74 West Hastings Street

Today, and in our 1978 image, this was the Grand Union Hotel. However, it only obtained that name a few years after it was developed.

The building to the west was developed by Chinese merchant Loo Gee Wing. The 1908 building had ‘Loo Building’ on top, and was named on the insurance map. The Song Mong Lim Co was listed as the initial developer, but that was the name of Loo Gee Wing’s wife, who tried to avoid paying construction contractor’s bills by ‘selling’ the property to her husband – a scheme that led to a stern admonishment by a judge.

Here the building is more modest, and seems to have also been completed before the Loo Building. The address appeared in 1908 as The Sterling Building, with Kwong Sang & Co, Chinese merchants occupying the main floor and E D Locke presumably occupying an office in the upper floors. The Loo Building appears later, in 1909.

Earlier, Loo Gee Wing had more ambitious plans for the combined site. He had a design completed for a 12 storey ‘big hotel and theatre’, to be built with a steel frame by a Seattle contractor. The project never proceeded, and Mr. Gillies, the builder tried, and failed twice to obtain payment for his involvement. During the trial it emerged that he had never constructed a steel building, or anything taller than 3 storeys. (The architect, B. W. Houghton of Seattle also sued for his fees). By 1905 plans for a theatre had been dropped, and the project downsized to develop just the corner lot, initially to a four storey hotel, and then back to a five storey office.

Although this building has also been attributed to Loo Gee Wing, we doubted that because of a statement in a December 1907 newspaper report about the site history and the Loo Building being constructed, noting ‘Finally a third of the property was taken over and built on.’ An earlier September 1907 report confirmed this. “CHINAMAN TO BUILD ON HASTINGS STREET Yesterday a building permit was issued to Yuen Chang for a $20,000 building on the Loo Gee Wing corner of Hastings and Abbott streets. Yuen Chang gave $4,000 for the eastern forty feet of the lot. The building will be a three – story one of brick and stone. Stores will occupy the lower part and the two upper storeys will be residential flats.” The developer’s name was probably more commonly Chong Yuen, the same Chinese merchant who built the 1911 building now known as the Chinese Freemasons Building. We don’t know who his architect was here.

In 1910 Kwong Sang still occupied the main floor, and upstairs The Astoria Rooms, run by David Baker, had opened, and the Sterling Building was also listed. A year later the Electric Vigo Co had been added to the occupants. They were upstairs, and their advertisments (initially in the Vancouver Sun, and later in the Daily World) promised much, if somewhat alarmingly. “After the first application of Electro – Vigor my ailment began to get better, and within two months I was completely cured. Needless to say, I was freed from the drug habit as well, and my general health greatly improved. Electro – Vigor is not like electric belts, doctors’ batteries and other appliances you may have seen or used. It does not shock or burn the sensation is pleasant, exhilarating. The current Is scientifically applied, so that It goes Just where it is needed. Electro Vigor Is easy to use. All you need to do is adjust it properly, when you go to bed, and all night long, while you sleep, it saturates the nerves and vitals with a glowing stream of electric energy.” The business was here for some years; one of our readers spotted the advert on the left from 1915.

Kwong Sang were replaced by The Raeburn Clothing Co in 1912, and in 1913 Bergman’s Cafe hired Otto Moberg to design $1,250 of work; presumably the interior of the space. G Bergman was shown carrying out minor repairs that year, and by 1914 the Bergman Rooms were here with the Cafe, Electro Appliance Co and Talbot Engineering. The Electro Appliance Co offered Dr Bell’s equipment, promising to cure almost everything with the addition of voltage.

Mr. Bergman’s involvement was short; In 1916 W S Thomas was listed as owner when alterations were proposed to the building, and in 1917 Mr DeFehr was owner. Isbrand DeFehr had run a much larger hotel called the Grand Union, on the same block, to the east. He had sold it (twice) and when it was then sold again for redevelopment as The Pantages Theatre, he acquired the Bergman Rooms and Cafe and established a new Grand Union. He was owner until around 1921, when Waghorn, Gwynn & Company, carried out work on several occasions.  In 1925 The Grand Union Hotel was listed as owner when $8,000 of changes were carried out, and Mrs G Campbell was in charge. Margaret Campbell was here in 1930, with H Hyams as the manager of the Beer Parlor. An auction notice for furniture appeared in the Province newspaper in 1930 suggesting that the hotel had 40 guest rooms. A year later a new manager, Mrs C Withyman was running the hotel (presumably with new furniture), and the beer parlor and a shoe shine and cigar stand were underneath. By 1955 the building was run by William J Chernecki’s Grand Union Holdings, with the Hotel, and a Tobacco Shop.

The beer parlor appeared quite often in the press; never in a good light. In 1929 “The Grand Union beer parlor’s cash, register containing $70 was stolen from the premises some time early Sunday morning and later found empty and smashed on the Canadian Pacific Rail way tracks under the Georgia viaduct.” In 1941 a fire axe was recovered from the bar, “stolen from the SS. Princess Louise on Saturday evening and C.P.R. police called on city constables to assist in its recovery. It was located in the possession of a private from an Edmonton regiment in the Grand Union beer parlor.”  In 1947 The Sun reported ” Knife-Wielding Sailors Disarmed. Two knives in the hands of two sailors, one a Filipino, the other a Negro, were confiscated by police following an argument in the Grand Union beer parlor, West Hastings Street, Thursday night. Police said the pair got Into an argument with a waiter and produced the knives.” In the same year “Dennis Halliday, 22, was sentenced to one month In jail today for assaulting Norman Sumner, bartender at Grand Union beer parlor” In 1954 the safe was broken open, and $6,000 stolen. Police made three arrests. A recent review by a long-time barman sums up the place today. “I enjoyed working there for over 33 years and got along with most customers but it being on skid row had a lot of shady people enter with bad moods and temper.

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Posted 14 March 2022 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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