Captain French 41 Alexander Street, Vancouver V6A 1B2
The historic place at 41 Alexander Street consists of a six-storey building in Vancouver's Gastown district. Close to the Port of Vancouver, and backing onto the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) yards, this building was originally used for wholesale and warehousing purposes. It is now used for housing.
The heritage value of 41 Alexander Street is derived from its association with George H. French, its first owner, and its architects, Parr and Fee. It is also of value because of its association with a number of businesses and activities typical of Vancouver's Gastown.
George H. French was a tugboat captain. He operated the first log towing business to run out of Vancouver. It is likely that this building represents an investment he made from profits made in British Columbia's booming lumber trade in the first decade of the twentieth century. The connections manifested here between the lumber trade, the port, and Gastown's development contribute to the buildings heritage value. This value is reinforced by the later association it had with various ship's chandlers, including especially H. A. Borgeron, one of Vancouver's leading chandlers, who occupied the building from the 1950s through to the 1970s. Other occupants of the building included various wholesale businesses, including Gainer's Meats. Businesses such as Gainer's located here because the building backs onto the railway yards.
The design of the building by Parr and Fee adds to its heritage value. Parr and Fee were one of Vancouver's leading architectural firms in the early twentieth century. This building is a good example of the developed commercial style used by the firm. It has a simple façade with regularly spaced windows, stone sills, and a cornice (possibly added later). The ground floor could be accessed by vehicles.
Heritage value is also found in the conversion of the building from commercial to residential use, as this forms part of a pattern of change in the area in the late twentieth century. Paul Merrick Architects were responsible for the adaptive re-use of the building. They have been associated with many similar projects in Gastown and their involvement adds to the heritage value of the building.
Source: City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program
The character-defining elements of 41 Alexander Street include its:
- Location backing onto the railway yards
- Simple, unadorned facade with regularly placed windows on the upper storeys
- Yellow brick on the facade
- Ground floor entries, including entries for vehicles
- Clearly defined ground floor