The Lee Building is the 7-story heritage building which my (our) grandfather, Herbert Lee, built. The stonework on the south side at the main entrance reads 'Lee Building 1912'. Herbert was a merchant who owned a grocery store beside that property in 1903 (see Vancouver Archives photo link at ‘Heritage Photos’). There is tremendous heritage in the Lee Building and that area, known as the Mount Pleasant area, was the hub of activity and commerce south of the Fraser River for many years. The Lee Building was the tallest building in Vancouver south of the Fraser River. When it was built only the Hotel Vancouver, on the north side of the river, was taller.
The Lee Building contains many wonderful features such as one of the original elevators which today is unused as it has been for many years, blocked off but visible from the main hall. Gorgeous copper walls and ceiling and an antique chandelier adorn the elevator. The hallway marble floors and walls are beautiful and the structure of steel pillars encased in concrete is very sound & earthquake-proof. The stairs are made of marble also and the view from the rooftop is amazing. The view down the staircase from the top is quite beautiful. Apartments and businesses occupy the building. There is a large wall photo up the stairs from the main hallway of the building. This photo was taken about 1916. The south sidewalk corridor was created in or after 1952 as a sidewalk needed to be established when Broadway was widened. I've been told that is the only building in Vancouver with an overhang like this. There are bus lines and a street lamp connected directly to the building as it is right against the roadway.
Our family lost the building to the Royal Bank in 1938 during the depression (*see story below). The building is currently owned by over thirty people. There was a billboard on top of the building for many years as part of the landmark. The building has come a long way and is a very important part of the history of Vancouver.
From a 1937 newspaper article about Herbert (after his death):
'In the death of Mr. Lee, Vancouver loses one of its pioneer business men and city builders.... In 1903 he bought a store and grocery business at 2425 Main Street, and by 1911 he succeeded in building the seven-storey business office and apartment block situated at the northwest corner of Main and Broadway, and known ever since as the Lee Building. An old issue of 'The Western Call' edited at that time by H. H. Stevens, described Mr. Lee as a business man who practiced sound principles, fair treatment, and sound business methods. He took an active interest in the affairs of the city. He was a leading member of the executive of the Liberal Association, and was president and one of the founders of the Maple Leaf Lacrosse Club in 1908. Later with P. Muldoon and Harry Pickering he organized the Vancouver Lacrosse Club in 1920. In later years Mr. Lee engaged in the wholesale produce business and devoted a good deal of his time in managing the building which bears his name, but in recent years he lived a more retired life. Surviving are his wife [Beatrice], one son, Leonard James [our father]; four brothers, S. J. Lee, Roy and Mervin, in Seattle; Percy of this city; and four sisters, Mrs. A. L. Mckay, of Hong Kong; Mrs. T. Barrie, Mrs. A. Steele, and Mrs. F. J. Crocker in Vancouver.'
*Change of Building ownership in 1938
From four newspaper articles in 1937 and 1938 there is a record of the court case where Broadway Buildings Ltd. lost ownership to the Royal Bank over an amount of $12,685 with interest since 1921. Broadway Buildings Ltd. invested $240,307 in the property. Title of the articles are: 'Lee Block Deal in Supreme Court' (Nov. 4/37), 'Bank Wins in Lee Block Case' (Nov. 9/37), 'Share in Lee Building is Ordered Auctioned' (Feb. 3/38) and 'Appeal Against Sale of Building Dismissed' (Mar. 18/38). There are other articles relating to later sales also.
Herbert and Beatrice had one son who lived into adulthood, Leonard. Leonard had the following children: two sons and then myself. Herbert, Beatrice and Leonard lived on the top floor throughout the 30's and then along with Leonard's first wife and their first son (my oldest brother) into 40's. Beatrice passed away in 1948 and I'm not sure how long my father lived there. He is now also passed away so that source of knowledge is gone.
When the dates are considered it seems Herbert was in the midst of the court case when he passed away in October 1937. It would then have been left up to Beatrice I suppose. Possibly more research (at the BC Archives) will shed more light on the situation at the time.
Searching at the Van. law library for the court case turned up nothing. I have the judge and lawyers names but there is no record of the case. I have discussed the case with the BC Archives representative and she has been very helpful. The next step is for me to search records while in Victoria.
It is sad that my grandparents and father, because of such a small amount of $12G, lost the building that Herbert had built and had owned since 1912.
I have a lawyer friend who informed me that if it was a residence the court would never have allowed the bank to take it. I really wish I knew more about the situation at the time. If anyone reading this can shed some more light on this I'd be happy to send you the court case info. in the newspaper articles. Not being a lawyer it's not easy to understand the full logistics of the case. Maybe the search at BC Archives in Victoria will explain more.
Our grandparents, great-grandparents and other family members are buried at Mountainview Cemetary and I have provided the cemetary with a family photo for their records. See their Herbert Lee page for the photo.
If there is anyone who knew Herbert, Beatrice or my Dad, Leonard, then I would very much like to connect with you to exchange information.
Lee Building Centennial Celebration – July 15, 2012
Planned, coordinated and organized Centennial event of Lee Building (175 E. Broadway, Vancouver, BC) which included creating the flyer/poster and family/building display board, and directing the creation of the historical slideshow (including photo research and accumulation)
Managed media relations such as: press release, interviewed on CBC TV, Breakfast TV, 1130 AM Radio and by the Vancouver Courier:
Planned, coordinated, produced and was interviewed in the Shaw Cable TV show ‘The Express’ for television and now on YouTube for 3 ½ min. at the 9-minute mark at:
Prepared and submitted information for Mr. Lee and building to Vancouver Heritage Foundation ‘125 Places That Matter’ Contest which resulted in a wall plaque being awarded per:
www.vancouverheritagefoundation.org/projects/placesthatmatter.html Go to Main and Broadway on the map (Number 18)
Prepared and presented speech and historical slideshow and performed two songs at the event
There are great photos at the City of Vancouver Archives. Here is a one prior to the building:
See 'Lee...' on the wall directly behind the people standing in this 1908 photo. That was Herbert's grocery store.
The white church on the corner behind the trolley was moved to make way for the Lee Building.
Doris Kirstiuk (as interviewed by Shaw TV) story and others – contact Tracy for stories
If you are a descendant of our great-grandparents, James and Elizabeth (Watson) Lee or of the Parker family please contact me. I have connected with relatives from Seattle and elsewhere in Washington, Phoenix and Surrey, B.C.. Adele Stapleton, a cousin from the (Beatrice) Parker side, has done a fabulous job with the family history. Also Dare Steele has been a great help. I know Ancestry.com can probably provide more information as well.
There is a relative who lives outside Seattle, WA who might be able to research the three Lee brothers who relocated to Seattle. The Vancouver area members, and descendants, that I would like to locate are the following:
1. James Frederick Douglas (through Crocker & back to Ethel Lee) (last notation on his Mom's death cert. in 1986, lived in Coquitlam) - and he has 3 siblings - Pauline and 2 others.
2. Soye/Saye? Barrie (wife of Edward Barrie & back to Amy Lee) (last notation on Edward's death cert. in 1975, lived in North Vancouver) - where is she now?
These 2 lines have been located:
1. Barbara Sybil Lee Lamothe (back to Percy Lee) (passed away in Santa Cruz in 1996) - July 2017: I have contact with the daughter of Barbara and John Lamothe.
2. Eileen Steele (back to Albert Steele married to Vera Lee), passed away in Oct. 2010. Daughter was Dare Steele, passed away July 17, 2017 survived by her son, Justin. (Memorial in August, contact for details). Unknown if this is still applicable: there is a Diane Steele out there somewhere. Diane then married a 'Tyson' so we are looking for Diane Tyson (maybe still in Burnaby or on Van. Island?).
I include here the siblings of Herbert & birth years in case this brings us anyone finding this page on the internet looking for relatives:
1. Mary Matilda Lee June 27, 1875
2. Herbert Oliver Lee Jan. 30, 1877
3. George Earnest Lee Mar. 3, 1879
4. Sidney James Lee May 29, 1881
5. Ethel Mildred Lee Oct. 1, 1883
6. Amy Gertrude Lee Jan. 22, 1886
7. Roy Lee June 12, 1888
8. Percy Watson Lee Aug. 9, 1890
9. Mervin Lee Sep. 1 1892
10. Vera Lee Jan. 29, 1896
11. Harold Birks Lee Oct 27, 1897
(All children born in London, ON)
Hopefully I will be able to connect with more of the remaining relatives from these listed. I list them now so that if they or someone they know are doing an internet search for/of them they can come across their name on my website please contact me. To:
1. Let them know any of their family history they may be missing
2. See how much they know of other relatives going back in time - fill in pieces of history
3. See if they have any photos or memorabilia of our relatives of long ago and send them what we (myself, Dare, Micheal, etc.) have
A few years ago I researched my Lee family history back to England and Ireland and the trail was relatively easy with archived records. Pam, in Isle of Wight, England, did some research for me re: Isle of Wight and we were able to take the history back one more generation to records of the 1700's. Bob, in Eastbourne, did research for me also. Thanks! In checking out Google Earth some of the addresses still exist, which I knew some would, though they are newer buildings. I've begun the Ireland connection and some helpful people have given me the next steps in the search. It's been wonderful. The next steps are going to be best done with myself in England and Ireland. I'm looking forward to the trip.