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


%d bloggers like this: