Vermilyea Block No.2 – 869 Granville Street

Vermilyea #2

We have already seen John Vermilyea’s other building on Granville Street, built four years before this one. In 1893 William Blackmore designed this ornately detailed 3-storey building. We already noted that John Vermilyea was one of the earlier settlers in the area, arriving from Ontario in 1876 and running a farm in Richmond. His family could trace their origins back to Leyden in Holland, but Johannes Vermelje, a brewer, was married in New York City in 1670. 

869 Granville 1904 VPLJohn Cronk Vermilyea was born in Belleview (or Thurlow) in Ontario in around 1829, married quite late in life (he was still living at home with his parents when he was aged 31) and moved to the Vancouver area in 1883 (when he would have been in his 50s). He farmed 600 acres on Lulu Island, growing hay, and then mortgaged the farm to build the Granville Street buildings. But Granville Street developed slowly, and the CPR controlled the prime site further north, so the boom didn’t reach the 800 and 900 blocks until later, after Mr Vermilyea had lost his farm through his inability to make the mortgage payments in 1896. By 1904 MacKay and Almond were running their ice cream business here, as this VPL image shows

J C Vermilyea died in 1913, the year that this building was converted to the Palms Hotel, with design work being carried out by F W Macey, an English architect who was living in Burnaby (and who lost everything that same year when his new house burned down while it was being built). Elsie Savan was the proprietor for a couple of years (before apparently moving to Oregon, being replaced by Mrs M J Skinner). The hotel use continued through to the 1960s, when this image was taken, but in the 1980s the Palms was demolished, although the facade was restored and incorporated into the new Odeon Cinema. Now it’s about to become a stand alone building again, as the cinema has closed and will be restored as three separate buildings.

Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-785

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