1161 Granville Street is today the St Helen’s Hotel, designed (according to the building permit) by Parr and Fee for G A Lees and H F Maskell and completed in 1911. It was built by Hemphill Brothers and cost $60,000, and opened in December 1911. In the newspapers, the street directory and on the 1912 insurance maps it’s identified as the Barron Hotel Annex. The Barron was across the street, a block to the south, also designed by Parr and Fee, and later known as the Belmont Hotel; today it’s the Comfort Inn. In its first year the Annex was run by T S Brophy, who was also ran the Hotel Barron with his wife and Mrs O G Barron.
It appears that the development of the Annex was a one-off business partnership between a retailer and a real estate broker. G Albert Lees was a partner with Joseph N Raybould of Lees and Raybould, (or Reabould, or Rabould – depending on which entry – in the same directory – is accurate), running a clothing store from this address. We’re favouring Raybould as Joseph N Raybould was in Toronto in 1900 in partnership with his brother as Raybould Brothers, butchers. George A Lees was the alternate record of his name, and he’s also likely to have arrived in Vancouver from Ontario. In 1901 he was listed as a merchant lodging with his brother Andrew and his family – Andrew was 21 years older, also a clothing merchant, living at 909 Richards with a business in the Flack Block.
H F Maskill (sic) was Humbert F Maskill, a real estate promoter with J F Maskill (both living in the Terminal City Club in 1912). With a name like that, Mr. Maskill was easy to track down. He was Irish, recorded as Maskell in the 1911 Census (but Maskill in all the street directory records) and shown as being aged 22 when he arrived in Canada in 1902. His brother, Joseph Francis Maskill was living at a hotel; also a broker, one year older than his brother, he had arrived from Ireland in 1906.
The Hotel Barron and Barron Annex were run in conjunction with each other, run by the Barron Co, Ltd. This was the business empire run by Colonel Oscar G. Barron with his brother William, owner of a string of hotels in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The family were from Hartford, Vermont, and Oscar and William ran Barron, Merrill & Barron Company with other hotels in Florida, Boston and Bermuda. He visited the Pacific Northwest when his daughter got married in Seattle, and headed off on her honeymoon to Honolulu and the Orient. The Colonel took a tour of the area, and despite claiming to have had no intention of building anything when he arrived, was immediately impressed with the fast-growing city, and decided to invest in one of the city’s largest hotels. The Barron name remained associated with the hotel for several years; in 1917 the hotel (and presumably the Annex) was being managed by C A Johnson, and in 1920 W D Wood was the proprietor. By then business would have been affected by the war, and the Annex was no longer associated with the hotel – it had become the St Helen Rooms, a name it retains today. In 1921 it was advertised as offering furnished rooms: “transients; housekeeping and sleeping rooms; good elevator service”. R H Moore was the proprietor in 1920.
We haven’t identified the developer of the building to the south, which appears for the first time in the 1912 street directory as a branch of the Northern Crown Bank. Almost the entire block was undeveloped in 1903, so this was almost certainly the first structure built here. By 1920 it had become the French Way Cleaners – a business that remained here for a remarkably long time – at least 30 years.
Our 1978 image shows the buildings with their original windows – a pair of bay windows on 1167/69, and the trademark centre pivoted sash windows of a Parr and Fee building. The hotel was bought by BC Housing in 2007, and has been repaired and now managed as an 86 unit non-market SRO Hotel.