Paris Block – 53 West Hastings Street

In 1907 Hooper and Watkins designed the Eastern Building on West Hastings Street, although there seems to have been a 1908 permit as well.  Although the Statement of Significance on the building says it was initially an apartment building, the 1908 and 1909 Street Directories shows a fur company, replaced a year later by a real estate company on the second floor, along with the Northern Club, and W A Clark, another real estate broker on the third floor. John F Deeks developed the building, but in 1909 Burton & Jackson, props. of the Strathcona Hotel carried out the conversion to a hotel (although Mr Deeks owned the building until at least 1917).

John and his wife Minnie had been in the city since at least the turn of the century; both coming originally from Ontario (John was born in Morrisburg, and was photographed as a competitive cyclist in the Toronto Wanderers team in 1893). John’s father, George, had been born in England but his mother was also from Ontario. John was born in 1868, 1869 or 1870, depending on which census you look at. The Deeks seem to have had a t least two children, Marion, born in 1903 and George who died very soon after his birth in 1905. John was a successful hydraulic miner, finding gold at Pine Creek in Atlin in the early years of the century and selling out to the North Columbia Gold Mining Company in 1904.

In 1909 R T Perry designed $15,000 of alterations to the building for Mr Deeks (a substantial sum in those days, suggesting significant changes to the building). With these changes, by 1910 it had become the Strathcona Hotel, while a shoe store (initially Starks, and later McKeen’s) had the ground floor. Pierre Paris moved into the main floor in 1919, offering “Corrective Footwear Made to Measure” along with high grade shoe repairing. In 1913 W D Woods, obtained a permit to carry out repairs to the hotel. (As Mr Deeks still owned the hotel in 1917, Mr Woods may have been an agent, or possibly another operator of the hotel). It stayed as a hotel for many years; the Paris company closed down in the 1970s (soon after this 1978 image was taken) – although family members are still in the orthotics business elsewhere in the city. John Deeks died in 1935 and Minnie in 1937.

Next door the Miller Block was built-in 1947, and part of the seismic support for the heritage building includes the adjacent new Annex building by Gair Williamson, also by Salient.

As this image shows, by the early 21st Century the building was in poor condition. Although in theory a Single Room Occupancy Hotel, in practice nobody had lived in the building since 1974. After two other owners, and several false hopes for refurbishment, a permit was issued in 2006 to allow a comprehensive  renovation of the building by Gair Williamson for Salient Developments, completed in 2008. The Acme Cafe moved in downstairs and 29 condo units were created on the upper floors.

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