In 1887 James Stark erected a combined grocery store and residential apartment at 12 Northumberland Street, Ayr. That’s not so surprising as James, and his wife Julia, were born in Scotland. However, the Ayr that James built his store in was in Waterloo, Ontario. James arrived in Canada aged 20 in 1865 and worked for a dry goods store in St Catharine’s Ontario, then in Brantford, Toronto, and then for 8 years in Ayr. He arrived in Vancouver in 1892 aged 45 with his wife and five children aged from 7 to 18. He opened a dry goods store at 226 Carrall Street, then moved a few years later to 32 Cordova Street in the Dunn – Miller Block. By 1897 (when this picture of the storefront was taken) the business was known as Stark’s Glasgow House – although it’s not entirely clear why as James was born in Dundee. In 1901 he was living at 1027 Robson Street with his wife and all five children. The business offered both dry goods and millinery and two sons worked with their father, joined by the youngest son William in 1903.
James Stark had one of the earliest vehicles in the city – nicknamed somewhat strangely ‘The Rolling Peanut’ by its owners. It was an Oldsmobile that was delivered in May 1902. The sons of the family extended their interest in motoring by running a bicycle store in a former livery stable on Hastings Street with W J Annand that also sold cars as the Vancouver Cycle and Auto Co – the first business to do so. The picture below shows the Rolling Peanut with other Oldsmobiles in front of the store in 1904 or 05. Son William remembered the car “single cylinder, four and a half horsepower; under the seat; single tube rubber tires; no inner tube, no fender, no lights, no horn, but a bell on the dashboard which sounded when a foot button and ratchet were kicked. Originally, it was intended for a delivery van for ‘Glasgow House’ on Cordova Street, and had two seats in front and a box at the back which could be lifted off, but we put two seats at the back; then it held four; two back to back. The foot brake was on a ratchet on the back wheels.”
Mrs H Sacret recalled riding in the car in a conversation with Major Matthews who added a few notes. “Automobiles would never run in those days; they would get stuck, and people would pass remarks; call to us, ‘Get a horse,’ jeeringly. They called the first little one we had the ‘rolling peanut.’ I used to stop at the store” (Vancouver Auto and Cycle Company) “on Hastings Street, and they” (Mr. Annand or Mr. Stark, partners) “would send me home to Mount Pleasant in the car. It used to bump up and down, especially when going over a crossing” (when Vancouver had macadam roads, and the crossings at street corners were three boards, twelve-inch planks side by side, and the earth used to wear away on each side of the crossing.)”
“I had to sit in the only seat beside the driver, and there was nothing to hang onto, and I did not like to hang onto him; oh, it was terrible; you couldn’t hang onto a man out in the street with passing pedestrians on the sidewalks to watch. They used to say at the shop, ‘Take Miss Louie home in the peanut,’ and I did not know the ‘boys’ who drove; it was terrible.”
In 1904 the business moved to their third location in 12 years; the one in our picture: the five-year old building initially built by McDowell, Atkins and Watson, on the south-east corner of Cordova and Cambie. In 1905 the business was incorporated under the name of James Stark & Sons, Ltd., with James as president and sons Walter as vice president and Earnest as secretary and treasurer.
They stayed in the building until 1909 when Stark’s Glasgow House moved to Hastings Street and became a full-scale department store. The family moved to 1201 Harwood Street, although only Earnest was living with his parents; Walter lived on Davie Street. By 1912 James had moved to Shaughnessy Heights and Earnest and Walter had moved to West Point Grey.
The VPL photograph shows the building around 1905 soon after Stark’s first moved in. By 1910 it was the Carlton Cafe, and soon after the Carlton Hotel. During the 1960s there were four partners running the hotel, including Maurice St Cyr, and you could get a room for $40 a month. The building became a single room occupancy hotel known as the Cambie Hotel and the Gastown Inn, but in 1997 it became the Cambie International hostel with over 120 beds and the Cambie pub downstairs.