Vancouver

Build House, Move House…

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On a recent walking tour of the Cedar Cove area of Vancouver (centred around Victoria Dr and Powell Street) we came across this fabulous set of buildings at 2036 Triumph Street. Local lore has it that the house was once on Powell Street at the waterfront and that it was moved to it’s current location. It’s also claimed that the site was a brothel at sometime in its history.

A quick check of the records show that a ‘S. Abernethy’ applied for a building permit for the house in October, 1909 to cost 1000.00. The builder is listed as ‘J.B. Abernathy’. So the existing house is the original house on the site.

Samuel Abernethy was the foreman for the Anglo-American Lumber Company and James, his brother, was a builder and contractor responsible for a number of structures around the city. Samuel moved from his residence in the 200 block of Lakewood to his new home upon its completion. But he doesn’t sit still for long, just two years later he makes an application to move his house to the rear of the lot and takes out an application to build a ‘frame apartment’ on the eastern half of the lot valued at 3000.00. The building would have four units.

With construction underway on his apartment building, Abernethy briefly took up residence at 2056 Triumph before settling into his new home at 2616 Trinity with his wife, daughter and mother-in-law in 1912. Abernethy, born in 1881 in Ontario, came to Vancouver via Port Moody where he was involved with the amateur dramatic society and was a popular musician at society events. Samuel’s father was Robert Abernethy who along with partners Paterson and Roe created the Canadian Pacific Lumber Company in 1898 at Port Moody. This company lent its name to a major merger of four lumber firms in 1911, one of them being the Anglo-American Lumber Company at the foot of Salsbury Drive and Powell Street where the younger Abernethy worked. The new company would control over 125 square miles of timber lands in BC.

In the directories, Abernethey’s apartment house is listed as ‘cabins’, a typical designation for buildings like this. After Samuel’s departure, the original house was occupied by Charles Porter a watchman for the Heap’s Mill at the foot of Victoria Drive. In the following years, the ‘cabins’ are occupied by an ever changing array of residents employed in the industries on the waterfront. The list of occupants over the years doesn’t support the idea of a brothel being here.

The mills on Burrard Inlet and False Creek provided employment for new immigrants to the city. Across the street from Abernethy’s property was a Hindu Mission and a Japanese rooming house reflecting the diversity found throughout the neighbourhood and city.

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