East Hastings and Main – north east corner

Main & Hastings ne 2

This supposedly 1930 image shows the corner of Main and Hastings where today’s building is quite a bit smaller than the earlier one. There’s a 1905 picture that shows the site part built, but it may not have been completed until early in 1906. In 1899 Miss McLennan, a dressmaker and Captain Garthley, a master mariner, lived here, with a Japanese boarding house to the east. A year later, George Wilson, a clerk lived on the corner and H Hamamura’s boarding house was next door. H J Stubbs, a jeweler had moved into the corner house in 1901, and a year later Mrs Bourgeois a dressmaker replaced him, and a year after that Mrs. E J Coleman, another dressmaker. (We’re assuming that these dressmaker’s made dresses, and were not offering other services that some ‘dressmakers’ offered on Dupont Street). Dan Nicholson, a tailor lived on the corner in 1904 and 1905, with the boarding house now run by a Mr. Yuchmi. J S McLeod, a merchant, had premises to the north, on Westminster Avenue.

Main & Hastings 1905-06 (Timms)In 1906 the new property on the corner was occupied by J S Mcleod, Macbeth & Co, selling dry goods. They’re clearly the occupants in this 1906 Philip Timms image; their name is prominently displayed on the corner. The company described themselves as Importers of Dry Goods, Mantles, Millinery, Ready to Wear, Carpets, and House furnishings. They could have been responsible for developing the property, but we haven’t found a record to prove that. They were only located here for five years, moving again in 1911 to Granville Street. William Charles Macbeth, a Scotsman from Buckie in Banffshire had partnered with J S Mcleod in 1903, although the company claimed to have been founded in 1894. Before joining J S McLeod he worked for grocer William Walsh. In 1911 he moved (as so many Vancouver businessmen did) into real estate with the company of Macbeth and Brown.

In 1911 the Union Bank of Canada occupied the corner premises, with a side entrance on East Hastings, There were several other offices in the building, occupied by tenants that included Hindi Realty Brokerage and the Socialist Party of Canada. In 1914 it was listed for the first time as the McArthur & Harper Bldg, and while the Realty Brokerage had gone, the Socialists were still here, joined by the Halibut Fishermen’s Union. Harper & McArthur had owned the building from at least 1911 when it was enlarged at a cost of $35,000 to Parr and Fee’s designs. We initially assumed that represented the addition of two floors – it was a substantial sum to spend, but the building was already three storeys in 1905. It would seem that the addition might have been at the rear, down the lane.

Over the years there were many alterations made to the building – around 20 different building permits, sometimes only referencing Mr. McArthur, but usually the company, McArthur & Harperwhich more frequently was known as McArthur & Harper. As with Vancouver merchants they made their fortunes in mining – not by finding gold (which was obviously much more of a gamble), but by the more assured route of supplying the miners with the provisions they needed – based in Kamloops – as this 1897 advertisement shows. That doesn’t mean they were entirely averse to gambling;  J.H. Morrison, A.S. McArthur and J.M. Harper in 1906 had an interest in the Evening Star group of mineral claims in Galaxy Mine, about eight kilometers outside Kamloops. It doesn’t appear that ore was ever mined successfully, although there have been repeated attempts to exploit the copper and gold deposits. (The only reported production was A S McArthur extracting 902 grams of silver and 2,552 kilograms of copper from 53 tons of ore in 1916). There have been extensive further reports, tests, surveys and attempts to restart mining, which continue to this day.

Mr. Harper stayed on in Kamloops, and continued to be associated with the McArthur & Harper store. He was still resident in 1918. In 1911 Mr McArthur was living on Burnaby Street with his extended family. As well as his wife, Maud, and their three children, his brother, parents and mother-in-law were all resident as well as their domestic, Alice Winwood. Mr McArthur was aged 45 and had been born in Quebec like his parents, although his mother-in-law was Scottish and his wife was from Ontario.

The reason we question the accuracy of the suggested 1930 date on the photograph is that the construction of the replacement was started at the end of 1929. Honeyman and Curtis were the architects of three different new branches for the Bank of Montreal; another was only a few blocks south of this one, at Prior Street and the third further south at East Broadway. With all three they favoured a classical style, here featuring Corinthian columns and the bank’s crest carved over the doorway. This one cost $95,000 and was built by Smith Bros. & Wilson.

Next door (across the lane) was the Empress Hotel. Built in 1913 for L L Mills it was almost certainly inaccurately described as the ‘world’s narrowest tallest hotel’ when it was built. Mr. Mills had acquired the older hotel next door at 237 Hastings Street in 1910, and the new building was called the “New Empress Hotel”. Lyle Mills was American, almost certainly born in Iowa. His father was a hotelier, and so was his brother, Oscar, who also worked at the Empress. The hotel is the only Vancouver design by F N Bender. He was an American too, working in Independence, Kansas, and he almost certainly got the job because he was married to Lyle and Oscar’s sister. The last reference to Mr. Mills as proprietor of the Empress was in 1917. He disappears from the street directory that year, and seems to have moved to Seattle.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 447-293


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