March 24 2017
The Malkin Building: Then and Now
Written by Gastown Admin
The “Malkin’s Best’ sign was the company’s trademark. [PHOTO: VPL 11552 – 1929]
MALKIN BUILDING: 55 WATER STREET
ARCHITECT: JOHN EDMESTON PARR & THOMAS A. FEE
ARCHITECTURAL STYLE: EDWARDIAN COMMERCIAL
William Harold Malkin was one of Gastown’s great entrepreneurs. Originally from Burslem, Staffordshire, England, he left the praries in 1895 and upon arriving to the burgeoning city, saw opportunity at every turn. Partnering with his brother Fred, the Malkins worked hard at The Osmund Skrine Wholesale Produce Store, staying focused on the greater potential that was to be found.
The Kootenay’s was deep in a mining boom and the mighty Klondike gold rush was growing to feverish levels. These industries needed large volumes of groceries and supplies. Gastown was both perfectly situated and ripe for production to expand and the Malkin’s knew their plans could strike gold.
Malkin Co.’s coffee packing line. The top floor of the building was devoted to tea and coffee. [PHOTO: VPL 11553 – 1929]
Jolted into action, they bought Osmond Skrine Produce in 1897, changing the name to W.H. Malkin & Co. Wholesale Grocers, Tea Blenders and Coffee Roasters. The young company went on to add preserves, pickles and import spices to their product line and quickly become one of Vancouver’s most important import businesses.
Malkin Co.’s coffee packing line. The top floor of the building was devoted to tea and coffee. It had the most modern coffee roasting and tea blending equipment in B.C. [PHOTO: VPL 11554 – 1929]
Quality Malkin products could be found in every household as well as in the packs of hopeful prospectors heading for the Klondike. Within 8 short years, William Malkin had built three warehouses on Water Street. The Third was built from 1907-1912 with the western half being constructed in 1907 and the eastern half in 1912. The simple façade and heavy cornice are typical of Parr and Fee’s solidly-built, no-nonsense commercial buildings.
W H Malkin served as Mayor of Vancouver from 1929 -1932. As Mayor he oversaw the construction of the Marine Building and was also the first Mayor of an amalgamated Vancouver when Point Grey and South Vancouver officially becme part of the City. Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park was a gift to the city from Malkin as a memorial to his wife Marion.
Malkin was one of those rare success stories where capitalistic drive harmoniously coexisted with altruistic concern for the working woman and man. Bravely leading the charge, he refused to allow deceit and wrongdoing at the expense of others less fortunate:
Malkin established a committee to look into corruption and embezzlement in the city’s Relief Department. Author of The Conquest of Poverty, he worked to bring about changes in civic policy to benefit the working classes.
The Malkin Building still stands today and is a fine example of the true entrepreneurial spirits that haunt Gastown; both then and now.
Today, The Malkin Building is home to the Old Spaghetti Factory restaurant and Michelle’s Import Plus LTD. The upper floors have been converted to residential live/work studios.