Profiles of Historic Sites

Original Windebank Block
Image courtesy Mission Community Archives

Windebank Block

32995 First Avenue

Downtown BIA

Date of Original Construction:

Resource Type:

Current Owner/Occupant:

Site Description:

A square cement-block building on the corner of First Avenue and Grand Street with two storeys above ground. The building is currently white with green trim and has many windows on all sides and old-fashioned overhangs. Over the years, many businesses have been operated in this building including the Thomas Motor Inn providing small low-cost apartments.

Site History:

In 1908 the building was owned by Hori Windebank, built at a cost of about $12,000. The original construction also included suites on the upper two floors that may have been used for residential purposes at the time. Hori set up a dynamo in the basement, driven by water sluicing down a pen-stock from a nearby creek. This power system operated years before commercial electrical power was available, provided both light and heat for his hotel, his lunch-counter at the CPR station, and any townspeople who were willing to supply their own wire to hook up to the plant. The system powered the city's first public street lights on Washington Street (now First Avenue).

As time progressed, many different commercial ventures have used the space such as: the Dug Out Restaurant in 1919 which changed its name to City restaurant in 1920, the Liquor Control Board office opened by Mr. Faulkner in 1921. It has also housed a meat market, a hotel, the Mission Water, Power and Light Company, an ice-making plant, a drugstore, a Grocery store called Perkin's Grocery, and the Thomas Motor Inn in more recent years. Today the building is used for apartments.

People Associated with the Site:

Hori Windebank, formerly a British navy sea captain, and his wife Jenny came from England in 1889. He was present on July 14, 1892 when the Corporation of the Municipality of Mission was formed. He built the Matsqui Hotel on the Mission flats, and after the flood of 1894 owned 305 lots where he established a feedlot, a piggery, a slaughterhouse, a sawmill, an ice plant and a storage warehouse. He purchased Ontario House, which he renamed, the first Bellevue Hotel. Hori was an amazing entrepreneur, responsible for most of Mission's City's early power and water utilities, and by 1910 owned a large amount of the City's real estate and many business enterprises both in the downtown area and on the flats.

With his nephew, he established the Mission Water, Light & Power Company, dammed silver Creek in the Cedar Valley and Fourteenth Avenue area, ran a 16-inch wooden water main down to Calgary Street (now 7th Avenue), east to Grand, and all the way down to Railway Avenue. A network of small wooden distribution pipes branched off to supply water to local residents.

Hori had a reputation that "he sued faster and more often than a city lawyer with hives", and was involved in numerous legal disputes with federal bureaucrats and the CPR. Many colorful stories are told about his fight against prohibition in Mission, which lasted until after WWII.

William J. Windebank, a plumber and electrician, came to join his uncle Hori in 1905. He founded and operated Windebank Electric and Plumbing. After many years as a councilor, he was Mission City's first mayor, elected in 1957 when it officially became a town. Windebank Elementary is named after him.

Mr. James Allan - made the cement blocks for the original construction on site.

Dr. Campbell (dentist) - died in a fire in the building (date unknown).

Sam Bannister - took over the building and filled the windows with original construction blocks (date unknown).

Architectural Features:

Built with hand cast cement blocks using casting moulds purchased from the Sears Catalogue after the steel-band system. About 5000 bricks were used for the first two storeys and 2500 for the third. The building has one storey underground and two storeys above ground. Originally, it featured a second storey balcony, which has since been removed.

Where to get further information:

- Carved from Wood, Mission B.C. 1861 - 1992 Andreas Schroeder, The Mission Foundation, 1991

- Fraser Valley Record:
    July 9, 1908
    June 25, 1908
    October 24, 1908
    October 29, 1908
    December 31, 1919
    July 28, 1921
    January 30, 1957
    May 22, 1957

- Guide to Mission City BC: Walking Tour book
- Mission Museum "Buildings" blue 3-ring binder includes many clippings
- Mission Community Archives

1 Many details gleaned from Carved From Wood.

Last Modified January 30, 2011