Archive for October 2015

1126 West Georgia Street

Day Smith Motors 1126 W Georgia

The Vancouver Archives title for this picture is “Day-Smith Motors Ltd. showroom building on 110 block of Georgia Street”. Actually it’s the 1100 block in 1927; that’s Day Smith at 1126 W Georgia selling Dodge Brothers vehicles and next door were Bowell McDonald Motors at 1130 offering the rival Pontiac Six for $1,195 as well as Oakland cars. The cars didn’t come from California, like Pontiac; they were a General Motors brand and they were built in Detroit. Both Dodge Brothers had died suddenly in 1920, and Dodge was owned by Dillon Read & Co, an investment company from 1925 to 1928 when it was sold to rival Chrysler. This was one of the city’s automobile meccas; right alongside to the east were Begg Brothers, Chevrolet dealers, in a 4-storey 1926 building, and across Thurlow was Nash-Ajax Cars. There was another car dealership to the west, and then Willis Kingsley Motors on the corner of the block. (Apart from the First Church of Christ Scientist, the only other resident of the block was Mrs M E Ford – but we’re pretty certain her name is just a coincidence!)

1000 and 1100 W Georgia 1929The car dealerships here date back to before 1920; before that there were houses. We haven’t managed to trace the architect for the vaguely mission-style buildings, but Bowell McDonald did commission a $25,000 garage at 1130 West Georgia in 1925, so they would seem to have been the developers of these properties. There was a $10,000 garage proposed by R J Snelgrove for 1140 West Georgia in 1919: Robert Snelgrove was a real estate broker, so it was a speculative project and was the building next door at 1146 occupied in 1920 by Commercial Cars, of Luton, England, distributers of Commer and Stewart Motor Trucks. He claimed to be both architect and builder – which we rather doubt. The 1146 address disappears from the street directory by 1927, but it looks like Bowell McDonald occupied more property to the west as well at that time. The design of the single storey buildings here (from 1919 and 1925) was very similar, as this 1929 image shows when REO (makers of the Speedwagon) also had a showroom here, with Erskine selling Studebakers on the corner.

Day Smith were Harry Day and Ivan Smith, and up to 1924 they were in business on Granville Street – they started in business late in 1921 when they were selling the Light Six Studebaker. Early Neil Motors took over from Day Smith Motors in 1928, the year that Dodge became part of Chrysler. They continued to operate until around 1931, when the Dodge dealership was transferred to Begg Motors. (Begg were longer-established in the city and in 1930 were selling Cadillac, La Salle and Nash cars from their two buildings; the one on the corner, and the Begg Block to the east, designed by M E Williams in 1912). Begg took over these premises, selling Dodge and Chevrolet cars, and Bowell McDonald were next door still selling Pontiac and Oakland cars. Early Neil continued selling cars in New Westminster after 1931 but appear to have had no dealership affiliation.

This remained a car sales centre: in 1950 Begg Brothers had also taken over the Willis Kingsley building on the corner of Bute, selling Dodge and DeSoto cars. J M Brown were selling Studebaker cars in this building, with Dan McLean selling Nash and Hillman cars to the west.

In 1958 the location became known for a completely different reason: Isy’s Supper Club was established by Isy Walters in 1136 W Georgia and for over a decade combined top acts of the day – one bill shows Richard Pryor, Little Richard and Buddy Rich (on different nights) with ‘exotic dancers’. In 1962 Lenny Bruce was booked – but only managed to play for one night before the Morality Squad threatened to pull Isy’s licence. Isy had run the Cave nightclub in the 1950s, and before that had booked the acts at the State Theatre. One act at Isy’s combined the two aspects of the venue’s booking: the Ladybirds were an all girl topless band (3 shows nightly). As interest in live performance saw smaller audiences the venue lost the acts and became Isy’s Strip City in the 1970s – a return to Isy’s roots as he had started booking strippers in the early 1950s. Isy died in the club one Saturday morning in 1976, and the club died with him.

The single storey buildings were still standing as retail stores – Sleep Country had a Downtown store here – when the site was assembled by Westbank who hired James Cheng to design the tallest tower in the city – 62 storeys with condos above the Shangri La Hotel. Where the car dealerships stood is part of the development: an Urban Fare store to the west and an art instillation location curated by the Vancouver Art Gallery with regularly changed site-specific artworks.

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives Bu N300 and CVA 99-3748



615 Burrard Street

Clark Parsons Buick 1219 W Georgia (really 615 Burrard)

Major Matthews, the City Archivist, wasn’t always accurate in his identification of the thousands of photographs he accumulated. Here’s a case in point, an image titled ‘Clark Parsons Buick Limited showroom building on West Georgia Street’ dating from 1927. Actually it’s on Burrard Street – we’ve seen a corner of it in an earlier post. In 1930 the company were advertising the advantages of the clark parsons ubc 1930used cars to UBC students in their Annual publication ‘The Totem”. W G Parsons was listed as the President: W Clark (identified as Robert W Clark in the street directory and later advertisments) was the Secretary-Treasurer of the company.

They sold McLaughlin Buick of Canada under the slogan ‘Vibrationless beyond belief’ and the cars were built in Canada as part of the General Motors Canadian operations. It’s possible J Y McCarter designed the building – he was responsible for the design next door in the same year at 635 Burrard, and we think some of the frame of a part-built hotel was used in the buildings here. The reason Major Matthews got the wrong label is that Clark Parsons moved to this building in 1927: in 1926 they were newly in business at 1219 W Georgia; we think W Parsons was most likely to be Wallace Parsons who was an auto mechanic in 1925.

By 1931 the company had expanded – as well as these premises there were Used Car Stores on Melville Street and Granville Street – although only Melville was open a year later, and in 1933 just this property remained active. A year later the business here was Bowell McDonald – a Pontiac and Buick dealership who later added Chevrolet and became better known in a foreshortened version of their name – Bow-Mac.

Today the site is part of the Burrard SkyTrain station, and park honouring Art Phillips, the former mayor.

Image source City of Vancouver Archives Bu N293


Posted 26 October 2015 by ChangingCity in Gone, West End

Tagged with ,

418 West Georgia Street

418 W Georgia

This 1933 image shows a gas bar and two car sales buildings. Perhaps surprisingly, one is still standing (although perhaps not for too much longer). Already 20 years old when this image was taken, the building at 418 W Georgia dates back to 1913. The developers were the London & British North America Co, associated with several buildings in the city, including the London Building on Seymour Street developed the year before this one. Like other investment businesses in the city they raised their capital in London, with directors based there, but with a locally based board managing the portfolio in Vancouver. The architects were stettlerSharp and Thompson and Bruce Brothers built the $20,000 investment.

Initially the Forshaw-Ford Auto Co moved in, but a year later they had gone. The Ford was for Bert Ford, the managing director and co-owner – they actually sold Studebaker and Cole cars. Hamilton Read, a Vancouver lawyer, was the president of the company and Thomas Forshaw was the sales manager. Bert Ford joined the expeditionary force fighting in Europe, and was killed in action in 1916. That year the Model Service Garage moved into the building. Soon after the garage moved in the owner, William Tulk, reported that there had been a break in and two tires had been stolen.

Stettler cigarsBriefly after that the building was home to the Stettler Cigar Factory – described at the time as ‘the largest cigar factory west of the great lakes’, from 1917 to early in 1919. There’s a picture of the building when it was the cigar factory: titled “Group in front of the Stettler Cigar Factory, Vancouver Branch, Factory No. 10 at 418 West Georgia Street”, the Vancouver World article suggests this was the main (and perhaps only) factory, and Factory No. 10 (although it appeared on the façade) was a rather misleading title. The factory was moved from Stettler, a town in Alberta, and it appears that the company may have received financial support from the BC Government.

Stettler’s main product was the Van Loo cigar, sold at two for a quarter. F D (Fred) Carder ran the company, at least until it became bankrupt in the early 1920s. He arranged for O R Brener to buy the company, and was then hired by Brener as manager at $300 a  month. That deal went sideways when Mr Carder filed for damages, claiming he was also to receive shares in the new company, the Van Loo Cigar Co (we saw their product for sale on West Pender Street in an earlier post). We’re not sure who won the case, but the company factory in the early 1920s was on Water Street.

Knight-Higman Motors moved in after the cigar factory in 1920, and stayed until around 1923; they sold Ford cars. In 1923 Ray Knight bought all the company’s shares and it became the Knight Motor Co. The Daily World reported that “The same department managers and staff will be retained. A feature of the Knight Motors, Ltd., that will appeal to Ford owners is the service station and repair shop that is now in operation. Plenty of modern machinery to take care of Ford work and a flat Knight Higman Motorslabor charge that enables the customer to know In advance exactly what the cost of any repair work will amount to. Mr. Knight came to Vancouver in September, 1919, from Calgary, where he managed the Machin Motors, Ford dealers of that city.” He had initially bought out the interest of a Mr Ferguson on the Ferguson-Higman Motor Co. The October 1923 article claimed that the company had sold over 650 Fords so far in that year.

When the main 1933 image was taken, Stonehouse Motors were here: the painted sign on the wall of the building says they were Ford dealers, while the signs hung on the front say they offered both Oldsmobile – product of General Motors, and Chevrolet sales and service (also a GM brand after 1915). They’d moved in around 1926, managed by S B Stonehouse, and they initially took over the Ford dealership.

In 1945 the company was still known as Stonehouse Motors, but the President and General Manager was S G Collier, and they only sold GM brands. By 1947 the company was known as Collier’s Motors, and they built a new streamline moderne style showroom (now demolished) on the Georgia Street lot to the west of the lane that runs alongside 418.

We recently found a 1978 Archives image that shows the building occupied by the Ace Gallery on the eastern side, and an announcement of the ‘Future Location of Names Restaurant’ in the western side of the building. The space appears to have been vacant again in 1981 In 1985 there’s another image showing the building was vacant again, but a sign on the window said that a restaurant would ‘open soon’. We think that might have been a sushi restaurant. The gallery space was also available. The restaurant use didn’t last very long, and Budget Rent-a-Car were in the building from the 1990s. The building was demolished in 2018 to make way for an unusually shaped office tower.

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-4373, CVA 1376-336 and Trans N12


Posted 22 October 2015 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

Tagged with

Vancouver Motors – Seymour Street (2)

Vancouver Motors 2

As we noted in our previous post, Vancouver Motors had a non-identical twin on West Georgia Street. We saw this building first in an early 2011 post, when we first started this blog. That was a 1926 picture, when the building was only just completed. Here it is again as it looked in 1981, when it was home to Dominion Motors. They were a Ford dealership that operated here until the early 1980s. They replaced the Vancouver Motors Ford dealership some time in the early 1960s (also selling the Mercury line of cars in the 1940s, and Monarch in the 1950s). All three floors of the building were used by the dealership; a 1960s car jockey recalled driving a car that needed to be cleaned and serviced up to the third floor of the building.

Vancouver Motors, Seymour under constructionVancouver Motors VPLThe construction is poured in place concrete: presumably with the embossed lines on the columns incorporated into the mould. There’s an Archives picture of the building under construction, showing how it was built by Poole Construction. Although the current building by-laws don’t allow a gas station underneath a building, that wasn’t always the rule in the city. There was a gas bar across the corner of the building that operated here for many years, although by the 1980s it was part of the showroom. In the 1936 VPL image here it’s shown as being open all night, when gas cost 25 cents (presumably for a gallon).

Some years after the car dealership closed, in the mid 1990s the main floor was taken by Staples as an office supplies store. In the past year the upper floors have been fully restored and are now available as office space. The strange canopy that was initially added to the office store (visible in our 2011 post) has been removed, and the building looks mush closer to how it first looked 90 years ago.

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1399-545, CVA 1399-533 and Vancouver Public Library.


Posted 19 October 2015 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

Tagged with

1190 West Georgia Street

1190 W Georgia

Back in 1925, when our ‘before’ shot was taken this was the home of Willis-Kingsley Motors. They sold both new and used vehicles; they were Studebaker dealers, but the sign on the widow also notes “Buying a Used Car From Us Insures Satisfaction – Read the Pledge on Other Windows”. Willis-KingsleyIf the design of the older building looks at all familiar, it may be because Vancouver Motors (also built in 1925) was designed by the same architects, Townley and Matheson – and that’s still standing on Seymour Street, as we saw in one of the very first posts on this blog. (The building has had an extensive make-over since that earlier post).

Provincial Motors Ltd were the Studebaker dealers before Willis-Kingsley, we first found them in the street directory in 1923 sharing the same premises as A S French’s garage on West Pender. Before the garage was built there were two houses on this site. Although there’s an article from a few years back that says the company sold Pierce Arrow motor cars in the 1920s and 1930s and then Willys cars and trucks and finally Studebaker products, that’s incorrect. A 1923 Daily World article reviewed the company’s creation (we’ve skipped the part about how dependable and wonderful the cars were): “The local Studebaker agency was officially taken over yesterday by Messrs. Willis and Kingsley. The name of the new firm is the Willis – Kingsley Motors Ltd, 1027 Pender St. W. Mr. C. H. Willis, for the past ten years, has been selling Studebakers in Victoria, associated with Jamieson & Willis, Studebaker dealers in that city, where he is well known as an enthusiastic motorist and an active worker in all movements pertaining to good roads and other interests for the betterment of conditions affecting the motorist. Mr. George Kingsley, who Is equally well known in British Columbia automobile circles, comes from Shawnigan Lake. He is a native son and prominent in athletics in the province. He is a member of the Vancouver Rowing Club and holds the northwest Pacific coast championship for single sculling.”

This 1928 advertisement for the company showed the style of the – Made In Canada – Studebakers. The new premises joined several other car dealerships on West Georgia. Technically this location is in the West End, as it’s on the south side of West Georgia, but functionally it feels like it’s part of Downtown. Begg Brothers moved their Chrysler (Dodge and Desoto) dealership from elsewhere on West Georgia in 1951.

In 1980 the office building that replaced it was completed, designed by Bruno Freschi for Highfield Developments. Initially the corner was a great open space, but later it was filled in to extend the office atrium. Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1399-534


Posted 15 October 2015 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

Tagged with ,

The Yale and Cecil Hotels – Granville Street

Yale & Rolston

We looked at the Yale Hotel, one of the earliest buildings on Granville Street, in an earlier post. It was designed by N S Hoffar in 1889 as the Colonial hotel for J W Horne. As part of the development that saw the Cecil replaced with the Rolston condo tower, the Yale was seismically upgraded and the SRO rooms refurbished and handed over to the City of Vancouver for long-term retention.

It’s neighbour, the Cecil, managed to limp past its 100th birthday. Obviously the news of the redevelopment hasn’t reached, who will still try to book you in to what they claim is a three star hotel. “The Cecil Hotel is perfectly located for both business and leisure guests to Vancouver (BC). All hotel’s guestrooms have all the conveniences expected in a hotel in its class to suit guests’ utmost comforts. Room amenities include shower. This hotel is characterized by a combination of modern comfort and traditional element of Vancouver (BC), making it a distinct accommodation. To make your reservation at the The Cecil Hotel quick and easy, please select your preferred dates of stay and proceed with our secure online booking form.” As an increasingly tired SRO, any guests who had succeeded in booking into the hotel would have been surprised at the hotel and it’s surroundings. Another website identifies what the booking site overlooked – and still promises more than they’ve been able to deliver for over four years “The Cecil Hotel is Vancouver’s premier exotic show lounge, featuring a prime selection of Western Canada’s hottest nude dancers. At The Cecil, showing you a great time, is our great time, so we hand pick the wildest, sexiest, most fun lov’n girls on the planet to go crazy on stage every single night for you (we don’t mind so much either!). So if you’re in the Vancouver area, and you’re looking for the hottest strippers, the best wings, burgers and ribs, and the wildest time allowed by law, come on down to The Cecil Hotel. You’ll be blown away!”

Cecil Hotel 1912 Vancouver HeritageSince the construction of the ‘new’ Granville Bridge in the early 1950s the hotel had lost its front door; (you can see how it looked before the bridge was built on this 1912 Heritage Vancouver picture) – the entrance was moved around the corner from the street, with the bar entrance a storey below, accessed from a parking lot. The hotel was built in 1909, and although looking remarkably like one of the many hotels designed by Parr and Fee along Granville Street in a very few years, this one was designed by Grant & Henderson for Mrs. O B Grant and S Burris at a cost of $30,000. A 1910 $500 permit was taken out for an additional steel and glass canopy. It’s possible it was the same location where in 1908 a three storey building was planned, designed for S Burris by Grant and Henderson.

The Hotel Cecil was being run in 1910 by Charles M Hartney, who had taken over from John McDade who ran it in 1909 (the first year it appears in a directory). Then a chance reference to a new building permit listed in the 1908 Contract Journal clarified: “Mrs. O. B. Grant, brick store and rooming house, Granville street, $30,000.” Olive Grant was G W Grant’s wife. George Grant was half of Grant & Henderson: they were both originally from Nova Scotia.

The Grant’s were early arrivals in British Columbia. George was born in 1852 or 1854, and Olive Burris in 1852. They were married at her father’s house in 1876 at Upper Musquodoboit. After their marriage they made their home at Maitland, N. S. where they lived for three or four years. Mr. Grant was a contractor and builder and while in Maitland he was engaged in building houses. They sold up in 1880, and while his wife, in poor health, returned to Nova Scotia, George went west to Winnipeg which was experiencing a building boom. There he became a successful architect, designing several buildings including a branch of the Bank of Montreal. In 1886 they moved further west – apparently looking at, but initially rejecting the fledgling Vancouver for Victoria, where as an architect he secured several important commissions, before moving again to New Westminster. In 1892 their niece, Janie Arthur moved in with them, and in 1896 they moved to Vancouver.

G W Grant designed dozens of buildings in the fast-growing city, including the Carnegie library, and added a partner to his business, Alexander Henderson, in 1903. They continued to design buildings across the city, including the Hotel Cecil (presumably purely an investment, in the ownership of Mr. Grant’s wife, and her relative, Samuel Burris). In 1912, when they were both aged 60 and the city’s economy was stalling, the family moved to Pasadena in 1912, and on to Bellflower, California in 1916. Janie Arthur moved with them, but had her own home. George died in 1925 and Olive in 1928, and they are both buried in Riverside, California, where other members of the family had been interred.

Samuel Burris was (according to the census of 1911) from Nova Scotia. According to the street directory, he arrived in Vancouver around 1908. We don’t know if he was any relation to an architect of the same name who was from Ontario, practicing in Victoria, and moving to Vancouver in the early 1900s. When Samuel first arrived in Vancouver was shown as retired, as he was in the 1911 census when he was aged 67. In Nova Scotia he was a merchant blacksmith, operating a successful forge noted for building sledges. In 1909 he was the developer of a $15,000 rooming house at Davie and Hornby, also designed by Grant and Henderson. His last directory entry was in 1914. He was undoubtedly related to George Grant’s wife, Olive, and they jointly developed the Cecil hotel. In 1915, Mary Burris, widow of Samuel was living at the same W 8th Avenue address, as was Edith, their daughter. Mary returned to Nova Scotia, where she died in 1917.

The Cecil switched from the Hotel Cecil to the Cecil Hotel by the mid 1930s. It continued as a hotel, but by 1935 there were a number of permanent residents. While the hotel became old, and tired, despite (or perhaps because of) the run-down nature of the bar, (dark, smokey and windowless according to Rex Wyler), in the 1960s it became a gathering place for journalists, environmentalists, and UBC students. In 1967 the founders of the Georgia Straight came up with the name for their new publication while drinking there, hoping to attract free publicity because radio newscasts of the era regularly issued gale warnings for the nearby body of water called the Georgia Strait. Many of the founders of Greenpeace also drank in the bar in those days.

As the Georgia Straight noted when the building was about to be demolished, as with many other bars in the city, “in the mid-1970s, the Cecil started bringing in exotic dancers, which continued up until closing night. One former dancer contacted by the Straight said that in the 1980s, the Cecil was more like Playboy magazine and the movie Flashdance, whereas the Drake and the Marr were more hard-core, like Penthouse magazine and, on a bad day, like Hustler magazine.”


Posted 12 October 2015 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

Tagged with , ,

Hornby Street – 900 block (2)

900 Hornby west

This 1981 corner shot is from a comprehensive survey of the city taken that year of almost all the Downtown streets. It shows the corner of Nelson Street with Hornby, and the massive bulwark base that was covered in mosaic tile, with the tower of the BC Electric Company’s headquarters rising above. Today the tower is still there, but it looks quite a bit different, The original 1957 tower was designed by Thompson, Berwick, Pratt and Partners and was the first significantly tall building south of Georgia Street. Ned Pratt was the lead architect, but Ron Thom, who had apprenticed with the company, also played a significant role and was made a partner on the building’s completion. The narrow tapered design allowed every desk to be no more than 15 feet from a window, and the blue, green and black mosaic tile patterns were designed by artist B.C. Binning. The original curtain wall of porcelain coated metal panels covered an innovative structural system of cantilevered floors supported by a central service core with slender external supports.

If the design had a flaw, it was the street frontage to Hornby which was definitely ‘back of house’. In the early 1990s the company moved on to a new headquarters, and by 1995 it had taken on a new role. The frame was stripped and re-clad (with a residential code glazing system that also allowed more light into the units, and opening windows). There are 242 residential condo units, and 100 office units. Paul Merrick Architects designed the conversion, called The Electra, and they managed to redesign the Hornby frontage, and the corner, to introduce retail units and liven up the previously dead frontage.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-W07.21


Patricia Hotel – East Hastings Street


The Patricia started life with 200 rooms, fifty of them with their own bath. Having the luxury of your own bathroom wasn’t cheap – a 1923 brochure shows rooms from $1.00 and up for one person, $1.75 for two people, but $2.50 and $3.50 for a room with a bath. The $1.00 a night rate was quoted in 1913, when the hotel had first opened, so rates didn’t go up a lot in the early years. On opening, Edward P Mulhern was listed as the proprietor, J. J. Moraney was the chief clerk and Fredrick Southern the manager of the Patricia Pool Room. Before taking over the Patricia, Mulhern ran the Hotel Eagle at 111 West Cordova. Benjamin Taylor was running the Pool Room in 1916. In 1917 the Patricia Café opened, and that’s when this image was photographed by Stuart Thomson.

This wasn’t the first building on the lot; William Cargill built a house here in 1890. He ran the Sunnyside Hotel for a while, before becoming secretary of the Union Steamship Company, and later an accountant in the inland revenue department. He died in 1904, and in 1905 another house was built on the lot in 1905 by Doctor Thomas H Wilson. He was born in Waterloo, Ontario, in 1869, graduated in medicine in Manitoba in 1897 and had arrived in Vancouver by 1898 when he married an American, Clara Mitchell, in the Baptist Church.

As we have seen with other Vancouver professionals, Dr. Wilson joined the real-estate aspirations of the fast-growing city. He applied for a building permit for the site of his home in 1912, with J Y McCarter as architect and the Dominion Construction and Supply Co as the contractor of the $115,000 investment, described as “six-storey brick & mill construction store & hotel”. That same year he applied for a permit to build a $7,000 house designed by L E Gordon, and built by the Dominion Construction Co. In moving to Chilco Street he may have created some confusion; another medical doctor, Dr D H Wilson had built a home three blocks away in 1910. That Doctor Wilson had really pushed the boat out, spending $31,000 on a Samuel McLure designed mansion. He also built himself a hotel as an investment, the Alcazar on Dunsmuir Street.

The pool room became a café that began presenting jazz bands in October 1917, at first drawing on local musicians, including the African-Canadian drummer George Paris. Dr Wilson commissioned alterations in that year that may have created the new café, cabaret and dance venue. The Patricia Jazz Band – later Oscar Holden’s Jazz Orchestra – was organized by Oscar Holden, while William Bowman managed the cabaret in the Café. A 1919 note in an Indianapolis newspaper reported “The Patricia Orchestra, one of the best bands on the coast, is scoring a big hit in Vancouver. The band is composed of Oscar Holden, leader, pianist and clarinet; Charles Davis, banjo; Albert Paddio (Padio), trombone; Frank Odel, saxophone, and Williams (sic) Hoy, trap drummer and xylophonist. Misses Ada Smith (Brick Top) and Lillian Rose are the entertainers who are really pleasing in their work and money never fails to come after these clever girls get through. One of the band’s biggest hits is where they all stand and shimmie, featuring William Hoy, the clever Hoosier drummer, who wishes to say that he was made a Master Mason the 24th of November.” These must have been tough times for the proprietors of the café – requiring a carefully managed venue, as it was during the period of prohibition in British Columbia when it should have been theoretically impossible to enjoy any alcohol with the performance. 

Ada Beatrice Queen Victoria Louise Virginia Smith was known as ‘Bricktop’ because, although she was a black singer and dancer, she had red hair (thanks to an Irish father). She toured on the Pantage circuit, worked in Chicago and New York, and arrived at the Patricia around 1919. “Bowman’s biggest customers–and I do mean big,” wrote Smith in her 1983 autobiography, “were the Swedish lumberjacks who came into Vancouver on their time off. Tall, strapping fellows, they could make a bottle of whisky disappear in no time. Pretty soon, they’d be drunk and ready to fight.” One of the more notable brawls took place on Christmas Eve in 1919; Bricktop ended up with a broken leg. She returned to touring in the early 1920s, and opened a club in Paris in 1924 that stayed open until 1961.

Later that year Ferdinand LaMothe – better known as “Jelly Roll” Morton arrived in Vancouver, playing for several stints between 1919 and 1921, initially in the Patricia Café. A creole from New Orleans, Morton claimed to have invented jazz – which is a stretch – but he was certainly an influential pioneer of ragtime piano, writing the “Jelly Roll Blues” in 1905, and publishing it in 1915. The jazz historian Mark Miller described Morton’s arrival  as “an extended period of itinerancy as a pianist, vaudeville performer, gambler, hustler, and, as legend would have it, pimp”. He left Chicago, where he had been working, and headed west to Los Angeles. He is said to have lost heavily at a card game in Tacoma where Bowman was present, who invited him north to perform at the Patricia. Oscar Holden was a veteran of Chicago cabarets in the 1910s and remained in residence at the Patricia Café through 1920 and into 1921. He spent the rest of his career in Seattle. Morton also played at the Irving Cabaret, run by Paddy Sullivan, further west along Hastings, and had returned to the US by mid 1921, recording his music in the early 1920s with a base back in Chicago and traveling the country with his Jelly Roll Jazz Band.

In 1923 the hotel then had a lobby coffee shop, and the Patricia Gardens, but the street directory don’t identify any uses other than the hotel, so they were integrated into the hotel’s management (unlike many hotels where the bar or restaurant had separate proprietors). In 1925 there were 4 clerks, a book-keeper, and a waiter associated with the hotel. Edward Mulhern was still running it, and the cook was E Michael Mulhern (probably his son, also called Edward). A year later Edward senior, who came from Brechin in Ontario and was then aged 45, married 31 year old Mary Doherty from Ireland. He was described as divorced; it was her first marriage.

In 1940 there were three clerks, three waiters, a chambermaid, a porter, two elevator operators and an engineer associated with the hotel. Edward P Mulhern was still in charge, and one of the clerks was Christina Mulhern (almost certainly his ex-wife). The Mulhern family owned and operated the hotel until 1958; (Edward died in 1953).

Today the hotel operates as both a long-stay SRO hotel (although each room now has its own bathroom) and a budget hotel. On the main floor Pat’s Pub & BrewHouse still features live music. While the cornice has been lost for many years, the substantial ‘brick and stick’ structure is in pretty good shape and sees thousands of visitors every year. The huge mid 50’s neon sign replaced an earlier wall mounted sign from the 1940s. It’s one of the few remaining working examples on a street that has lost many excellent examples of the sign-builders art.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-187


Astoria Hotel – 769 East Hastings Street


Unlike the Patricia along the street which was built as a hotel, and stayed in that use, the Astoria started life as an apartment building – initially named for its developer, R A Wallace, and simultaneously as the Toronto House Apartments. The Astoria name was attached to a building on Hastings Street from the 1920s until 1949. The building permit was issued in June 1912 to cost $53,000. It was designed by Braunton & Leibert, and the contractors were Allen & Jones. Robert A Wallace was the original owner; he was aged 37 when he developed the building, a real estate agent from Ontario who lived in the household of Peter and Bella Duffey. In 1911 They lived on Charles Street, and Peter was identified as a builder. He was listed in the census as ‘brother in law’, and as he wasn’t married, Bella must have been his sister. We think he was born into a Presbyterian family in Mount Forest, Ontario and was living in Egremont, South Grey County in 1881 when he was aged seven, one of nine children born to Irish-born Mary. His father, William was born in Ontario, and we think we have identified the correct family because he had an older sister, Isabella. He was married in 1913 when he was 39 to Lillian Carscallen, who was aged 33, from Belleville Ontario.

He moved into his new investment, which he also managed, in the year he was married. Mrs Etta Chatwin was the building’s housekeeper and the first tenants included Malcolm Morrison, a policeman, P H Thompson, another policeman, C A Blubaugh, I Cumcumm, G W Daligher, a printer, D R Fraser who taught at the Central High School, C Edward who was a grocer and C W Erickson who was involved with ‘timber’.

In 1923, when Stuart Thomson took this picture (in the Vancouver Public Library collection) Robert had moved back to Charles Street (to a different house than his earlier address) and was still involved in real estate from an office on Seymour Street. Chris Owens was the proprietor of the Toronto Apartments, and there were many more residents including two engineers, several loggers, two longshoremen, three salesmen, a meter man with the City, Mrs. Lilly Rollings who was a telephone operator with B C Phones, and Mrs. Agnes Fraser.

Robert Aubrey Wallace died in 1950 (the year the apartments became the Astoria Hotel) aged 75. He and Lillian were by that point living on West 10th Avenue. In 1949 the Toronto Apartments were being run by C and B Y Chan. On the same block, at 717 E Hastings Wallace Neon’s manufacturing plant was operating, run by William and James Wallace. As far as we can tell there’s no connection between the two businesses.

This building took the Astoria name in 1950 when it was first run as a hotel by Alex Bayer and William Sawchuk. Mr. Sawchuk was president of Astoria Hotels at both addresses, so transferred it when he moved his operation from West Hastings to East Hastings. Five years later the owners were still Mr. Bayer, now with Ludwig Radymski. Today the hotel is a single-room occupancy rental with 85 rooms, and a newly rejuvinated bar. The balconies have been removed, but the 1950s neon signs, that had gradually lost their lustre over the decades have been restored and now offer a pretty dramatic splash on what is otherwise a quiet part of the street.