Beacon Hotel – West Hastings Street

5 to 11 W Hastings 1978

We looked at the building on the right of this 1978 image a little earlier. It was built as a boarding house before 1900, and we think its westward neighbour (today’s Beacon Hotel) was built a year or so earlier. It started life as a three storey structure, and at some point early in its life added a fourth. It also started out with a different address, as 19 and 21 West Hastings, but more recently has become 9 to 11 West Hastings.

In some ways The Beacon is a classier piece of work than its neighbour. It has rusticated stone lintels and cills, and arched brickwork on what was the top storey when it was built. We don’t know who designed it, but we’re reasonably sure it was developed by Henry A Jones, (most often called Harry) who was born in Liverpool, and was in the city during the great fire. His name is in the 1900 Street Directory as occupying the West Hastings Street building, and he was still paying for repairs as owner in 1922. His second wife, Clara, was born in the US, as were his children, although the family lived in Vancouver from the early days of the city. He had developed The jones Block on West Cordova in 1890, which is in some ways a smaller version of the same design. That was an N S Hoffar design, and he was still active in the city in 1899, so he may have designed this building too.

In the 1891 and 1901 census returns Harry is shown working in Vancouver as a real estate agent. He was obviously already pretty successful; by 1901 the family of four (there was a daughter, Ruth and a son, Harold) also had a domestic living with them and H A was listed as having $20,000 worth of property in 1889, doubling to $40,000 only two years later.

H A JonesJ W Horne treeHe’s listed as having an office on Carroll Street (sic) in the 1887 publication “City of Vancouver, Terminus of the Canadian Pacific Railway”  We can find his office on Cordova Street in an 1888 Street Directory. In 1890 he was one of the founders of the Vancouver Loan Trust Savings and Guarantee with at least three other partners; H T Ceperley, J W Horne and R G Tatlow. He was also identified by Mr. H.P. McCraney, ‘a very early pioneer’, in conversation with Major Matthews as being in this noted Vancouver image, supposedly taken by Harry Devine in 1886 on Granville Street soon after the fire that destroyed the city.

When it first appears in 1899, one of the building’s tenants was Thomas Dunn. A couple of years later in 1902 the upper part of the building is the Ramona Rooms. J L Walworth and Co were operating their creamery supplies business, and Mr Jones is no longer listed but another real estate company, R J Blake & Co are here. The businesses change many times over the years – in 1908 the Clark Rooming House is upstairs, Greene and Simpson, undertakers are downstairs and Wray and Dick’s clothing store is next door. In 1910 it’s the Wallace Rooming House and Rickson Brothers downstairs (who sold notions, etc), next to Wray and McKee who now run the clothing store. By 1915 the rooms are the Pacific Rooms and William M Harrison’s drugstore is downstairs, with the other retail space vacant.

During the 1930s Gregory & Reid’s Paint store and G E Snider’s jewellers are beneath the Grand Central Rooms, and by 1950 the Beacon Hotel Rooms are upstairs over Beacon menswear. The stores would continue to change, and the building became increasingly run down (as seen in our early 2000s picture above). By 1978 Hershsons have the clothing store, and there’s also still a jewellers, but upstairs a few years later the Backpackers Inn would be known to the Vancouver Police Department as ‘BC’s worst drug hotel’ (as The Tyee noted). BC Housing acquired the building a few years ago, and have already competed significant improvements. The paint has been removed from the facade, and more bathrooms have been added for tenants inside. Management has been introduced, and the Blue Shell Laundromat offers a valuable service to the neighbourhood. Now the Beacon Hotel is going to get further upgrades as part of an extensive renovation and restoration program for 13 of the Province’s Single Room occupancy hotels.

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Posted 22 January 2013 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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