Archive for July 2020

Afton Hotel, 249 East Hastings Street

This is yet another 1912 Hotel that became an East Hastings rooming house. However, for a while it wasn’t in residential use. In 1913 it showed up in the street directory as ‘new building’. A year later Vancouver postal substation B was on the street level, and a variety of Canadian government offices located on the upper floors, including Agriculture, Fisheries, the Inspector of Weights and Measures and the BC Hydrographic Survey. That arrangement lasted just two years. By 1919 all the offices, and the Post Office had moved a few doors to the west to the McArthur and Harper Building on the corner of Main Street – the Post Office moving first, in 1918. This building was vacant, and in 1920 reopened as the Afton Rooms, run by J A McMaster, with A Theodore’s confectionery store on the main floor.

The building was designed by A J Bird, and his client was R B Hamilton. He’s proven remarkably mysterious, despite a few hints. Another permit for someone with the same name, for a new building on Main Street, identified him as ‘R B Hamilton of South Vancouver P.O.’ As this was developed as a post office, it seems very likely that he’s the same person. However, diligent searching of directories and other historical records hasn’t found any obvious candidates, so Mr. Hamilton remains an enigma. Equally frustratingly, while The Dominion Government got the permits to create the post office, the subsequent 1919 permit to alter the premises (presumably to residential use) was to N E Hamilton, and there’s no obvious candidate with those initials either.

The Ovaltine Café opened in 1942 and has a fabulous neon sign (with a distinctive arrow), made by Wallace Neon in 1948. (The name over the door dates back to 1943). It’s a rare remaining fragment of Vancouver’s ‘golden age’ of neon, when there was reportedly more neon in Vancouver than anywhere in the world, except for Shanghai.

The interior of the café has survived intact, and includes a coffee counter, booths, mirrors and varnished woodwork. The decision taken many years ago  to plant a street tree right outside the building means that for half the year the sign is obscured. Wong Kee Look first operated the café, which was recently named one of the world’s 50 best cafes in a London newspaper, and has featured in dozens of TV shows and movies from Da Vinci’s Inquest to ‘I Robot’.



Posted 30 July 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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Hankey Block, 367 East Hastings Street

It’s surprising that we’ve missed telling the story of any of the 1900s hotels on East Hastings, but here’s another. The four-storey Hankey block was designed by Thornton & Jones in 1911, and built by Purdy & Lonegan at a cost of $33,000. When it opened it became the Holborn Rooms.

G A Hankey developed the block – but he wasn’t in Vancouver. Gerald Cramer Alers Hankey ran a Vernon company where he was a ‘Notary Public, Financial, Land, Insurance and General Agent Mining Broker and Agent’. He was 41 when he developed the hotel. He arrived from England in 1891; his wife Mary was also English but had arrived in Canada in 1885. In 1911 they had three sons and a daughter (who died soon afterwards) in their Vernon home. The company also owned the Hotel Russell in New Westminster.

A biography says “G. Alers-Hankey was born in 1869 in Bexley, Kent and was educated in England. (misprinted as Dexley). He emigrated from there in 1891 and arrived in Vernon in 1892 to open the city’s first bank, a branch of Wulffson and Bewicke, a private bank. After the Bank of Montreal opened the following year, Mr. Hankey went into the real estate business for himself under the name of G.A. Hankey & Co. In 1913, he sold the business to A. Waring Giles, but retained wide business interests at the coast which he managed until his death in 1943” 

This misses a few additional details. Initially, on leaving England, Gerald became a rancher in Argentina as an 18 year old, working there for 4 years. He briefly returned to England before coming to British Columbia. The bank that he initially worked for controlled the Okanogan Land and Development Co. of Vernon, owning most of the building lots in the townsite. Hankey was to be their local manager, with the bank as a profitable sideline dealing mainly in mortgages, and the discounting of  cash orders.

The arrival of a branch of the Bank of Montreal saw the banking arm of the business dropped within a year of his arrival. Other business interests included being a director of Okanogan Telephone Co., Ltd.; of Imperial Underwriters Corporation; and of White Valley Irrigation & Power Co. Ltd. and of the Point Grey Land & Investment Company. He was a member of the Board of Vernon Jubilee Hospital; Mayor of Vernon in 1902 for one term and Alderman for one term. He considered opening a steam laundry in 1911, but seems to have developed his Vancouver investment building instead.

He sold his business to A. Waring Giles in 1913, but retained wide business interests locally and in Vancouver and New Westminster. A fourth son was born in 1914, but his wife was in England at the time. The 1921 census shows him retired, and living on his own in the Hotel Russell in New Westminster, but a year later he had an English address in Bexley Heath. Gerald managed his business interests until his death in 1943 at the Jubilee Hospital in Vernon.

The Holborn Hotel remains a privately owned rooming house, with a reputation as one of the best run in the Downtown Eastside. Owned by the Woo family, it had a half million dollar makeover in 2012, with restoration of the ornate façade partly funded from a rare federal government grant. Internally the bathrooms were restored, and the building got new windows as well. The MPA Society offer support to the tenants on weekdays, assisting tenants with referrals to mental health/ healthcare agencies, educational and employment resources, as well as any other supports that are identified by the tenants.

Mary Alers Hanley, Gerald’s widow, continued to live in Vernon. She was 101 when she passed away in 1979, a year after our photo was taken.


Posted 27 July 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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Shamrock Rooms, 635 East Hastings Street

This is yet another surviving SRO hotel from the boom years of the early 1910s. Built in 1912, it was developed (and apparently designed) by W A Urquhart. (The white glazed bricks, and pivoted windows are reminiscent of a Parr and Fee design, but it may be that was ‘borrowed’ by the enterprising developer). There were several William Urquharts in the city in 1912, but only one William A Urquhart.

His father, also William, arrived in Vancouver from Ontario in 1886. He established a wine and liquor business, initially on Powell, then on Carrall, and finally on West Cordova. (Three other Urquhart brothers from Ontario ran a rival liquor business, but we haven’t been able to establish any family connection). In 1890 William’s wife, Janet, joined him with their children.

Some time before 1909 William’s son, William jnr. joined his father’s liquor and cigars business on West Cordova. He had married Lucy Elley in 1910. On the evening of September 10th the son had gone home (to his East Hastings apartment) leaving his father in the store. At 7.45 a man entered the business and shot Mr. Urquhart, hitting him three times and leaving him dying in a pool of blood. He put the revolver in the pocket of his coat and walked away. Despite many people on the street, and an immediate rush to the spot, nobody followed the man, and there were conflicting reports of his appearance and where he went. The motive was unclear – Mr. Urquhart was described as a man with many friends and no enemies. William Snowden was arrested and tried for the murder, but the evidence was flimsy and the jury acquitted him in a few minutes.

Theft was apparently not the motive, although William Urquhart was wealthy. There was a significant sum of cash in his pocket when he was killed, and he was wearing a diamond ring. His wife and daughter were away at the time at the families vacation cottage on Gambier Island. It seems likely that William Alexander Urquhart found himself a wealthy 26 year old. As the only son (with four sisters) he presumably inherited the business. It was sold to the Imperial Wine Company, and W A Urquhart was listed as the developer of this $20,000 building, built by D McCullam. The original tenant was Thomas W. Wood, grocer, and from 1913-1920 it also housed the Napier Rooms. In 1937 it became the Shamrock Hotel, and retains that name to the present day.

William A Urquhart stayed in the liquor trade for a while, became a watchman, and may have farmed for a while in Steveston. His mother died in 1927. For a while he seems to have owned mineral rights to the Iron Mask mine near Kamloops. William died in 1955, and his wife Lucy, (at the age of 93), in 1973. The Shamrock Hotel remains a privately owned Single Room Occupancy hotel. Said to have been owned by the same owner for 20 years, it has 28 rooms with 3 bathrooms and 5 restrooms when it sold in 2020 for $3.51 million, apparently to the Living Balance Investment Group “revitalizing previously neglected real estate in some of Vancouver’s most desirable neighbourhoods”.


Posted 23 July 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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Carl Rooms, 575 East Hastings Street

Unusually, this 1909 rooming house has retained its name over an entire century. Today it’s the Carl Hotel, and in 1911 it was The Carl Apartments. It got its name from sitting on the corner of Carl Avenue – renamed to Princess decades ago. It was developed by J McTaggart, and designed by Parr and Fee costing $28,150 to build in 1909.

The building was possibly an investment by a hardware merchant whose earlier investment we looked at in an earlier post. Hardware merchants in Vancouver obviously fared well; we have come across many of them running a development business as well as their retail or wholesale activities, and John McTaggart was no exception. He came from Ontario, married a younger American, and started a family as well as adding politics and real estate into his life. In 1909, the year this building was developed John was 46 and ran (unsuccessfully) as an independent candidate for Alderman.

It’s just possible he wasn’t the developer; there was also Joseph McTaggart, a grocer, also from Ontario, who would have been 61 when this building was constructed. He lived in the West End with has wife, Minerva, two adult children, (one a lawyer), and a niece, and owned a grocery store on Granville Street.

The area became poorer over the years, and the residents of these types of former hotel, with shared bathrooms and small rooms, were increasingly likely to be reliant on welfare payments, and were often drug dependent. The property sold for $1.4m in 2006, and the new owner claimed to be losing $3,000 a month as welfare rents failed to cover his costs. He sold it on for $2.05 million in March 2007, to a numbered company who promised that existing tenants would not be displaced. The company turned out to be owned by the BC Government, who acquired over 20 SRO hotels over a number of years, often using last-minute unspent housing funds available at the end of the financial year. The numbered company was intended to stop prices being bid up, as developers were starting to acquire SROs with a view to increase rents that welfare recipients could never afford, or to redevelop them. Today the Portland Hotel Society and Atira manage the rooms.


Posted 20 July 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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St Elmo Hotel, 429 Campbell Avenue

Until very recently the façade of this early rooming house was sagging noticeably, (it was starting to show even as far back as this 1978 image). A recent renovation jacked up the centre of the facade and added steel beams to level and strengthen the frame. The building was constructed in 1911 by Campbell and Dawson, who also designed it. It was an inexpensive investment at $8,500, but would have still been impressive for someone (misleadingly) listed as a ship’s carpenter. Mark Gosse was 46, originally from Newfoundland. His wife Patience was from there too, and they had three children, all born in BC; Stanley, Frederic and Ines. (Another son, Walter died as a baby). Until this rooming house was built, the Gosse family lived in a house on this lot.

Having married Patience Mercer in Bay Roberts, Port de Grave, Newfoundland, in 1890, Mark Gosse first appeared in the 1892 Vancouver street directory as a ship’s carpenter, at the same address as Josiah Gosse. A year later Mark was a ship’s carpenter, living in Mount Pleasant with John Gosse, a labourer, and in 1894 they were fishermen on the Fraser River. A year later John was a deckhand on a steamer, and Mark was a canneryman. In 1896 he acquired land at Rivers Inlet (southwest of Bella Bella) to build his own cannery.

At least two branches of related Newfoundland Gosse families arrived in Vancouver, and we think Mark and John were probably cousins. They were joined by Richard Gosse, John’s brother, often referred to as Captain Gosse, also owned a cannery, the Gosse – Millard Packing Co, and lived in Richmond. His wife, Claramond Gosse, had the same name before she married, as she was Mark and Josiah’s sister. (We think Captain Josiah Gosse became captain of a steamship, and was later living in Victoria).

In 1910 Mark acquired land in the Hazelton area, presumably with the intent to pursue mineral riches, but nothing appears to have come of that endeavour. In 1920 a publication on Canadian Fishermen reported “Mr. Mark Gosse is now inspecting canned fish for the British Columbia exporters. Mr. Gosse is one of the real old time fish men. He has been on the Pacific Coast for 33 years, and engaged in the fishing business practically the whole of this time. For several years past he has been in charge of salmon canneries. He is the official inspector for the Board of Trade in connection with canned fish of every description. Mr. Gosse’s son, Mr. Fred. A. Gosse is a director and manager of the Harry Hall Co., for Vancouver. This firm is one of the largest canned fish exporters of the Pacific Coast.

Patience Gosse died in 1936 in Seattle, and her husband Mark in 1953 at the age of 88.


Posted 16 July 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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232 – 240 Union Street

When these were constructed in 1904 they were on Barnard Street. The name was switched to Union in 1911, supposedly because Barnard sounded too much like Burrard. These four houses cost $1,000 each to build, and F H Sankey developed and built them. It seemed likely that Mr. Sankey must have come from England. F H Sankey was President of the Sons of St George, Balaclava lodge, who met in the O’Brien Hall on the first and third Mondays each month. With such strong English affiliations, it seemed possible that the census clerk who recorded his first name as ‘Francais’ in 1911, might have made an error. Other records confirm that indeed, Francis Herbert Sankey was the more accurate name.

Francis arrived in Canada in 1891, was born in Hereford, worked as a carpenter, and married Elizabeth Barnett in 1892. In 1898 he had briefly abandoned the construction business, and was a milk vendor. He owned a house here before these were built, moving to Barnard Street by the end of the 1890s. In 1911 he lived with his wife Elizabeth, sons Burnett, Leonard, Joseph and Fred, and daughter Elsie in the first of these houses. (There were also 22 ‘roomers’ listed as part of his household, but we think they were all living in the cabins on the same block, and the clerk also recorded 242 Barnard as 232 – the same address as the Sankey family). In 1921 Francis was a widower, and Burnett, Elsie Leonard and Frederick were all still at home, the family having moved to Charles Street.

Francis died in 1949, having built several houses in addition to these. Leonard Sankey also lived in East Vancouver in the early 1900s, was also a carpenter and built a number of houses. He was three years younger than Francis, and was almost certainly his brother. He married a year after Francis, and died in 1964.

These homes were removed to make way for the on-ramp to the new Georgia Viaduct, with construction starting in 1970. Although seen here in 1969, looking pretty good just before they were demolished, between the Sankey family ownership, and the new road construction, the area got a reputation, with ‘Hogan’s Alley’ running behind the houses. A black 1930s resident described the area several decades later “There was nothing but parties in Hogan’s Alley – night time, any time, and Sundays all day. You could go by at six or seven o’clock in the morning and you could hear jukeboxes going, you hear somebody hammering the piano, playing the guitar, or hear some fighting, or see some fighting, screams, and everybody carrying on.”

Plans have recently been drawn up to remove the viaducts, and redevelop this block with a mix of residential and commercial buildings.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 203-43


Posted 13 July 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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1629 Comox Street

This 1906 house was developed by A J Crowe. He was a house builder who lived quite close to here at 1110 Nelson, and this was apparently one of the earliest he built in the city. He was in the area, building houses from an earlier date. The 1891 census finds him living in New Westminster, aged 34, a house carpenter. His wife, Annie, was seven years younger, and they were both from Nova Scotia. They had two children, Roland and Clarence, aged four and two. The 1911 census shows why a year earlier Mr. Crowe spent $800 raising his new Nelson Street home, and three years earlier adding an addition. (Interestingly, he didn’t build himself a new house from scratch, although he built at least 30 others over a long career as a builder/developer). As well as Roland and Clarence, who were still at home, there were (in descending age), Bertrand, Edna, Raymond, Edith, Ruth and Douglas (who was 9). The census also tells us that Mr. Crowe was called Andrew, although he never appeared to use anything but his initials in business. The household also had three lodgers.

This home followed a pattern that Mr. Crowe replicated throughout the city. It appears that the buyer of the house was Arthur Kendall, a doctor, who lived here from 1907. He died in 1910, and Mrs. Arthur Kendall is listed as the head of household for some years after this. The 1911 census identifies her as Vina, aged 32 with her 7 year old son, Lloyd Arthur, and three-year-old twins, Francis and Kathleen. The house would have been full as she also had four lodgers, and her cousin, William Woodley, living with her.

An obituary in a climbing magazine included more details about Dr. Kendall. “In Vancouver, on October 8, 1910, occurred the death of Dr. A. L. Kendall, a most highly valued member of the Alpine Club of Canada. Dr. Kendall was bom at Rockland, Ontario, in 1876. He lived in Texas for a few years, but his heart was always Canadian, and he returned to his mother country in 1889, making his home in Sapperton, B. C, where he lived for some ten years. He attended High School in New Westminster and entered McGill University in 1897, graduating in 1901. In 1902 he married Miss C. Woodley of Moose Jaw, and settled in Cloverdale, B. C. During 1905 and 1903 he studied special branches of his profession in the hospitals of Boston, Chicago and other great cities. Finally he settled in Vancouver, where his fine record in major surgical operations gave ever promise of a most distinguished career.

He had a keen interest in every movement that tended to the benefit of the community. Though he took no practical part in politics he used his influence – no small one – to promote the highest standard of purity in the party to which he belonged. It was the purely national spirit of the Alpine Club of Canada which first attracted him to that body. He graduated to Active membership on Mt. Huber during the period of the O’Hara camp. There the mountains threw their spell upon him and held him to the last. His trying trip to Mt. Baker and the characteristic unselfishness which made him give up his chance of attaining the summit on order that he might not imperil the success of the others are recorded elsewhere. With his death the Alpine Club mourns the loss of one of its most enthusiastic supporters and feels the deepest sympathy for his surviving relatives.”

The last time Mrs. Kendall appears in the street directory is in 1922. That year Vina Kendall, a widow, born in Rockland Ontario married Matthew Jones, who was 15 years younger, in Victoria.

In 1931 the Vancouver Sun reported the death of the builder. “A. J. Crowe Was B.C. Resident Since 1890 Prominent In building circles in New Westminster and Vancouver since 1890, Andrew J. Crowe, 79, died this morning at the home of his son, C. B. Crowe, 4522 West Sixth Avenue. He had been in poor health for several years. Coming from Bass River, N.S., 42 years ago, Mr. Crowe resided In New Westminster until 1909, when he moved to Vancouver. During these years he was associated with construction of many public buildings. Three daughters and four sons survive“. Three sons were in the Great War, and Bert died in 1917 at Vimy Ridge.

Our 1966 image was from the sale offer. Described as ‘an older style revenue house’ the rent income was $305 a month, but the value was assumed to be purely as land value for redevelopment. The owner, Mrs. Isabel Coe was hoping to sell at $26,500; cash only. The house was replaced in 1981 by a four-storey wood frame strata building called Westender One.


Posted 9 July 2020 by ChangingCity in Gone, West End

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1661 Nelson Street

We don’t know who developed this house, probably around 1906, but we know that S H Horstman added a garage in 1924. There’s nothing outstanding about the house – it’s a standard style for the era, so without a permit it would be impossible to guess at the builder. Next door, just on the edge of the image, were a pair of less common houses. Built by the Vancouver Construction Company at a cost of $5,000 each the 1907 permit is for ‘Two concrete dwellings’. This was their only building permit the company sought, and they were a new business in 1907, managed by A V Crisp.

The houses were expensive to build – about 50% more than a typical wood frame house here at the time, but we assume they were ‘proof of concept’ for a new construction system. The US patent, from December 1907 explains. “Be it known that we, JAMES LAYFIELD and ALBERT V. CRISP, citizens of the Dominion of Canada, residing at Vancouver, in the Province of. British Columbia, Canada, have invented a new and useful Improvement in Cement-Block-Molding Machines, of which the following is a specification.

This invention relates to a machine for molding cement building blocks which, although particularly designed for forming a patented cement block wherein the outer and inner wall members are bonded together by sheet metal ties embedded in the cement of the wall members, is equally applicable for molding cement blocks of ordinary construction.

The invention comprises chiefly the means whereby the elevation of the frame to which the mold plates are attached, will, in the act of elevation and before the plates themselves move up, first withdraw from the faces of the block the several plates between which the block has been molded.

In 1909 it was reported in The Province newspaper that the Vancouver Construction Company were to construct the largest and finest ice rink in the world – to be located at Richards and Pacific. Despite an announcement that the building would start 60 days later – it never happened.

At 1661 Nelson, John F Watkins, a printer, was the first resident in 1906. In 1908 George A McNicholl, purchasing agent for the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad moved in, staying for four years. The census shows he was 35 in 1911, living here with his wife Ella, their three children, and an aunt; Gertrude Clarke. The entire family had been born in Quebec. In 1914 Mrs Matilda Bowen was living in the house, but the occupants changed regularly through the war years. In 1919 Mrs Isaac L Woodley moved in and stayed until her death in 1924. The 1921 census tells us Emma Woodley was a widow aged 69, had been born in England, and had a lodger called Frank Hamilton, who was also from England, and aged 47. Mrs. Woodley died after a long illness of ‘heart trouble’, and had four children, a son in Vancouver, and three married daughters in Vancouver, Moose Jaw and Los Angeles. The family lived in Moose Jaw from 1901, moving from Ontario, and “Mrs. Woodley took a prominent part in social work and was well known as a temperance worker.”

Our 1967 image is from the sale particulars. The house was offered at $35,000; potential buyers were instructed not to disturb the tenants. They were unlikely to want to, as the building was described an apartment site. It wasn’t too long before that became true; today there’s a 1972 strata building called Hempstead Manor, (originally a rental, but converted in 1984) designed by D M Sarter.


Posted 6 July 2020 by ChangingCity in Gone, West End

2345 Main Street

This building on the corner of Main and East 8th Avenue has been around for over a century. Today it’s home to the Goh Ballet, but when it was built in 1912 at a cost of $42,000 it was a branch of the Royal Bank, designed by Thomas Hooper. The bank operation here lasted for decades, but closed by the 1970s. It’s seen here in 1976. The Goh Ballet moved into the building in 1985.

The Neoclassical design was constructed in glazed terra cotta which was manufactured and numbered offsite and then assembled onsite. Hooper designed another similar branch for the Royal Bank in the same year. That almost identical design was built on Granville Street in Fairview, although the bank operations moved to a different building in the 1950s.

Image source City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-233


Posted 2 July 2020 by ChangingCity in Mount Pleasant, Still Standing

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