The History of The Cunningham Block

This handsome three-bay structure now occupied by Hive City was built by New Westminster's James Cunningham a local hardware merchant and real estate investor. He came to the British Columbia to the mine the goldfields in 1860 and decided to settle in New Westminster as a hardware merchant and investor. After leaving to mine coal in Nanaimo and manufacture in Portland Oregon, he returned to New Westminster in 1882 to resume his hardware business and invest in the growing city by establishing the New Westminster Gas Works and Pelham Gardens, where he grew fruit and raised cattle on Fifth Street and Third Avenue. These enterprises allowed him to invest in real estate and by 1904 was the "chief taxpayer of the city contributing $3,000 annually. 

Cunningham had built his $15,000 block designed by architect G.W. Grant on this site in 1890 as the Columbia Hardware House to house his very successful hardware business which he had sold to Campbell and Anderson to operate in 1889. It was completely destroyed in the Great Fire. This two storey brick and stone block measured 66' x 132' extending from Front Street to Columbia was constructed as a replacement at a cost of $18,000, also being designed by Grant. Three Columbia Street stores, and three Front Street shops, with offices above, provide much rental income for Cunningham. Cunningham Hardware Company was housed in a new wooden building constructed in 1899 on Columbia Street at Alexander Street to replace his old block here built in 1896. 

The Cunningham Block distinctly shows the influence of the emerging Chicago School of architecture. It features the use of cast iron ground floor columns, with maple leaf ornamentation, on both the Columbia and Front Street facades. The second floor tri-partite windows show how commercial structures were beginning to be outfitted at this time with the maximum amount of glazing possible.