The Clarence Hotel first appears in a street directory located on the south west corner of Pender and Seymour Street in 1894, with F Foubert as the owner. The first time we can find Frank Foubert in Vancouver was in 1889 when he was listed as a contractor, clearing land. From 1890 to 1892 he was the proprietor of the Arlington Hotel at 506 Pender, living in the 400 block of Seymour. While this is the 600 block of Pender today, in 1890 it was the 500 block then, with the St Charles Hotel on the corner, run by Miss Annie and Miss Nellie Ryan, and the Arlington was next door. The Clarence was built on the corner, replacing the St Charles. A fire in 1892 had apparently damaged it sufficiently to warrant replacement, although it only ‘demoralized’ the Arlington. It appears that Frank Foubert bought the site of the St Charles and built the Clarence next door to the Arlington. The Marquis of Queensbury, who had owned the St Charles, built a new hotel across Pender on the north side of the street which became known as the Delmonico. From this VPL picture of the hotels before the fire and after the Clarence was built, it seems as if the Arlington was repaired, at least for a while.
We don’t know who designed the Clarence, although in 1902 we know William Blackmore and Son worked on a design for a hotel for Frank Foubert – but no location is identified. That could be the addition to the south that was clearly added after 1900, the date of our main image. However, it seems more likely that Frank had already moved on from the Clarence and was moving into a new business – he may not have actually built a hotel at all. In 1901 he was described as the owner of the Stanley Park Brewery, although his census entry was as hotel-keeper. The brewery was located in a house near the entrance to the park; it seems it was started in 1897, and in 1902 Hose and Allen were the proprietors. Today you can read how Frank was a Belgian brewer, whose traditions are kept alive by the latest incarnation of the Stanley Park Brewery (actually located in the industrial part of Annacis Island in Delta).
The 1891 census identifies 40-year-old Frank, and his wife Charlotte (who was aged 24, the same as their domestic servant, Isabella Ferguson) as having been born in Ontario. Indeed Frank’s father had also been born in Ontario. Very unusually, while Charlotte was identified as a member of the Church of England, Frank was recorded as having ‘no religion’. They had a baby daughter, Ethel, and a son, William, was born three years later.
In the 1901 census Frank has lost a year in age, but Charlotte was only seven years older than a decade earlier so there’s nearly a 20 year gap in their ages. Both Frank and Charlotte are still shown as coming from Ontario, although Frank’s ethnic origin is now identified as French (and so there’s no obvious connection to Belgium at all). In 1902 Frank was shown living at Chilco Street and T G Bligh was proprietor of the Clarence.
The Daily Colonist of July 22 1903 reported “Frank Foubert, formerly owner of the Stanley Park Brewery, and lately conducting a liquor store on Pender Street, died this evening, age 50 years.” This would explain the 1903 directory entries for that year that have Frank living at 1544 Barclay Street with a wholesale wine and spirits warehouse at 751 Pender. In 1903 James W Massey had the Clarence, running it for three years.
John Hector and his wife Augusta were the hotel keepers between 1906 to 1912.They were from Sweden, although in Canada for a long time (having both arrived in 1874 when they were both aged around 12). In 1911 they had two daughters, Ruth and Jean. Charlotte Foubert continued to live at the Barclay Street address, and the family were still there in the 1911 census. In 1913 William Foubert is the homeowner and working as a clerk with the CPR.
In 1912 there were several long-term residents living in the hotel, and the bar must have been quite the venue, with 3 full-time barmen listed. Gerald Spearin was the proprietor, along with Gustus Swanson. Gerald was aged 50, born in Ontario into a family with Irish origins. Justus Swanson was eleven years younger, married with four daughters and a son. He was a Swede who had arrived in Canada with his wife in 1896, although all the children (including Hilma, Runhild and Ringwald) were born in BC. In 1901 he had taken on the licence of the Union Hotel at 223 Abbott street from Peter Larsen.
The Hotel changed hands after this on a regular basis. In 1913 Jack Seabold had the hotel, a year later in conjunction with F McElroy. In 1915 it was L Barclay and W McMullen and a year later A Dignes and William C Bennett. There was finally some continuity as Anton Dignas was listed as owner in 1922. During the mid 1920s the hotel name disappears, and the building is listed as vacant. By 1930 it’s up and running again, with H McArthur in charge. In 1940 D Turcotte was running the rooms, while Mrs R E Low was listed as being in charge of the bar. This was the year that one of Vancouver’s more notable court cases occurred.
Mr. Rogers, an African Canadian man, and his white business partner, (they owned a shoeshine stand), entered The Clarence beer parlour after work and ordered a glass of beer. The waiter, as instructed by his employer, refused to serve Mr. Rogers because of his race and colour. Mr. Rogers sued the tavern owner for the humiliation he suffered because of the discrimination.
In the Rogers v. Clarence Hotel case, the BC Court of Appeal upheld the decision of a Montreal case in which racial discrimination was deemed legally enforceable. This decision found that tavern and restaurant owners could turn away anyone for any reason. It is important to note, however, that there was also a strong dissent in this case – meaning that one of the three judges who heard the appeal disagreed with the result and said “The refusal to serve the respondent solely because of his colour and race is contrary to Common Law which is founded upon the equality of all British subjects before the law.”
In 1944, as the picture above shows, the Clarence had lost its arched entrances. Over the years it became another Single Room Occupancy Hotel with a bar. It incorporated the two buildings to the west, and more recently has become the Seymour Cambie Hostel, with Malone’s bar on the main floor.
Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives LGN 708, CVA 1184-227, Vancouver Public Library.