Archive for June 2020

Belleville Block, East Hastings Street

Frank G Lewis was a successful hardware merchant, partnered with Reuben Sills. Lewis and Sills bought a Westminster Avenue hardware store from Malvina Coudron in 1901, and bought the land the business was located on in 1907. In 1908 they built a new warehouse for their expanding business, and then, like hundreds of other Vancouver business people, they went into real estate, building this $40,000 investment on East Hastings.

Frank Lewis was born in Ontario, and the 1901 census shows him living with his 36 with his 22 year old wife Jennie, (also from Ontario) and her mother, Lizzie Lunn, who had been born in England. In 1911 Frank had a different wife’s name – Alice Jane – (a more accurate record), and they now had two children, Arthur and Gertrude, and a maid, Dorothy Howe, who had been born in Wales.

His partner, ‘Ruben Sills’ (according to the street directory) was also born in Ontario, and living with his wife Winifred (an American) in 1911 and their three children, Helen, Harold and Jack. For most records (like his marriage and his daughter’s birth) Ruben’s full name was recorded as Reuben Stedwin Sills. Reuben married Winifred in 1893 in Wayne, Michigan when he was 30. Frank married Alice Jane Johnson from Smith’s Falls Ontario in Vancouver in 1900.

The origin of the building’s name can be traced to where the families lived; in 1881 and 1891 Reuben Sills was shown living in Belleville, Ontario, and so was Frank G Lewis. The building was described in a 1908 news story in The Province as a three-storey concrete store block office block … fitted for stores and offices. There were obviously some slight changes, as the offices became residential and another article describes them selling the Belleville Apartments for $100,000 the following year. They bought a lot further south on Westminster Avenue to develop, although we’re not sure that they built anything; in 1918 the City acquired the entire block and turned it into Thornton Park. In 1913 they built the Globe Clothing Store on West Cordova, hiring Braunton and Leibert as the architects.

Both men retired in 1927, leaving their hardware business to sons. It continued, with new partners, as Barbour, Sills and Davies through to at least the late 1930s. Reuben Sills died in 1940, when his mother’s name was recorded as Jennie Stedwin, and his father as Escuit Sills. Frank Griffith Lewis died in 1941.

The Belleville Apartments became the Brazil Hotel (as it was in this 1978 image) and then the Walton Hotel. By the early 2000s the building was home to drug dealers and was a dangerous place for residents. It was however a comfortable home for coackroaches and bedbugs. The building was acquired by BC Housing from a developer in 2007. They carried out a comprehensive restoration including adding tougher wallboards, sturdier fixtures and a better security system. The cheap rubber baseboards gave the bugs a safe place to avoid fumigation. As part of the $4.6m 13 month renovation, when the crew rebuilt the walls they put in a layer of diatomaceous earth with the insulation. The earth is the microscopic skeletal remains of algae-like plants, which have razor-sharp edges that will slice up the bodies of any bedbugs that do get into the walls. And when the baseboards were reapplied they were sealed laterally at four different points where bedbugs might find a seam. The renovated building continues to look better than it did for many years, and is managed by the Lookout Housing and Health Society.



Posted 29 June 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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Shanghai Alley

Shanghai Alley is more of a street than an alley, just as it was in 1944 when this Vancouver Public Library picture was shot. However, the wall of almost identical buildings on the east side has been lost; now there’s a gap where two buildings have been demolished. If you read many histories of this area you’ll see that this street and Canton Alley to the west were the core of the 1880s and 1890s Chinatown area. That’s a complete fabrication; the 1889 insurance map shows there was nothing built here. The 1901 map, superimposed over the contemporary lots, shows that four buildings existed, all facing onto Carrall Street, with no Alley behind. Instead there was an open area and freight sheds to the west, parallel with the Canadian Pacific tracks than ran diagonally across the area, running from the Burrard Inlet waterfront to the freight yard and engine shed on False Creek at Yaletown. We don’t know who built those 1901 buildings, that probably obtained permits in 1900. The Alley had appeared by the 1911 Insurance map, and the buildings extended to create the frontages that can be seen in the 1944 image.

There was an earlier building on West Pender, built in 1901, but the City took it for a road widening project over a century ago, leaving owner Sam Kee with what they probably thought was a worthless six foot deep strip. In 1913 Bryan and Gillam were hired to design what is said to be the world’s shallowest building, built with a steel frame at a cost of $8,000. Sam Kee wasn’t a person; it was a company run by businessman Chang Toy. When the City moved to expropriate the site to widen Pender Street, Sam Kee instructed their lawyer to negotiate for $70,000 compensation, successfully getting the $62,000 they estimated that the site was worth. Behind it, with frontage to both Carrall Street and Shanghai Alley is one of the other three 1901 buildings. The heritage statement says it was probably built for Kwong Man Sang Co, but there’s no permit evidence to support that, although they were the company occupying the building here in 1903.

In 1906 Chinese businessman Loo Gee Wing added the taller three storey element that you can see facing Shanghai Alley. In 1914 Lee, Kar paid for alterations designed by S B Birds, for ‘club rooms’ and more work carried out by Coffin & McClennan for Lee, Thung & Lee, Kar. This was probably an investment by the Quong Yick Co. Historian Paul Yee explained how the arrangement worked. “In 1907, fifteen Chinese led by the Lee Yuen principals formed the Quong Yick Company to buy land and buildings in the heart of Chinatown. They raised $20,000 among themselves with shares ranging from $250 to $4,500 and borrowed $30,000 to be repaid over three years. The building accommodated several Chinese firms as tenants, from whom $7,770.85 in rent was collected in one year. The property was registered in the names of Lee Thung and Lee Kar, but legal certificates drawn in English were issued to every partner recording his proportional entitlement to the property.

One of the two lost buildings was owned by Chow Joy Joo and Co. who hired W F Gardiner to design alterations in 1916. The Carrall Street side of the building added a new floor in 1909 King, Foung & Co, and Ah Mew made alterations in 1914, with Chow, T. Tong hiring Way, Chow for more work in 1916, 1919 and 1920. Tai Gin owned the next building along in 1917, when Get, Toy worked on a $1,000 alteration, and there were more changes in 1919 for owner Haw Ling Hing

The building that is still standing was originally the Chinese Reform Society, built in 1903 and altered to the designs of builder/architect W H Chow in 1914. Since 1945 it has been home to the Lim Sai Hor Kow Mock Benevolent Association, (The family association for ‘Lim’ Chinese named members), who purchased and renovated the building.

There was a brief period, around 1907, when the Alley and Canton Alley became home to the city’s red-light district. Chased off Dupont Street (East Pender today, a block or two to the east of here), the madams sub-leased space in the upper floor rooms of the buildings. When the police continued to raid and prosecute the ladies, the madams moved once more, to Shore Street (also nearby), before having to move again in the early 1910s to Alexander Street, away from the main Downtown of the day, where they built a number of decorative and expensive establishments.


Posted 25 June 2020 by ChangingCity in Chinatown, Still Standing

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West Georgia Street – 500 block, north side

This 1929 image shows the demolition of a number of buildings that had been here less than 30 years.

The Cycle shop had to vacate by 31st January – ‘Everything must go – at cost’ – they had also cut keys. Next door the Vancouver Dress Maker had also offered tailoring, cleaning, pressing and alterations. The next office offered Calgary Oils and B C Mines Real Estate, then The Bay Cleaners and Dyers, and the Georgia Shoe Repair store, with a barber’s shop at the end of the row.

The buildings seem to have been developed by A K Stuart, who also built others on this block to the east, possibly still standing (much altered) today. Mrs A K Stuart obtained a permit for a house on Richards Street in 1902, and A K Stuart obtained another for a house on Georgia Street in 1906. A K Stuart had two other permits for alterations to these lots, in 1907. There may have been other permits, as some from this period have been lost. The 1903 insurance map shows the left hand of these two stores had been built, and there’s a house in the centre of the block, (relocated from where it stood on Richards in 1901) and another house at the Richards Street side of the lots. By 1912 both these matching stores had been completed, along with the rest of the block.

Mrs A K Stuart would have been Margaret, who Allan Stuart had married in 1892. She was from Ontario, but Allan Stuart was born in India in 1861, was in London in 1881 and arrived in Canada in 1883, becoming a CPR draftsman who helped bring the railway through the Rockies, and then settling in Vancouver in 1885. He worked for architect Thomas Sorby, helping design the first CPR buildings including the first Hotel Vancouver. From 1893 to 1901 he worked as Assistant City Engineer, before joining an engineering company supervising mines in Canada and Mexico. In 1907 A K Stuart, recorded as being a civil engineer, was shown living in the house at the centre of the block, and he is no longer in the street directory in 1908. By 1910 Allan and Margaret were living in Hope, (technically part of the Cariboo at the time) with their daughter Marjorie.

An early 1929 edition of the Vancouver Sun saw the announcement for a major redevelopment. “10-FLOOR OFFICE BUILDING TO COST $275,000. S. W. Randall Co. Plan Building on Richards at Georgia. Construction of a ten-storey office building costing approximately $275,000 will bo started on the north-west lane corner of Richards and Georgia streets within the next month, it was announced today. The building will be constructed by 8. W. Randall A Co.. Ltd., Vancouver stock brokers, 375 Richards street. S. W. Randall, head of tho firm, said today that demolition of existing buildings on the site will be started on Friday. Tho building will occupy a ground area of approximately 4500 square feet, with a frontage of 60 feet on Georgia and 73 on the lane. It will be of reinforced concrete construction. Stores will occupy tho ground floor of the structure. Plans for the building have been prepared by R. T. Perry, architect, West Hastings street. Property for the office structure was acquired by Mr. Randall several months ago.”

By March it became apparent that the project was much less ambitious. The permit was for a $50,000 building, and as built it’s possible to see that the building, known as ‘The Randall Building‘, only had 7 floors. In the early 1990s jeweller Toni Cavelti restored the building.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 447-289


Posted 22 June 2020 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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Eveleigh Street from Burrard

This image took a bit of careful calculation to shoot, because Eveleigh Street doesn’t reach all the way to Burrard Street any more – but it did when this 1925 image was taken. Eveleigh Street was developed in the early 1900s, and most of the houses visible here were built between 1901 and 1903 by James Astell, who acted as developer, architect and builder. Before he started developing buildings, James was listed in the census as a plasterer. He first arrives in the city around 1892, although we think his younger brother, Sebastian was here a few years earlier, working as a carpenter for the CPR. James was still in Minto, Ontario in 1881; aged 21 and working as a farmer, (while his brother, who was 18 was listed as ‘farmer’s son’).

In Vancouver, Sebastian was listed as head of household, and his older brother as lodging in his brother’s house, which was on West Pender just behind these houses. James never married, while Sebastian had an English-born wife, Annie, who was 15 years younger, and in 1911 they had six children aged from 3 to 12 at home (and two lodgers as well). Sebastian was 36 in September 1898 when he married Annie Hicks, who was 20 and born in Wivenhoe, Essex in England. (The 1921 census tells us she had come to Canada in 1896). James was witness at their wedding, with Clara Hicks. Annie’s father, Valentine was listed as a Travel Agent & Collector in the 1881 census, when the family lived in Ipswich St Margaret, Suffolk.

In 1901 James had his own home, and Sebastian & Annie and their two small children shared their home with a lodger and Josiah Astell, a younger brother who was a day labourer. In 1921 James was still living with his brother, and all six children were still at home. James died in 1929, aged 71, having never married, and Sebastian in 1937.

The houses here remained until the 1950s, when the Bentall company acquired the site, with groundbreaking for Tower One of The Bentall Centre taking place in 1965. A second tower followed in 1967, and Charles Bentall was present for the third tower’s commencement in 1971 at the age of 89.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 357-3


Posted 18 June 2020 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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123 East Hastings Street

From its design, we wondered if this modest building, with its quirky oval windows, might be designed by G W Grant, and we were correct. This 1903 building cost $6,000 and was developed by John Lewerke. This 1986 image shows it when it was still in use, with the Tiem Vang Skyluck Jewellers, and Ho Wah Hair Stylist. The street directory says that John Lewerke was a logger, living at 625 Hornby. We don’t find him in the 1901 census, and he seems to have left the city by 1911, but the two John Lewerkes living in Santa Monica in 1930 most likely tell us a little. John the son was born in Vancouver, and the father in 1860 (or 1864 in a different census) in Holland. They had emigrated to the US in 1920, along with Jane, born in Canada in 1871, and a younger brother, Arthur. An earlier Ellis Island record shows them entering the US in 1910, which would explain them missing the Canadian census. The 1920 immigration record shows John, Jane and Arthur entering through the land crossing from Vancouver, headed to Los Angeles. John was aged 59, and retired. John Jnr. was shown staying in Vancouver at the ‘Babbington Hotel’. We think he preferred to be known as Alfred, and he stayed in Vancouver where his death was recorded in 1969. He had been the manager of the Badminton Apartments on Howe Street.

John died in 1942, aged 82, living at 4, Sea View Terrace Santa Monica, and Jane in 1957 aged 91, at the Santa Monica Convalescent rest Home, although she still owned the Sea View property. John was described as the retired owner-manager of a wholesale lumber mill. He had J E Parr design a home on Pendrill at Broughton in 1906, and a year later Jane was advertising for a Japanese house boy to cook and do general housework.

Today the building is boarded up, and there’s a vacant lot next door, but gradually new development is happening along East Hastings, and it’s likely that a new building would incorporate the façade of this survivor.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives  CVA 791-0801


Posted 15 June 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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658 to 668 Alexander Street

All three of these buildings came to be used as brothels not long after they were built, but it’s possible that was not the initial intent for two of them. The 500 and 600 blocks of Alexander were chosen by the madams who ran the houses because it was away from Downtown, and close to the port. They thought the pressure that moved them in the late 1900s from Dupont (West Pender) to Shore Street (East Georgia) might let up if they were less obviously located, and some of them spent a lot of money to build their new business premises here.

On the left the two houses were both developed by the same owner, Mrs. A C Alter. The census said Albert and Addie Alter were living on Heatley Street in 1911, where Albert was a grocer. Addie was a year younger at 45 in 1911, and they were both from the USA, having arrived in Canada in 1908.

A year earlier Albert had been a grocer on Powell Street, and a year later he was also running a rooming house on the 600 block Powell Street, which were named the Alter Rooms. In 1912 Addie hired builder R V Pushaw to design and build 662 Alexander (the middle building) in February at a cost of $6,300, and then a month later 666 Alexander (on the left) for an additional $6,600. We don’t know if she was emulating her husband and building another rooming house, or whether the brothel use was always intended, but the Ladies moved in quite soon after. Mary Scott was running 666 by 1913, and Rhea Wilmore was at 662. Both knew the city well; Mary had been at 604 Alexander in 1912, and Rhea had run an establishment on Harris Street (East Georgia today), from 1908 to 1910. As there are apparently no birth, census or death records of anybody called Rhea Wilmore, she may well have assumed the name for professional purposes.

The authorities were still intent on pushing vice out of the area. In 1912 the Minister of the Kitsilano Presbyterian Church gave a sermon, published in the Vancouver Sun, that said “In a certain district of Vancouver, buildings are being rushed up in feverish haste, the construction of which plainly tells that they are to be devoted to vice and shame. Hundreds of lewd women are already established there.” The mayor, James Findlay, was initially willing to retain the red light district “I have given orders for the cleaning up of the town,” he said at a May 21 meeting. “This applies to rooming houses, blind pigs and Turkish baths, but not to Alexander Street. I say it without shame, gentlemen.” (Blind pigs were illicit drinking establishements).

The reformers continued their campaign, and the police responded. William Morrison (that’s his mugshot above) found out the hard way – receiving a 30 day prison sentence as a “frequenter of a house of ill fame” during a 1913 raid. He was hired by Mary Scott to play piano, and had clearly had an interesting 44 years; his booking noted two scars on his face and a bullet wound on his left leg.

By 1921 Mrs Alter still owned the rooming houses, so she no doubt had known what they were used for in the 1910s. The census that year tells us she was Adelaine Alter, and by then a widow, Albert having apparently died in late 1913 or early the next year. By 1916 only Fay Packer was still in the brothel business, Mrs. Alter’s buildings were vacant. Fay had built the $15,000 apartments at 658 Alexander in 1913, hiring E Evans to design the building. As she arrived after the 1911 census, and left before the next one, we don’t know anything about Fay. She may have been the former New York actress who was living in Reno, Nevada in 1910 when she had two female lodgers, both aged 25. That Fay was 28, and originally from Ireland. That year the Salt Lake Herald Tribune reported the loss of $6,000 of diamonds, jewels and cash. “The robbery was the cleverest and most successful ever perpetrated in Nevada and no trace has yet been found by the officers who have been working on the case since it was reported Miss Packers room was entered from the rear and her belongings ransacked Miss Packer has offered a reward of $1000 for the arrest of the guilty parties” In 1913 she sold her liquor licence in Reno, suggesting she might have moved away.

By 1918 almost all the ladies had left the street; Fay was gone, but the middle building was occupied; it had been re-used as the Fuji Steam Laundry. In 1928 the business was sold, and the BC Government Gazette published the details. “To purchase, take over, or otherwise acquire as a going concern the power laundry business now carried on at number 662 Alexander Street, in the City of Vancouver, in the Province of British Columbia, by Genjiro Kubota under the names of “Alexander Steam Laundry” and “Fuji Laundry” “To carry on the business of a steam and general laundry, and too wash, clean, purify, scour, bleach, wring, dry, iron, colour, dye, disinfect, renovate, and prepare for use all articles of wearing-apparel, household, domestic, and other linen, and cotton and woollen goods and clothing, and fabrics of all kinds, and to buy, sell, hire, manufacture, repair, let on hire, alter, improve, treat, and deal in all apparatus, machines, materials, and articles of all kinds which are capable of being used for any such purposes”

The industrial use ceased after the 1950s and the three buildings became low cost rental units. In our 1978 image they were the Ocean Rooms, Alex Rooms and Rose Apartments. The properties had low values, and the area continued to be sketchy. In 2014 Fay Packer’s building was seized by the BC Government’s Civil Forfeiture Office, although the owner was never charged with any offences. The building was being used by four men who were running a drug ring out of the single-room occupancy hotel. They were arrested and charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking. Charges were not laid against the building manager or the owner, but the Provincial authorities argued that they “ought to have known that what was going on was criminal activity.” so the building was seized, and then sold by the Province for $820,000.


Posted 11 June 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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630 Alexander Street

Unlike a couple of other buildings that were developed on this block with potentially more innocent intent, we can be certain that this was developed as a brothel (even if the permit said it was a rooming house). It was far from cheap for such a modest building – $15,000 – and developed by Ollie Gilbert. She hired on of the city’s more upstanding architects, W F Gardiner, and E J Ryan as builder in 1912. Six years earlier she had built a very expensive house on Harris Street (E Georgia today) for the same purpose. The street name was briefly changed again to Shore Street, and Ollie and all her girls were listed there in the 1911 census. She was 38, from the US, having arrived in Canada in 1906. She had 10 female lodgers, most with no stated occupation, but two claiming to be musicians, one a hairdresser and one a dressmaker. They were all from the US, except Jeanette Gibson from Quebec.

Ollie managed to keep her business out of the papers, except for one unusual case in 1915, when two local men, W. J. Taylor and R. J. Lewis appeared on charges of conspiracy to defraud, in connection with the sale of land in Oregon. She had already closed her establishment, although from the court case it was clear she was still in the city. “Miss Ollie Gilbert was the first witness called, and she testified to having been induced by the accused to pay $250. She believed she was buying 160 acres of land in Oregon.” The accused were selling documents which appeared to give title to the land, but actually were only forms that allowed an application to acquire the land. As the land itself was subject to another court action in the US, the offer was fraudulent. The men were convicted of fraud and sentenced to two years and 18 months’ imprisonment respectively. (Another witness who lost money on the same scam got minor satisfaction. William Hayes, a CPR employee from North Bend explained that “when he had learned that the land he had paid $260 for was worthless and that the land game was “bunco” he had Interviewed Taylor and In the argument had thrashed him and he himself had spent a night In the cells for it while Taylor put two weeks in the hospital.

After the first war this part of Alexander had been ‘cleaned up’ (although Nellie Arnold was still living here), and this became a Japanese owned rooming house operated by H Soga in 1922. By 1941 Howard Harman was running the rooms here (and also working as a machinist at the Heatley Machine Works, so probably his wife, Bessie, was running things), and in 1955 Tony Fediw. While several of the former brothels are still standing today, Ollie’s building was replaced in 1985 with the Dera Co-op, designed by Davidson & Yuen, with 56 units of non-market housing.


Posted 8 June 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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608 Alexander Street

The Laurel Apartments have been painted white, but otherwise they look pretty similar to our 1978 image. The building dates back to 1911, and it was an expensive piece of real estate. It cost $35,000 to build, with W T McMillan recorded as having designed it, and E Woolridge as contractor. The developers were listed as N E Arnold and L St Clair, and we think it was divided into two separate properties, one for each.

Alice Arnold was not found by the 1911 census in Vancouver, but almost certainly appears in an unusually honest household in the Comox and Atlin area. The head of household was Sadie Washington (from Ontario), with Leonie Abilsus, an American and Alice Arnold listed as ‘female partners’. Alice was 37, a widow, and from the United States, arriving in Canada in 1903. All three were listed as negro, and musicians. (Several other households on the same street consisted of female French dressmakers, and there were also several European musicians). Alice was first listed in Vancouver owning a rooming house at 153 East Pender (Previously Dupont) from 1908, after the area had supposedly been ‘cleaned up’ in 1906 by the  police, who chased the ladies who offered their services there initially to Shore Street and a couple of years later to Alexander. Apart from Alice, only Lottie Mansfield, her close neighbour was still here from the early 1900s.

In 1911 a Mrs. L E St Clair was shown living at 658 Granville, (the New York Block), but confusingly she wasn’t shown in any of the apartments there. In 1911 Nellie St Clair was also listed at 153 Harris, next door to another of the city’s noted suppliers of female companionship, Dollie Darlington. She’s likely to be our developer. It’s the only time that we can find Nellie listed living in Vancouver, and nobody with that name seems to have been recorded getting into trouble. Nellie may have been known under a different name to her parents, and may have ‘borrowed’ her working name from an actress working in the US; her near neighbours Pearl Grey and Lily White may have done something similar.

The building here was only completed in 1912 (when Dollie Darlington was running a rooming house on the next block), and didn’t appear in the street directory until 1913. The building was obviously open and operating towards the end on 1912. Having pushed the ladies from Chinatown eastwards towards the port, along Alexander Street, the City had decided to get them out of there as well. In October 1912 the Province reported “FINED AND SENT TO JAIL Ruth Richards Pays $200 and Gets Six Months. Finding her guilty of having operated a disorderly house at 608 Alexander street, Magistrate South this morning sentenced Ruth Richards to pay a fine of $200 and to serve six months at hard labor in the New Westminster jail. Following the passing of the sentence, Mr. Dugald Donaghy. appearing for the accused, stated that he would file notice of appeal at once. Louise Davis, found guilty of being an inmate of the Richards woman’s house, was allowed to go on suspended sentence provided she leaves Vancouver tonight. Should she return a sentence of six months at hard labor will be imposed upon her. The Richards woman was notified at the time of the order to “clean up” the city was given that she would have to leave town and as she did not go a sentence of six months is hanging on her on that charge. The Davis woman was never before the court previously and therefore was given an opportunity to depart.” Louise Davis (seen on the left) seems to have left town as instructed. (She may have evaded attention from the authorities, but she was listed in the 1911 census – a 31 year old American ‘hairdresser’ – living at Ollie Gilbert’s Shore Street establishment).

The setback didn’t close the premises; in 1913 it was shown occupied by Mildred Hill (who was fined for operating her car while drunk, driving back from North Vancouver in July 1913) and Cora Allyn. Ruth Richards (seen in her mugshot on the right) was still in the area too, just a block away at 502 Alexander. In 1916 it was possibly still continuing in operation; Cora Allyn had both street addresses, one of only a handful of occupied buildings, and one of only two with female residents, with Fay Packer on the next block. (Cora may have been the New York born Lillian Allyn who crossed the border in 1910). The building was shown as vacant in 1917, but as far as we can tell, Mrs. Allyn continued to live here for many years, albeit more discreetly. She was at 612 Alexander in 1918, and was listed here through the later 1920s as a dressmaker. Mrs Nellie Arnold was on Alexander Street at 630 Alexander in 1922, and here again in 1928, replaced by Miss C Allyn again in 1929. The Alice Arnold who died under the wheels of an Oak Street trolley in 1938 was apparently unrelated. She was from Calgary, and only 24, although there were some similarities as her common law husband, James, was sentenced to two years hard labour just 2 weeks after her death for living of the avails of prostituting her.

Another 1939 news story in the Vancouver Sun recorded a connection to a city murder. “Tragedy After Drinking Bout. A drinking party that resulted in tragedy was described today at the preliminary hearing of Nelson Maracle, second engineer on the tug “Clayburn” on a charge of murder. The charge arises from the death by drowning of Kenneth Cassidy, 49, chief engineer of the “Clayburn,” on Aug. 16. His body was taken, from the water, near the “Clayburn” while it was moored at McKeen and Wilson wharf. Hans Anderson, fireman on the tug, declared that Cassidy, Maracle and himself had had several drinks of beer before they went to 1146 Richards Street with a bottle of rum on the evening of Aug. 16. Mrs. Sarah McGill, proprietor of the rooming house, testified that Maracle and Cassidy had a few drinks of rum at her house and that they were showing the effects of liquor. Mrs. Cora Allyn, 612 Alexander Street, said Cassidy and Maracle came to her-home about 2 a.m.. They had a few more drinks there and left. The hearing is continuing.” Cora is shown here is 1941, then the unit is vacant for a while, but she’s back again, last listed here in 1945. A year later they become 19 apartments known as Attlee Lodge run by W R Gilbert and C Korsch. It retained the name, and became 37 apartments by 1955, changing to the Laurel Apartments more recently.

Image source: VPD Police files: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 480-496 and CVA 480-495


Posted 4 June 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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578 Alexander Street

Marie Gomez was only in the city for a few years. In many ways her timing was unfortunate. She arrived in a boom; invested funds to develop her business, and then saw a combination of civic hostility, economic recession and a war see her financial return disappear. Claiming to design the building herself, Marie spent $9,000 to have R C Douglas build her new rooming house.

Although she commissioned it in 1913, this building didn’t appear in the street directory until 1915. Marie was already in town; in 1912 she was fined $200 for selling liquor without a licence at 621 Alexander. In 1913, under the name of Alice Graham, she was fined for running a ‘Disorderly House’ (the legal term for a brothel), and for serving liquor without a licence at another house at 407 Keefer. That was actually the worse crime – she was fined $102 for the liquor charge, but only $52 for the disorderly house.

In 1972 (six years before our picture of the building) Curt Lang photographed the doorway of Marie’s building. It shows that Marie wasn’t hiding where she lived; her name was picked out in the custom tilework in the doorway. The notes accompanying the photo say her establishment was for “Spanish sailors who came from Philippines to [the] nearby Rogers Refinery.” As Lani Russwurm has noted, it seems likely that Gomez might have been a Filipina, and that “Alice Graham” was her alias, rather than the other way around. As well as her name on the vestibule, Marie got her name into the street directory here in 1915, as other ladies were packing up and leaving, or finding less obvious premises to operate from. The police note refers to Marie’s premises on the 600 block as ‘The House of All Nations’. In 1916 this building was empty, and in 1917 it was listed as a Sailors’ Home – which wasn’t so different from a few years earlier, although the company was probably less exotic.

The building was run as an unnamed rooming house by Mark Zagar, and became the Camp Lodge Rooms in 1953.

The building was redeveloped a few years after our 1978 picture with a less-than-beautiful non-market housing building (seen on the right), named after Marie Gomez. The building only lasted 25 years. Managed by DERA from 1989, the wood-frame building was poorly built, and fire alarms triggering the sprinkler system left the frame rotting and mould in the walls. DERA owed $2m in a mortgage, but couldn’t keep up with repairs, and increasing numbers of stories of abuse of residents and visitors started to emerge. In 2006 a newspaper ran a story quoting a police officer who described the building as a “house of horrors”, where crack-addicted prostitutes were tortured and their heads shaved with razors by drug dealers collecting debts.

BC Housing acquired the building, demolished it, and in 2014 a new concrete building was completed with 139 suites on 10 floors, designed by GBL Architects, and operated by PHS Community Services Society.

We don’t know what happened to Marie, but in 1933 the Wilkes-Barre Times in Pennsylvania reported “Marie Gomez, alias Nancy Carroll, of 2 Dyer lane, charged with conducting disorderly house, was fined $100 and costs today in police court. A woman charged with being an inmate was fined $25 and costs. A man who testified that he was thrown out of the house and suffered a laceration over the left eye was charged with frequenting and was fined $10 and costs. A fourth man, who said he was a friend of the husband of the proprietress, when he Interceded at the hearing for the woman and acknoledglng that he was present at the time, was likewise fined $10 and costs on a frequenting charge.


Posted 1 June 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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