When it was first built, 773 Seymour Street housed the Lolomi Rooms, furnished rooms managed by J T Smith, which opened in 1913. Designed by H L Stevens & Co (and built by them as well) at an initial cost of $65,000, it was developed by J W McFarland. The first permit was for a four storey concrete frame building; a month later another two storeys were proposed to be added at an additional cost of $30,000. Construction was fast in those days – the first permit was taken in September 1912, the addition in October, and the Province newspaper later that month said “Structure to be finished soon”
Stores and rooms building worth $95,000 to be complete January 1
One of the many features of the six storey reinforced concrete stores and rooms building, being erected on Seymour street near the corner of Robson for Mr. J. W. MacFarland at a cost of $95,000 is that the stores to be situated on the ground floor and in the basement of the building will contain no posts. The upper floors will be supported by the walls and crosswise beams.
Pressed brick, buff in colour and terra cotta of the same shade will be used for facing the building. Hollow tile will be used for the partitions and cement for the floors. The structure will occupy a lot 50 feet by 120 feet.
There are 130 rooms in the building all of which will be fitted up in the most up-to-date manner, including hot and cold water, telephone and steam heat. Another convenience will be gas connected to each room, that light house-keeping may be carried on. To make the building completely fireproof, metal window frames and wire mesh glass will be used in the side and rear windows. An elevator will be installed in the building.
Messrs. H. L. Stevens designed the structure and are erecting it. The building will be complete and ready for occupancy by February 1.
J W McFarland was a city pioneer. He was born in Niagara, Ontario, learned the trade of railway construction building the Hoosac Tunnel in Massachusetts (funded by New York’s ‘Boss’ Tweed), then built railways in both Canada and the US before moving to British Columbia in 1884. He was construction manager for H F Keefer for the Kamloops to Shuswap Lake section of the CPR and in 1885 the Esquimalt Nanaimo Railway at Shawnigan Lake. In 1886 he came to Vancouver and managed the Water Works for George A Keefer, and then the secretary of David Oppenheimer’s Electric Illuminating Company. He was also secretary of the company that built the first wharf, at the foot of Carrall Street – although CPR disputed their right to build it, and after it burned down in an accident the railway took it over. In 1894 he was a founding partner in Mahon McFarland and Mahon, involved in real estate and insurance, until he retired in 1911 and the London & British North America Co took over the company’s interests. Once he ‘retired’ he managed his own portfolio of investments – and the hotel seems to have been his most significant development.
After it was built the property soon changed management style from furnished rooms to hotel – from 1915 to 1928, it was the Hotel Hudson, and then for the next decade the Hudson Hotel. It had a number of resident tenants as well as visitors in the early years. Glen Moffard has this image on his flickr photostream. The Wrigley’s Street Directories for 1927 and 1928 say Mrs Karin Larsen was proprietor of the Hotel Hudson (but entries in the street directory call it the Hudson Hotel). We found only one permanent resident listed in 1927; R J Snow, secretary of the Grolier Society, (for book lovers & graphic arts afficianados). There was a Cigar Stand in the hotel, run by Arthur W W Forbes, and a beer parlour. The hotel manager was James B Keith. In 1929 Mrs. Larsen was still in charge, and still living in the hotel. We assume it was refurbished in 1932, as the Archives have a record of it reopening that year, still owned by J W McFarland, and now identified as the hotel proprietor.
From 1938 it was known as the Ambassador Hotel (and the Hotel Ambassador as well), and here’s a Vancouver Public Library image from 1939 that shows men and women sharing the same lounge to drink beer. It was run by G Anderson and A Harrison that year, and the hotel was advertised as Absolutely Fireproof.
The parlour would be altered during the Second World War as bars were required to erect partitions to prevent contact between unattached men and unescorted women. This was all in aid of the War Effort – to prevent the spread of Venereal Disease (which was apparently entirely due to the behavior of the unescorted women).
Over the years the hotel, as we have seen in many other similar buildings, became more run down. Our image dates from the 1970s. Asim Bhattacharya recalls staying in the hotel in 1978 when he first arrived in the city: “I inspected the $6/day room, which had a musty smell, a bed with a gray cover, matching curtains with a few holes in them, a cracked mirror hung on the wall above a desk. and a cushioned gray chair, the middle of which had sunk down. The wall-to-wall carpet looked worn out with quite a few unsightly stains. The washrooms were along the corridor to be shared with the other occupants of the wing.”
The hotel only lasted a few more years after this. In 1989 Vancouver House, a 16 storey office building designed by Hamilton Doyle with Musson Cattell Mackey was completed here, replacing the Orillia and the Ambassador.