April 20, 2021

June 1908: A Vancouver Postcard & the Davie Streetcar

It is early June in Vancouver in 1908. Raymond in Vancouver writes to his 19 year old friend Olive Jaffray who lives on Pacific Avenue in Toronto, Ontario. He chooses a residential scene of Vancouver with a streetcar.

On the correspondence side, the card which is published by a business in Toronto and Buffalo New York is printed in Germany. Raymond writes

“I suppose that you’ve been wondering when I was going to write, but I shall explain in my letter on Sunday next. Is the weather suiting you. Your friend Raymond”

He then adds on the photo side of the card “Say but we’ve had some very warm weather here. Only 8 miles to rollerskate”.

Vancouver’s notable historian John Atkin and planner Andy Coupland who write Changing Vancouver indicate that the turreted house in the postcard is that of Robert Kelly’s of Kelly Douglas Limited, at 1186 Nicola Street.

Mr. Douglas lived directly behind Mr Kelly on Broughton Street.  The hedge and fence seen on the left of the image is the yard of Gabriola mansion, and the streetcar is heading west on Davie Street.

The house to the north of the turreted house is 1454 Pendrell, home of William Farrell, president of the Telephone Company.

It is a frothy time in Vancouver as real estate prices are soaring in this town of 70,000.  The Vancouver Daily World on June 15, 1908 has a heady column quoting Alderman W.J. Cavanagh who has returned from a tour of eastern American and Canadian cities..

He is convinced that Vancouver must purchase more land for parks for “breathing spaces”. Stating that Vancouver is going to be the largest city in Canada, Alderman Cavanagh wants the city to purchase the two blocks from Hastings to Dunsmuir where the courthouse and central schools stand for future park acquisition so that Vancouver can be a truly great city.

Only Toronto had better business streets, according to Alderman Cavanagh, and street paving was better in Winnipeg than in Vancouver. Vancouver would enjoy a real estate boom with more street car lines and migrants swelling to a population of 115,000 and then crashing in 1913 as men started to enlist for World War One.

In the earliest film of Vancouver, the William Harbeck film produced in 1907, you can see the streetcar go through residential neighbourhoods on its route. Do you see the streetcar passing the houses on Raymond’s postcard in the clip that starts at 4:26?

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