In its current derelict condition, the old property at 300 Alexander St. is not much more than a place to post bills and movie flyers. Like many other historic buildings in the area, its original purpose and design are obscured by the wear of time and improper care. This address, however, and indeed the block it sits on, features interesting ties to the origins and economic development of our city.
Before this current iteration, 300 Alexander St. belonged to a home located across the street adjacent to Ask for Luigi. The house was owned by R.H. Alexander, who by 1891 had risen through the ranks at the nearby Hastings Mill and was serving as the local manager for the newly established British Columbia Mills Timber & Trading Company. In addition to being at the center of what was once a popular neighbourhood for early Vancouver’s elite, the house was listed as No. 1 on the civic water service registry, with the rest of the block listed shortly thereafter.
The “new” 300 Alexander was constructed in 1922 (architect unknown) for the Vancouver & Victoria Stevedoring Company (otherwise known as Victoria & Vancouver, depending who you ask). The company featured locations across the province, and did well to cash in on the bustling port nearby. The stucco façade and parapet reflect a slight variation on the Mission Revival style, while unique details such as the oval insets (reminiscent of port holes) and anchor and ship wheel motif at the top of the parapet indicate its original nautical theme. The building features two separate entrances, and as the site actually sits on two lots of land (historically listed as 300 and 302 Alexander) it occasionally had two businesses operating inside. In the 1940s, for example, 302 Alexander was listed as the “Vancouver Girls School of Practical Arts”.
By the early 1950s, 300 Alexander St. was home to Universal Sales & Service, a refrigeration company, and thus began its long-term trend of commercial tenancy. In the 1970s, Hall Les Filter Service was operating there (see archival photo below) along with United Gear & Machine Works, and later Lawrence & Redpath Architects.
Today, the back section is used as a warehouse/shipping portion for the adjacent China Cereals & Oils Corp on Gore Street, while the front remains neglected. Despite being documented in a 1984 survey as a historical building, it hasn’t yet received heritage status from the City. Here’s hoping that oversight is remedied before the demo crew arrives.