This day in history: an economic depression devastates Vancouver

Jonathan Rogers became one of Vancouver’s most prominent citizens.

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Vancouver has always had its share of boundless optimists. But it hasn’t always been wine and roses; The city has a history of booms and busts.

This first major decline occurred in the early 1890s, when the boom that accompanied the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1887 ended during a global economic recession.

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“There was a slowdown in 1891-2, there was (economic) stagnation and there was a smallpox epidemic that closed the ports for a time,” explains heritage expert Don Luxton.

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“In 1893, a banking panic hit the United States and that just destroyed everything. Lumber prices fell, everything fell, it slowed down.”

The situation got so bad that people considered leaving the city and abandoning the city.

“Vancouver was so new that everyone said, ‘Why are we here?’ —Luxton said. “What is the future of this stupid place if a few years after we get the railroad it turns turtle on us?”

Things were so uncertain that the Hudson’s Bay Company took out an advertisement reassuring people about the company’s confidence in Vancouver.

“There may be seasons of depression,” the ad said. “But there is a glimmer of hope in every dark cloud, and beyond it, the sun shines brightly on developing British Columbia.

“In the progress of this just Dominion, the Pacific Terminal City will play no unimportant part: its course will be onward and upward. Believing this, we have joined him and hope to share his prosperity.”

In the winter of 1894, legend has it that there was a meeting at which prominent citizens discussed whether to stay in the fledgling city or move.

Unfortunately, a search on he failed to find any mention of a public meeting on the future of Vancouver. It could be that it wasn’t an official meeting, it could have been an informal meeting in a bar.

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Vancouver pioneer Jonathan Rogers, circa 1916. George T. Wadds/Vancouver Archives AM54-S4-: Port P1442 Photo by George T. Wadds /sun

In any case, the hero of the meeting was a young Welsh immigrant named Jonathan Rogers, who enthusiastically defended Terminal City.

“He spoke and expressed his faith in Vancouver,” says a book about Rogers that was published after his death in 1945. “He said at the meeting that since he believed the depression was general, he would stay. Furthermore, he intended to build and already had two blocks underway.

“There were men who called him a fool, but his courage encouraged others and they decided to stay and move on. For many veterans, that night marked a turning point in their careers.”

The first mention of one of the buildings Rogers was constructing was in the Vancouver Daily News Advertiser of March 9, 1894, which could mean that the meeting took place around the first week of March. The first Rogers Block still stands at 301 West Hastings St., next to the Dominion Building.

Initially, Rogers ran a paint shop in the building, a handsome three-story brick structure that currently houses a Cannabis Culture store and the New Amsterdam Café, which describes itself as “an authentic cannabis-inspired lounge.”

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When Vancouver’s economy recovered after the Klondike Gold Rush in 1896, Rogers’ faith in Vancouver was proven correct. He went on to become one of Vancouver’s most prominent citizens: when he died on December 8, 1945, The Province published an article titled “Pioneer’s Life Tells City’s Story.”

Rogers emigrated to Canada from Wales when he was 22 years old. He was not related to BT Rogers of Rogers Sugar, who was American.

He came west on the first Canadian Pacific Railway passenger train that arrived in Vancouver on May 23, 1887. He purchased four lots, the beginning of a real estate empire that peaked with the 10-story Rogers Building at 470 Granville St. .

Aside from convincing people not to leave the city in 1894, Rogers’ greatest legacy is in English Bay. He was on the Vancouver park board for 26 years and came up with the idea of ​​buying all the waterfront homes that were initially on the bay boardwalk, tearing them down and turning the boardwalk into a park.

When he died, he left $100,000 to the park board, which built Jonathan Rogers Park at 7th and Columbia streets in Mount Pleasant.

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Jonathan and Elizabeth Rogers in costume for the rededication of Stanley Park, August 25, 1943. Vancouver Archives AM54-S4-: Port P1436.1 sun
The Rogers Building at Pender and Granville Streets in 2012. Photo by Ian Lindsay /vancouver sun
Written on reverse: Robert Christopher Rogers Malkin, age two and a half, son of Lt. Robert E. Malkin and Mrs. RE Malkin, with Jonathan Rogers. Photo by George T. Wadds, 1318 Granville St., Vancouver. vancouver sun
Undated photo of Jonathan Rogers, a pioneering Vancouver developer (the Rogers building is at Pender and Granville streets) and later a councilor and park board member. No relation to the Rogers Sugar family. PNG
Advertisement for the Hudson’s Bay Company in the Vancouver Daily News-Advertiser of January 11, 1894. Vancouver was in the midst of an economic depression at the time, and The Bay’s advertisement expressed confidence in the city’s economic prospects , which some people were thinking about abandoning.

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