Austin Hotel – Granville Street

The building on the corner of Davie and Granville was most likely built in 1908, when it first appears in the street directory. There were three businesses when it was opened, the Northern Crown Bank, a Winnipeg based bank with three branches in the city and one in New Westminster who advertised with the statement “It is the only bank with a headquarters in the west. It is to the west what other banks are to the east”. It later merged into the Royal Bank, and by 1912 the Bank of Nova Scotia had taken over the Granville banking hall.

Lester’s Hall was upstairs, also identified as Lester’s Dancing Academy, and on the corner Henry W Ferguson had his druggists store. Fred W Lester, an American by birth, lived on the premises with his wife Maud and daughter Dorothy and described himself in the street directory as a Dancing Master, although in the 1911 census he is a manager and she is a teacher of dance. By 1912, as well as the bank change, the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co had moved in and W F Shumacker was operating a bakery. It’s unclear whether the building underwent improvements at the time, or whether Lester was thinking of moving, but in 1912 Thomas Hooper designed a Dance Academy for Prof Lester to cost $75,000 on Davie Street. In 1915 R T Garrow apparently worked on Lester’s Academy. Garrow was a Seattle architect whose other Downtown design involvement was as architect of the Hotel Georgia. In 1920 W E Fenn’s Dancing Academy had taken over and Browne and Beaton ran the druggists. Later the dance hall would be known as the Cotillion Hall before the St Johns Ambulance used it.

Next door Walter Hepburn built the ubiquitous Parr and Fee’s design of the Granville Palace Hotel in 1909 for the Granville Land and Loan Co at a cost of $90,000. A year later the company spent another $15,500 adding a further storey. It appeared in the street directory for the first time in 1911, managed by A J Paterson and R M Morgan. S C Slattery had the Granville Palace Cafe in the front of the hotel. Vic Rollins sold his share in the Cranbrook Hotel in 1910 and the following year he moved to Vancouver to take ownership of the Granville Palace Hotel.

A Judson Paterson was from Toronto, had worked as a telegraph operator and spent fourteen years with C P R’s Trans-Pacific Steamship Service. The Granville Land and Loan company who built the hotel was likely to be his idea as he was both Managing director and secretary-treasurer, and it was obviously successful as he lived in Shaughnessy Heights. Over the years the hotel became the Hotel Austin (as seen here in 1928) right through to the 1980s, and most recently the Ramada. The site on the corner of Davie was vacant for many years after the building burned down in 1969 – it may have been the first example of a “meanwhile park” after the site was cleared. In 1998 a new low, but rather elegantly designed retail store was completed to the design of W T Leung.

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