Hickey Block – Abbott Street

Hickey 1898

The Hickey Block has recently had a dramatic transformation to restore it to something like its original appearance – although inside it’s far more open than it would have been when new. It’s a building that dates back to 1889, built by Patrick Hickey and for many years used as the Cosmopolitan Hotel Rooms. The 1890 Directory says Lizzie Turner (widow) was the chambermaid, and we assume there was a relationship with the Cosmopolitan Hotel that was at 101 Cordova Street nearby, run by Jake Cohen. Downstairs the Alcazar Saloon occupied the corner half of the building, with the bar run by James L Farrow. In 1890 Captain William Clements ran his shipping and insurance agency here, as did the San Francisco Union Marine Insurance Co. Although our image supposedly shows the building in 1898 when Mrs. Scully ran the furnished rooms and J Cooper the People’s Restaurant, it probably dates from a year or two after this by which time the restaurant and hotel was known as the Acadia, run by A E Fraser (although Adams and McCurdie had the restaurant, and Mrs. Scully still ran furnished rooms in the southern end of the building).

We don’t know who built the structure, which cost $14,000 to build, according to the Daily World, but we know that Mr. Hickey, like some other developers of Vancouver properties nearby, was an absentee landlord. The Victoria Daily Times in March of 1889 reported that Victoria architect John Teague designed a 2-storey brick block in Vancouver for Patrick Hickey. While there were two possible Patrick Hickeys in the province when the building was completed, one was a miner in Greenwood, and the other was a Victoria based marine engineer who we know to have acquired and sold (at a comfortable profit) land at English Bay in 1886, where he was listed as one of the ‘extensive buyers’ of government land. In 1895 he had J Gerhard Tiarks design a ‘handsome’ house at the corner of Cook and Bellot in Victoria. That same year he was one of a number of unhappy creditors of the Green-Worlock bank, a Victoria based financial company with complicated and extraordinarily badly managed finances. Mr. Hickey favoured auctioning off the assets and winding up the estate, but more creditors favoured hanging onto them in the hope that they would grow.

Patrick Hickey was either aged 43 or more likely 48 when the building was developed, (depending on whether you believe the 1881, 1891 or 1901 census return) living in Victoria with his younger wife, Emma, and their five children. Patrick and his wife were from Irish backgrounds, but both had been born in the USA. It would seem that the family had moved between the US and Canada, as their oldest and youngest children were shown in the 1891 and 1901 census returns as having been born in British Columbia, (when the family lived in New Westminster) while the middle one (or two, depending on which census return you read) was born in the United States.

Hickey @ Historicplaces 2004Captain Hickey’s nationality became an issue in 1905 when the shipping master, William E Laird, attempted to prevent Captain Hickey from commanding the CPR’s Princess Victoria – which Laird considered to be a British ship, registered in Britain, and therefore subject to a tax of 80 cents per crew member which Laird would personally receive. Laird lost that argument as a the minister of marine ruled that a Canadian certificate (which Hickey held) allowed him to command the vessel. In 1908 he was still sailing, although on a river rather than at sea, as he was engineer on the Hazelton, a river steamer on the Skeena River.

Hickey’s building changed uses many times over the years – by the turn of the 21st century it was in poor shape, as the photograph accompanying the Heritage Designation shows. An extensive restoration in 2011 for the new occupants the Montreal-based Montauk Sofa Co by Mallen Gowing Berzins Architecture has returned the building to an impressive contribution to Gastown.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Str P60


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