Patricia Hotel – East Hastings Street

Patricia

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

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