Glencoe Lodge – West Georgia and Burrard

Hotel Belfred

Across the street to the west from the Christ Church Anglican Church, B T Rogers built a hotel in 1906. To be more accurate, he assembled a hotel, at a cost of $30,000. He bought two houses, one of them the former home of J M Browning (the CPR Land Commissioner) that had been designed by Bruce Price and built in 1888. He then hired Grant and Henderson to design his hotel by lifting the houses, adding two storeys beneath, and linking them to create a rather eccentric looking building. Glencoe Lodge, as it was named, was run by Jean Mollison. She had managed the CPR’s Chateau Lake Louise so Rogers (a CPR Director) probably knew her well.

Rogers was the American entrepreneur who could arguably be called Vancouver’s Sugar Daddy. Born in Philadelphia in 1865, he enjoyed a privileged upbringing and family ties to important businessmen in the American sugar industry. While his father owned a refinery in Philadelphia, and later a sugar plantation in Louisiana, Benjamin learned the sugar industry the hard way, studying sugar chemistry in Boston, working in a refinery in Brooklyn and then headed to Vancouver in 1889 to establish his own business. It was an expensive business to create, but CPR directors bought shares in the British Columbia Sugar Refining Company. J M Browning, as chair of the finance committee of Vancouver City Council proposed the refinery should be given a site, a tax exemption on land and improvements for 15 years, free water for 10 years, and a municipal loan. In 1890 electors approved this package by 174 votes to 8. It didn’t hurt that Browning was also representative for the CPR Directors. Although the enterprise struggled to make money in the early years, and despite Chinese sugar being imported below cost, by 1895 the plant made a profit and has continued to do so to today. By 1916 the company’s assets had increased from an initial investment of $250,000 to $7.5 million and its daily capacity of refined sugar went from 30,000 to 900,000 pounds. When he died, Rogers was worth over a million dollars. He was a cautious investor, and Glencoe was one of only two property investments we know about.

Glencoe Lodge drawing room postcardGlencoe attracted classy visitors, and was said to more exclusive than even the railway’s own Hotel Vancouver – which might explain why Donald Smith – Lord Strathcona – the Scottish head of the CPR stayed here. Indeed, his full title may explain the hotel’s name ‘Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal, of Mount Royal in the Province of Quebec and Dominion of Canada and of Glencoe in the County of Argyll’. Miss Mollison’s eclectic tastes were on view, including William Morris designed wallpaper.

The Whitehern Museum Archives have this wonderful 1912 postcard from Ontario resident Mary Baker McQuesten to her son Thomas From: Glencoe Lodge Vancouver

My dearest Tom

Here we are in most delightful quarters. We look out from one window on an ivy-covered church across the way and a little further over facing on out street the beautiful new court house with a point like the Parthenon all in pure white with grecian columns across entire front. M. [Mary] will try to get snap shot, there are no p.c as yet and further we see C.P.R. Hotel. Then from our other window we see the water (what particular part do not yet know) with steamers sailing along & ships beyond. We were pretty tired when we reached last night at 11 pm with gazing all day at the most magnificent scenery all the way through the Rockies till dark at 9 o’clock. But we slept right away till morning and took our breakfast after 9 o’clock of cream of wheat (fruit if we liked. M. had lovely oranges), tenderloin steak beautifully cooked & a pot of tea & coffee. Chinese lads wait and a particularly nice one born here runs elevator. We found Mrs. McLagan & Frankie in dining room, Grace Weir Hastings met us at elevator, lives here. Then we sallied forth to find directions as to Skagway trip. At the corner of our street & Georgia St. (the street leading to depot) are the Hudson’s Bay stores. We found a very pleasant young man at inquiry office at the Depot and heard that steamers only leave every Saturday night. The fare for four days there and four return including a room to ourselves with double berth is $60 each. The steamer is a new one the Princess Sophia. When we reach Skagway the Steamer remains long enough for us to make round trip to the summit of the White Pass by White Pass [?] Ry. & if sufficient number go will remain while the trip to White House is made. So it seems as if we would get the worth of our money. On the way back met Mrs. Steele who had been up to Glencoe Lodge, she told us Mrs. Henderson & Miss George were going same day up the Alaska trip so we will be alone. Then I spied sitting in an auto by the side of street Mrs. Gillard while I was speaking to her, up came Alice Smith, who was most cordial and I think owned the auto for she promised to call us up and arrange to show us things.

Must close, my one great regret is that you are not with us, my dearest boy. With fondest love.

Your mother

Glencoe also had many permanent residents; the 1911 Census showed 39 staff resident in the building, including 6 bellboys and 5 cooks (one who doubled as a waiter). In addition there were 48 boarders including a surprising number of families; Frederick Schofield and his wife Edith; Edgar and Lillian Lee and their 9 year old son Douglas; Gideon Robertson who was aged 70 and his wife Elizabeth and their 40 year old daughter Annie and the Calland family who had three daughters aged 5 to 12. Perhaps the best known family living in the hotel was W H Malkin, his wife Lillian and four children. Quite why they were there isn’t clear – they had a home on Davie Street but perhaps they were getting ready to move as they commissioned a grand new Maclure & Fox house on Marine Drive in 1912.

The hotel lost business in the late 1920s, and despite a name change in 1931 to the Hotel Belfred (seen in our picture) closed in 1932. Miss Mollison’s resident guests are said to have owed her $11,000 they were unable to pay. The site was redeveloped in the 1930s as a gas station, only to be redeveloped in the 1970s boom as the Royal Centre, with an office tower, the Hyatt Hotel and an underground shopping plaza.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Hot N3


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