King Rooms – 330 Powell Street

We’ve looked at the history of the building on the right in an earlier post. The King Rooms are the third four storey rooming house in the row. All three adjacent buildings were developed in 1912, and all three had the same architect, but for different owners. Norman Symonds designed the rooms, and R G Wilson built them for $22,500. L A Lewis was the developer here, while Sam Mah Yuen developed the two buildings to the west.

Mr. Lewis was initially a mystery. There were lots of people called Lewis, but none in the city with the initial ‘L’. Fortunately, in 1912 The Province announced “a 4 storey block for L.A. Lewis and Mr. Mathers of New Westminster” on Powell Street near Gore, so we can tell that Mr. Lewis was Manager of Brunette Saw Mills. He was a legend in his home city, having been a member of the Salmonberries hockey team. In an 1893 game, “in the fourth game of a match against Victoria at Queen’s Park, L.A. Lewis was struck twice on the head by twenty-nine-year-old Harry Morton’s stick. His second whack at Lewis knocked Lewis unconscious, ‘blood spurting from a ghastly looking wound in his head.’ As angry New Westminster supporters flooded the field, a dazed Lewis got to his feet and ran to Morton. The men grappled and Lewis again fell to the ground insensible. Lewis was carried off the field and the club’s physician, Dr. Fagan, dressed an inch-long cut in the side of his head, discovering that a small artery had been severed.”

W.J. Mathers and L.A. Lewis were both shareholders in The Westminster Trust and Safe Deposit Co. Ltd, incorporated in New Westminster in 1904, the province’s first trust company. Lewis Allen Lewis was from Ontario and no doubt to avoid confusion, he was known either by his initials or as L Allen Lewis. He was aged 37 in the 1901 census, living with his wife, Annette, who was two years younger, and also from Ontario, and their two children aged 5 and 1, Lewis and Evan. They had a domestic servant; a retired teacher who came from Gibraltar. In 1912 he owned a car, inaccurately registered to 26 Granville Street, Vancouver (actually his New Westminster address).

William J. Mathers was the New Westminster manager for the Brackman-Ker Milling Company. He purchased the first two lots of the Deer Lake Crescent subdivision and in 1912 built a magnificent Romanesque revival-styled home designed by architect F.W. Macey for a reported cost of $13,000. The 1911 census described him as a 48 year old merchant, from Ontario. His wife Mary was nine years younger, from Quebec, and they had two children aged 3 and 8 months; M Kathleen and William M.

The building was initially listed as ‘Japanese Rooms’, then in 1916 listed as the Stanley Rooms, run by R Tao. There was a Japanese tea room on street level, and the Kane Shooting Gallery in the basement. By the 1930s the name had changed to the King Rooms, run in 1932 by K Matsuoka and in 1940 by R Yamamoto. The tea room evolved into a dry-goods store run by various Japanese owners: Yamauchi, Morimoto and Higashiyama. Although U. Morimoto & Co. leased the store for only 2 years (1919-1921), the Morimoto name is still visible on the tiled entrance today. This building was also the address for the Canadian Japanese Social Athletic Club in the 1920s.

Once the Japanese had been forced from the area in the early years of the war, new owners operated the rooms; at the end of the war Foon Wong was the proprietor, and was still running the rooms in 1955. The building attracted little attention from the local press, with the exception of one story in the Province in 1952. “Blind Indian Found Hungry. A blind Indian who waited, foodless, four days in a rooming house for his wife to return, was fed by another tenant and then turned over to the Indian agent’ Heber Harris, 59, living at King’s Rooms, 326 Powell, told police his wife left him Saturday to visit a cousin and did not return. Police contacted Indian agent J. B. Clemmitt and detectives of the missing person detail are attempting to locate the woman.”

Today the original storefront is still in place, just as it was in our 1978 image, and the privately run rental rooms upstairs still share toilets and bathrooms on each landing.

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Posted 13 December 2021 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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