We looked at the history of the St Regis and its developer, Leon Melekov, in an earlier post. He had been in Canada less than ten years, since arriving from Russia in 1902. He was only aged 38 when the hotel opened, having cost $100,000 to build. Like other eastern European emigres, Leon Melekov was Jewish.
For a couple of years there was some ambiguity about the hotel’s name – it appeared as both Hotel St Regis, and the St Regis Hotel, but by 1915, when these Vancouver Public Linbrary images are dated, it was just the latter; run by H Tolford Fitzsimmons. There was a separate office address listed for the ownership company, based in the Bank of Ottawa building in the offices of Deacon Deacon & Wilson, barristers. Mr. Fitzsimmons had taken over the hotel in 1914, and he had been living in Brockville Ontario in the earlier years of the century, where he had been born in 1850. He married Fanny (or perhaps Fannie) Conway, and they had a large family. When he died at the age of 92, Mr. Fitzsimmons was living in Victoria.
The hotel’s website has a quite different version of events: “During Vancouver’s “Golden Years of Growth” from 1907 to 1913, P. Roberts of Roberts, Maltby and Company, a local Real Estate and Loan company, decided to build the St. Regis Vancouver Hotel for his wife Mary. Taking advantage of the hotel’s close proximity to Vancouver’s financial district on West Hastings, Mr. Roberts decided to build one of what would become a top historic hotel in Vancouver for the business traveler. He employed W.T. Whiteway, one of the leading architects in the British Empire, to design his hotel. Mr. Whiteway had designed the World Building, now the Sun Tower, which had just opened as the tallest building in the Empire. He also went on to design the Marine Building, which was the tallest building in the Empire from 1930 to 1939. Having the top architect also meant Mr. Roberts had to hire Canada’s top builder – E.J. Ryan, whose resume included the Marine Building, Hotel Vancouver, Harrison Hot Springs and numerous hotels across Canada.
Construction started in 1911 and was completed in time for an opening day of March 15, 1913. The hotel thrived until the Great Depression, but as with much in Vancouver during the ‘30s, the hotel’s business suffered. With the start of the Second World War in 1939, Vancouver’s shipbuilding and lumber industry took off and the hotel was reborn and took on the role as Vancouver’s “Sportsman’s” hotel.”
We agree that W T Whiteway was the architect; and that he designed the Sun Tower, but he certainly couldn’t take credit for the Marine Building, and to suggest he was a leading architect in the British Empire would be pushing things a bit – he designed buildings in Port Townsend in the US, and then Newfoundland and Nova Scotia before Vancouver. We identified Mr Melekov as the developer as his name was on the Building Permit, and the Province newspaper in 1912 called it a “hotel for Leon Melekov”. The Daily Building Record noted that his hotel was being built by E J Ryan, who issued requests for subcontracts for the building in 1912. There wasn’t a P Roberts in Vancouver, but there was a William P Roberts at Roberts, Maltby & Co, previously Roberts, Meredith & Co. His 1913 biography is shown here – there’s no suggestion that he had just developed a hotel.