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Little-known Nelson heritage buildings: The Economist office

Updated: Sep 10, 2021

On the heels of discovering that the last office of the Nelson Tribune (and probably the Nelson Ledge and Lowery’s Claim) is still standing, I’ve made two more discoveries about Nelson newspaper offices. (You can read about the other one here.)


Much to my surprise, the building home to the weekly Nelson Economist, probably for its entire existence from 1897 to 1906, is also still standing.


David M. Carley established and operated this newspaper, which had a much different feel than its competitors, the Miner and the Tribune. As historian Art Joyce writes, Carley had a “personal, evocative style,” and “was a close observer of human nature, providing a vivid journalistic picture of what it was like to walk the streets of Nelson over a century ago.”


The entire run of the Economist is available on the UBC digitized newspaper site.

The Economist’s office, I have determined, was at 709 Vernon St.


The newspaper’s masthead indicated simply that it was “Published every Saturday afternoon at Vernon Street, Nelson.”


Civic directories listed its address as Vernon Street (1899), East Vernon near Hall (1900-01) and Vernon near Hall (1902-05). Carley himself was listed as boarding at the Nelson Hotel in 1897 and 1898, but I suspect lived on the site of his office thereafter.


Plumbing records indicate Carley received a permit for a residence at Block 68, Lot 21 on June 27, 1899 and another permit for a printing office on Block 68, Lot 20 on April 11, 1903. Both addresses were on “North Vernon” street.


In addition, David’s brother Robert was listed in 1898 as doing business as a “commission agent” on East Vernon near Hall in partnership with Thomas Peel. Here’s one of their regular ads from the Economist of Sept. 29, 1897.

Carley and Peel shared their post office box with the Economist.


In the 1900-01 directory, Robert Carley is shown as the local manager of the Manitoba Produce Co. at the corner of Vernon and Hall. In 1901, he’s a merchandise broker on Vernon near Hall. Also residing on Vernon near Hall is David’s son Samuel.


So the Economist and Carley and Peel (later the Manitoba Produce Co.), were either doing business from the same building or very close by. Here’s what we find in that block on the July 1899 fire insurance map.

The home on Lot 21 that David Carley received a plumbing permit for doesn’t show up, presumably because it wasn’t yet under construction. But there is the two-storey printing office — and a second, separate one-storey building behind it on the same lot.


Nelson: A Proposal for Urban Heritage Conservation doesn’t include 709 Vernon, but BC Assessment indicates it was built in 1910. I am sure that’s wrong. Look at the 1923 fire insurance map, which contains revisions up to the late 1950s (the 1959 fire insurance map is essentially identical).

It shows that the two buildings standing in 1899 on Lot 20 have been joined by an annex, which is essentially the way they are configured today. There’s also a garage on Lot 21, which is no longer there. Carley’s former residence?


More evidence that this was the Economist office appeared in the Nelson Daily News of Nov. 17, 1906: “Yesterday Edward Kerr completed the purchase of a lot on Vernon street, immediately west of the Economist office … This lot purchased gives Mr. Kerr the four lots from the northeast corner of Vernon and Hall streets on two of which are the Occidental and Home Temperance hotels.”


(The hotels were later combined into a single hotel known as the Occidental, later renamed the Civic, and today Finley’s Bar and Grill.)


After the Economist folded in 1906, what became of its building?


According to a statement of significance produced in 2020, ownership passed in 1908 to David’s brother Robert. The 1913 civic directory said 709 Vernon was vacant, although a Spencer Rose was living in the rear. In 1914, 709 Vernon was home to George Adamson (former proprietor of the Occidental and Home Temperance hotels) and Robert Carley. In 1915, Adamson was still living there but Robert had moved out.

The Nelson Economist office is seen in July 1914, during the Chahko-Mika celebration. Courtesy Touchstones Nelson 1988-004-001

The backside of the Economist office is seen at centre (along with its outhouse) in this detail from a ca. 1899 panorama that belongs to Doug Jones.


As of 1925, Achaties Towner was living there.


In 1929, former Lakeview Hotel proprietor Antonio Gallicano bought the building and turned the building into a cigar store. He received a plumbing permit for the shop in 1930 and a second permit for a residence at the same location in 1931. Gallicano ran the shop through at least 1932.


In 1935, carpenter Jonas E. Williamson bought the building and split it into apartments. According to the statement of significance, other noteworthy residents included Karen Clark, one of the first female employees at Palm Dairies, and longtime Bowladrome proprietor Earl Strommes, who lived there in the late 1960s.

The Economist office is seen during a Midsummer Bonspiel Parade, sometime after 1953. It has not changed very much since. Art Stevens photo, courtesy Touchstones Nelson 2008-023-950


It was only around 1995 that the building was converted back to commercial purposes. It was home to Cottonwood Falls Animal Clinic until 2011. Now the Nelson CARES Society’s seniors transportation co-ordinator and age friendly community initiative is on the main floor while Cake Betty is on the lower, rear side.

While I haven’t looked too deeply into the history of the neighbouring building at 711 Vernon, it’s worth mentioning as it has been similarly neglected as a heritage site.


BC Assessment says it was built in 1909 while Nelson: A Proposal for Urban Heritage Conservation gives its construction date as ca. 1900-10 and its style as “commercial false front” but no indication of its original use. It shows up pencilled in on the 1899 fire insurance map on Lot 19, indicating it was built sometime after that.


This ad appeared in the Daily News of March 28, 1908: “If you want any building or repair work, phone A122 and estimates on contracts of jobbing will be cheerfully furnished by McDonald and Williams. Shop 711 Vernon St., near Exhibition building. PO Box 367.”


The 1910 civic directory didn’t list a Williams, but R.D. McDonald, contractor and builder, was now doing business at the corner of Ward and Front. Dominic Maglio was issued a plumbing permit for a home on Lot 19 on April 14, 1909. I am guessing he built the present building, which took the place of the McDonald and Williams shop.


In 1913 and 1914, 711 Vernon was listed in the civic directory as the Nelson Club Cigar Co. (so it turns out 709 and 711 Vernon both had turns as cigar shops). It was vacant in 1915.


Michael Ero received three plumbing permits in 1940-41 to turn the building into apartments. It was still an apartment building as of 1989. A sign that only disappeared a few years ago called it Cleveland Manor, but I don’t know where that name came from.


It was home to the Nelson Cancer Society until 2000. It has now been a barber shop for more than a decade, formerly the Lil Lid Shop and now the Windsor.

Updated on June 10, 2020 to add the 1914 and 1950s photos and on June 17, 2020 to add details from the statement of significance.

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