Local History Advent Calendar 2019 – Day 20 – Junction Inn

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.

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Map of New Westminster District, B.C 1876 –  showing District Lots in Vancouver, and township/range designations in other areas. The map also shows False Creek Trail (Westminster Rd), North Arm Road. Source: COV Archives, Map 2

The intersection of Kingsway and Fraser (at 16th Avenue) has been one of the most important junction points in the history of the city.  This area was known as “Junction” or “Pioneer Junction” after the aptly named Junction Inn – a stagecoach roadhouse.

In 1872 the first bridge over False Creek was built, completing land access between Granville (Vancouver) to New Westminster. Soon after, in 1876, at the crossing of today’s Kingsway and Fraser Street was the location of the first “intersection” or junction in the future city outside of Gastown. At that time Kingsway was known as the False Creek Road (later Westminster Road) and Fraser Street was called North Arm Road; developed as a wagon road to connect the farmlands of the Fraser River to the False Creek Trail.

The Junction Inn started serving refreshments to early commuters in around 1876, making it the first commercial building in Mount Pleasant.

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1912 Goads Fire Insurance plan showing the location of the old Junction Inn (Block 91, Lot 1).

There were four public houses along this route from New Westminster to Vancouver where travelers could “wet their whistle” – The Gladstone Inn, The Royal Oak, The Pig & Whistle (later Collingwood Inn), and the Junction Inn – where, according to the city’s first archivist, J.S. Matthews, you could get a “schooner” of beer for a nickel and whiskey was 2 drinks for a quarter.

A residential neighbourhood and small commercial centre developed around the Junction Inn (also called Junction Hotel). Starting in the 1910s, several of the businesses begin to adopt the name “Junction” ( like Junction Barber Shop, Junction Pharmacy, Junction Meat Market) as a nod to the history of this area. Today, this neighbourhood is popularly known by the moniker – Fraserhood.

The Junction Inn was located in District Lot 301 on the south side of 16th, making it technically on the border for the neighbourhoods of Mount Pleasant, Kensington – Cedar Cottage, and Riley Park-Little Mountain. Lot 301 has an interesting history because in the late 1800s and early 1900s it was not a part of any of the municipalities that surrounded it. It stood independently and therefore was under the jurisdiction of the Province and not a municipality. This served the various proprietors and customers of the Junction Inn well over the years allowing them, on occasion, to go under the radar of propriety.

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The Province July 6 1898

Once a place to have a drink outside the city limits in relative obscurity, by the turn of the century the Junction Inn was now well within sight of the growing temperance and morality movement.

The last mention of the Junction Inn as an operating venture is found in a newspaper article from November 1920. The article suggested that the Junction Inn was attempting to circumvent their lack of a ‘near-beer’ license (prohibition had just been rejected voters) by operating as a private club called “The Union Jack Club” (private clubs were allowed to serve alcohol). It is unclear how long this scheme worked.

Local History Advent Calendar 2019 – Day 18 – Triangle Building

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.

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Triangle Building in the 1950s with neon signs. The large one at the point was a large clock face with a swinging pendulum. The text reads: “Wosks for Ranges”. Photo: (cropped) Alvin Armstrong, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection

The Triangle Building, the cornerstone of Mount Pleasant, sits at the intersection of Main and Kingsway. It’s part of the ‘Triangle Block’, which is recognized and celebrated as the “historic heart” of the neighbourhood.

Furniture retailer, developer, and philanthropist Ben Wosk built this landmark structure, initially known as the “Wosk Block”, in 1947. During its 70-year history, it’s been home to numerous street-level shops and cafes, including two of Vancouver’s iconic businesses: Wosk’s Furniture and Bain’s Candies & Fine Chocolates. The second-floor offices (2414 Main) have hosted a variety of trade unions, community groups, professionals, writers, artists, and not-for-profit organizations that have been an integral part of the city’s cultural fabric.

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Triangle Building looking all streamline and moderne. Photo: C. Hagemoen

The Wosk Block/Triangle Building is a rare Vancouver example of the Streamlined Moderne architectural style. A later variation of the Art Deco style construction, Streamline Moderne buildings display the influence of the technological marvels of the day and developments in materials science, characterized by aerodynamic curves and smooth planar surfaces. The Triangle Building’s stainless steel window and door frames are also representative of the period’s affection for slick, shiny surfaces.

Currently hidden under a skin of painted mural on grey stucco, the triangle-shaped building once featured the mid-century palette of jade green and black Vitrolite exterior finish. A product of the machine age, Vitrolite is a pigmented structural glass that was used in interior and exterior applications. Recently exposed areas of the building on both the Kingsway and Main sides reveal glimpses of the original exterior finish (take a look for the next time you pass by).

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Jade Vitrolite revealed around the door frame of Dig It Select Vintage on Kingsway side. Photo: C.Hagemoen

The Triangle Building is not only notable for its architectural significance. It might even be more significant in the continuing history of the social and cultural identity of Mount Pleasant and the city as a whole.

The types of businesses that have called it home have always been a reflection of the evolving community. The graphic design businesses and skateboard shops of the 1980s and 90s replaced the dress shops and shoe stores of the 1950s and 60s. In the 1990s, several independent theatre and arts groups like the Public Dreams Society, Ruby Slippers Theatrical Society, and the Fringe Festival eventually replaced the high concentration of trade workers’ associations and credit unions that occupied its offices during the industrial 1950s and 60s. In addition, many popular-priced eateries like Palm’s Grill (in business from the 1950s to the 1970s) and Budgies Burritos (2005 to today) have occupied the Triangle Building’s street-level restaurant spaces. And of course, we can’t forget that the Triangle Building was where MP for Vancouver East, Libby Davies had her official office.

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Budgies Burritos along Kingsway. Photo: C. Hagemoen

The community-based Mount Pleasant Heritage Group (MPHG)* believes that the Triangle Building’s continuing “popularity as a social gathering place, both inside its shops, café’s and eateries and outside along the sidewalk, reflects how much the building and its tenants are held dear by the residents of Mount Pleasant and the citizens of Vancouver”. The ultimate goal of the MPHG, and of heritage supporters all over the city, is to identify buildings like the Triangle Building that not only have “architectural significance” but also have a “history of contributing to the social & cultural identity of the community”.

The Triangle Building is not included on Vancouver’s Heritage Register. This is an oversight that should be remedied. In my opinion, it could easily be included on the Heritage Register under the “Recent Landmarks Program”, an initiative that recognizes the historical and cultural importance of structures built during Vancouver’s post-war period.

Today’s post was an abridged version of the article I wrote for Scout Magazine, March 12, 2018.

*I am an active member of the Mount Pleasant Heritage Group.