Title and statement of responsibility area
Mercantile Mortgage Company fonds
General material designation
- Textual record
Other title information
Title statements of responsibility
- Source of title proper: Title based on the contents of the fonds.
Level of description
Edition statement of responsibility
Class of material specific details area
Statement of scale (cartographic)
Statement of projection (cartographic)
Statement of coordinates (cartographic)
Statement of scale (architectural)
Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)
Dates of creation area
1869-1988; 1908-1985 predominant (Creation)
- Mercantile Mortgage Company Limited
Physical description area
- 3.69 m. textual records
- 290 photographs
- 39 architectural plans
Publisher's series area
Title proper of publisher's series
Parallel titles of publisher's series
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Statement of responsibility relating to publisher's series
Numbering within publisher's series
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Archival description area
Name of creator
The Trustee Company Limited was established in 1908 by Vancouver businessmen and real estate developers J.B. Mathers, George Hay, E. D. Odlum and others. Within several years of the company s inception, brothers James A. and Melville P. Thomson became company directors and in 1913 the company was renamed Mercantile Mortgage Company Limited. The company was set up as a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT), which used the combined capital from many investors, called Unit Holders, to purchase and manage income property and mortgage loans. Throughout its lifetime, Mercantile Mortgage Company Limited s primary unit holders were its directors, their spouses, children and other family members with the Thomson family retaining a controlling interest in the company. The company provided mortgage loans for and invested in a variety of properties including land in Cape Caution and Blunden Bay on British Columbia s North Coast, farm land in South Vancouver much of which was parceled and sold to Japanese farmers, a commercial property in Nelson BC, Buckley Bay near Bowen Island, property around Ladysmith, and the Highland Park area of Burnaby near Buller Avenue, among others.
In 1919, Estates Investment Limited was established with Thompson brothers and E. D. Odlum acting as directors, to manage a number of properties owned or managed by Mercantile Mortgage Company Limited in Vancouver and New Westminster. Among the Vancouver properties managed by Estates Investment Limited throughout the 20th Century are some of Gastown s best known heritage buildings: the Brinsmead Building (301Cordova known today as the Petrina Block), the Mercantile Building which housed the companies offices (318 Homer at Cordova), the Arlington Building (304 Cordova), Cloth Hall (332 Water known today as Le Magasin), Central Building (100-106 West Hastings, including The Argyll Hotel located at 106 West Hastings), 305 Cambie Street, and much of the 300 Block of West Cordova. In New Westminster, Mercantile Mortgage Company Limited owned and managed two of the only buildings to survive the 1898 fire that claimed most of New Westminster, the Burr and Guichon blocks located on Columbia Street at 4th Avenue. These properties were used for a variety of commercial, retail and residential purposes and generated excellent investor returns. Among the most well known businesses to reside in Thomson properties were Owl Drug Store, the Community Arts Council which actively participated in the drive to defeat project 200, and New Look Interiors.
In 1921, Melville F. Thomson took over administration of Mercantile Mortgage Company and Estates Investment Limited from his uncle and father. He established two further corporate holdings to manage the various properties: Melville F. Thomson and Company Limited, Property Managers, and Argyll House Limited. After a general slump in business activity and property investment in the 1930s and 40s, there was a post-war resurgence in business and investment in Gastown in the 1950s and 1960s. The protest and defeat of the proposed freeway and urban reconstruction Project 200 brought with it the 1971 designation of Gastown as an historic area which prevented demolition of historically significant buildings in the area, however, put constraints on development in and changes to the buildings themselves. Despite beautification efforts throughout the 1970s, Gastown s fortunes continued to decline, safety was increasingly a concern for business owners, and Mercantile Mortgage Company and Estates Investment Limited began to sell off their property holdings in Vancouver and New Westminster until only the Arlington Block and Mercantile Building remained by the late 1980s.
Mercantile Mortgage Company Limited and the other Thomson companies remained in the hands of Melville F. Thomson until his death in 1977 when his son Melville Gerald Thomson and his children continued as directors until the company's dissolution in the early 1990s. Melville Gerald Thomson and the company's under his auspices fought for both the historical importance and the economic viability of Gastown which Thomson documented in a variety of photographs, slides and slide presentations.
The buildings once under the auspices of Thomson companies remain some of the most historically significant buildings in Vancouver.
The records were donated, on behalf of Diana E. Thomson, wife of Mercantile Mortgage Company Limited Director, M. Gerald Thomson, by their daughter Nora Greig.
Scope and content
The fonds consists of textual records, including architectural plans and sketches, and photographs relating to the administration and operation of Mercantile Mortgage Company Limited, Estates Investment Limited and the other Thomson family corporate holdings.
Incorporation and capitalization documents and correspondence from 1908 and 1919 exist for both Mercantile Mortgage Company and Estates Investment Limited, respectively. Administrative and operational records include financial statements, operating statements and working papers for both companies, and Argyll House Limited, dating from their inception to the late 1980s, as well as company and Unit Holder audits from the same time period. Unit holder lists, registers, stock certificates and correspondence give investment and investor details from 1908 to 1988. Trustee Company Limited, Mercantile Mortgage Company Limited and Estates Investment Limited Minute Books detail the administration and operation of the companies from their inception in 1908 and 1919 to 1983.
A large number of records detail the property and real estate holdings and mortgage loans held by Mercantile Mortgage Company and Estates Investment Limited. These include building files for each of the significant Vancouver and New Westminster properties which include deeds, photographs, architectural plans and sketches, correspondence with building trades companies in the respective cities, permits for construction in each building and some lease and tenant information. Many of these files date to the late 19th Century or first decade of the 20th century. In addition, a number of building files detail modern upgrades to the buildings including elevator and sprinkler system installation and general upgrades from the 1950s through the 1970s. Some files contain lease and tenant information as well as operating statements and general property management information. Tax assessments and property valuations from the 1970s and 1980s are related to sale agreements for each of the properties. In addition, a number of dockets dating from 1896 to 1921 contain mortgages, agreements of sale, property deeds, real unit property deeds and transfers, and other indentures and contracts related to real estate investments and mortgage loans.
Photographs and colour slides of Gastown and New Westminster buildings and streets detail the development of the buildings and their respective cities and neighbourhoods through the 20th Century.
Immediate source of acquisition
Photographs in this fonds have been assigned catalogue numbers with the prefix CVA 810.
Language of material
Script of material
Location of originals
Availability of other formats
Restrictions on access
Some files are restricted. Please consult the archivist.
Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication
- Add. MSS 190 - Edward Odlum fonds
- PAM 1978-70 "The Townsite Story: The Origins of Gastown's Revitalization"