Murray Hotel – Hornby Street

The Murray has been on Hornby since it was completed in 1915. It appears to have had a slow gestation – Fred S Murray owned the site since at least 1910, when J A Matheson took out a lien against him for a debt of $115 (probably a typo for contractor J P Matheson). Unless there were two people called Fred S Murray (which is quite possible, although only one was listed in the street directory), he was a teller at the Royal Bank of Canada that year. In 1911 he was living on Denman Street, and a year later he was still there, and shown as being employed by the Real Estate Listing Exchange (appropriately based in the Exchange Building on West Hastings). His 1911 census entry shows he was only 25 years old, had been born in Canada (although no province is indicated) and he was a broker. (Other records show he was born in Bridgewater, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia on 1 March 1886). In 1911 he was already practicing to operate a rooming house, as he had at least seven lodgers in his home.

That year F S Murray obtained a permit for the $65,000 building described in the Daily Building Record as ‘Apartments/rooms; four-storey brick store & rooming house’. E Workman was shown as both architect and builder, and that’s confirmed by an August 1912 issue of Architect, Builder & Engineer, who noted Plans have been filed for a 4-storey brick and concrete store and apartment building, at 1117 Hornby Street, for F. S. Murray, to cost $65,000. E. Workman, 42 18th Avenue E, architect”. (A suggestion, that we initially thought correct, that Sharp and Thompson designed the building is almost certainly inaccurate).

Ernest Workman was trying to reinvent himself after he was arrested in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1907, charged with printing nearly $20,000 in conterfeit gold certificates which he had planned to bring back to Winnipeg, where he practiced architecture. (He stayed in Vancouver for only a couple of years while the development boom of the early 1910s was at its height).

Mr. Murray changed jobs again, presumably as hard times hit the real estate business. F S Murray and Co were shown as contractors, with an office in the Bower Building on Granville Street in 1913 and 1914, and in 1914 Mr. Murray was shown living on Robson Street. In 1915 F S Murray was listed as a traveler with United Paper Products, and then was no longer listed in the city; from references in the city’s newspapers it appears that he went to fight in the Great War. There’s no sign that Mr. Murray returned to Vancouver; after the war he returned to Nova Scotia, where he got married in Halifax in 1923. At that time he appears to have been a surplus dealer.

The rooming house initially never opened; it’s listed through the war years as vacant, and in 1919 Great West Permanent Loan (presumably owners of the building, or at least a financial interest in the property) obtained a $1,200 permit for repairs, to remodel the building for the R. N. W. M. P. (the Royal North West Mounted Police) for their new barracks of the Vancouver squadron. The main floor became stables, with offices in the upper floors. The RCMP use of the building was brief – in 1922 the Murray Hotel was listed for the first time, with Mrs. A W Smith listed as proprietor. Our picture shows the building as it looked in 1925, when it offered furnished rooms. As far as we can tell Fred St Clair Murray moved to California in 1934 with his wife and three children, becoming a US citizen in 1937 and dying there in 1958, and being buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills.

The building has recently had the façade repaired and restored (in conjunction with the new condo building constructed next door), a new storefront has returned the building’s appearance to its earlier design, and the upper floors continue to offer low cost housing as a privately owned single room occupancy hotel.

Image source, City of Vancouver Archives Hot N6



Posted 22 October 2018 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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