The Drake has been gone for a few years now; (we took the ‘before’ image in 2010), not noticeably missed in the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood it sat in. Although a fair distance from Chinatown, in its early days it had a close connection. It was built as a four-storey brick store & rooms in 1912 for Kwong Wo Leung, designed by A E Cline and built at a cost of $30,000 by J J Frantz Construction Co., Ltd. Mr. Cline was an architect for many years in the city; his building permits stretch over the first 20 years of the 20th century. Most of his projects were for houses (which he often built as well), and the Drake appears to have been his biggest commission. It wasn’t completed until 1914, when it was called the Manitoba Rooms, replacing the Yuen Wo Co who occupied what was likely to be a modest wooden building here. Very confusingly, there were two Manitoba Rooms in the city – a longer established property on East Hastings, and this one, referenced (to distinguish it) as “Manitoba Rooms (Japanese) 606 Powell”.
According to Fay Leung’s ‘memoire’ Kwong Wo Leung was a Chinese meat and grocery store that was expropriated for the ‘slum clearance’ of Chinatown that saw McLean Park built in the early 1950s. The Chinese Times from 1950 say they were at 318 E Pender – which is where the China Villa non-market rental building stands, completed in the early 1970s. In earlier times the company were located in the heart of Chinatown, at 5 Canton Alley. It is possible the firm had moved north: it’s not a common name, and a business with the same name was based in Portland in 1882 on Second Street. In 1906 the company donated $3 towards the creation of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent society in Vancouver.
In 1955 the Drake didn’t look dramatically different from 2010, as this Vancouver Province image shows, (although then it had a neighbor to the east). It had been known as the Haddon Hotel (with the Haddon Hotel Beer Parlor in the 1930s) until it had its name changed to the Drake Hotel in the early 1950s.
As the Drake it would gain notoriety as one of the stripper bars that proliferated in the early 1970s after the obscenity laws were successfully challenged in BC Provincial courts. By the mid 1970s the Drake was considered one of the better bars to work in, and the managers of the Drake, and the nearby Marr spent $375,000 turning the mill and dockworker bars into ‘Show Lounges’ with state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems. The boom was relatively short-lived; a recession in the early 1980s saw the Drake’s bar receipts fall by over 25% in a year. The neighbourhood didn’t really change: the lounges just became more worn out to match their surroundings. Some of the city’s stripper bars became ‘respectable’, some closed down, and others hung on, but with little investment and fewer patrons.
The Drake was bought by the City of Vancouver in 2007 for $3.2m. The ‘last bash’ of the show lounge happened soon afterwards. The site was huge, with a large parking lot. The City briefly renovated the rooms to allow other Downtown Eastside SRO hotels to be decanted and renovated, but a 148 unit social housing project was being planned; the Budzey Building was developed by BC Housing, with the City of Vancouver providing the land. Neale Staniszkis Doll Adams Architects designed the new building; completed in 2015. The Drake’s 1950s neon sign ended up in the Museum of Vancouver collection.
John Maclean was an American-born builder, who in 1901 built two frame houses on Davie Street alongside one that stood on the corner that had already been built a little earlier that year. That was almost certainly also built by Mr. Maclean – he also built a house on the next lot to the north on Burrard Street in 1902.
In 1905 John Paul, the truant officer lived next to the lane (the furthest east of the houses); Edward Langley, a manager with Prior & Co was in the centre house and Arthur Wellesley Davidson, mariner, was living in a house on the corner with Burrard. The captain was living in Vancouver as a master mariner at the time of his marriage to Eva Van Arsdel Margeson in 1900 in Hantsport, Hants Co., Nova Scotia (where he had been born). He retired as a marine superintendent with Canadian Pacific Railways.
By 1908 the captain, and the house, were gone. Instead there was a corner store with two apartments upstairs. (We assume that’s the building still standing today). In 1910 Joseph Tolson and his wife Alice ran the grocers on the corner – the Gold Standard Grocery. Upstairs were Mrs H R Smith at 1188 and Samuel D Lowry, a contractor in the other unit. A year later William Flemming was running the grocery, Mrs Maud Little (widow of William) was at 1188 and William Marshall was at 1190 1/2. We’re not sure whether it was Mrs. Smith or Mr. Lowry who had high-class tastes in expensive furniture, but in September 1910 there was an auction to sell the contents – the address suggests it might have been Samuel Lowry’s property.
The houses lasted into the 1920s. In 1925 there was a new development of three small stores on Burrard that thanks to Patrick Gunn we can identify the developer and architect. Griffith & Lee developed the $6,871 Stores/Offices built by Adkinson & Dill and designed by W F Gardiner. The developers had a number of building permits around the city dating back to 1914. A number of those identify them as ‘agents’, and the company were mortgage and financial agents based in the Winch Building, so may have been operating for a client in obtaining the building permit. Julius H Griffith and Edgar S Lee had been in business in the city for many years. Mr. Griffith was active in the arts, as a member of the Kipling Club and also treasurer of the Symphony Society in the early 1920s. He was also an active member of the lawn tennis club, and the 1911 census showed him living on Georgia Street, aged 44, having been born in India to English parents. His son, also called Julius was born in 1912 and moved to London with his parents in 1928. He became an accomplished artist, returned to Canada in 1946 and his work is in a number of Canadian collections including the National Gallery of Canada. Edgar Lee was from Ontario, his wife Lillian was English and in 1911 they were shown as ‘boarders’ with their son, Douglas at 1001 Georgia – although the street directory said they were living in Shaughnessy Heights. They were probably staying at the address while work was being carried out on their house; their temporary address was Glencoe Lodge.
The three stores and the apartment are still standing – for now – but seem likely to face redevelopment in the near future. Our 1981 images show that the view along Burrard hasn’t really changed much, while down Davie the Swan Wooster building, built in 1984 fills in the skyline with residential towers behind. London Place is now a condo building rather than a hybrid office/residential, and time has taken its toll of the stuck on red brick façade.
Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-W08.15 and CVA 779-W08.14
Our 1978 view along East Georgia shows both the Charles Woodward store to the north (on the left), and the Pacific Hotel (the London Hotel) on the southern corner. We looked at the history of the drugstore on the left hand side a few weeks ago, (built when this was known as Harris Street, named after a CPR surveyor who became a shareholder in the Vancouver Improvement Company). We also looked at Dan McPhalen’s London Hotel on the southern corner a little more recently, with its four storey later addition. Beyond the early Woodward’s store is the George Rooms. On the right, across a lane from the London Hotel addition is a typical 3-storey building on a 25 foot wide lot, with a 50 feet wide rooming house from 1910 next door to the east. Designed by E E Blackmore for George King, that project cost $25,000 and was called the Shakespeare Rooms when it opened. The smaller corner building’s history however alludes us: supposedly built in 1910, it was a rooming house called the Washington Rooms in 1911, staying in that role until the early 1980s; the upper floors have been vacant for over three decades.
It wasn’t the first building on the lot – there was a frame house built here earlier than 1901. Morris Jones ran the rooms in 1911, while Emma King ran the Shakespeare Rooms. There were four Emma Kings in Vancouver in 1911 – fortunately only one had a husband called George. They were both from England: George was 57, and an agent, and Emma was 45. Their 16 year-old son Albert had been born in Ontario, but Dolores, who was five, was born in BC. There were 26 roomers living with them, mostly involved in the construction boom that year: carpenters, stone-cutters, painters and labourers. Morris Jones lived with his wife Elizabeth – he was from England and she was from the USA, and they had 18 roomers, also carpenters, plumbers and labourers. This stretch of the street had a few Chinese businesses – almost all laundries, but it wasn’t really part of Chinatown. The Shakespeare Rooms had Fidelity Real Estate in the main floor office, while the Washington Rooms had G Crosette’s grocery store and the Italian Commercial Exchange. There was another Italian further down the street; Giambattista Bruzzone was another grocer at the end of the block.
Today it’s home to the Liang You Book Co Ltd – although it’s really a convenience store. It’s main contemporary claim to fame is that scenes for the Doctor Who movie were filmed in the lane behind the building exactly 20 years ago. (For those who care, Paul McGann took over the role from Sylvester McCoy in a movie version in an attempt to revive the TV series after a seven year hiatus, but it would be another nine years before the TV series finally returned to British TV audiences. As is often the case, the area was portraying Chinatown – but San Francisco, not Vancouver.)
For a very short while longer the building on the left of this 1981 image, on the corner of Drake and Seymour, is the home of ISS, the Immigrants Service Society who welcome new immigrants to Canada. They’re moving to new premises soon, but underneath today’s beige stucco is a much older building: the Johnson-Morrison Block completed in 1908 (Johnson & Co took out the Building Permit on the 2nd of January that year for a frame apartment costing $14,000). It first appears in the street directory in 1909, and while there is nobody called Johnson associated with it in the city that year, Katie Morrison was shown as running a rooming house at this address. Philo Johnson showed up a couple of years later, born in Ontario in 1868. In 1901 he was in Dawson City; he had been seven years in the Yukon at that time, and a 1902 edition of the Dawson News Golden Clean up Edition tells Mr. Johnson’s history in searching for gold, and his co-owned No. 49 claim on Bonanza Creek.
The 1911 census recorded him as a miner, but he was now living in this building in Vancouver; still single, aged 43. There were many other families living at this address, which seems to have been recorded by the census clerk as self-contained apartments rather than a rooming house, although Katie Morrison was still recorded as running furnished rooms here in the 1911 street directory. The change to apartments probably took place when Philo arrived in 1911 (to be included in the census, but not in the street directory for that year). Katie Morrison in 1912 is shown as living in apartment 12; Philo is the building manager and living in apartment 10.
Perhaps – but almost certainly not – coincidentally, this mirrors the 1901 Yukon census. Philo Johnson (aged 33) lived next door to ‘h keeper’ Katie Morrison (aged 23) that year. (According to the 1902 Yukon and Alaska Directory, Kate Morrison was a hotel keeper, jointly running the Adams Road House with Mrs. Ida V Gardner). We think Katie is shown as being born in Perce in Quebec, but the handwriting isn’t easy to make out.
Because the building dates from 1908, we haven’t managed to identify the architect: the building records for that era have been lost. We do know what stoves the apartments were fitted with – the makers of the Kootenay Range chose to advertise their installation in the Daily World in the summer of 1908 – although they got the spelling of Mr. Johnson’s name wrong. Philo is an unusual name, and there’s one Philo Johnson who features in any search; one of the elders of the Mormons, chosen by Brigham Young to help found Salt Lake City. Our Philo was recorded as a Methodist of Scottish family origin – so there doesn’t seem to be any obvious connection.
What happened to the people who gave the building its name is a mystery we haven’t solved. Philo last appears associated with the property in 1919. Katie Morrison seems to no longer be in Vancouver after 1912, (or at least not under that name, although there is a Kate Johnson who lived in the West End). The building continued to be known by the Johnson-Morrison name for many years: it was still known by that name in 1977 when City Council considered whether it was in full compliance with the city’s new Fire By-Law.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-E07.24
Our tag of ‘still standing’ doesn’t really apply here – (although in the case of Dunsmuir House, off to the side, it’s something of a miracle that it is still standing). There’s really very little change, despite the passage of over 40 years. This 1974 image shows the wall of the Bay parkade on the left, and to the north the lightwell of Dunsmuir House – once the Dunsmuir Hotel. The building has seen better days: it was past its prime in the 1974 image: now it’s boarded up, apparently considered too dangerous to even house the homeless on a temporary basis.
In the background The Hudson has been built: a huge condo that was permitted in the Central Business District to pay for expensive retro-fitting of the Granville SkyTrain station with a new disabled access. (Blair Smith reminds us that it’s a ‘live-work’ building, so not specifically residential only; some owners run their business from their suite). Otherwise the surface parking of the almost total city block owned these days by the Holborn Group sits, and waits for a development proposal. Over ten years ago the developer bought the site, and a 2006 memorandum was endorsed by the City Council that established a requirement for “a minimum FSR 5.0 commercial floor space, including at least one major office tower; retention and renovation of Dunsmuir House as Single Room Accommodation, affordable to low-income singles, with the possible transfer of the site to City ownership; market residential space as a bonus to cover the cost associated with retaining and up-grading Dunsmuir House; additional market residential space, as may fit into an appropriate form of development, which may or may not be density transferred from other heritage sites; and provision of other appropriate public benefits, subject to project viability.” Ten years later, there’s no sign of a project, although the base zoning of the site has been increased by the Metro Core Study, so now they might have to provide 7.0 FSR of commercial (which would be floorspace equivalent to seven times the site area).
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives, CVA 778-385
Until 1985 the George Rooms sat behind Charles Woodward’s Vancouver Main Street store that stood on the corner of East Georgia. The building was designed, as far as we can tell, by Townsend & Townsend for D C McLaren (of 646 Main Street) and built at a cost of $40,000 by E J Ryan. When it was built in 1912 East Georgia was still called Harris Street, and the building was described in the Daily Building Record as a five-storey brick store & rooming house. D C McLaren was a saddler and harness maker – the Museum of Vancouver has some of his work. He was also the Provincial Grand Master of the Orange Lodge of BC. David Carlson McLaren was born in Ontario in 1868, his wife Mildred came from Quebec, and in 1911 they had a 12-year-old son at home called Raleigh, who had been born in Kamloops in 1898. Mr. McLaren’s business was on Main Street, but he lived on Woodland Drive. David McLaren died in 1943, having last worked as a leather worker in 1922. His wife Mildred died in 1950, aged 83, and their son Raleigh McLaren died in 1966, aged 67, at Ganges in Saltspring Island, having worked in construction as a bridgeman according to his death certificate.
The rooms changed name in the very early years. They started out as the Mori Rooms, but in 1914 they were the Apex Rooms run by Mr. McLaren himself – a name they retained into the 1920s. By 1975 the building had clearly deteriorated, but was returning (briefly) to active service as a 73-room SRO hotel. A Council report in 1975 on “Derelict Buildings in Skid Road – 205-15 East Georgia Street” stated that “The Fire Chief reports as follows: These premises are now fully sprinklered and at the time of writing this report the building is almost ready for complete occupancy. There are some minor routine Bylaw requirements to be completed but otherwise the premises may be occupied at any time.” The rooms continued in use until 1984, and were demolished in 1985 to make way for the 8-storey strata parkade, retail and office building that’s there today.
Across East Georgia Street from Charles Woodward’s store, the London Hotel is still standing. The Heritage Statement for the building says it was built by D J McPhalen in 1903, with a 1910 addition designed by W F Gardiner (the four storey section on East Georgia). That building work cost $35,000, and Mr. McPhalen built it himself. He lived in a house just across the street – in those days called Harris Street.
We’re questioning the accuracy of that version of events. We’re sure Dan McPhalen developed this site, but the insurance maps and street directories suggest a slightly different sequence of events. The corner is numbered as 700 Westminster Avenue, and in 1903 it was shown as being vacant with John S Duguid living a bit further south at 706 Westminster Avenue, with cabins behind. Both the cabins and Mr. Duguid had been on Westminster Avenue since 1901, when the City Fuel Co occupied the corner. A year later S T Wallace’s grocery store occupied the corner, with Mr. Duguid and the cabins still listed at 706. In 1906 the grocery was still here, and Mr. Wallace was also running Avenue Furniture Mart. Next door at 706 the cabins were still here, and James Stanley, a saw filer was living at the same address. From the 1903 Insurance map and the Building permit issued that year we think that there was a retail unit built by Mr. McPhalen on the corner in 1903 at a cost of $4,500, (with grocer Samuel T Wallace occupying it from 1904). Mr. Duguid lived in the house furthest to the south. We think that was probably a single storey structure – we’d be surprised if $4,500 would pay for a 3-storey brick building (and the permit only mentions ‘brick store’).
In 1907 there was a ‘new building’ listed, (but so too were the cabins at the rear of the site). In 1908 the corner was still occupied by Mr. Wallace, both as a grocer and the Avenue Furniture Mart. 710 Westminster Avenue was the Gordon Furnished Rooms, (presumably the ‘new building’ completed in 1907) run by J Grantham, and in 1910 by Isabelle Cameron. In 1911 the London Hotel is listed here for the first time, with A G Marin and J Conta as proprietors. The 1912 Insurance map acknowledges the height change, but shows this as one single property, spelled out as London House. The southern half of the Main Street façade has square windows, similar to the 4-storey part on East Georgia, so we think those parts of the building might have been all built at the same time in 1910.
This suggests the corner part, with the arched windows was redeveloped (or added to the single storey retail built in 1903) in 1907 with the building we see today; initially as the Gordon Furnished Rooms, then in 1911 as part of the expanded London Hotel with the 4-storey East Georgia Street addition. The three storey building could have been built very quickly – the building on Westminster avenue built for Charles Woodward was completed in less than 3 months. It’s quite likely that D J McPhalen built them both; we know from building permits that he constructed his 1903 store, and the 1911 addition.
These days the Pacific Hotel is an SRO above the Brixton Café and the London Hotel bar, renovated by Porte Developments after they built Ginger, the condo building to the south in 2009. Our image shows the building when the condo was under construction, and the hotel was in its unrenovated state. For many years before the renovation, the windows were obscured reflecting a mid-century belief that drinkers should not be visible from the street. A ‘ladies beer parlour’ was constructed at the hotel in 1931; there were two entrances, one at the corner and one along Main Street.