Our 1978 view along East Georgia shows both the Charles Woodward store to the north (on the left), and the Pacific Hotel (the London Hotel) on the southern corner. We looked at the history of the drugstore on the left hand side a few weeks ago, (built when this was known as Harris Street, named after a CPR surveyor who became a shareholder in the Vancouver Improvement Company). We also looked at Dan McPhalen’s London Hotel on the southern corner a little more recently, with its four storey later addition. Beyond the early Woodward’s store is the George Rooms. On the right, across a lane from the London Hotel addition is a typical 3-storey building on a 25 foot wide lot, with a 50 feet wide rooming house from 1910 next door to the east. Designed by E E Blackmore for George King, that project cost $25,000 and was called the Shakespeare Rooms when it opened. The smaller corner building’s history however alludes us: supposedly built in 1910, it was a rooming house called the Washington Rooms in 1911, staying in that role until the early 1980s; the upper floors have been vacant for over three decades.
It wasn’t the first building on the lot – there was a frame house built here earlier than 1901. Morris Jones ran the rooms in 1911, while Emma King ran the Shakespeare Rooms. There were four Emma Kings in Vancouver in 1911 – fortunately only one had a husband called George. They were both from England: George was 57, and an agent, and Emma was 45. Their 16 year-old son Albert had been born in Ontario, but Dolores, who was five, was born in BC. There were 26 roomers living with them, mostly involved in the construction boom that year: carpenters, stone-cutters, painters and labourers. Morris Jones lived with his wife Elizabeth – he was from England and she was from the USA, and they had 18 roomers, also carpenters, plumbers and labourers. This stretch of the street had a few Chinese businesses – almost all laundries, but it wasn’t really part of Chinatown. The Shakespeare Rooms had Fidelity Real Estate in the main floor office, while the Washington Rooms had G Crosette’s grocery store and the Italian Commercial Exchange. There was another Italian further down the street; Giambattista Bruzzone was another grocer at the end of the block.
Today it’s home to the Liang You Book Co Ltd – although it’s really a convenience store. It’s main contemporary claim to fame is that scenes for the Doctor Who movie were filmed in the lane behind the building exactly 20 years ago. (For those who care, Paul McGann took over the role from Sylvester McCoy in a movie version in an attempt to revive the TV series after a seven year hiatus, but it would be another nine years before the TV series finally returned to British TV audiences. As is often the case, the area was portraying Chinatown – but San Francisco, not Vancouver.)