Local History Advent Calendar 2022 – Day 14 – Peter Pantages

It’s back! I has been 3 years since I published my last Local History Advent Calendar! So much has happened since that last time—including the publication of my first book, Mount Pleasant Stories—that I figured it was about time to dust off the Local History Advent Calendar once again. Similar to a regular advent calendar but instead of chocolate treats, each day you “open” a new historical treat. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder– 24 facts or stories about local history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Did you know that Peter Pantages of Polar Bear Swim fame, lived with his family and later wife Helen in an 1910-built house at 343 East 13th Avenue in Mount Pleasant from 1923 to the 1970s? That house still stands today.

Peter Pantages, Dec 15, 1927. Photo: COV Archives, CVA 99-1786

Peter (Pete) Basil Pantages was born in Andros, Greece in 1901 and came to Canada as a young man.

A member of the Royal Life Saving Society, Peter founded the Polar Bear Club in 1921. However, the first polar bear swim was a year earlier, after he talked some buddies into plunging into the frigid Vancouver waters on January 1, 1920– essentially inaugurating the Polar Bear Swim. The Vancouver Polar Bear Swim Club is one of the largest and oldest Polar Bear Clubs in the world  and the Vancouver event is thought to be the first of its kind in Canada.

Peter’s uncle Pericles Pantages (who preferred to call himself Alexander, after Alexander the Great) ran Vancouver’s Pantages theatre, which was located at 152 East Hastings Street. It was in that vaudeville theatre that Peter first started working in the city.

Peter later opened his own business, the Peter Pan Cafe on Granville Street. The cafe was a popular spot for celebrations and with Vancouver’s Greek community.  

The former Pantages house at 343 E13th in 1978 (needs a paint job). Photo: COV Archives, CVA 786-58.16

In addition to keeping busy with the cafe and the Polar Bear Swim Club, Pantages ran the Peter Pan Hall, a meeting place and venue that was located at 1636 West Broadway (at Fir); close the to Greek community located in Kitsilano.

Peter Pantages died in 1971, but his Polar Bear Swim legacy lives on.

You can find this and other Mount Pleasant stories in my walking tour book, Mount Pleasant Stories. Copies are available for purchase in Mount Pleasant at Pulpfiction Books – 2422 Main Street and in Chinatown at Massy Books – 229 E Georgia St. It makes a great gift or stocking stuffer for your favourite local history buff!

Local History Advent Calendar 2022 – Day 13 – J.F. Clark Building

It’s back! I has been 3 years since I published my last Local History Advent Calendar! So much has happened since that last time—including the publication of my first book, Mount Pleasant Stories—that I figured it was about time to dust off the Local History Advent Calendar once again. Similar to a regular advent calendar but instead of chocolate treats, each day you “open” a new historical treat. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder– 24 facts or stories about local history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

J.F. Clark building in 1908. Photo: Dist P140, CoV Archives

One of the most unassuming buildings in Mount Pleasant, the J.F. Clark building (2313 Main Street) has a surprisingly huge historic presence. Built in 1892, it is Mount Pleasant’s oldest surviving commercial/residential building. Its boomtown front, also called a false front, is the predominant architectural feature of the building. It hides a pitched roof which is visible from the rear of the building. 

James F. Clark built this 2-storey structure for his grocery business in operation from 1892 until 1897. Later, from 1918 to 1950 the building was home to Arthur Frith & Co. purveyor of  “Up-to-Date Men’s and Boys’ Furnishings, Hats, Boots and Shoes”. 

Since the 1950s, the building has housed a series of restaurants and cafes. Starting with Edward’s Lunch Bar in 1952 up to the current occupant, Nirvana Restaurant. In fact, Nirvana is the latest in a string of Indian cuisine restaurants–starting with Maharaja Restaurant, followed by India’s Himalaya Restaurant–that have been operating out of the J.F. Clark building since 1971. 

Nirvana in 2018. Photo: C. Hagemoen

This venerable building is an integral part of the historic streetscape along the west side of Main Street and provides a window to the past and the original Mount Pleasant village.

A fire in August of this year caused significant damage to Nirvana causing the restaurant to close temporarily. Four months later and they are still closed but all indications are that they will eventually reopen.

You can find this and other Mount Pleasant stories in my walking tour book, Mount Pleasant Stories. Copies are available for purchase in Mount Pleasant at Pulpfiction Books – 2422 Main Street and in Chinatown at Massy Books – 229 E Georgia St. It makes a great gift or stocking stuffer for your favourite local history buff!

Local History Advent Calendar 2022 – Day 12 – W.H. Chow

It’s back! I has been 3 years since I published my last Local History Advent Calendar! So much has happened since that last time—including the publication of my first book, Mount Pleasant Stories—that I figured it was about time to dust off the Local History Advent Calendar once again. Similar to a regular advent calendar but instead of chocolate treats, each day you “open” a new historical treat. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder– 24 facts or stories about local history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

1908 Henderson’s Vancouver DirectoryAdvert for W.H. Chow showing his home on 24 East 3rd Ave and the address of his office 360 Front St. (East 1st Ave).

W.H. Chow was a Chinese-Canadian architect, builder and contractor working in Vancouver from around 1907 to the late 1920s. From his office on East 1st Ave (later on Pender St, in Chinatown) he designed a variety of commercial and institutional projects for clients from Vancouver’s Chinese community.

William Henry Chow was born in 1874 in Southern China, and arrived in Canada in 1894. In 1903, he married New Westminster born Nellie Look Won, a widow and the youngest sister of Won Alexander Cumyow. In 1904 the Chows moved into a home at 160 Lorne Street (today W 3rd Ave.) in Mount Pleasant. By 1907, the family moved into a new house built by W.H. at 24 East 3rd. Avenue (pictured in the ad above).

W.H. and Nellie had 2 children together, Robert and Richard, in addition to Lena and Stanley from Nellie’s first marriage. 

W.H. Chow was involved in the short-lived B.C. Society of Architects and used the term ‘architect’ on his building drawings. However, when the Architectural Institute of BC was established in 1920, Chow was denied admission to the professional self-regulatory body because he supposedly lacked “technical skills”. It is very likely he was denied admission purely for racist reasons. In 1922 he was prosecuted for violating the Architects Act (see clippings above) for hanging a sign outside his office that advertised himself as an “architect”.

Two of the buildings that Chow designed that still stand today are the Yue Shan Society building and Ming Wo on East Pender Street. Chow also worked with architect W.T. Whiteway on several Chinatown buildings.

VDW, January 15, 1914.

You can find more Mount Pleasant stories in my walking tour book, Mount Pleasant Stories. Copies are available for purchase in Mount Pleasant at Pulpfiction Books – 2422 Main Street and in Chinatown at Massy Books – 229 E Georgia St. It makes a great gift or stocking stuffer for your favourite local history buff!

Local History Advent Calendar 2022 – Day 11 – Dominion Laundry/Alsco

It’s back! I has been 3 years since I published my last Local History Advent Calendar! So much has happened since that last time—including the publication of my first book, Mount Pleasant Stories—that I figured it was about time to dust off the Local History Advent Calendar once again. Similar to a regular advent calendar but instead of chocolate treats, each day you “open” a new historical treat. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder– 24 facts or stories about local history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Photo: JC-Neg-395, Jack Cash, 1950s, MONOVA Archives of North Vancouver

This is the largest surviving industrial building in Mount Pleasant. Dominion Steam Laundry Co. owner T.H. Kirk built the industrial laundry facility on the corner of Lansdowne (4th Avenue) & Ontario in 1910. There has been a laundry business—Dominion Steam Laundry, Family Service Laundry, Empire Cleaners Ltd., Cascade Laundry, Pioneer Laundry, Nelson’s Laundry, and now, Alsco—operating out of this building ever since. 

Side of the original brick laundry building. Photo: C. Hagemoen

Over a century ago the firm was at the centre of the early women’s labour movement in Mount Pleasant when women workers, performing low-paid laundry work, fought a battle for a living wage. At that time laundry work was considered “women’s work” and was therefore undervalued. In the wake of anti-union violence, 300 Vancouver workers at seven steam laundries—most of them female—joined a union (Laundry Workers Union (LWU), Local 37) in early August, 1918.

The Province, July 13, 1918. Notice the name of feminist, suffragist, trade unionist, and Vancouver’s first female City Councillor, Helena Gutteridge.

In September, 1918, they went on strike for four months to improve wages and conditions in an occupation that was hidden, hard, and dangerous.  The strikers were patronizingly referred to as  “girl strikers” in the newspapers, even though most were over eighteen years old and working out of necessity. Ironically, Family Laundry Service, the laundry business that operated out of this building in the 1920’s through the 1930’s promoted their business with the following slogan: “ to free women from the spectre of wash day”. 

Vancouver Daily World, Jan 14, 1922

You can find more Mount Pleasant stories in my walking tour book, Mount Pleasant Stories. Copies are available for purchase in Mount Pleasant at Pulpfiction Books – 2422 Main Street and in Chinatown at Massy Books – 229 E Georgia St. It makes a great gift or stocking stuffer for your favourite local history buff!

Local History Advent Calendar 2022 – Day 10 – Creamo

It’s back! I has been 3 years since I published my last Local History Advent Calendar! So much has happened since that last time—including the publication of my first book, Mount Pleasant Stories—that I figured it was about time to dust off the Local History Advent Calendar once again. Similar to a regular advent calendar but instead of chocolate treats, each day you “open” a new historical treat. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder– 24 facts or stories about local history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

“The Milk Supreme that tastes like Cream”

“Creamo” ad on dairy wagon outside Associated Dairies Ltd., 1934. CoV Archives, CVA 99-4690

If you are enjoying a cup of coffee as you read this post maybe you added some Creamo to it? Did you know Creamo is a made in BC product invented in Mount Pleasant?

Creamo advert in The Province, 1926.

The Fraser Valley Milk Producers Association (wholesale dairy products) had several buildings on Yukon between 7th and 8th Avenues with the main office accessed at 425 West 8th Avenue. It was at this location where Creamo was developed around 1920.

Creamo, with 10% milk fat, is made by specially combining “pure” milk and cream—aka “half and half”.

A dairy venture operated at this location starting with the Standard Milk Co. Plant in the 1910s, followed by the Associated Dairies Ltd and Fraser Valley Milk Producers Association (now Dairyland) from the 1920s through the 1950s.

Fraser Valley Milk Producers plant at 8th and Yukon in 1956, Photo: CoV Archives, VanSc P159.2.

Fun Fact: In the 1920s there was a local Football (Soccer) League team named the Creamos.

You can find more Mount Pleasant stories in my walking tour book, Mount Pleasant Stories. Copies are available for purchase in Mount Pleasant at Pulpfiction Books – 2422 Main Street and in Chinatown at Massy Books – 229 E Georgia St. It makes a great gift or stocking stuffer for your favourite local history buff!

Local History Advent Calendar 2022 – Day 9 – Mainland Brewery

It’s back! I has been 3 years since I published my last Local History Advent Calendar! So much has happened since that last time—including the publication of my first book, Mount Pleasant Stories—that I figured it was about time to dust off the Local History Advent Calendar once again. Similar to a regular advent calendar but instead of chocolate treats, each day you “open” a new historical treat. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder– 24 facts or stories about local history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

1897 (updated 1901) Fire Insurance Plan showing the former Mainland Brewery Building on the NW corner 10th & Columbia Notice a partial view of the stream that once flowed beside the brewery.

If you read Mount Pleasant Stories, you are familiar with the breweries that developed along Mount Pleasant’s Brewery Creek. However, Brewery Creek wasn’t the only stream that supported the area’s early brewing industry. Introducing: Mainland Brewery, established along an unnamed creek at the corner of W. 10th and Columbia. If you look at the site today (now a church), you can still see the way the land slopes indicating that a creek once flowed there.

Robert Riesterer opened Mainland Brewery on this corner sometime in late 1888. A December 31, 1888 Vancouver Daily World newspaper story about buildings built in Vancouver that year lists “Mr. Riesterer’s brewery and vinegar factory, $4500” on 10th Avenue.  However, earlier City Directory listings indicate that Riesterer’s Mainland Brewery got it’s start somewhere along False Creek (most likely the south side) as early as 1887.

Daily News Advertiser, Nov. 27, 1891.

The 1891 Canada Census shows Robert Riesterer, proprietor and brewer along with C. Riesterer, brewer living beside the brewery at, what was then, 2475 Columbia Ave. Later that year, Robert Riesterer (41) marries Clara Steinhauser (21). They had 3 children: Charles born in Vancouver 1892, Robert born in 1894 in Nelson, and Clara also born in Nelson in 1897. Sadly, Mrs. Clara Riesterer dies at the age of 27 shortly after giving birth to her daughter.

Vancouver Daily World, July 8, 1890. Advert shows that Riesterer wanted let out his Mainland Brewery business.

Though there were indications (see above) that Riesterer wanted to move on from Mainland Brewery to new adventures in the Kootenays, City Directory listings indicate that Riesterer and Mainland Brewery were still in Vancouver until 1893.

Riesterer eventually started a new brewery business in Nelson, founding the original Nelson Brewing and Ice Company in 1897. His involvement in this business was fairly short-lived as he died in October 1902.

Nelson Daily News Oct. 15, 1902

You can find more Mount Pleasant stories in my walking tour book, Mount Pleasant Stories. Copies are available for purchase in Mount Pleasant at Pulpfiction Books – 2422 Main Street and in Chinatown at Massy Books – 229 E Georgia St. It makes a great gift or stocking stuffer for your favourite local history buff!

Local History Advent Calendar 2022 – Day 8 – Prudential Kit Houses

It’s back! I has been 3 years since I published my last Local History Advent Calendar! So much has happened since that last time—including the publication of my first book, Mount Pleasant Stories—that I figured it was about time to dust off the Local History Advent Calendar once again. Similar to a regular advent calendar but instead of chocolate treats, each day you “open” a new historical treat. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder– 24 facts or stories about local history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

These 3 houses on E12th at St.George are prefab houses by Prudential Builders Ltd. “Lethbridge” design.

You may be familiar with BC Mills prefabricated or kit houses but did you know about Mount Pleasant’s Prudential Builders Ltd.? They manufactured kit houses, pre-fabricated homes or what they called sectional, or semi-ready buildings. The company started in the prefabrication business around 1903.  

Prudential Builders Ltd. was located at the cor. Dufferin (2nd) and Manitoba sts., 1910.

A new factory complex was built in Mount Pleasant (at 2nd & Manitoba) around 1909 for the manufacture of houses exclusively, but the company also made school buildings and small commercial buildings. 

This was perfect timing as the whole area was in the midst of an economic and building boom. The population of the city (and all of Western Canada) was increasing rapidly. In 1910, the company was producing complete houses at a rate of 600 per year or 50 houses a month and had over 100 employees.  

However, their success was short-lived, for by WW1 the company disappeared or possibly got out of the “pre-fab” business.

Page 29 of the Prudential Builders Ltd. catalogue, showing the “Lethbridge” design.

You can find more Mount Pleasant stories in my walking tour book, Mount Pleasant Stories. Copies are available for purchase in Mount Pleasant at Pulpfiction Books – 2422 Main Street and in Chinatown at Massy Books – 229 E Georgia St. It makes a great gift or stocking stuffer for your favourite local history buff!

Local History Advent Calendar 2022 – Day 7 – Rudyard Kipling property

It’s back! I has been 3 years since I published my last Local History Advent Calendar! So much has happened since that last time—including the publication of my first book, Mount Pleasant Stories—that I figured it was about time to dust off the Local History Advent Calendar once again. Similar to a regular advent calendar but instead of chocolate treats, each day you “open” a new historical treat. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder– 24 facts or stories about local history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Did you know that English novelist, poet, short-story writer, and journalist, Rudyard Kipling once owned property in Vancouver?

1912 Goad’s Fire Insurance Plan. Kipling’s property is circled in red.

In June 1889 Rudyard Kipling (age 23), in Vancouver for the first time, purchased 2 lots in Mount Pleasant on the SE corner of E11th at Fraser (previously called Scott Street).  He was on a round the world journey described in his book “Sea to Sea”, which consists of letters or travel reports written by Kipling for his newspapers between 1887 and 1889.  

In those early days, there was a lot of boosterism around promoting Vancouver as a future city and a great place to invest in. Kipling bought the property sight unseen. He describes it when he visited his property the next day:

“Me voici, owner of some 400 well developed pines, a few thousand tons of granite scattered in blocks at the roots of the pines, and a sprinkling of earth. That’s a town lot in Vancouver. You or your agent hold it until property rises, then sell out and buy more land farther out of town and repeat the process. I do not quite see how this sort of thing helps the growth of a town, but the English boy [who sold him the property] says that is the ‘essence of speculation’ so it must be alright. But I wish there were fewer pines and less granite on my ground.”

Kipling never built upon his Vancouver property but continued to pay property taxes for 40 years until 1928 when he decided to sell his two lots. 

Kipling could have sold his Vancouver holdings during the building boom period of 1908-1913 but he held on to it…perhaps he forgot about it? Nevertheless, it’s probably best he sold up in 1928 prior to the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Fun Fact: Kipling also bought property in North Vancouver while traveling on his honeymoon in 1892.

2021 Google Street view of the former Kipling properties. These two 1928 era houses sit on land once owned by Kipling.

You can find more Mount Pleasant stories in my walking tour book, Mount Pleasant Stories. Copies are available for purchase in Mount Pleasant at Pulpfiction Books – 2422 Main Street and in Chinatown at Massy Books – 229 E Georgia St. It makes a great gift or stocking stuffer for your favourite local history buff!

Local History Advent Calendar 2022 – Day 6 – Jantzen Factory

It’s back! I has been 3 years since I published my last Local History Advent Calendar! So much has happened since that last time—including the publication of my first book, Mount Pleasant Stories—that I figured it was about time to dust off the Local History Advent Calendar once again. Similar to a regular advent calendar but instead of chocolate treats, each day you “open” a new historical treat. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder– 24 facts or stories about local history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Jantzen Canada Inc. – 1927-1996 – 196 Kingsway. Photo: NMAH Archives Center Jantzen Knitting Mills Collection.

Jantzen: the suit that changed bathing into swimming

For most of the 20th century, Jantzen was the name in swimwear. Jantzen operated their Vancouver factory from the same Kingsway location from 1927 until 1996. Jantzen Canada was the largest clothing manufacturer in the city. 

Jantzen swimsuits, knit sportswear, and sweaters were first made in B.C. in 1924, when local company Universal Knitting Mills obtained the Canadian license to manufacture the Jantzen line from the parent Jantzen Knitting Mills of Portland, Oregon.  

Designed by Robert Wilson, the factory at 196 Kingsway opened in 1927 and was added onto several times during its near-70 year existence.  The iconic Jantzen red diving-girl logo—a capped swimmer diving into the water— stood proudly above the Kingsway entrance.  

In the 1980’s and 1990’s savvy shoppers would hit up Jantzen’s Factory Outlet for bargains.

At the time of its closure in 1996, the Vancouver plant was Janzten’s most profitable division.  Nevertheless the company decided to move production to a lower-wage location in Central America—a direct outcome of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). 285 garment workers lost their jobs.

2009 Google Street view of the Jantzen building at E.10th and Kingsway.

You can find more Mount Pleasant stories in my walking tour book, Mount Pleasant Stories. Copies are available for purchase in Mount Pleasant at Pulpfiction Books – 2422 Main Street and in Chinatown at Massy Books – 229 E Georgia St. It makes a great gift or stocking stuffer for your favourite local history buff!

Local History Advent Calendar 2022 – Day 5 – Freedman House

It’s back! I has been 3 years since I published my last Local History Advent Calendar! So much has happened since that last time—including the publication of my first book, Mount Pleasant Stories—that I figured it was about time to dust off the Local History Advent Calendar once again. Similar to a regular advent calendar but instead of chocolate treats, each day you “open” a new historical treat. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder– 24 facts or stories about local history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Freedman home and family, 123 East 5th Ave., 1919, source unknown.

Chaim (Himan) Leib Freedman (1886-1952) arrived in Vancouver from Antopal, Poland (now Belarus) in 1910. Four years later, wife Sarah (Goldberg) and 4-year-old son Myer joined Freedman. Daughters Rosie, Celia and Rachel were born in Canada.

Chaim Freedman was an entrepreneur earning a living as a junk dealer. From 1915 to 1952, he was the proprietor of a junk & second hand furniture business called Chicago Junk Co. (later Chicago Furniture) at 625 Main Street.

First settling in Strathcona, the original centre of the city’s Jewish community, Chaim L. Freedman and family moved to Mount Pleasant around 1919 (until 1946). It was common for many Jewish families as they became “better off” to move south of False
Creek, first to Mount Pleasant, but still within walking distance of the synagogue in observance Orthodox Jewish laws.

The Freedmans were very active in Vancouver’s early Jewish community. Shortly after his arrival in the city Chaim L. Freedman founded the Vancouver Chevra Kadisha (the Hebrew Burial Society), which was responsible for the care and management of all Jewish burials. He served as its president for twenty-six years. The Freedmans were also founding members of Schara Tzedeck Synagogue.


Son, Myer Freedman (1910-2003) is best known for establishing the Vancouver landmark business Freedman Shoes, in 1931. He owned and operated Freedman Shoes until his retirement in 1997 at the age of 87.

Vancouver Sun, May 2, 1974.

You can find more about members of Mount Pleasant’s Jewish community and other Mount Pleasant histories in my illustrated walking tour book, Mount Pleasant Stories. Copies are available for purchase in Mount Pleasant at Pulpfiction Books – 2422 Main Street and in Chinatown at Massy Books – 229 E Georgia St. It makes a great gift or stocking stuffer for your favourite local history buff!