Madrona Rooms – East Cordova Street

Madrona Rooms

Fred McElroy and his wife, Orlena, first appear in Vancouver in 1901 when they were both about 28 years old. Both were born in the US; Fred was barman at the Balmoral Hotel, and while we know Orlena was one of nine children, born in King County in Washington, we haven’t been able to trace Fred’s origins. In 1901 they were living in Mrs Alameda McCluskey’s rooming house at 139 1/2 Hastings Street.

Scuitto SF Call 5 Jan 1901In 1903 Fred partnered with a Mr Smith as proprietors of the Horseshoe Hotel at 83 E Hastings. Two years later Fred’s partner was John Scuitto, and Mrs McElroy was running a rooming house at 75 E Hastings. Scuitto had previously run the City Hotel, and before that the Klondike Hotel in 1899. Before that he had been a grocer, and in 1888 a baker. Reports of his death in the 1901 San Francisco press had obviously been greatly exaggerated. A year later Fred was running the Horseshoe restaurant at 75 E Hastings as well as the hotel (on his own), while he and his wife lived at 75 which she was still running as a rooming house.

In 1910 Fred had moved up in the world. He was living at 1763 Nelson Street, a house he had obtained a permit to build in 1909. The Horseshoe Hotel had new proprietors and Fred was in real estate. He was still there in 1914, although by then it’s getting confusing as there are two other Frederick McElroys listed in town; one a bartender (whose name is really Frank) and one who owned the Clarence Hotel.

In 1911 (when fortunately there was only one F McElroy in town) a building permit for 123 E Cordova was issued with the owner being F McElroy. It was for a 3 storey brick & stone hotel, designed by architect Hugh Braunton, it cost $50,000 and was called the Madrona Rooms. (Fred had also developed a store and dwelling house on Victoria Drive in 1910).

In 1913 the rooms were run by Mrs Katherine Newell, who was still in charge in 1917 after the McElroys had left Vancouver. We know that by 1916 Fred and Orlena were in Seattle because Orlena’s father, John S. Alexander, died that year. He was a former Klondike gold miner who had moved to a very young Seattle, having taken the Oregon Trail to Portland and then the Schooner ‘Exact’ to reach the new city. He was Sheriff and Assessor of Island County, went to the Legislature in 1881 and was appointed collector of customs at Seattle in 1889. At least two other married daughters ended up in the Vancouver area.

By 1923 Fred was in real estate in San Francisco (coincidentally, perhaps, another Frederick McElroy was managing a large hotel in the same city in the same year), and Fred and Orlena were still there in the 1930 census. We haven’t been able to trace Fred’s activities after that, but Orlena lived until 1952 when she was living in Los Angeles. By 1944 the Madrona Rooms were renamed the Rancho Rooms and later the Rancho Hotel.

Our image must have been taken around 1984. The City’s parking garage was completed in mid 1981, and the Rancho Hotel was still standing then, just behind the ‘P’ sign for the parkade entrance, used as the Salvation Army’s Harbour Lights. A replacement complex, designed by Davidson & Yuen, was completed on the site in 1987. The facility offers a meal service, detox and non-market housing for Downtown Eastside residents.

Image souce: part of City of Vancouver Archives CVA 772-479


Posted April 11, 2013 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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