339 West Pender Street

300-w-pender-3

Here’s a building that was lost to a fire in 2003. It was most recently known as the Pender Auditorium, but it started life in 1906 as the Myers Hall, and was quickly renamed as the Dominion Hall. The designer and developer were initially hard to pin down, but from the name it looked like it was associated with a short-lived real estate company called Myers and Lamey, who had offices in the building in 1907. However, they didn’t appear in the street directory at all, but they did run a few advertisements in the Daily World, and John M Lamey was in real estate in the city that year. Because Mr. Lamey stayed in the city in the real estate business we know he was young; born in 1884 in Ontario, as was his wife, Florence. He appears to have headed south in 1916, living in Huntington Park, Los Angeles in the 1930 census with Florence and their children; Leo, a nut seller, daughter Margaret, ‘Professional Dancer, Vaudeville’, and two other younger children.

The ‘Myers’ looks as if it was ‘Professor’ Myers of the Myers Dance Academy. He started a dancing class ‘in his new hall’ in 1906. The name switch to the Dominion Hall a year or so later may relate to the Dominion Music Company who performed in the hall. Professor Myers was Marion C Myers, and in 1905 he was the Lessee of the Imperial Hall. The true developer of the building can be seen in a 1906 Daily World article which mentions that Professor Myers was to be the lessee of Mr. Acland Hood’s new hall on Pender Street. There was already a hall on Pender Street designed by W T Whiteway, developed by William Acland-Hood, and this second hall was designed by Dalton & Eveleigh in 1906, costing $35,000 and boasting ‘two upper floors to be devoted to the largest dancing hall in the city’. Professor Myers missed the Canadian census, but it looks as if he was from Indiana, and moved out of Vancouver before 1908. In 1910 he was living in Portland, a real estate broker with his Canadian wife Ada (who worked as a bookkeeper in real estate) and daughters Juanita (8) and Virl, (5).

In 1920 (and in 1930) Marion C Myers was living in Thurston, Washington. In 1920 he was aged 53, working as a planerman in a sawmill and living with his Canadian wife Sadie, aged 27, and 15 year old Virl who worked as a waitress. In 1930 Virl had moved out, but Marion and Sadie had four children at home. Marion was working as an auto repair mechanic, and Sadie immigration date to the US was noted as 1918.

The basement held the city’s first purpose-built bowling alley, with 12 alleys, four of them reserved for ladies. On the ground floor was another slice of motordom, with the CCM (Canadian Cycle and Motor Co) selling Russell cars (including the top-of-the-range 7 cylinder model) and a range of bicycle brands, including Perfect, Rambler and Blue Flyer.

The hall became used by the Canadian Legion in the mid 1930s, and by 1940 it was the Boilermaker’s Hall, then in 1947 the Marine workers took it over and it became known as the Pender Auditorium. Fraser Wilson painted a fabulous mural “a view of a worker’s waterfront”– on the walls, and after the building was sold and plans were made to paint over it, the mural was moved, restored, and rededicated at the opening of the new Maritime Labour Auditorium in 1988.

g-deadDuring the 1960s the Auditorium was booked regularly by contemporary music concert promoters, with a wide range of bands playing there, including an early Grateful Dead concert on Friday August 5 1966. The People’s Co-op book store was where the bicycles had once been sold. The organizer of ‘The Afterthought’ concerts wasn’t even 18 when he obtained his business licence and started promoting concerts that year. The hall could legally hold 1,000 (although apparently that was sometimes exceeded) so his entire enterprise was very ambitious, including the first psychedelic light show in the city. As the hall was only available on some weekends, after only a few months Afterthought moved to Kitsilano’s Russian Hall, but other promoters continued to use the venue for live music.

More recently the building was home to Vancouver’s earliest drag bar, BJ’s, open from 1970 to 1983. There’s a youtube video showing images from the days when it was operating. After a while the Vancouver Club Baths opened in the same basement area of the building. Once the owners of the club, Brian and Jim, sold the club it took on a western theme as Saddle Tramps before converting to a lesbian bar, Ms. T’s.

In July 2003 the building burned down, and to prevent the fire spreading to adjacent buildings it was demolished immediately. The site was acquired by the City of Vancouver, and after eight years the Pacific Coast Apartments were built here, a non-market housing project funded by BC Housing and designed by Davidson Yuen Simpson Architects

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 778-263

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Posted February 6, 2017 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone, Victory Square

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