Elysium Hotel, West Pender Street (1)

The Elysium was – according to the building permit – developed by C C Smith, who hired Sholto Smith to design the $95,000 investment, built by “McNeil and Marsegh” in 1909. The Daily World said the builders were McNeil and Manseigh. (The street directory said he was John Mansergh, but a legal notice for a 1911 mining claim says he was Joshua). The newspaper initially said it was going to be named The Mountain View Hotel, but it was named The Ellison when it opened, and the Elysium a year later. We have no idea who C C Smith was – this was the only project anyone of that name developed, and there was nobody apparently resident in the city with those initials.

The permit was issued in 1909, but a year later Christina Harwood was still listed as living in a house here. A year later the hotel was open as the Hotel Ellison according to the street part of the directory (but curiously, the Elysium in the name part of the directory). The owners were identified as “THE HOTELS CORPORATION LTD” – and their manager, J D Sheldon, applied for a liquor license for the Hotel Ellison in 1910, and it was still known by that name in February 1911. The name change was announced on March 15: it would become the Hotel Elysium, (with a huge name sign on the rooftop). The sign was necessary as this was a somewhat out-of-the-way location, and the timing for opening a new hotel wasn’t great either. Several other rival hotels had just been built, and by 1912 the economy was heading for a recession; then the war started, and by 1915 the hotel was offered for sale by court order, described as having cost about $300,000, but carrying a mortgage of over $100,000 at seven and a half percent interest. (The advertising extended as far as Portland, Oregon).

Two years later the hotel was taken over by the Returning Soldiers Club, who used it to house soldiers returning from the war, and a variety of related agencies like the Soldiers Aid Commission. The hotel was returned to civilian use in 1919.

The architect, Sholto Smith, had married Charlie Woodward’s daughter, but the marriage didn’t go well and Sholto left the city, initially for Moose Jaw (in 1912), and then to war, serving for five years, returning to Canada with some post-war injury from gas poisoning. He returned to Vancouver in 1920, although his marriage was by then over. He briefly went into partnership with Edmund Grassett, from Simcoe in Ontario, who was a contractor and then house builder (and self-described architect around 1909, although he was never formally registered). Although Smith’s biography says they designed the alterations to the Elysium to return it to civilian use, in practice the permit for that transformation was only submitted in 1921, a year after Smith had emigrated to New Zealand (where he would remarry and run a successful architectural practice in Auckland). Dalton & Eveleigh designed the $7,000 of alterations, with Baynes and Horie doing the building work and Macaulay & Nicolls supervising as agents.

The hotel reopened as the Elysium Hotel, with Stuart O’Brian managing. There were some permanent residents (who weren’t necessarily living in the hotel all the time, as at least one was a traveling salesman). By 1943 the hotel use had ceased, and the property became apartments, known as Park Plaza, with a redesign for the new role by C B K Van Norman. The suites were for families of former servicemen, who faced a severe housing shortage during, and after the second war. By the early 1950s it was once again returned to hotel use for a final time, before demolition not very long after this 1976 image was taken. In 1985 Hamilton Doyle’s design for an 18 storey office building replaced the hotel.

Image source City of Vancouver Archives CVA 447-99


Posted 7 July 2019 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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