Here’s a second look at The Carter House on Water Street, built by Lewis Carter in 1886, soon after the fire that destroyed the city. The original verandah was removed some years after erection before this 1898 image. There were three Carter siblings in Vancouver, Lewis, John and their sister Elizabeth. Elizabeth was married twice, and had two sons. The elder son was William F Finlay who became sports editor at the Vancouver World and later the Vancouver Sun. He gave a number of interviews to Major Matthews, the city archivist, that are our main source of information about Lewis Carter. He was killed with his wife Nancy in a tragic accident when his car wheels stuck in the tram line on the Granville Street Bridge and the car was struck by a tram.
“Mr. Lewis Carter, who had been a surveyor on the construction of the C.P.R. from Port Moody to Vancouver, cleared the ground with his own hands. A tremendous cedar stump, over twelve feet in diameter, had to be removed from the spot where the front door afterwards stood, and in removing its roots, water was struck and added to the difficulty, a fact which illustrates the low level of the land of Water Street in those days.”
“My Uncle, Lewis Carter, crossed the continent five times, the first time in 1872. He was, for three weeks, on the survey line, the surveying of the route, of the C.P.R. from Port Moody to Vancouver. He had charge of the C.P.R. car building shops at Yale for two and one half years; they built freight cars there, and some of the first turntables.
“My first ‘impression’ of Vancouver came in the form of a big bump on the back of my head. I arrived by train, 22 October 1887, and took Uncle’s bus to the Carter House; an open ‘express’ conveyance with seat longways on both sides, a covering supporting with iron stanchions, and canvas flaps for the sides to let down in rainy weather, and drawn by two horses. The Vancouver roads were very poor for somewhere on our way up the incline to Cordova Street or down to Water Street, the bus gave a big bump, I bounced out of my seat, my head banged the stanchion of the covering, and left a big bump on the back.”
We’re not sure exactly when Lewis handed the hotel to his brother John to run. In 1892 (as this wedding notice shows) John was linked to the hotel, and we know he worked there in 1891 as the desk clerk, and from 1894 to 1897 as the bartender. In 1898 he was shown living on Pender Street, and Louis was still proprietor of the hotel. Two years later John Lewis Carter was the proprietor, and a year later Mrs J L Carter was in charge.
Lewis and Maggie Carter continued to live in the city, presumably in retirement. John was shown as aged 59, and Margarett 38 in the 1901 census, but as with many people we’ve looked for, they were missed in the 1911 census (or had moved away) They died in 1923 and 1925, and were buried in Mountain View Cemetery. The hotel was demolished about 1921 or 1922, and the site was occupied by the Pacific Mills Ltd., before being incorporated into the Woodward’s Water Street Parkade, now refurbished and rebuilt as the Gastown parkade designed by Henriquez Partners.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Bu N166