500 Alexander Street

500 Alexander

We’ve seen another building built on this block around the same era, as a brothel. This building, dating from 1912, is often said to have a similar initial purpose, and some accounts say it was developed by Dolly Darlington. While Dolly, who was well known as a madam in the city undoubtedly ran her business here, hers wasn’t the name on the building permit (either as Dolly or Dollie, which was how it was sometimes spelled). For some strange reason the address was listed as 504 Alexander, but the lot was clearly lot 1 (the first on the block), the architect was pillar of the architectural community W T Whiteway, the owner was J McCarter and the $15,000 structure was built by Burrard Construction. We’re pretty certain the developer was Joseph McCarter, who was described in the 1911 census as a rooming house proprietor, originally from Ontario and living with his American wife Mary Ann and their two children and 10 lodgers. In the 1911 street directory Joseph was living on Cordova and was described as being in real estate. In 1901 J A McCarter, aged 29, was living with wife M Ann and both children in Nanaimo, and had a 21-year-old servant, George Warriner. Mary Ann’s name (according to her wedding certificate) was Mamie Hanna, and she had been born in Lyons, Iowa. The McCarters married in British Columbia in 1896 when Joseph was 24 and Mamie was 19.

We suspect that Joseph intended to build a lodging house or apartments (which is how the permit is described) but circumstances seem to have changed that plan. That year city authorities clamped down on the brothels on Shore Street and Harris (now East Georgia) but let it be known that Alexander was a more acceptable location. Dolly was listed as living on Shore Street in the 1911 Census and from 1909 at 169 Harris Street in the street directory. (Before that Laura Scott had the Harris Street house, and Dolly’s name doesn’t appear so it’s likely that this was when she became an owner rather than a tenant). In 1912 Mamie, identified as ‘widow of Joseph’ is listed as “matron, C P R Dining Car Quarters” and seems to have left the city a year later. We suspect that Joseph built the building as an apartment building, and then Dolly acquired it when the nature of the street changed and Joseph himself was no longer around – having moved south.

It looks as if Joseph and Mary’s son, William, (who was born in Nanaimo in 1897) headed to California; he was married there in 1917, drafted into the US Army in 1918, and died in San Bernardino in 1988 (when his mother’s name was recorded correctly as Hanna).

Joseph got married in the US in 1912 to Nettie Orcutt – at 39 she was a year younger than Joseph. She was a Canada-born widow with three children. In 1920 Joseph was still living in California with his wife Elizabeth McCarter, who was two years older than Joseph, born in Ireland, with a stepson, George Agnew (they may have married in 1918 – there’s a wedding in Marin County between Elizabeth Agnew and Joseph McCarter, although their ages are completely wrong). In 1930 Joseph’s wife was Ada, seven years younger than him, and born in England, as was her son (so Joseph’s stepson) Roy Hanna. Ada had emigrated in 1917, and Joseph and Ada were still together in the 1940 census. Joseph Alexander McCarter was living in Sonoma, California, when his death was registered in 1950.

Dolly Darlington is listed in the 1911 census as head of a household of seven other women, aged between 18 and 29, all from the US. Dolly herself was aged 27 and had arrived in Canada in 1905, and her ‘lodgers’ – some of whom were identified as bookkeeper and dressmaker – had arrived between 1906 and 1909. There’s no trace of anyone called Darlington with the name Dolly or Dollie being born in the US in the 1880s, so it’s possible she adopted an appropriate name for professional reasons. While further efforts were made to ‘cleanse’ the city in 1914, Dollie was still shown at 500 Alexander in 1915, one of only 6 possible remaining brothels on Alexander (while 18 of the addresses in the area were listed as vacant).

The houses on this block and the next stayed empty throughout the war, except for this building. In 1918 it was listed as the Sailor’s Home, a description that remained for many years, until 1954 when it closed down. (Our 1940 Vancouver Public Library image shows it during this period). The 1919 Seaman’s Handbook for Shore Leave describes the facility: “sleeping quarters, where Seamen from 12 to 20 may be accommodated, if Home is not full; rates 35 cents to 50 cents per night, $1.75 to $2.25 per week; check-room for luggage, reading-room, writing-room and library. Recreation in the form of entertainments, musical evenings, etc., is provided.”

Part of the building was used for a while as commercial property; in 1955 Western Engineering and Trading moved in, (William D Hubbard, president; diesel and engine parts) but the address was used by another Hubbard-related company as well. (We assume William and Alfred were related; in 1955 William lived on Sunset Boulevard in North Vancouver and was married to Shirley; Alfred was described as a research scientist and lived on Cambie with his wife Rita). Alfred Hubbard was born in the US but later became a Canadian citizen. In 1919, (despite only a third grade education in Kentucky), Hubbard invented the Hubbard Energy Transformer, a radioactive battery that could not be explained by the technology of the day. The Seattle Post- Intelligencer reported that Hubbard’s invention, hidden in an 11″ x 14″ box, had powered a ferry- sized vessel around Seattle’s Portico Bay nonstop for three days. Fifty percent rights to the patent were eventually bought by the Radium Corporation of Pittsburgh for $75,000, and nothing more was heard of the Hubbard Energy Transformer.

Vancouver Magazine reported that during prohibition Hubbard took a job as a Seattle taxi driver and with a sophisticated ship-to-shore communications system hidden in the trunk of his cab, Hubbard helped rum-runners to successfully ferry booze past the US and Canadian Coast Guards. He was, however, caught by the FBI and went to prison for 18 months.After the war he founded a charter boat company and became a millionaire, acquiring a Gulf Island. In 1950, Hubbard experienced another angellic visitation telling him that something important to the future of mankind would soon be coming. When he read about LSD the next year, he knew that was it and immediately sought and acquired LSD, which he tried for himself in 1951. At various times over the next 20 years, Hubbard reportedly worked for the Canadian Special Services, the U.S. Justice Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. He also worked at the Hollywood Hospital in New Westminster. During those years he introduced more than 6,000 people to LSD – including scientists, politicians, intelligence officials, diplomats, and church figures – and became known as the first “Captain Trips”, travelling about with a leather case containing pharmaceutically pure LSD, mescaline, and psilocybin. In 1955 Sandoz, the manufacturers of LSD shipped (via parcel post) 43 boxed of LSD to this building, addressed to Hubbard’s “Uranium Corp of B.C. Ltd”. There’s much more about Hubbard on the Past Tense blog.

500 Alexander 2

During the Hubbard years it became a rooming house using the Jackson Street entrance as the main address, initially as the Tyne Lodge Apartments and then the International Rooms. It was in a poor state by the mid 1970s (as our 1978 shot shows), and was acquired in 2009 by the Atira Development Society who carried out a careful and thorough heritage restoration, and then built the city’s first container-based housing on the adjacent lot.

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: