The first hotel at this location was built by Ebenezer Brown, a wine merchant in New Westminster, and it was originally named the Granville Hotel, after Granville Townsite in the 1860s. He sold it to Joe Mannion and Billy Jones in 1874, and in about 1879 it was rebuilt. Mannion ran it for several years, then sold on to Tom Cyrs in 1886 (although Cyrs was running it for several years before this). Cyrs had just acquired the hotel when it burned down with the rest of the town, and he quickly rebuilt (that’s the new wooden building on the left with the gentlemen in the bowler hats in front, in 1887). He sold it on again in 1889 to Thomas Joseph (‘Tommy’) Roberts. Mr Roberts had arrived in the city in 1887 from Red Rapids, New Brunswick, and had a working knowledge of his new investment as he had been the barkeeper in the Granville Hotel.
He had N S Hoffar redesign the hotel, although he retained the Granville name, in 1889. Initially it operated as a small hotel with ancillary space at the rear (likely the stables) until 1903, when a large, four-storey addition was built at a cost of $25,000; this addition filled the entire footprint of the lot and was designed by R H Bracken. The hotel then switched name to the Grand.
In 1903 architect R H Bracken appeared for the first time in the street Directory, living in the Granville Hotel on Water Street. He was still there a year later, with an office on Hastings. Thomas Bracken lived in the same lodgings for those same years, but had gone by 1905. Richard H continued to live in the same hotel until 1910 when he seems to have been working for Seattle architect E W Houghton, who designed a number of projects in the city including a theatre. In 1911 R H Bracken was living in West Vancouver, aged 34, and we know from the census he was born in England. We don’t know what work he was doing as we can’t decipher the census clerk’s handwriting – but it doesn’t look like it was architect.
Tommy Roberts owned and operated the hotel for many years, and invested in other real estate including the Roberts Block on West Pender Street in 1908 and the building adjacent to the Grand (now known as the Cordage – to the left in the photo) in 1911 (probably designed by Hugh Braunton at a cost of $48,000. He died suddenly at age forty-two in 1918, murdered with another man when a masked bandit attempted to hold-up a poker game they were involved in.
The Grand soldiered on for many years; our main image shows it in 1929, but the upper floors were effectively abandoned by the 1970s (as this image from around 1970 suggests). In 2008 Acton Ostry designed the rehabilitation of the facades and extra density above and behind three of the four buildings on this part of Water Street, including the Grand, with condos over retail uses (the Grand getting one extra brick-faced floor).
Image sources: City of Vancouver archives Hot N8, CVA 780-512 and Str N58