Archive for February 2022

Aberdeen School – Burrard Street

Seen here in this early 1900s Vancouver Public Library image, Aberdeen School was set back from the street with a huge yard in front. There had been a wooden school here from 1888; the West End School. (The East End School was in Strathcona). It was a four-room frame building, and soon considered inadequate. The 1889 Annual Report of the Principal, Miss M Hartney said “The attendance, however, would have been considerably larger were it not for sickness that was so prevalent among the children during the spring months. And this sickness, I am convinced, was much aggravated by the school grounds, which are in very unfavorable condition, and require immediate attention in order to preserve the health of pupils and teachers.”

The rapidly growing school population led to the construction of a replacement, Dawson School, which was on the east side of Burrard a little to the south. In 1908 another school was built here, for primary classes. It was named after the Governor-General of Canada. John Campbell Gordon, 1st Marquis of Aberdeen and Temair. Although it was built at a time when the permits have been lost, we know E E Blackmore designed it because his appointment was referenced in the School Board Annual Report in 1907.

The school operated until 1942 when the name was changed to Sir William Dawson School Annex or just plain Dawson Annex, and it operated in conjunction with the school down the road. Around 1949, when Jimi Hendrix was 7, in a 1968 interview he recalled staying in Vancouver, attending grade 1 at Dawson Annex, although his presence does not appear in any VSB records. While it’s often noted that he lived with his grandmother, Nora Hendrix, she lived in Strathcona, and it would have been a long way for a small boy to travel. It was more likely that he stayed with his aunt (her daughter), Patricia, who lived on Drake Street, and was five years older than Jimmy’s father. Her first husband, Joe Lashley, died that year, and she moved back to the States.

After a mini post-war boom in the 1950s the school closed in June of 1962, the students were absorbed into Dawson School at Burrard and Helmcken. The building sat vacant for several years and the school grounds were used as a parking lot for the B.C. Hydro building.

The building was demolished on April 1, 1969 (when Health and Safety rules were apparently less stringent, as this VSB image shows). After years as a vacant site, in 1991 a condo tower called Vancouver Tower was developed here, designed by Eng and Wright, with a two-storey IGA grocery store occupying the whole of the front of the site.



Posted 28 February 2022 by ChangingCity in Gone, West End

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Powell Street – 500 block, south side

Here are two images of the same buildings on Powell Street. We looked at 566 Powell, the small wooden building with the A-Z Cafe, in an earlier post. It was built as stores and a rooming house by William McNeil in 1911. To the west (on the right of the cafe) are the Powell Rooms at 556 Powell, designed by H H Schlomer, and developed by in 1912 by Smith & Smith.

The three storey building to the east are the Hampton Rooms, dating back to 1908. They cost $5,000 to build, and were developed by John Wickham, although the permit has been lost so we don’t know who designed the building. In 1914 ‘Wickins’ carried out repairs – we’re betting that was the absent Mr. Wickham as well.

The most obvious John Wickham was a resident in the city in 1911, listed as a lodger in the census, and in the street directory living on Bidwell Street. However, a J Wickham had built a series of houses near here, starting in 1904. John O Wickham, and his brother Alfred opened Wickham’s Restaurant in 1911, and we think he must be the same John Wickham who was living in Portland, Oregon in 1900. He was listed there as a restauranteur, as was his younger brother Alfred. They had been born in England, and were still living with their parents in Oregon in their late 20s.

The last building on the block (on the left edge of the picture) is now the Princess Rooms, on the corner of Princess Avenue. It was designed by Bird and Blackmore, for M and J W Whitman, and built by Coffin and McClennan for $30,000 in 1910. These days it’s run as a low-barrier housing building by a non-profit operator, but it started life as The Eureka Apartments. Marcellus Whitman was born in Galena, Illinois, in 1854 according to his headstone in Mountain View Cemetery, and his son Jay Ward Whitman in 1885 in Fargo, North Dakota. Marcellus and his wife Abbie, who was from Minerva, New York, had six children. Florence was also born in Fargo in 1889, but Thomas was born in BC in 1890, so we can tell when they moved west. Marcellus had bought a 160 acre Fargo homestead in 1881. His departure from Fargo was sudden, and attracted attention in the local ‘Jamestown Weekly’. “Marcellus Whitman, the oldest son of N.Whitman, has been absent since Sunday, and in­vestigation disclosed that some twenty merchants are losers by his absence. Saturday he drew about $800 out of one of the banks. Then he went to the va­rious merchants and bought goods for small amounts, presenting checks for a larger amount and asking for the differ­ence that he might pay a hired man. In this way he obtained from $5 to $40 from each, making some $400 all told. In some places he paid old debts with these checks and always reaped a balance in cash. The checks were protested on Monday and Tuesday, and Wednesday the fun commenced. It is said that he has mortgaged over fifty horses, when he owns but sixteen. He has a fine farm in the northern part of the county of 800 acres, but it is said this is mortgaged for $16,000, and everything is covered with a mortgage. The First, National bank has commenced suit against him, and included his father in the suit, who is reported worth $100,000. Much surprise is expressed at these de­velopments. as Marcellus Whitman has lived here some sixteen years.”

He was listed as a labourer in the early street directories in Vancouver, so it was a surprise to see him as a developer, but he was obviously ambitious and successful in a new endeavour. In 1909 he obtained a patent for a rope-handling device (a cleave), and in 1911 he was identified in the census as a logger. His son, Jay, married Alice Carlile, born in Wolseley, North West Territory, Saskatchewan, in 1906. In the 1911 census Jay was living on Valdez Island in a logging camp where he was foreman with at least 20 labourers working for him. They were from the US, Japan, Norway, Scotland and Sweden. Alice was living in Washington, in  the US, where their daughter Erna Edna Whitman was born that summer. Another daughter, Eldra Adelaide was born in 1913 in Vancouver. In 1915 a third daughter, Pearl Thurla was born when Alice was living on Thurlow Island, BC.

In 1915 and 1917 he and Marcellus applied for logging licences on Vancouver Island. He owned the Whitman Logging Company, located in Topaz Harbour (just north of Vancouver Island, across the Johnstone Strait, between Knight Inlet and Loughborough Inlet). In 1922 Jay was married to Hazel Jex, a widowed school teacher; his first wife Alice having died in 1919 aged 31. Marcellus Whitman died in 1920, and his burial was recorded in the Daily World as being in the IOOF section of Mountain View. Abbie Whitman died at Sumas in 1936 aged 81. Her son J W was at the time living in Clinton. Jay died in 1973 in Prince George, aged 88. His parents were recorded as Marcus and Abbey, and he was also interred in Mountain View, and Hazel joined him there after she died aged 90 in 1982.

The Eureka Apartments, as part of the Japanese community, were managed by B Kawasaki in 1920. Ten years later Y Tanida was running the rooms, and in 1940 K Suzuki. After the Japanese were moved away from the coast Eng Foo took over in 1945 and C Korsch in 1955. Today RainCity manage 42 units of transitional housing for people who have been repeatedly homeless and have complex health issues. It’s supported low-barrier housing, from a harm reduction and housing first philosophy.


Stanley Park and the West End from above (1)

The angle on these two images is pretty close, although we think they must have been shot at slightly different elevations. The 1964 image by Williams Bros. Photographers Ltd was taken from slightly higher, so Burnaby Heights, in the distance, are less prominent. Trish Jewison, in the Global BC traffic helicopter shot the more contemporary image in September 2020.

The West End was in the middle of transforming from modest density to many more high-rise towers. The zoning changed in 1956, and from then until 1972 over 200 towers replaced many older houses, often carved up into rooming houses. There are two prominent towers looking on to Stanley Park. Panorama Place, designed by Robert Rapske, was still under construction in 1964, completed a year later. The entire building, developed by Cosmos Holdings, cost $2.5m to construct. Built as apartments, the 147 units were acquired by Dawson Developments and converted to a co-op in 1973, so buyers acquire shares in the co-op, rather than a strata freehold. A construction crane collapsed when the building was close to completion, killing one of the workers.

A block and a half to the north, the Silhouette Apartments had been completed in 1963, but with 96 rental units following an almost identical shape, and we believe designed by the same architect. The tower replaced the family home of Jonathan and Elizabeth Rogers, completed in 1910.

In 1964 both the Marine Building and the Hotel Vancouver were still prominent on the skyline. The slab of the Georgian Towers hotel had been completed in 1955, the first modern tower to start the continuing transformation of West Georgia Street. Today, all three buildings are lost in the forest of towers, and the skyline has two standout towers, the Shangri-La hotel and apartments, and the former Trump Tower, now changing to the Paradox Hotel. In the foreground is the seasonal, heated, outdoor pool at Second Beach. Built in 1932, in the 1960s it was still filled with ocean salt water, although that meant from time to time a mud shark or octopus could end up sharing the pool. Stanley Park, and Devonian Harbour Park have both grown much more in the intervening 56 years, so there’s far more of a forest in the foreground.

In the background today the container cranes of the Port of Vancouver can be seen, located in a spot that was still part of Burrard Inlet in the early 1960s. Closer to us the industrial operations on the shoreline of the Inlet have gone, replaced by the condos and rental towers of Coal Harbour, although the initial buildings of the Bayshore Inn (now the Westin Hotel) had been opened on the waterfront in 1961 (seen here in a 1960s postcard).

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Air P108.2 and Trish Jewison’s twitter account.


Posted 21 February 2022 by ChangingCity in Altered

Carrall Street and West Hastings

There are three identifiable buildings in this picture and we’ve looked at their history individually in earlier posts. The Interurban station is on the left, with the offices of BC Electric above, designed by W M Somervell and completed in 1911. We looked at the yard behind the building as well. Today, the opening where the interurban trams would exit is a window to a lighting showroom.

The Burns Block, seen here in 1930, was built in 1909, and designed by Parr and Fee. On the main floor was a meat shop, as the developer was Burns & Co, an Alberta-based meat empire, with the Vancouver arm of the business run by Dominic Burns. The company’s local offices were on the scond floor, and there were a variety of offices including F R Humber, a dentist, and E R Flewwelling, a jewelry maker. They were both still here in 1955, but some time after that it became a residential building, although the bathrooms were shared on each floor. The single room occupancy housing was closed down in 2006 having failed fire safety inspections (there were no working fire alarms, for example, and the fire escape exits were blocked). It was vacant for a few years before restoration by new owners Reliance Holdings, designed by Bruce Carscadden Architects and opened in 2011. It was still an SRO, with shared bathrooms but the tiny rooms were called ‘micros suites’ and the rents were multiples of the welfare rate of rental payment. In 2021 Reliance sold the building to BC Housing for whom the 30 studio units are now be managed by Atira Women’s Resource Society. The rooms are available for women who are committed to reducing or stopping substance use. Wraparound support services include clinical counselling, primary health care, transitional skills development, 16-step support recovery groups, an art therapy program, community meals, family reunification and short-term access to recovery support.

Between the BC Electric building and The Burns Block was the right of way once occupied by the railway. There was a barrier that would block the street, which was the city’s major artery, whenever a train came through. The final steam train ran across Hastings in 1932 after a tunnel was dug from the waterfront to Yaletown.

To the west was the Beacon Theatre, which started life as a Pantages Theatre, and ended as the Majestic. Designed by B Marcus Priteca late in 1916, construction wasn’t started until 1917, with the theatre opening in 1918. Alexander Pantages spent over $300,000 building the theatre. During its time as the Pantages Theatre, it headlined stars included Charlie Chaplin, Stan Laurel, Jack Dempsey and Babe Ruth. Architectural writer Miriam Sutermeister noted that the theatre was “considered at the time to be the most richly embellished and efficient theatre of the Pantages chain.” renamed The Majestic, movies started to appear between vaudeville bookings, and in 1946 the thetre became The Odeon, showing movies almost exclusively. A final attempt to revive vaudeville in 1958 as the Majestic wasn’t a success. The acts were brought in from Las Vegas, and Carl de Santis and his orchestra provided the music. There were still two movies, but the theatre struggled and vaudeville really was, finally, dead. Demolished in 1967, the site was used for parking for 30 years before Arthur Erickson’s design for non-market housing as the Portland Hotel was completed in 2000.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 447-299


Posted 17 February 2022 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone, Still Standing

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East Hastings Street – 100 block, north side

There really hasn’t been a lot of change in this part of East Hastings in over 40 years since our 1978 image was taken. The larger building on the corner is these days known as the Irving Hotel, a name it had soon after it was built. It was later the Broadway, and then the Sunrise Hotel, but the name on the building is ‘The Vowell’. An absentee investor, Judge Arthur W Vowell developed the four-storey Irving Hotel in 1906 designed by Hooper & Watkins and built at a cost of $40,000. Arthur Wellsley Vowell was born in Clonmell, Ireland in 1841. He joined the Army and served for 3 years, before heading to Esquimalt in 1862 after a brief stint in the goldfields. Joining the Civil Service he was Chief Constable of the “Big Bend” Mining area from 1866 to 1872 and then Gold Commissioner and Stipendiary Magistrate of the Cassiar Mining District. He was elected as MLA for the district in 1875, but resigned a year later and returned to the job of Gold Commissioner. He was in charge of the Kootenay division when the CPR was driven through the mountains, and then was appointed Indian Superintendent for the Dominion Government. and Indian Reserve Commissioner for the BC Government.

He retired to Victoria in 1910. During his working life in the gold districts he suffered depression . His mental health never improved, and his death in Victoria in 1918 was listed as suicide by gunshot. He had never married, and his estate was left to nieces and nephews of his many siblings around the world including in Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and England. (He was 12th of a family of 13 children). Money was also left to a Women’s Christian Temperance Union Refuge Home in Victoria and a charitable organization offering destitute children free education.

The Irving was a high-end hotel with private baths, hot and cold running water, and telephones. A 1910 edition of the Sunday Sunset said “Of the many first class hotels in Vancouver, the Hotel Irving, located at the corner of Columbia Avenue and Hastings Street, is deserving of mention…centrally located…among the newest and most modernly equipped…run on the European plan has seventy-five beautifully furnished rooms. Mr W.S. Dickson, the proprietor…there is also connected to the hotel a well stocked bar, handling all leading brands of wines, liquors and cigars.

During prohibition John L Sullivan ran the hotel and his brother Paddy Sullivan ran the hotel’s bar as the Irving Cabaret. Sullivan hired Jelly Roll Morton, one of the original New Orleans jazz pioneers, to supply the entertainment sometime in late 1920 or early 1921. In 1923 the name changed to the Broadway Hotel.

A complex court case arose from the disposition of Arthur’s estate. In 1922 his trustees arranged the sale of property in Vancouver (almost certainly this building) to Nick Kogos, who ran the Broadway Restaurant next door, for $85,000. He in turn arranged to sell it to Painless Parker, a dentist (who had changed his name from Edgar), the owner of a chain of dental surgeries. (He later occupied premises in Davis Chambers, further west). The case centred on which of the purchasers owed interest on the sale of the premises, and Painless sued, won the case, and the subsequent appeal.

At the heart of the prolific Vancouver drug trade, The Hotel Broadway had a reputation in the mid 1950s. Police Magistrate Oscar Orr was quoted that “It is just as easy to buy drugs at this hotel as it is for a child to buy candy at a store.” The owner of the Broadway resented criticism about drug activity in his hotel because he went out of his way to cooperate with the police. A Mountie spent two months posing as a junkie on ‘the Corner’ outside, and the drapes were removed so police could see inside from a lookout across the street in the Empire Hotel. 28 low-level dealers were arrested, but with no discernable impact on the availability of drugs.

In 1999 the building was acquired by the Province as non-market housing, and in 2001 it was renovated to house a U.B.C. operated dental clinic, community co-op radio station, coin-operated Laundromat, and a coffee shop. The project included seismic and accessibility upgrades while maintaining the historic character of the building. In 2016 a more comprehensive restoration added heritage aspects like the pediment and neon sign, missing for many years, as well as further restoration of the fabric.

The three storey building next door is older. There was a wooden building on the site as early as 1889, and a 3-storey building by 1898 when Thomas Levy was the lodging house keeper for the upper floors and  A R McCallum, a tailor, occupied the main floor.

In 1903 Crowe and Wilson were hired by J McWhinney, to add a $5,500 addition designed by D Grant. (This may have been G W Grant – there was no other architect named Grant). The addition was probably the back half of the building; the 1901 insurance map shows a 3 storey building less than half the depth of the lot. The memorably named Garrypie & Dumaresq, grocers occupied the main floor that year. They had taken over from J Chambers who ran a grocers in 1902, with Mary Durant the lodging house. We think the building was probably first completed in 1899 or 1900, and then substantially enlarged by Mr McWhinney in 1903. We’re reasonably certain that the James McQuinn who carried out repairs in 1910, and the J McWhinnie in 1918 were both inaccurate recording of Mr. McWhinney.

James McWhinney was born on December 28 1858, in Saint Andrews, New Brunswick, He was interviewed by Major Matthews in 1932, so we know he went to Moodyville, (on the north shore) in 1878 “via San Francisco, Portland, Victoria, New Westminster and Douglas Road; the stage line from New Westminster to Hastings was just a wagon with seats; three or four persons to a seat, and a couple of horses to draw it.” He was later, and for many years, logging boss for the Moodyville Sawmill Co. For a while he owned the Badminton Hotel, and we don’t know if he developed this building initially, or acquired it, like the hotel. He married his wife, Selina O’Brien, in 1888 in Humboldt, California, and they had four children. James was 79 when he died in 1938, and was buried in Mountain View Cemetery.

In the 1920s it was home to the Broadway Cafe, run by Nick Kogos, who previously ran the Golden Gate restaurant on the opposite side of the street, that burned down in 1920. In 1921 “Nick Kogos, proprietor of the Broadway Cafe, was placed under arrest on Saturday and Is now out on bail of $5000. charged with conspiracy to arson.” That was no doubt who the clerks recorded as Nick Cogan and N Congas, who carried our repairs in 1920. The Broadway Cafe also had a reputation for the ready availability of illicit drugs. In 1921 the police sent the Vancouver Sun’s reporter, ‘Nosy Wilson’, to buy cocaine in the cafe. A young drug addicted woman introduced Wilson to bandleader LC Fernandez, leader of the Filipino orchestra that played in the window of the café, who sold $7 of cocaine. Two of the marked notes were later found in his possession by the police.

Nick Kogos went on to run the Commodore Cafe on Granville, and to build a replica of the Parthenon at his West Vancouver home. Today this is a small SRO Hotel, recently acquired by BC Housing and used to relocate some of the homeless from Oppenheimer Park. Called the Lark, it’s run by PHS Community Services. Potter’s Place Mission has occupied the main floor for many years.

Lower image source: Broadway Cafe, Vancouver Public Library #7462


Columbia Hotel annex

We looked at the history of the Columbia Hotel (on the right in our pictures) in an earlier post. It was designed by Honeyman and Curtis for Boyd & McWhinnie in 1911, and cost $60,000. The adjacent building on the other half of the double lot as actually an earlier structure. It was, (according to a press report), a “Three-storey brick business block w/ stores & dwellings; cover south half of the two lots at the SW corner of Columbia & Cordova;” for the same owners, built by Mr T Mackinnon, and costing $10,000. No architect was identified, and given the simplicity of the design, it’s possible none was involved.

The 1905 building was an annex to the original Columbia Hotel, which was smaller, and replaced with the 1911 6-storey structure. Thomas McWhinnie probably developed the building with Thomas Boyd as there’s an 1891 Council minute that recorded “That permission be not granted to Messrs Boyd and McWhinnie to erect a frame building on the corner of Oppenheimer Street and Columbia Avenue same being contrary to the By-Law” We can be certain that Thomas Boyd, a contractor, was Mr. McWhinnie’s partner as the two men owned this lot as early as 1886.

Thomas Boyd first appears in the street directory in 1888, as a contractor, and he became a wealthy developer and property owner. In 1889 his construction interest expanded as he teamed up as Boyd and Clandenning, and he also carried out work on his own, and developed with Thomas McWhinnie. He was from an Irish family settled in Nova Scotia. He arrived in 1883 in New Westminster, which was why he was able to buy Vancouver property without living in the city at that point. He carried out local road building, like the Stanley Park Road, but also railway construction on the Crowsnest Railway, and the Pacific Great Eastern to Cheakamus. He married in Montreal in 1893, and had two daughters. He ended up as executor to both James Clandenning and Thomas McWhinnie, and died in 1938.

The 1889 insurance map only shows the Australasian Saloon one lot down on Columbia Street, later incorporated into the Columbia Hotel site, but nothing was built here at that time. Thomas ‘McWhiney’ doesn’t appear in the city until 1890. Before that he was listed in New Westminster. The Columbia House Hotel run by Joseph Dixon first shows in the directory in 1894, at the corner of Oppenheimer and Columbia. In 1895 it’s the Columbia Hotel, and Thomas McWhinnie lived there. He was running the hotel in 1896, with a partner called J A Murray, and in 1898 with Charles Orre.

By 1899 Thomas McWhinnie was sole proprietor of the hotel, with A A McWhinnie shown as the clerk in 1901. In 1891 Thomas was living in Vancouver, a house carpenter living with his wife, shown as Jennie, who was from England. She was actually Hannah Jane Solloway – they had married in 1890, and she died in 1893. The Daily World reported that their infant son Thomas also died later that year, in Mission City. Thomas’s brother Arthur was also in the city, a painter living with his American wife Annie and their infant daughter, Lillie. In 1901 the census said Arthur was a saloon keeper. It showed Thomas living at the hotel with 16 borders. He was aged 42, and had arrived in Canada when he was 7 from Scotland. (There were two Thomas McWhinnie’s born in Scotland in 1858, but only one was born on the 28th of May). Thomas was born in Girvan in Ayrshire. His father was Henry, and his mother Sarah Dunlop. In 1881 the family were living in Simcoe, in Ontario, and the census that year showed one of Thomas’s younger brothers was Arthur A McWhinnie, who was born in Ontario. A meeting of the Pioneers Club said Thomas arrived in the Lower mainland in 1884.

Both brothers were working at the hotel in 1902, but Arthur was no longer listed in 1903. He held the licence for a liquor store on Hastings Street which was transferred to Urquhart Brothers in 1902, so he was apparently contemplating moving then. Thomas McWhinnie transferred his licence in 1903 to James Guthrie, who was running the hotel a year later. Thomas’s absence was explained in The Province: “Mr. Hugh Uquhart has returned from a trip to Edmonton. He and Mr. Thomas McWhinnie of this city, have purchased a wholesale and retail liquor business there, and Mr. McWhinnie has remained behind to carry it on.” Although he was absent, his involvement continued in Vancouver. Another Boyd and McWhinnie building worth $10,000 was approved on Water Street in 1905.

In 1906 Thomas McWhinnie married Etta Rye in Whatcom, Washington. They went on to have six children; Sarah, Frederick, Janet, (born in Penticton in 1913), Alexander, James in 1917, and finally another son, Douglas in 1919. Etta was only 38 when she died in 1920, the same year as her infant son. After a brief absence the family reappeared in Vancouver in 1907, living on West 4th Avenue, with William now listed as ‘farmer’. Apparently he retained the hotel but also acquired a Penticton fruit ranch, and property in Osoyoos. Thomas was still living at the W4th Avenue address, and was aged 64 when he died in 1922. He was buried in Penticton.


Posted 10 February 2022 by ChangingCity in Gastown, Still Standing

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Fortin Building – West Cordova Street

The Fortin Building has recently had a new paint job, and the sign that reads ‘Fortin Building 1893’ is now easier to read. It’s been on the building for many years – and is unfortunately entirely inaccurate. The building was designed by Grant and Henderson, and dates from 1909.

The Fortin name came from ‘George’ (actually Georges) Fortin, probably from Quebec (although some records say New Brunswick). He was in the city in the 1890s, but not as a hotelier. In 1891 he was in New Westminster, aged 23, living with his parents, Wilfred and Marie, and working as a carpenter. Most (but not all) records show he had been born in Quebec, as were his three siblings aged 14 or older, but Ernest, the youngest (who was 11) had been born in New Brunswick. George’s wife, Annie, and infant son, Henri were living with the family. In 1896 he was living on Richards, and was a glazier with the Royal City Planing Mill, which was on Carrall street. It appears he briefly moved south, as his son, Archie, was born in the United States in 1896, but came to Canada a year later. By 1900 he had moved to Robertson & Hackett’s mill, by the Granville Bridge, where he worked with one of his brothers. By the 1901 census he had five children, including four sons, and was shown born in New Brunswick.

It was only in 1903 that George was shown running a hotel – The Colonial on Granville Street, close to the mill, (today known as The Yale). The description on the Heritage BC website that says “Quebec-born Georges Wilfrid Fortin was one of the first hotel owners in Vancouver and Victoria” isn’t really accurate. He probably didn’t own the hotel – ‘proprietor’ related to the hotel business, not the building, and 1903 wasn’t that early in the city’s history. In 1904 George had moved, running the Leland Hotel on West Hastings. He continued to move around a lot. In 1905 he lived to Burrard Street, and was running the Louvre Saloon although Reinhold Minaty was also shown in charge there in the same directory. In 1906 he had retired, (at the age of 38), but a year later he was running The Orpheum hotel on West Hastings. In 1908 he had moved to Robson Street and was running the Hotel Leland again – except that had now moved to Granville Street. In 1909 he had moved to a house overlooking Kitsilano beach, and had no employment.

This building was developed in 1909 by C S Douglas and Co, who spent $23,000 in building the store and rooming house. Although it was called the Hotel Fortin, and George initially ran the Cafe Fortin here, Charles Douglas continued to own the building, carrying out alterations in 1912 costing $3,000. After the hotel opened in 1909, the newspaper adverts said “HOTEL FORTIN An entirely new. modern, fireproof hotel, containing 50 bedrooms, furnished with hot and cold water, telephone and steam heat. The cafe, run on up-to-date lines, is a special feature of the hotel. Rates European plan. 7.00 and 11.00. Special rate by the week J A. PLUMB. GEORGE FORTIN.

George was listed as sole proprietor by the end of the year, and by spring 1911 W Fortin was running the show, (presumably George’s father), but later in the same year J. Meagher, was listed as Proprietor. The street directory didn’t list George that year, although his son, Henry was shown as a clerk at the hotel’s address. The 1911 census had him living on Melville Street with Annie, and 7 children, and he was a pool room proprietor, (and shown born in New Brunswick again), with his two eldest sons working for him. The 1912 directory agreed, showing the Pool Room on West Pender, and Wilfred Fortin also working for his son. George disappears again in 1913, and a year later he’s running the Orpheum Pool Room, and living in the West End.

In 1916, he enlisted and went overseas with the 103rd Batallion CEF. On his return home from overseas, he farmed in the Fraser Valley for 10 years, retiring in 1930. His son Henry died in in 1933; he was also a hotelier, running the Strand. George died in 1951 after 64 years in Vancouver. He was survived by four sons and one daughter, all of Vancouver.

The Fortin name disappeared from this building comparatively quickly. In 1913 it had become the Panama Hotel, run by H Rogelet, and by 1919 the Shoal Bay Hotel. In the early 1920s it became the Rob Roy Hotel. John McDonald reported having $50 stolen from his room while he was asleep in 1922. That year C.F.Renfro, who lived in the hotel, was robbed at gunpoint on Powell Street of $60, but was given $1 back by the considerate gunmen for “breakfast money”. A year later a white cockatoo was stolen from a resident. and that same year the owner survived an armed holdup. “SCARED BY OWN SHOTS Holding up the proprietress and two patrons of the Rob Roy hotel, 53 Cordova street west. In dashing style, and firing two shots from a revolver to intimidate their victims, a pair of would-be bandits lost heart at the sound of the shots on Saturday midnight, and fled without obtaining any loot. The two men entered the hotel office, where Mrs. Wright and two guests were seated, and ordered them to throw up their hands, one of the pair firing two shots, after which both turned and ran out. A mask and two discharged shells were found outside by P. C. W. Mackle, who was called, but no further trace of the men was discovered.”

In the 1930s this had become the Travellers Hotel, which it has retained as a name for decades. In 1966 “cash and cigarettes worth a total of $379 were reported stolen in a break-in early Wednesday at the Traveller’s Hotel beer parlor at 57 West Cordova. Police said a Jukebox, cigarette machine and two shuffle-board machines were opened“. In 1972 an argument over seats in the crowded beer parlour led to a fight in which one of the men involved fatally stabbed the other.

Our image shows the hotel in 1985. Today it’s a market-rate Single Room Occupancy rental building, owned by Fortin Holdings, and there’s no longer a bar on the main floor.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 790-2130


Posted 7 February 2022 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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301 & 307 Main Street

These two modest rooming houses are likely to be redeveloped very soon as a new non-market housing project. The Jay Rooms on the corner date back to around 1894, while The Vet’s Rooms to the south were a 1902 investment by Baynes & Horie, who developed, designed and built the brick-fronted frame building for $2,500. Their corner neighbour saw a remodelling of the earlier building in 1913 when it was owned by Edward McFeely, who hired W T Whiteway to design the $5,000 work built by E Cox. (Coincidentally, Baynes & Horie had carried out alterations to the first building on the corner, by adding a kitchen in 1903).

We don’t know who originally developed the corner, but in 1894 The Mountain View Boarding House appeared in the street directory on Oppenheimer Street, run by Mrs. Thomas. A year later the address switched to East Cordova, and she was named as Mrs William Thomas. In 1901 she was still running the boarding house, identified in the census as Mary E Thomas, with five lodgers, and her daughter, Martha, living with her. She was shown as aged 59, and her daughter 23, and both were from Ontario. In 1891 the family lived in New Westminster. There were four other children at home – Martha was the youngest – and William was a sailor.

In 1911 she had given up running the boarding house and was a widow, living with her son-in-law, Edward Odlum, on Grant Street. He was only 9 years younger than Mary, but his wife, Matilda was 34. (Matilda was Martha’s middle name). Edward’s first wife, Mary, had died in Tokyo in 1888 aged 34, leaving Edward with four young children including newborn twins.

Edgar Baynes and William Horie were partners in a construction business they started in 1893, and were responsible for constructing over a hundred of the city’s buildings, with a number of them investments for their personal portfolio of property. 307 Westminster Avenue was a relatively small building for them, and by 1915 real estate mogul William Holden had bought the building. Ed McFeely, who was a partner in McLennan, McFeely and Company Limited, the city’s most successful importer of hardware and building supplies. He continued to spend money on alterations to the corner building, including $150 in 1926. He was from Ontario, and was in Vancouver before the 1886 fire. He was immensely successful in business, and died in 1928 one month after retiring, a year after his partner in business, Robert McLennan.

The original corner building was home in 1896 to G Claasen’s grocery store and in 1902 to Clarke & Rogerson, grocers, and Ben Christensen, a shoemaker. Upstairs the Mountain View Hotel was on two floors, with a corner turret, and addressed as 170 E Cordova. A year later Ben’s store was vacant, and Walter Merkley, who sold dry goods had moved into the new store next door. In 1906 Jacob Parker had a second-hand store on the corner, J F Munro, a tailor was next door, and T Galloway’s stationery store was in the brick building with Mrs. W. J. Ore running the furnished rooms upstairs.

In 1914 The Atlas Cafe occupied the corner, the Northern Oil Co were next door, and Walter Galloway was running the stationery store, and apparently lived upstairs, with no mention of rooms above 307. However, over the cafe, the Mountain View had become the Stockholm Rooms which were addressed as 172 E Cordova. By 1930 they had become the Phoenix Rooms, over The Main Clothing Store, the Star Barber Shop, and next door the People’s Mission. In 1936 R Reusch ran the rooms, and in 1938 the Yamane Rooms were operated by Kamech and Umeko Yamane until 1942. There was a strong Japanese presence on the block; photographer Motozo Toyama and his Columbia Studio were located on that side of the street until 1942, when the Japanese community were forced to leave the coast. He was the community’s go to photographer. In 1943 the rooms were The Victor Rooms, and by 1950 they were The Jay Rooms. J Zbarsky’s clothing store was on the corner, the barbers had remained for over two decades, and next door Mrs. J Thomson ran a rooming house over the Main Cleaners.

In 1972 there was a fire, leaving the building damaged, (our image above) and the top floor was removed. Our main 1978 image shows York’s Restaurant on the corner, and Eddie’s next door – a lock repairer and saw filer, with the Vet’s Rooms upstairs. Since then Vic’s restaurant, which occupied the corner (and was featured in the DaVinci TV series), reopened as a Blenz coffee shop, then closed again and is now a free clothing store run by Atira Women’s Resource Society. Eddie’s is, for now, a convenience store, and a vacant unit.


Posted 3 February 2022 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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