The Brunswick – West Hastings Street

31 W Hastings

The Brunswick was one of the earlier, and initially more isolated, hotels in the city. If it was still standing today it would be in the heart of the Downtown Eastside, but a description in Major Matthews’ City Archives records Mr W F Findlay’s memory of the hotel, owned and operated by Pat Carey and his wife. “It was built in 1888, and although on the fringe of the woods, did a good business. It was on the north side of the street, between Carrall and Abbott, about the middle of the block.” It was designed by Allan McCartney, born in the Bahamas and a civil engineer, architect, and land surveyor in the city before 1881.

“Pat was a rough diamond, an Irishman, and a character; he died in Prince Rupert about 1927. In the winter of 1889, the police were ordered to clean up Dupont Street; some of the women scattered, one landed in the Brunswick House. Pat found out. At first, he would not credit it; it was proven; then followed a scene which everyone talked about but no one mentioned in polite company; some caustic remarks were passed by Pat. Pat saw her off in a hurry, in one of Adam Hick’s cabs.”

Another conversation with Fred Alexander, son of the Hastings Mill manager in the 1870s, suggests that the Brunswick (or a version of it) was built even earlier than 1888. “Pat Carey had to pour water on the ashes so that he could get started rebuilding on Hastings Street, north side, between Carrall and Abbott. Hammers and saws were going all night, and long into the moonlight.”

The hotel didn’t last too long – the image shows it in 1891; the last record in the street directories is 1896. It seems to have become a furniture store, with rooms above. In 1900 the site was recorded as vacant, and in 1902 it was a Japanese boarding house, while the 1903 insurance map shows a Chinese barber. The building to the east was redeveloped around 1899, and added to in 1903. The former Brunswick hung on to 1908 – it’s still just visible in the 1908 picture of the Wood, Vallance & Leggat building. (although we wonder if that isn’t really a 1907 image).

31 W Hastings

It was replaced by a simple, impressively light fully glazed warehouse and store that may have been built for R A Allen and possibly designed by builder Bedford Davidson. It was initially occupied by Frederick Buscombe’s ‘The Fair’ in 1908, seen in this VPL image. A year later Stark’s Glasgow House moved in, who previously had been on Cordova Street. Today it’s still a department store – part of the Army and Navy store like the site of the Rex Theatre that replaced the Wood, Vallance and Leggat warehouse to the east.

Image sources: VPL and City of Vancouver Archives CVA 677-5

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