Carter Cotton Building – 198 West Hastings

The Carter Cotton Building was completed in 1908, so was one of the earliest tall thin office towers that were built in a frenzy in the city in a 5-year period from 1908 to 1912.  Built on Hastings next to the Courthouse (these days Victory Square) with a steel frame, it was designed by Cox and Amos as offices for Carter Cotton’s newspaper, the Daily News Advertiser. Carter Cotton was born in Shoreditch in London as Francis Cotton – nobody knows where the ‘Carter’ came from.

His early history is as mysterious as his name change – he may have been in India, and he was certainly in the US, making money, then borrowing heavily against an irrigation canal company and land investments for cattle both of which failed in 1886 leaving him owing $300,000 and escaping Denver by jumping on a train while his creditors were locked in his office.

He arrived in Vancouver less than a year after the fire, and within a few months had a partner and a new role as editor of a newspaper created with someone else’s money and the merger of two rival papers, the News and the Advertiser. He stayed as editor of the News Advertiser until 1910, and used the paper to launch into municipal and then provincial politics. Despite having written against speculative capitalism he got involved in high risk investments in trust companies and real estate. In 1907 he commissioned the new building, seen here soon after its completion a year later. Despite the suggestion in the Heritage description of the building, as far as we can tell it was never home to the News Advertiser.

When it was announced in the press in 1908 there was no mention of his newspaper interests. “Another large building is that proposed by Hon. F. Carter-Cotton, who owns the only vacant corner in the business section of the city. He will erect a seven-storey structure that will be ahsolutelv fireproof, and it is proposed to have it ready in about a year. The Eastern Townships Bank will take the whole of the ground floor. The building will be located diagonally across Hastings Street from that to be erected by the Imperial Trust Company.

He sold his newspaper (which was struggling against aggresive competition) in 1910 and acquired land on the north shore, and promoted a bridge and tunnel company to improve access over Burrard Inlet. When the pre-war crash occurred these investment vehicles collapsed and he owed $150,000 more than he owned. Meanwhile the building he had developed took on the name of the Province newspaper, the rival that had taken him out (and acquired his building some years later). They linked the building to another Carter Cotton development to the south, the Edgett Building.

More recently history has been repeated somewhat – in 1998 Millennium Development Corporation restored the building as their headquarters, and in 2010 the City of Vancouver took ownership as part of the settlement for the remaining debt owed by Millennium on the Olympic Village project. The building was sold on again in 2012.

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