Dominion Hotel – Water and Abbott

Although he was Swedish, Sven Sherdahl and his family arrived in Vancouver from Kansas in 1890. He wasn’t exactly young when he arrived – he was already 49 years old. His wife was five years younger, and they had four daughters and one son with them. He managed to avoid the 1891 Census but in 1901 he was recorded as ‘Swain’ Sherdahl – which seems to be how he was known. He settled in a relatively undeveloped part of town, these days it would be Kingsway and 12th Avenue. He built a house there, and created a successful nursery, Rosehill Nursery.


1900 was a big year – he became a Canadian, and he also built the Dominion Hotel designed by Emil Guenther. The Dominion, which has the title ‘Sherdahl Block’ near the cornice line, and once featured a turret on the corner also included the Mainland Cigar Factory further along Abbott Street. On the corner of Water Street Louis Rubinowitz had his ‘Department Store’. Rubinowitz’s shop was described in Major Matthews as “an assortment of goods, scattered aimlessly about after the manner of a secondhand store”. Rubinowitz had another store in Steveston, and when an elderly man in the 1920s ran for mayor (spectacularly unsuccessfully). Mr Sherdahl also had a controlling interest in the Astor Hotel.

In 1912, Mr. and Mrs. Sherdahl moved to Long Beach, California, where Mr. Sherdahl died in 1926. These days the hotel is a non-market housing building. It was bought by the Provincial BC Housing agency, who reopened in 2009 after some restoration. The Lamplighters pub sits on the main floor, a contemporary design intended to recall earlier days. The Dominion is said to have had one of the earliest pub licences, approved in 1925.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 492-36



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