Arthur Griffith and his son Malcolm were carpenters. Arthur arrived in the city before 1894, and lived on Richards Street. His son Malcolm shows up in the street directory at the same address in 1898. Arthur was still shown as a carpenter in the 1901 census, aged 64, and Malcolm was a contractor. There were two lodgers living in the household as well in 1901, Annie Montgomery and Mary Neil. The family also had a live-in servant.
In 1902 Malcolm Griffith married Annie Jeannie McKenzie Montgomery, who was born in Peebles, Scotland. Malcolm was born in South Durham, Quebec. His father, Arthur, was also from Quebec and still head of the household in 1911, aged 74, and living on his investments. Malcolm was shown as a contractor, aged 40, married to Annie, and living with his two-year-old son, John and his sister, also called Annie, who was born in Prince Edward Island.
The year before Malcolm had built this hotel; the Glenaird Hotel for himself at a cost of $55,000. An experienced contractor, he also built one of the other hotels on the same block, but this one was for himself, as were twenty houses, most in the West End. Altogether we’ve tracked over $350,000 of work he was responsible for building, including several Shaughnessy mansions, including one for his family in 1911. He hired Parr and Fee who gave him a version of their standard white glazed brick product with centre-pivoting windows – one of three on this block.
In 1906 the family were involved in the tragic wreck of the Valencia; a liner involved in the Seattle to San Francisco route that struck a reef off Vancouver Island with the loss of over 100 passengers and crew. “M.C. Griffith of Vancouver enquired as to his brother-in-law, John Montgomery. Mr. Griffith described him as 5 feet 10 inches in height and 175 lbs. in weight, smooth-shaven, with heavy shoulders, and having tattooed arms and scars on his chest and temple.
Victoria’s Daily Colonist for February 6, 1906, reported that the tug Lorne had returned from the search the previous day with the bodies of 9 men and 3 women. Four bodies had been definitely identified and two tentatively. One of the latter was likely that of quartermaster John Montgomery. The description was similar to that given by Mr. Griffith: ‘Male – 5 feet 8 inches, long hair, features unrecognizable: no clothing. On left arm a British and Danish shield tattooed in blue and red, also a star with blue border tattooed on same arm. On right arm, three cross fishes tattooed in blue.’ Montgomery’s naval record showed his actual height to be 5 feet 7 inches which is very close to the description of the recovered body. The most distinguishing feature, however, is that of the tattoo showing three crossed fish. This unusual feature is actually the coat of arms for the Town of Peebles, Scotland where John was born and raised. This evidence strongly implies that the body was indeed that of John Montgomery”.
Our 1926 image by Stuart Thomson shows the main floor occupied by William Thomas McArthur’s hardware store. He was born in New Brunswick, and sold an eclectic mix of ranges, furnaces and children’s cycles and tricycles (seen in the upper windows of this more detailed image). The company occupied this space in 1920, replacing Cunningham’s hardware store, who had occupied the space since the building had been completed. W T McArthur came to Vancouver in 1907 as the representative for Fisher Bros. Foundry (makers of Enterprise stoves and furnaces) in Sackville, New Brunswick. He had a warehouse on Homer street as well as this retail store. In addition to business interests in Vancouver, He purchased land in Pitt Meadows and established a large herd of Ayrshire dairy cattle which became the basis of a commercial dairy business in Vancouver, Meadowvale Creameries Ltd. He was the chairman of the Dairy Products Marketing Board, and a prominent member of the Liberal Party.
In 1921 he was identified as part of a group of Liberal Party members controlling liquor licences, and the public accounts committee heard from a failed licence seeker “I went to see McArthur, and he asked, ‘What pull do you think you have to get a licence over me?’ I replied that I had the promises of four Cabinet Ministers. McArthur replied, ‘I don’t give a _____ for all the Cabinet Ministers in Victoria. I’m running Vancouver and will see who gets licences.’ McArthur denied everything and the Conservatives couldn’t prove anything, but a few years later Henry Reifel gave evidence to a commission into smuggling. In December 1926 he stated that over the previous eighteen months he had made nearly $100,000 in political contributions, including $40,000 to Liberal bagman William McArthur in Vancouver; some of the payments were “in the nature of loans and donations to fight prohibition.” The Liberals lost the 1928 election, in part because of the scandals over liquor. McArthur died of pneumonia in 1940 after crashing into a water-filled ditch in Pitt Meadows.
Today the Glenaird Rooms have become the Samesun Backpacker’s Hostel, converted in 1999. In the conversion rooms were converted to bathrooms, which were necessary because there are an advertised 220 beds available in the property.
Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-1434 and CVA 99-5415