Unit block – West Pender Street (2)

The Arco (on the left of the picture) started life as The Patricia Lodge. It’s a six storey building developed by John Walker, who hired Braunton and Leibert to design it in 1912. J F Langer (who lived on Woodland Drive) built the $53,500 investment, with a reinforced concrete frame. We looked at the buildings on this block in an earlier post, but at that point hadn’t worked out who John Walker was. We think we have pinned him down now, having sifted out a series of John Walkers who were labourers, farmers and other unlikely candidates for an investment like this.

John was born in Clarksburg, Ontario in 1873. He appears in Vancouver in 1903 as a clothing merchant, with a store on West Cordova and living in rooms on East Cordova. He added a second store for a while on West Hastings in 1904, and he lived on Melville, then in rooms at the Board of Trade (probably above the saloon of the same name). In 1906 he returned to Clarksburg to marry Carrie Hartman who was 7 years younger. The western provinces were obviously a little unfamiliar to the registrar, who identified John as a merchant in Van Couver. The couple moved to a house on Nelson Street in the West End and John had just one store again at 74 W Cordova.

In 1907 he branched out into a new line; real estate brokerage. Like many other merchants, he opened an office, initially as Walker and Dresser, and in 1909 with Daniel Campbell. That year his clothing store was taken over by David Hunter. Business must have been good during the 1910 – 1912 boom years; John invested in this building and Daniel Campbell built his own rooming house in the same year on East Cordova. However, like many other real estate businesses, things went badly for Campbell-Walker as the Great war added to the recession that had already hit the economy. The 1915 Government Gazette lists a number of lots where they had failed to pay the appropriate taxes, and where they were in arrears. John appears to have moved out of Downtown. His family was growing; a son, John, was born in 1914 and a daughter, Kathleen, in 1916 (whose records seem to end at some time after the 1921 census).

In 1920 John appears to have been in a partnership with Adam Wallbridge. John Walker represented the owners of the Princess Mines, a copper deposit on Texada Island. In 1921 the family had returned to the West End, to the Felix Apartments, and John was listed as a partner in Walker and Robinson (with George Robinson) on West Pender. This was a return to familiar territory; a high-class tailoring business in ‘The Store with the Yellow Front’. John had survived the war years well enough to move to a $7,000 house he commissioned on Angus Drive, designed by W M Dodd in 1921. The family lived there until 1939, when they moved to Surrey. At the age of 66 John and Carrie moved to Newton, in Surrey, where Walker’s General Store was established. Carrie was 89 when she died in 1970, and John was just short of his 102nd birthday when he passed away in 1975.

The Patricia Lodge opened in 1913, with Mrs L E Pomeroy running the operation. Several long-term residents moved in, paying $3 a week. Travelers could stay for $0.75 a night. Unusually for a Vancouver hotel, there was no bar.

In 1921 there was considerable damage to the building following a fire. The manager, M S Cot, dropped a key down the elevator shaft, and went down to the basement to retreive it. Lighting a match to see his way, there was a large explosion. Water leaking into the basement was mixed with gasoline coming from the Central Garage to the west.

In 1936 the new (and current) name was adopted; the Arco was initially run by A B Janousek, and during the war by Bill Chan and Wong Oak-Laing. The Arco became a typical run-down rooming house over the years, with the Two Jays cafe on the main floor (featured in two different episodes of the X-Files). In 2007 BC Housing acquired the building, and it was closed for a while for renovations and repairs, reopening as welfare rate non-market housing managed by Atira.

The large Wosk’s furniture warehouse in our 1978 image was initially a clothing factory operated by the Original Blouse Co. Built in 1950, there’s an approved scheme to turn it into office space with two added floors of residential rental units, but the devlopers have put the building on sale rather than construct the project.

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Posted 3 May 2021 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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