Dodson Hotel – East Hastings Street

Dodson and E Hastings

The building on the left hand side of this picture is the end of the Templeton Block that we already featured here. Two doors to the east is the 5-storey Dodson Hotel. Unusually the building was indeed built by Mr Dodson and his name is still associated with it. Joseph Dodson arrived in Vancouver around 1889 and he was listed as a labourer in 1890, living on Powell Street. A year later he appears on the 1891 Census as a butcher, aged 47 with his wife, Jane and their four children including 18 year old Mary Jane, and Joseph who was 13. Joseph and Jane had lived in Barrow in Furness in Lancashire – that’s where Mary Jane was christened and where they were in the 1881 English Census. The 1911 Census suggests Mary Jane had arrived in 1891, so her father may have been getting established before the rest of the family arrived.

By 1894 Joseph had set up the Old England Bakery at 17-19 East Hastings – the same location that he later built the hotel and bakery we can see in this 1978 picture (and that’s still there today). In 1903 he had some work carried out to an earlier bakery on the site designed by T E Julian.

In the 1901 Census all four children were still living at home. The new bakery and rooming house was designed by Sharp & Thompson in 1909 costing $55,000. Dodson opened a new bakery in the new building and a couple of years later George Peters was running the Dodson Rooms upstairs. In 1909 August Kolle appears as a baker at the Dodson Bakery, joining both Joseph Dodson senior and junior – one a baker and the other a pastry chef at the bakery. It looks as if at least one of Joseph’s other sons, Robert, was a clerk in the business. In 1910 Joseph senior had retired and Joseph and August are joint proprietors in the business. August had American citizenship but was born in Germany, arriving in Canada in 1899 (according to the 1911 Census).

We don’t know exactly when – but August Kolle married Mary Jane Dodson some time before 1905. In 1911 they have three children, Robert, Mary and Wilhelm (August’s middle name). There’s no sign of them in the city before the 1909 Street Directory, and their two older children were born in the US in 1905 and 1906, so presumably that’s where Mary and August were living before returning to join her father.

Next door, the smaller two-storey building between the Templeton and the Dodson with the intact cornice was built in 1914. The permit refers to Mrs Cole Dawson, who had the Gray Brothers design the $11,000 project built by D G Gray. Mrs Cole Dawson had the Grey brothers repair a house in 1902, carried out repairs to the house that preceded the new Dodson Hotel in 1903 and Mrs C Dawson carried out repairs to a Main Street house in 1911.

We’re not at all sure who Mrs Cole Dawson is. There’s nobody of that name in the city directories or any census. Logically it’s a misprint for Kolle Dodson – and indeed, the family used the anglicised spelling of Cole for a while during the sensitive period leading up to World War One. Throughout 1913 there are newspaper references to a 6 storey building to be built by Mrs Cole Dawson on East Hastings, designed by J Dawson. John Dawson was an architect who seems to have had partnerships with two different partners, as Campbell and Dawson from 1910 to 1916 and with William Pentecost around 1911 and 1912. (Campbell and Dawson designed the Cobalt Hotel in 1913). We’re pretty certain that biographical references that suggest he’s John Wilding Dawson, who designed the City Market in 1891 are wrong. That’s because John Wilding Dawson left Canada for Mauritius and died there in 1914. We think he was more likely to be the same John Dawson who was a contractor in 1910. it’s likely that the plans for the 6 storey building never materialised as the economy went into a nosedive and the more modest Grey Brothers building was built instead.

We know Joseph Dodson died in his 80s in 1928, five years after his wife. August Kolle died in 1941, and Mary a year later. Today the Dodson is a privately owned Single Room Occupancy residence. Owned by The Dodson Foundation, the Community Builders Group operate the building. Dodson tenants, staff and volunteers have adopted a Whole Life Housing approach to wellness which features: affordable rent; assistance with addictions and medical issues; a breakfast and community kitchen program; housekeeping services; employment services; free laundry; and, an advanced pest control and room maintenance program.

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