Our 1921 image shows yet another car dealership Downtown, with three more American brands competing for the city’s motoring dollars. We’re not sure who designed the building, but it seems to have been owned for many years (with several others on the same block) by Henry Hoffmeister. Henry was no stranger to motoring; he was one of several Hoffmeister Brothers who came to the city from Ontario, two of whom ran a significant car dealership on Pender Street in the 1910s, selling many different makes The company were successful enough to have offices in the prestigious Winch Building. The building is very like one across the street designed by Henry’s brother, Reinhart.
Henry was more commonly known as Harry and with his brother George operated the car dealership on Pender Street offering both gasoline and electric models, and they were electrical engineers as well. Harry had arrived from Ontario in 1886, one of seven brothers whose father was an international lawyer living in Clifford, Ontario. Reinhart followed in 1888; a steam engineer in a flour mill, he learned about electricity as it was being installed for the first time. William, another engineer arrived in 1893, having worked for Allis machinery and the Pullman company. The Hoffmeister Brothers were dealers for a number of car makers, with at one time six different electric cars, including Detroit Electric vehicles. According to Major Matthews in an interview with Reinhart, architect Thomas Fee bought the first electric vehicle. They also appear to have been builders, with several building permits for their own properties and one for Captain French on Alexander Street.
Pattison Motors was a new enterprise, managed by John W Pattison who also ran Ye Olde English Billiards Parlour at 779 Granville. The 1921 census tells us he was aged 39, English, and married to his 28-year-old American wife, Martha and living in the Bell-Irving block at 679 Granville. He had arrived in Canada in 1901, and his wife in 1912. We think he was running a lodging house on Pender Street in 1911, living at that time with his older wife, Eva, who was also American, aged 34 and with two children, James and Gordon Benge.
Pattison sold Saxon, Roamer and Lexington cars. Saxon cars were built in the Ace factory in Michigan from 1914. Despite financial problems from 1917, in 1920 a new model, the Duplex, powered by an overhead-valve, four-cylinder engine joined the six-cylinder model with a sedan body. The six-cylinder cars were no longer listed after 1921 and production fell from 7,000 a few years earlier to 2,100 cars, and the company ceased production in 1922. The Roamer was first built in 1916 by the Barley Motor Car Co. in New York State, and later Kalamazoo, Michigan. The stylish car had a nickel-plated grill modeled after the Rolls-Royce. After a Roamer with a Rochester-Duesenberg engine set six records for sprints at Daytona Beach in 1921, the advertisements crowed, “America’s Smartest Car Makes America’s Fastest Mile.” Production was moved to Ontario in 1924, and struggled on for five years. Lexington Motors was founded in 1909 in the city of the same name in Kentucky. The cars were assembled with parts from a number of different suppliers: in 1922 the United States Automotive Corporation, Lexington’s parent company, owned ten different factories building parts for its cars. Production of Lexington cars peaked in 1920 with over 6,000 built. By 1922 it had fallen to roughly a third of that of 1920.
In 1923 the Daily World ran an advertisement “Announcing To All Automobile Owners and to Those Who Will Be Pattison Motors Ltd. 1365 Granville Street Have Been Appointed the British Columbia Representatives for the Manufacturers of Willys – Knight and Overland Cars”. While still selling Lexington and Roamer cars, the company had also added Stutz to their lineup, and moved a block south. Pattison Motors didn’t survive the 1920s financial crash, with Atlas Motors taking over their premises. John W Pattison became a broker. This building continues to be used for vehicle sales: C C Motor sales were here in 1927, run by E H Winram. By the mid 1930 Gent Supply Co’s auto accessory wholesale operation was here, along with Walsh’s auto wrecking and parts company. In 1950 Parker’s furniture store was here, and today there’s a market rental building with 10 storeys designed by Hywel Jones and completed in 2001.
Image Source City of Vancouver Archives Trans N19.