122 Powell Street

This solidly built store and rooming house, seen here in 1985, dates back to 1912 when it was designed and built by Edgar Baynes as an investment for himself. That same year he also built the Hotel Grosvenor at Robson and Howe.

He was born in September 1870 in Bocking in Essex, England. His family were farmers – and pretty successful ones if his parents subsequent move to Broxted Hall in Dunmow is any indication. He was the oldest of at least six children (from the 1881 UK census) and left school ‘early’ to join his uncle’s building and contracting firm. How early isn’t clear – but he arrived in BC in 1889 with his uncle, J A Franklin, having learned his trade as a builder. A 1914 biography of Edgar says they worked together for a couple of years, then he moved to the Squamish valley as a rancher (which probably explains his absence from the 1891 Census). Family records say it was actually a homestead on the Cheakamus River, upstream from Squamish, and that he rowed there from Coal Harbour to establish his claim.

He returned to Vancouver around 1893, where he teamed up with William Horie to found one of the most prolific building companies in the city. The rooms here were built with a concrete frame, and when they opened were called the Hampton Rooms. The facade used bricks from the Port Haney Brickworks, owned by Baynes, Horie with Harold Burnet, and opened in 1907. He was also president of the British Pacific Trust Company, a loan and trust business established in 1909.

When the building opened there was a Pool Room on the main floor, and John Brown and Co managed both facilities. The expanding Japanese community saw H Ohi running the premises after the Great War, with a shoe repairer on the main floor.  In 1920 there were two rival Japanese barbers. By the mid 1920s the operator wasn’t listed – the listing said ‘Hampton Rooms (Japanese)’, but Mr. Ohi was listed again in 1930. Shimishi Ohi was listed in the 1921 Census living with his wife, two children, niece, nephew and 40 lodgers.Over the years the operators changed many times, but the building’s name stuck.

The building’s Heritage Statement says “the creation of the Hampton Rooms illustrates the time during Vancouver’s pre-First World War boom period when large numbers of single Japanese males immigrated into Canada, and in particular to Powell Street, to find work. It also reflects the need for accommodation for single males generally, following the City’s shanty clearance program in the early-twentieth century.” The census shows that the Japanese connection here wasn’t obvious. Apart from Mr. Ohi and his family nobody was from Japan. Seven of the lodgers were born in Canada, three were from the USA, and the remainder were European including eight from Sweden and eight from Norway and three Austrians as well as men from Russia, Italy and Denmark.

In 1950 the Hampton Rooms had the Union Gospel Mission on the main floor. In 1951 the property was known as the Hampton Hotels Ltd, and in 1955 L Edwards was managing the building. In 2008 a number of rooms were out of use after a fire, and today, the MPA Society operate The Hampton Hotel, with 46 single room occupancy units, a communal meal program and onsite kitchen facilities. Mental Health workers are on site 24 hours daily to provide support to the Hampton residents.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 790-2418


Posted 2 August 2018 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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