There is a large flashy ad on twitter. A new development is being announced in Metro Vancouver. It is at the crossroads of three different rapid transit routes, a new transportation hub to everywhere in the region and there are only 176 lots available to savvy investors. There’s a great pre-sale, there are real estate agents available at the development site to sign you up, and even better one of the purchasers of the limited number of lots will also win the lot that has an original farmhouse that had been built twenty years earlier.
This is not a current offer for sale, but one from 110 years ago when “Montrelynview, Greater Vancouver’s Tram Car Centre” was created for property sales. In 1911 the large advertisements started to appear in The Vancouver World newspaper~”Montrelynview! Greater Vancouver’s Tram Car Centre Sale Starts with 176 lots only!”
Charles Gordon, a real estate speculator had acquired Wintermute farm which is at 7640 Berkley Street in Burnaby near Canada Way and Imperial. He then devised a plan to whip up public interest in selling the subdivided lots from the farm property and created a clever marketing campaign.
Mr. Gordon hosted a competition to name his new development and offered a first prize of $50.00 which is worth about $2,800 today for the winning name. He wanted a moniker that would reference the mountain view, the fact you could see Burnaby Lake from the location, and that also noted the proximity to the three streetcar lines.
There were over 5,000 potential names submitted in the contest, but none satisfied Mr. Gordon. Awkwardly, he devised his own brand for the development, calling it “Montrelynview”which he felt recognized the mountain view, the lake view, and the proximity to transit. The prize of $50.00 went to the person that suggested “Tricarlocheights” which meant “mountains and omit(s) view”.
In order to get potential customers out to see the lots on the farm, Mr. Gordon arranged for free tram car rides, and paid for ads in the Vancouver World. The hype started before those potential buyers even stepped onto the tram; they were told most of the lots were sold, but if you were interested “men would be on the ground to give you any information required”.
As Jesse Donaldson wrote in Montecristo Magazine, overseas capital in real estate increased over 1,000 percent in five years, and Vancouver had even elected a realtor, Charles Douglas as Mayor in 1909. By 1912 there were 1,000 realtors in the city, “one for every hundred citizens“. Westminster and Ninth Streets in Vancouver were renamed Main and Broadway with the anticipation of attracting more American investors to purchase land.
Mr Donaldson observes, “In 1912, at a time when wages were roughly fifty cents an hour, a lot at the corner of Granville and Hastings sold for an incredible $725,000.”
But you can’t build an economy on speculative land purchasing and the 1912 American stock market crash pulled many speculators out. An example was a corner lot at Cambie and Broadway. Originally listed for sale at 90,000 dollars, it sold for just under 8,000 dollars. In 1913 construction in Vancouver was at a standstill and the heady subdivision ideal of Montrelynview was no more.
In February 1913, The People’s Trust Company set up to manage the subdivision sale would go into receivership, with another bank seeking $66,000 from the sixteen unfortunate backers. That amount is roughly equivalent to $660,000 today. The front man for the trust company, Walter J. Walker fled to Britain. Charles Gordon also left the city.
That farmhouse offered for the Montrelynview purchaser draw was never given away and ended up in being sold to the developer’s brother-in-law. Today the Wintermute House is listed on the City of Burnaby’s Heritage Register for architectural design and for the original settler occupants, as well as the starring role in the Montrelynview subdivision draw that never was.