The Clarendon Hotel is still standing, and looking better today than it has for many years – particularly in recent years. John McDade was born to Irish parents in St John, New Brunswick, and started working life as a butcher. He joined a party headed to Vancouver in 1893, aged 24, and joined a group led by a member of the New Brunswick parliament who built a stern wheel boat on False Creek that they piloted to The Yukon, reaching Dawson in 63 days – one of the first two boats to successfully navigate the Yukon River from Vancouver. He mined Bonanza Creek and Dominion Creek, and also owned a half share in a hotel on Bonanza Creek. Selling out his goldfield interests in 1906, he leased and opened the Clarendon Hotel in 1907.
We haven’t been able to identify the architect as the construction was in a period where permit records have been lost. Here’s the 1908 ‘Vancouver Illustrated’ coverage. Visitors, tourists and others seeking first class accommodation for a permanent residence or a temporary sojourn will find at the Clarendon Hotel, 934 Westminster Avenue, very desirable rooms in one of the best locations in the city and amidst the most pleasant surroundings. The hotel is a substantial brick building, is new and strictly modern In every respect, is heated by steam, lighted throughout by electricity, and has all modern conveniences, such as are found in all first class hotels. There are at the present time sixty-five rooms, but four more stories will be added to the building and the number of rooms increased to two hundred in the near future. The furnishings, like the buildings, are also new, the house is kept immaculately clean and In splendid condition, and many apartments are arranged en-suite with private bath. There is a bar, barber shop, pool room and cigar store in connection with the hotel which is operated on the American plan, the dining room being one of the many features of excellence. A free bus meets all trains and boats, transferring passengers without cost, and everything tending to make one’s stay comfortable and homelike is anticipated and provided. P. T. Hartney and J. McDade are the proprietors: both are experienced hotel men, and are popular with the traveling public and our citizens and visitors, tourists and others who make their sojourn at the Clarendon can but carry to their homes most pleasant remembrances of Canada’s Terminal City.
McDade sold out to Fox and Dickson in 1910, and opened the Cecil on Granville Street (demolished last year) which he sold a year later. He bought and sold land at a profit in Richmond, buying the Bodega Hotel on Carrall Street with the proceeds, and then selling it to buy a stock ranch in Chilliwack, breeding heavy horse and harness horses for racing.
Over the years the Clarendon became the American Hotel (in 1922) and later started on a downhill path that earned it’s reputation as a pub associated with drugs and violence (a former manager received an 11 year sentence for drug dealing and assault). In 2006 the City authorities stepped in and closed the hotel down. In 2011 under new ownership and with a comprehensive makeover the 42 rooms reopened upstairs, six of them leasing at $400 a month, the rest at what the market will bear. Downstairs the Electric Owl features a bar, off sales and a 200 seat bar offering Japanese Izakaya-inspired share plates from a Vietnamese chef – quite the change from only a few years back.