Abrams Block/Tremont Hotel – Carrall Street

Here’s another Carrall Street building, to the immediate south of the Glory Hotel. These days it’s called the Abrams Block, but for a short period of its life it was known as the Tremont Hotel. We’re not sure who built it or designed it, but almost certainly it wasn’t John Abrams who now has his name on the building. There were two Abrams brothers with an interest in Vancouver when the city was created in 1886, James and John. Both were both born in Ontario to a Scottish mother and New Yorker father. James was initially a tanner who ended up running a general store in Nanaimo, although he owned property in Vancouver and had partnered with ‘Mr McLean’ in a business which saw $18,000 of losses when it was burned down in the 1886 fire, a few months after it was established. John, the older brother, was also in Nanaimo where he worked as a labourer in 1881. In the 1887 street directory he’s in Vancouver running Abrams and Co on Carrall Street, a furniture dealer, and a year later he’s running the Tremont Hotel.

Tremont 1887The Hotel, was also on Carrall (although the directory calls it Carroll) and in 1887 was being run by C R Cartier. Actually it was C L Cartier – the L stood for Louis and he ran the Tremont House Hotel with his brother, Homisdas, while Homisdas also working as a watchmaker and jeweler. In 1888 John Abrams appears to be running the Tremont Hotel, and then in 1889 in a confusing move Mrs SE Manual has the Tremont Hotel at 14 Carrall (although W J Manual is listed as proprietor) and Scott and Clancey are also listed as the proprietors of the Tremont Hotel at 16 Carrall Street. John Abrams once again has a furniture and crockery store this time on Cordova Street but he also has a clothing house as Abrams & McLean at 14 Carrall Street, and a year later he’s running the Alhambra Hotel.

The Tremont Hotel had actually existed before the fire. Like every other building, it burned to the ground, and four days later a rough lumber substitute had been erected to allow the shocked citizens to legally get a drink. Not long after a more permanent brick structure was built – although generally thought to date to 1887 at least one of Major Matthew’s interviewees thought it was the first brick building up after the fire (as did John Abrams Daily World obituary in 1893).  George Gordon recalled the owner of the original Tremont Hotel to be an old sea captain, Captain Clements, who married a Mrs Farron. Captain Clements ran the Tremont bar (easily confused with the hotel) on Alexander Street in the late 1880s.

By 1893 the Tremont appears to have morphed into the Freemont, and then later the Kings Hotel and finally the Spinning Wheel Cabaret. When our image was taken in 1978 it had seen better days. The single room occupancy rooms were closed in 2002 – there were 27 rooms sharing one bathroom. After nearly ten years a Merrick Architecture designed restoration saw a significant seismic upgrade and the rebirth of the building as rental live/work units and office space over the relocated Irish Heather pub.

Image source (1886) City of Vancouver Archives SGN 123


Posted 18 August 2012 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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