East Hastings Street – 800 block, north side

This is the north side of the 800 block of East Hastings around 1965, looking eastwards from Hawks Avenue. Only some of the surprisingly modest buildings remain today. Several of the 2-storey buildings date from the 1950s, and one from 1923 for Bowman’s Storage, designed by Maurice Helyer. There was only one significant (three storey) rooming house on the north side of the block, nearly at the end, at 873 E Hastings. It was designed by Parr and Fee, cost $20,000, and was built by E Beam for E and W J Beam – and was one of the earliest buildings on the block.

Eli Beam was born in Ontario in 1853, one of at least 9 children in a Mennonite family. In 1881 he was still in the township where he was born, Bertie, in Welland, where he was working as a farmer. He was married to Maggie, and they already had three children. He may well have been in Seattle in the late 1880s; In 1889 The Blaine Journal reported “Mr. Eli BEAM, from Seattle, has been in Blaine this week looking over the field for establishing himself in the drug business at this point. He has bargained with our merchants for their stocks of drugs, and says he will be ready to open up a first-class drugstore here in two weeks. His store will be built near the school house, where he has purchased two lots.” By 1890 he was in Victoria, working as a builder and contractor. He built two houses, (still standing today), one for his own family. His wife, Maggie died that year of blood poisoning; she was only 34. She had been Margaret Rock, and they married in 1876. The census in 1891 showed he was a widower with five children at home, and the youngest two, aged 7 and 8, had been born in the USA (supporting the idea that he was in Seattle).

He won the contract to build the Ancient Order of United Workmen hall in 1894, but was bankrupt four months later. The Colonist reported “Eli Beam, contractor, of this city, has assigned to John Fullerton, of 101 Government street, his real and personal property, in trust for the benefit of creditors.”

In 1900, the year he moved to Vancouver, he had a patent for a cutting tool, with two separate blades. A year later his census listing shows three of his children still at home. His son William, who he was in business with as a builder, his daughter Amy, and another, Ina, who was married to Walter Brown who also lived at the same house, along with four lodgers (two of them carpenters, and one, Lucius Brown, an American advertising agent). Two other daughters had left home, Lola who married that year aged 17 and Mary, who was 21. She was married in Whatcom in 1909.

In 1901 William Beam built a frame and sash factory on East Hastings, and in 1904 on Prior Street. In 1907 ‘The Beam Manufacturing Company was established, acquired William’s factory and built a sawmill. In 1907 it was reported that “Mr. E. Beam and Mr. and Mrs. L. R. Bentson have returned from an extended tour of Eastern Canada and Southern California”. In 1909 Eli extended the frame and sash factory on Prior Street. The Daily World reported a conflict with the City; “A letter was read from the assistant city solicitor that he had given the Beam Manufacturing Company notice to vacate the south end of Gore avenue by the 11th. This concern claims that it has a lease, given two years ago, but has never paid any rent for the use of the street end. They have erected their mills across the street and filled out over the tide lands belonging to the city.”

The 1911 census showed Eli as a factory owner, living in a house he had built on Semlin Drive, with two employees, C S and Willa Ned, who were American. William lived near Trout Lake. That year Eli also built a Victoria building, The Mount Edwards Apartment House, and designed and built an apartment building on East Pender which was an investment by a Main Street barber. William J Beam was living with his wife Jessie and two young sons, Bertram and Wallace, and was shown as owner of the sash and door factory. William and Jessie Rock had married in Michigan in 1905, although she was from Canada (and perhaps related on her mother’s side of the family)..

Eli Beam died on 5 February 1914, aged 61. William was shown as divorced when he died in 1946.

The building opened in 1913 as the Melrose Rooms run by Ellen Bullock, who lived on West Pender. Within a year they changed to the Villiers Apartments, managed by B B Lawler. In 1915 Mrs J H Mallett took over, and advertised 2 room suites at $12 a month. In 1920 C P Anderson was running them, and in 1940 J Anderson. In 1950 W Donald and Mrs Z Connell were in charge, and A M and S Fox in 1955. The building was known as Fox’s Apartments when it was demolished, some time in the 1970s, replaced in 1984 with a 3-storey commercial building that has recently been refurbished.

Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 772-21

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Posted 26 April 2021 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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