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.

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