Hotel Canada – Richards Street

500 Richards east

Here’s another of the single-room-occupancy hotels given a dramatic restoration by the Provincial housing agency, BC Housing, with their private sector partners. The Hotel Canada started life in 1913, according to the building permit, designed by Emil Guenther for T B Hyndman and costing $150,000 to build (by E J Ryan). We’ve seen buildings designed by Mr. Guenther before – he was in the city until 1906, then headed to San Francisco no doubt thinking the disastrous earthquake that year would lead to significant architectural opportunities. He returned to Vancouver in 1912, so this was one of his first jobs after he returned (along with the Hotel Regent on East Hastings).

Our image dates to 1974 when it had become the Marble Arch Hotel. In those days there were two other adjacent buildings. The oldest was the one to the south, designed by Parr and Fee (with their trademark centre pivot windows) in 1911 for S Ollison at a cost of $30,000. Who Mr. (or perhaps Mrs.) Ollison was is a complete mystery – there are no Ollison’s in the city around that period. The building next door (with the bay windows) is more of a mystery – it was owned by T B Hyndman in 1912 when he carried out $700 of repairs – (although it seems to have been missed on the 1912 insurance map); it was called the ‘Ideal Rooms’ in the street directory, run by Elizabeth Quigley, with the Ideal Café downstairs. The café, run by William Rosie, had been here longer, so perhaps Mr Hyndman added the rooms just before he built the hotel.

There appears to be more to the development of the hotel than the permit suggests. A 1915 ‘Daily world’ article, under the headline “CANADA HOTEL SOLD” reported “Mr. T. B. Hindman is Purchaser From Assignee. By order of Mr. Justice Macdonald the assignee of Mr. Charles G. Muller, former proprietor of the Canada hotel, is authorized to accept the offer of Mr. T. B. Hindman to purchase the property. Mr. C. B. Macneill, K. C, representing Mr. Lockyer, manager of the Hudson’s Bay Company, strenuously opposed acceptance of the offer on the ground that there would be nothing in it for the unsecured creditors. Mr. J. G. Hay, for the assignee, stated that it was the best offer that could be obtained and that the preferred creditors would be paid in full by the proceeds of the sale, which was the utmost to be expected In these times. Mr. J. E. Bird appeared for Mr. Hindman and Mr. T. B. Shoebotham for Mr. Muller.” The first year the hotel appears in the street directory, 1914, Charles G Muller is listed as proprietor. By 1916 it’s shown as T B Hyndman, proprietor and J A Hyndman, manager and by 1922 J E Secord was managing the hotel.

hotel canada 1922We’ve come across Mr Muller before in the context of the Palace Hotel on West Hastings. We thought Emil Guenther might have designed that hotel too, so the two knew each other before the architect tried his luck in California. In 1899 Henry Hyndman of 1075 Burnaby St and Anna Maria Hyndman (wife of Thomas Hyndman) had bought 320 acres of CPR land at $3.00 an acre. In 1901 Thomas B Hyndman and John A Hyndman were both living on East Hastings, and Thomas was working for R G Buchanan Co who sold crockery on Westminster Avenue. Thomas was recorded in the 1901 census as a merchant. In 1908 Thomas was in real estate, and he and Anna lived at 1075 Burnaby. Thomas Hyndman in 1911 was aged 61, shown as retired and living at 1220 Barclay Street with his wife Anna, and their 29 year old son, John. A 64 year old English gardener, Richard Buckle, and  a Swedish servant, Hilda Friedstrum completed the household. Both parents were born in Ontario and John was born in Manitoba.

We can’t work out exactly what the business arrangement was that saw Thomas Hyndman obtain a permit for a big new hotel (when the economy was slowing down significantly). It appears that an established hotelier, Charles Muller, took the development on, only to see it revert to Mr. Hyndman within a very few years. No doubt the economy, the war and Mr. Muller’s nationality might all have had a part in the situation. Once the war was over, the Lock Financial Corporation were owners of the hotel, managed by T H Lock. In 1930 the name had been switched – the Hotel Canada was run by J Wyard.

Marble Arch Hotel 1

Over the years the hotel changed names at least twice more, from 1937 it became the Merritt Gordon Hotel, and from 1941 the Marble Arch. Merritt Gordon was previously the owner of the Invermay Hotel, where we looked at his history. As the Marble Arch, the hotel became increasingly run-down, with the beer parlour one of many in the city that added strippers to bring in clients (said to be at the lower end of the ‘class’ scale). The hotel even got a name check in 1987 when Mötley Crüe named it in its hair-metal anthem “Girls Girls Girls”. Tommy Lee and Vince Neil are said to have spent some time in the bar during the Crüe’s platinum years (our image was probably taken around that time, when the Ollison Block had been demolished). The bar became associated with biker gangs, and a drug deal in the hotel led to successful prosecution of the dealers. A new owner closed the bar in 2002, and by 2013 there were more structural code problems identified with the hotel than any other building in the city. With the recent multi-million dollar structural renovation, and a switch to an earlier name, the building has a much more promising future.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives  CVA 778-372.

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