50 East Cordova Street

This is an SRO building in the Downtown Eastside that displays some similar characteristics to its neighbours on either side (designed by the same architect, and built in the same year). Built in 1911 for Daniel Campbell, it was designed by Hugh Braunton. and Edgell & Dixon were hired to build the $30,000 investment. Completed in 1912, it was initially named the Cordova Rooms.

There were several Daniel Campbells in Vancouver, but only one was a real estate broker. Born in Ontario in 1863, he lived at 1201 Georgia with his wife Kate, who was three years younger than Daniel, and in 1911 their bookkeeper son William who was aged 17, and who had been born in the US, and arrived in Canada aged two. Daniel was a partner in the Campbell-Walker Brokerage Co.

Like many other real estate businesses, things went badly for Campbell-Walker as the Great war added to the recession that had already hit the economy. The 1915 Government Gazette lists a number of lots where they had failed to pay the appropriate taxes, and where they were in arrears.

Renamed as the Wonder Rooms, this property briefly achieved notoriety as one of the properties co-owned by a former pharmacist, George Wolsey, who lost his pharmacy licence for forcing residents at the buildings he owned to get their methadone prescriptions filled through his pharmacy. In 2012 a court-appointed receiver assumed control of the buildings and began hunting for prospective buyers, and Vancouver-based nonprofit Community Builders agreed to take over running the building. Sold for over a million dollars, tenants who had successfully launched a class-action lawsuit against the owners of the two dilapidated single-room-occupancy buildings in 2011 were unable to obtain their $18,000 payout as Mr Wolsey failed to show up in court, or make payment. During the lawsuit the state of the building was described. “Structurally, the building is falling apart, the fire seals are breached, the fire escapes are blocked, the toilets don’t work, there is a single shower for three floors of people.” Things are better than that these days, but the rooms no longer let at the welfare rate.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 790-2444

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Posted September 3, 2018 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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