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

0979

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

Tagged with ,

%d bloggers like this: