876 Granville Street

This is yet another of the Parr and Fee designed hotels at the southern end of Granville Street in Downtown; last known as the State Hotel. It was developed as an investment property by Evan, Coleman and Evans, who hired G E Williamson to build it for $46,000 in 1910. The developers built at least three other hotels in Gastown, owned a wharf and warehouses, a cement plant and a building supply business. They were two English brothers Percy and Ernest Evans, and their cousin, George Coleman. They arrived in Vancouver in 1888, and built up a business empire that they sold in 1910 to a group of prominent local business people including William Farrell and Frank Barnard, although they may have retained their interest in the hotels, which also included another hotel probably designed by Parr and Fee for them a year earlier, the Manitoba, on Cordova.

Initially this opened as the Norfolk Rooms, with two retail stores; 872 to the north and 878 to the south. The entrance to the Rooms was a narrow doorway in the middle of the block, numbered as 874 Granville. When the building opened, the London Cash Store occupied 872. This was a dry goods emporium; “Mr. West, the proprietor, fresh from his lengthy experience In some of the best known firms in the west end of London, makes it the study of his life to satisfy as well as please his growing connection; and It is not unreasonable to suppose that he will soon have one of the largest and best known stores of its kind In Vancouver.” Two years later Thomas West was no longer in Vancouver, and his store had been replaced by Edwin Galloway selling new and used books. 878 was home to McLachlan Bros, a hardware business run by Dougall J McLachlan. In the early 1920s Rennie’s Seeds store was to the north, and Bogardus Wickens occupied 878, selling glass, and paint. By 1925, 872 was home to the Commodore Cafe, (referencing the Commodore Ballroom next door) and 878 was home to the Cut Rate Radio Shop. two years later they had been replaced by the Womans Bakery, and by 1930 Edwards Jewelry Store.

The Commodore Cafe became the Blue Goose Cafe, in 1933, and in 1935 the business expanded to take over both units, and access to the Norfolk Hotel was moved to the southern end of the building and renumbered as 876. The fabulous art deco canopy and facade belonged to the Blue Goose, and W Wolfenden who ran that business probably installed the modern new look. In 1936 The Hollywood Cafe replaced the Blue Goose, as our Stuart Thomson photo shows. Harry Stamatis took over when it became the Hollywood (and also managed Scott’s Cafe a block to the north). The Blue Goose had a large dining room, as the 1935 interior shot (left) shows, and the new manager reduced the number of tables, but otherwise it stayed the same. Located between the Commodore and the Orpheum Theatre the restaurant only stayed in business for a year. The star of the show was the counter on the northern side of the building, seen on the right in 1936.

From 1937 the premises appear to have been split into two again. 874 Granville, the southern half, became the home of the Bon Ton Tea Rooms, which stayed here until the 1980s. The northern part, 872 had a series of restaurants. In 1937 it was the Commodore Grill, run by Nick Kogos (another Greek restauranteur), a couple of years later it had become Chris’s Grill & Restaurant, run by Chris Stamatis (Harry’s brother), and by 1949 the Good Eats Cafe run by Milton J Litras, who was almost certainly also from a Greek family. A year later three more Greek owners, (N Michas, N Girgulis and J Dlllias) were running the Olympic Cafe. By 1955 it had become The Neptune Grill run by John Michas (with an option of a consultation with the on-site palmist and tea-leaf reader).

Today the Cafe Crepe (with a retro 7 metre high neon sign) has just closed after 17 years in this location. The other retail unit has the most lineups of any Vancouver store; it’s one of only three Canadian locations of an Italian-based fast fashion business, Brandy Melville, who replaced an American Apparel store. The facade was restored in 2003, but the upper floors have apparently been unused following a fire in the early 1970s.

A development proposal is being considered to develop a large retail, entertainment and office building here, which would retain just the facade of the State Hotel.

Image sources, City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-4884, CVA 99-4768 and CVA-99-4883.

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Posted 1 February 2021 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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