As you can see from this 1944 image, the Yale Hotel has been called by that name for many years. When it was first built in 1889 it was called the Colonial Hotel, and it was hooked up to the water system in July of 1889 a few months after the Golden Gate Hotel a block to the north, although the Yale wasn’t advertised as complete until 1890. It was designed by N S Hoffar who seemed to have designed eight or nine projects a year in the city at this time, and built for J W Horne, a keen investor in land and buildings with a close connection to the CPR. At one point his assets were said to be second in value only to the CPR themselves.
While it’s been stated that the building survived the fire having been built as a bunkhouse for the CPR, there’s no evidence that this is true. The construction of the hotels coincided with the construction of the electric streetcar on Granville Street. H P McCraney, in conversation with Major Matthews, recalled the first year of building the railway. “In the spring of 1889, I commenced operation in building the first street railway in Vancouver. The first track was laid on Granville Street, a little north of Pacific Street, perhaps a hundred feet north, where the slope runs up to a level. We started just at the level so that the horses may have an easy start when they pulled. The track was to run from bridge to bridge through the town. At that time, the Granville Street vicinity was mostly stumps, although down in Yaletown, a couple of hundred yards east or so, there was quite a little settlement.” When it was being built it was to be a horse-drawn railway; the decision to electrify the line was taken while construction was underway.
Yaletown was a small area with a collection of houses further east, on Seymour and Richards. It took its name from the town of Yale, the CPRs interim base while the tracks were being laid to the coast. Several of the houses were older than the city itself; 1371 Seymour for example was carried in pieces as lumber and re-erected. Some houses came ready-built on rail company flat cars. The CPR built their new Drake Street Yards and Roundhouse in 1887 – which was fortunate as the Yale machine shops burned down in 1887.
In 1907 the hotel name was switched to ‘The Yale’, which it has been ever since. The eastern addition to the hotel was built in 1909, designed by W T Whiteway for Marquis de Biddlecope, who we introduced when he built the St Francis Hotel.
Today the Yale has just undergone a comprehensive restoration and seismic repair that will see the SRO rooms upstairs and to the east reopened, and the bar noted for its blues back with a new sound system. The store fronts have been rebuilt to match the original building far more closely than before the makeover, and the 1950s neon sign reinstalled.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1184-624