Round the corner from the Victoria Block is an earlier building called The Victoria on the 1901 Insurance map. The water permit (usually close to completion of the building) dates from 1897, although it appears to have first been in use in 1899. We’re pretty certain the owner was Art Clemes, an Englishman with extensive interests in Spences Bridge, but also active development interests in Vancouver (later he developed both the Pantages Theatre and the Regent Hotel on Hastings Street). His Vancouver agent was a contractor, James Young, who may have built the Victoria. There’s no identified architect; Young himself may have designed it from widely available standard plans. It’s quite possible that it had an American designer; the four multi storey windows are very like those found on buildings in San Francisco from the 1870s onwards. Equally, it also bears a strong resemblance to many British seaside hotels from that era – so almost any of the architects working in the city at the time could have been responsible.
The Victoria was a guest house, and the only name associated with the building in the Street Directory 1n 1899 was Miss Bertha Collins. The 1901 Census identifies her as aged 34, having immigrated into Canada in 1889, and the head of the household with three domestic servants and fourteen lodgers. In 1904 the proprietor of the Victoria changed to Mrs Frank Cudney – in January that year Bertha got married; we know from the marriage certificate that she was born in Birmingham, and that her husband, Frankland Bradish Cudney was nine years younger and had been born in St Catherines, Ontario and three years earlier had been in the living in Yale in the Cariboo.
After a few years of marriage, guest house keeping apparently didn’t suit the couple. By 1909 Mrs C K Lee was running the Victoria House, and the Cudneys were apparently no longer in the city (and there’s no sign of them in Canada in 1911). However, we know that they certainly returned to the city; Bertha died in Vancouver aged 84 in 1951. Frank died five years later, aged 80, also in Vancouver, at the time married to Ruby Neff an American born in Clark, Wisconsin in 1886, who died in 1970, also in Vancouver.
Even in 1975 when our image was taken the Victoria didn’t look too bad – unlike many of the city’s building from that era, it still had all the cornices and mouldings. Today it looks even better, and the Victoria House and Victoria Block are combined into the Victorian Hotel – linked internally, and providing a genuinely historic hotel on the edge of the Downtown.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-38