Local History Advent Calendar 2019 – Day 13 – Watson Street

Last year I took on the challenge of the first-ever Local History Advent Calendar! For 24 days in a row, I presented random historical tidbits I’d collected over the previous year and presented them in the form of “treats” for my 2018 Local History Advent Calendar. This year, the “Heart of Mount Pleasant” was number 1 on Heritage Vancouver’s Top 10 Watch List for 2019.  So I decided to choose Mount Pleasant as the theme for the Vanalogue Local History Advent Calendar for 2019.  Each day you can “open” a new historical treat. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder – 24 facts about Mount Pleasant history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Watson Street is a hidden oddity. Only 33 feet wide, or half the size of a regular city street, it is one of the few alleyways in Vancouver that is also a residential street. It serves as the lane for commercial buildings on the east side of Main Street and a regular street for residences and buildings on the opposite side. This duality is likely due to the fact that Watson served as the historical boundary between John Webster’s District Lot 302 and H.V. Edmonds’ District Lot 301. Originally named Howard Street ca. 1899, it was renamed Watson Street in 1950.

MAP 342b.22Watsoncrop
1912 Goad’s Fire Insurance Map showing Howard St. (Watson) between 16th & Broadway. Photo: CoV Archives Map 342c

Watson Street was once home to several houses and cottages. These were homes for the working class population – BCER employees, teamsters, teachers, carpenters, shopkeepers – that made up the community of Mount Pleasant for much of its history. Only three of those early residences still stand today – one of them being the 1895 Abray House.

2913/15 Watson Street in 2011, when Bert’s Restaurant was still in operation. Photo: Screenshot Google Street view 2011.

A duplex cottage built before 1909 is found at 2913/15 Watson. A building permit was issued to “Patton & McLean” in 1909 to repair and move this duplex house from the front of the lot facing Westminster Ave. (Main Street) to the rear of the lot along Watson Street. This was ostensibly done to make room for a commercial building facing Main Street. The building that now stands at the front of the lot (2904 Main) was built sometime in the 1920s and was once home to, local working persons favourite family cafe, Bert’s Restaurant (1948-2012) and is now home to Colony Restaurant.

2972/2974 Watson Street. Photo: C.Hagemoen

On the same block but across the street at 2972/2974 Watson Street stands a butter-cream colored duplex that was built ca. 1907. This house is particularly significant, as it has served as housing continuously for over 110 years. It is the last example left on Watson Street that still serves its singular original purpose.

218 East 11th at Watson Street. Photo: C. Hagemoen

Early examples of multi-family apartment buildings can also be found along the Watson Street corridor. The oldest one is located at 218 East 11th at Watson Street. A building permit was issued to carpenter Henry G. Taylor for this two-story frame apartment building in 1912 (above). It replaced an original single-family dwelling that was built before 1903 by C. G Taylor.

Another early apartment building is found across Watson Street from Heritage Hall. Located at 210 E. 15th this two-story wood frame dwelling was built in 1919 by BC Fir & Cedar Lumber employee Alec Reid. Now sporting a coat of bottle-dash stucco, it was converted to a multi-family dwelling in the early 1950s.

210 East 15th (rear) seen from Watson St. Photo: C.Hagemoen

I created this digital picture story on Watson Street in a one-day workshop at one of grunt gallery’s 2018 Mount Pleasant Community Art Screen Digital Storytelling workshops with Mount Pleasant residents. Consider it a historic stroll down Watson Street…

Source: Christine Hagemoen’s Watson Street – a history in 9 blocks – Digital Stories.ca

You can also view it on the Mount Pleasant Community Art Screen (MPCAS).
Location: Intersection of Broadway & Kingsway, Vancouver, on the east side of the Independent Building
Screen Hours: Sunday to Thursday: 9AM to 9:30PM / Friday & Saturday: 9AM to 10:30PM

2 thoughts on “Local History Advent Calendar 2019 – Day 13 – Watson Street

  1. I am very much enjoying this Advent series, since I lived in the MP area in the 1970s and early 80s. Also worked in MP in the 90s. You are highlighting things I remember along with things I somehow never noticed. Bert’s was an institution; not my favourite café, but a convenient place to wait out the wash and dry cycles in the next door Pinky’s laundromat

    1. Thanks, Mark I’m glad you are enjoying the series. I had almost forgotten about Pinky’s until I started to research the Calendar this year and looking through the Google Street views from 2011 and earlier. It’s shocking in many ways to see how much has changed in 10 years.

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