100 East Hastings Street

McDonough Hall

This is not the oldest wooden structure still standing in Vancouver – that’s probably 385 East Cordova, a house built and occupied in 1887 by Thomas Dunn. The Alhambra Hotel was also built that year, so that’s a contender for the oldest building, although we think there’s an earlier building developed by Ben Springer and Captain Van Bramer on Cordova Street, and we shouldn’t overlook David Oppenheimer’s warehouse either. However, we acknowledge that this building – previously wrongly identified as the McDonough Hall – is one of the oldest wood-frame surviving commercial buildings in the city. We have no idea who designed it – or even whether anybody did, other than the carpenter who constructed it.

In 1931, when this picture was taken, Major Matthews, the City Archivist, interviewed W F Findlay, an early arrival in the city who recalled “It is at the southeast corner of Columbia and Hastings Street, and is, I believe, the oldest building in downtown Vancouver, a wooden building approximately fifty feet facing on Hastings Street. The first big ball in Vancouver (later corrected to the first of the St. Andrews and Caledonian Society) was held in the McDonough Hall.  It was a really ‘grand’ ball, the supper was on the upper floor; the lower floor, even at that time, was stores, or rather, a grocery store. The building is now used for some sort of a mission, that is, top floor, with stores of various sorts on the street level.” That ball was said to be held on November 30, 1887.

“It was built in the fall of 1887, and finished in 1888. (Mr Findlay clarified later that it was built in 1887 by Mr. McDonough, afterwards for a short time proprietor of the Oriental Hotel). He described it as “practically the only very early building on Hastings Street; I know of no other so early. At the time people remarked, as they saw it in process of erection, ‘Why did he go out in the woods to build it?’. At the time it was built, and for a long time, it stood alone as the only building in the bushes of Hastings Street; there were some Chinese shacks on Dupont Street near it, but on Hastings Street it was the only building.”

There’s some doubt if Mr. Findlay’s memory was all that good. The Past Tense blog checked a picture from around 1890 taken from the roof of the city’s Market Hall near here, looking along Hastings, and there doesn’t seem to be anything built on this site. There’s also nothing showing in the street directories until 1894 when Hesson & Irving’s Grocery was operating here. Mr McDonough has also proved to be elusive. There’s Irishman Charles McDonough living in New Westminster in 1887, a widowed retired dry goods dealer aged 44 in 1891, but nobody called McDonough in Vancouver in either 1887 or 1888. The 1888 Directory described Hart’s Opera House under ‘Amusements’ but doesn’t mention McDonough’s premises. The St. Andrews and Caledonian Society met monthly at Gray’s Hall on Cordova Street. Later there was a P McDonough who was a general agent at the Granville Hotel (on Water Street) in the 1889 Directory, and E M McDonough who was proprietor of the Richmond House at 318 Carrall in 1892 (he may be the American Edward McDonough who sold sewing machines according to the 1891 Census, and who was charged but acquitted of dubious financial practices associated with that occupation in Vancouver in 1888).

So it would seem likely that this is actually an 1893 property – but still one of the oldest remaining wooden structures in the city. The application for a water permit was submitted by H A Jones in 1893. Henry Albert Jones was a pioneer real estate agent who lived in Columbus Ohio for some years, where he married Jane Richards and had two daughters. He moved to Vancouver before the 1886 fire (in Vancouver he generally seems to have been known as Harry), and lived in the Leland House hotel in 1890 before moving to a house on Pender Street and then in the early 1890s to a new house on Georgia Street at the corner with Bute. In the 1891 Census he was listed as Harry Jones, living with Clara (from Ohio)and his mother-in-law, Louise Shafer who had been born in Germany. He had divorced Jane and remarried in Ohio in 1889.

In the 1901 census he was called Henry, born in England and  as well as Clara there were two children, Ruth, aged 8 and Harold aged 6 and Laura Drake, their domestic. Both children had been born in the US, although there’s no sign that the family weren’t living in Canada for any extended period. We are fairly certain that Harry developed another building around this time, on West Hastings Street. In 1911 he was living with his daughter (from his first marriage) and son-in-law, and was shown as being called Harry and born in Wales.

In 1921 he was living on Seymour Street in another building he developed, (most recently known as the Railway Club) with his Norwegian wife Madge. They had married in Santa Ana in California in 1913, where he was described as divorced with 2 previous marriages, and she was a widow who had also been married twice before. He was born in Liverpool, but his father, James, was Welsh. He died in Capitola, Santa Cruz, California in 1923.

Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA STR N9

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Posted June 5, 2013 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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