London Hotel – Main and East Georgia

Pacific Hotel, E Georgia & Main

Across East Georgia Street from Charles Woodward’s store, the London Hotel is still standing. The Heritage Statement for the building says it was built by D J McPhalen in 1903, with a 1910 addition designed by W F Gardiner (the four storey section on East Georgia). That building work cost $35,000, and Mr. McPhalen built it himself. He lived in a house just across the street – in those days called Harris Street.

We’re questioning the accuracy of that version of events. We’re sure Dan McPhalen developed this site, but the insurance maps and street directories suggest a slightly different sequence of events. The corner is numbered as 700 Westminster Avenue, and in 1903 it was shown as being vacant with John S Duguid living a bit further south at 706 Westminster Avenue, with cabins behind. Both the cabins and Mr. Duguid had been on Westminster Avenue since 1901, when the City Fuel Co occupied the corner.  A year later S T Wallace’s grocery store occupied the corner, with Mr. Duguid and the cabins still listed at 706. In 1906 the grocery was still here, and Mr. Wallace was also running Avenue Furniture Mart. Next door at 706 the cabins were still here, and James Stanley, a saw filer was living at the same address. From the 1903 Insurance map and the Building permit issued that year we think that there was a retail unit built by Mr. McPhalen on the corner in 1903 at a cost of $4,500, (with grocer Samuel T Wallace occupying it from 1904). Mr. Duguid lived in the house furthest to the south. We think that was probably a single storey structure – we’d be surprised if $4,500 would pay for a 3-storey brick building (and the permit only mentions ‘brick store’).

In 1907 there was a ‘new building’ listed, (but so too were the cabins at the rear of the site). In 1908 the corner was still occupied by Mr. Wallace, both as a grocer and the Avenue Furniture Mart. 710 Westminster Avenue was the Gordon Furnished Rooms, (presumably the ‘new building’ completed in 1907) run by J Grantham, and in 1910 by Isabelle Cameron. In 1911 the London Hotel is listed here for the first time, with A G Marin and J Conta as proprietors. The 1912 Insurance map acknowledges the height change, but shows this as one single property, spelled out as London House. The southern half of the Main Street façade has square windows, similar to the 4-storey part on East Georgia, so we think those parts of the building might have been all built at the same time in 1910.

This suggests the corner part, with the arched windows was redeveloped (or added to the single storey retail built in 1903) in 1907 with the building we see today; initially as the Gordon Furnished Rooms, then in 1911 as part of the expanded London Hotel with the 4-storey East Georgia Street addition. The three storey building could have been built very quickly – the building on Westminster avenue built for Charles Woodward was completed in less than 3 months. It’s quite likely that D J McPhalen built them both; we know from building permits that he constructed his 1903 store, and the 1911 addition.

These days the Pacific Hotel is an SRO above the Brixton Café and the London Hotel bar, renovated by Porte Developments after they built Ginger, the condo building to the south in 2009. Our image shows the building when the condo was under construction, and the hotel was in its unrenovated state. For many years before the renovation, the windows were obscured reflecting a mid-century belief that drinkers should not be visible from the street. A ‘ladies beer parlour’ was constructed at the hotel in 1931; there were two entrances, one at the corner and one along Main Street.

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Posted January 18, 2016 by ChangingCity in Chinatown, Downtown, Still Standing

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