Belmont Hotel – Granville Street

Only a few of the Granville Street hotels are still used as a hotel. Here’s one, the Belmont, these days known as the Comfort Inn, and built as the Hotel Barron. In between times it was also the Nelson Place Hotel and the Hotel Dakota. It’s now over 100 years old, having been completed in the rush of Granville Street construction that took place from 1909 to 1912. The Barron was one of the bigger buildings on the strip, and like most other buildings in the area, designed by Parr and Fee (like the Glenaird Rooms next door).

Strangely, the developer, W H Forrest, claimed to be the architect when he got the Building Permit for the $90,000 building. Forrest arrived in BC in 1886 and his biography says he was ‘connected to the CPR’. Originally from Quebec, he lived in West Point Grey and enjoyed military rifle shooting as a recreation. The hotel’s builder, Walter Hepburn was also originally from Quebec, was, like Forrest, a former military man, and also listed his hobby as rifle shooting.

We suspect that Mr Forrest acted as an agent for its real developer, Colonel Oscar G. Barron, owner of a string of hotels in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. He visited the area when his daughter was married in Seattle, and decided to build a hotel. Mrs O G Barron was shown running it with Mrs T S and T S Brophy in 1912, although we don’t know if she spent much time with the new investment. It offered “French Dinner Deluxe” in the Grape Arbour Room. The hotel seems to have had some long-term lodgers; in 1918 Captain Rorvik, living at the Barron hotel, signed a contract for W R Menchions to build him a new fishing boat giving the hotel as his address.

It changed owners in 1926 and in 1932 when this image was taken the 21 year old building was known by its new name. The main floor in the picture included the Belmont Shirt Shop, the Belmont Cigar Stand, the Belmont Barber Shop, the Belmont Shoe Shine and the Belmont Grill. Around the corner on Nelson were the Belmont Cleaners and the Dom Dollar taxi company, with the Richelieu Cafe round the back.

In the early 1990s the basement was a strip bar called Champagne Charlie’s, which was transformed into Fred’s Uptown Tavern while the beer parlour on the main floor became Babalu’s Tapas Lounge where Burnaby crooner Michael Buble cut his teeth as an entertainer. A 2001 kitchen fire saw both bars closed, reopened as Doolin’s Irish Pub and the Cellar Bar respectively.

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