Arlington Hotel – West Cordova Street

We’re slightly surprised that in ten years of posting, a complete image of this building has eluded us. The arched Italianate windows suggest it’s a very early building in the city. It is in fact one of the oldest still standing, although not “originally built as professional offices and as accommodation in 1887 and owned by Dr. James Whetham” as the Heritage Statement says. N S Hoffar designed the building, but it was completed in late 1888. After the fire of 1886 an earlier building occupied the corner for a couple of years, seen in an earlier post. Hoffar designed another building for Dr. Whetham across the street, also in 1888, completed a few months after this one. The building here was described in a 31 December 1888 newspaper article as ‘just complete’ although it wasn’t occupied until 1889.

It was shown as 204-208 Cordova on the 1889 insurance map, 3 storey, with lodgings on the top floor, offices on the second, and  stores for Dry Goods and ‘B&S’ on the main floor (Joseph Pyke’s boot and shoe store). The 1890 directory shows John and Johann Buntzen had rooms here, so did Miss C A and Miss Sarah Netterford, and John Rooney, the chief mail clerk. Henry Burritt had his dental office, as did Lewis Griffith McPhillips, a barrister and Tuck and Black, also barristers.

Dr. Whetham, like many early Vancouver developers, came from Ontario. His father had been a flax and hemp manufacturer in England, who moved to Canada, established himself as a general merchant and then died, leaving a widow and three young children. His son, James Whetham is said in an early biography to have taught, then headed west, farming in Manitoba in 1878. Somehow he managed to study medicine (his biography says ‘in winter’) in Toronto and then Portland, Oregon, while apparently living in Spokane Falls. He only practiced medicine very briefly before moving on to develop real estate, initially in Spokane Falls and then in 1887 in Vancouver.

By 1889 James Whetham had the sixth largest land holdings in the city, was on the board of trade and was elected to the City Council. He lived in the Hotel Vancouver, and founded Whetham College on Granville Street with backing from other Vancouver businessmen; his brother became the headmaster. (Charles Whetham had moved to Vancouver before 1889, and opened a real estate office in the Whetham Block). In 1890 Dr. James Whetham still had an office at 130 Cordova, identifying himself as a physician. He died in 1891, aged only 37, of what was diagnosed as typhoid fever. The recession of 1893 saw the closure of Whetham College, the first post-secondary teaching institute in British Columbia. Charles Whetham moved back to the University of Toronto, but returned in the mid 1890s to a farm he had bought in Whonnock.

In 1890 all the tenants listed were commercial, with printers, lawyers and the Patterson Detective Agency. In 1893 they included Truman and Caple’s photography studios, the dentist, a barrister and Frank Leslie, an artist. In 1894 BC Land and Investment Co had their office here, and H D Burritt was still running his dental office, and in 1896 a few residential tenants were listed again.

In 1898 Braden & Co had a meat store here, as we saw in an earlier post with an image from that year.  The heritage statement says “The evolution of this lodging house continued as the Simcoe Rooming House, and subsequently as the Arlington Rooms from 1913“. This is wrong. The Simcoe was further down the block, and the Arlington Hotel name appeared in the 1898 street directory.

By 1901 this was shown as the ‘Lee’ building, renumbered as 300-304 Cordova. The Burrard Inlet Meat Co had the store at 300 W Cordova, the Arlington Hotel was upstairs at 304, and the Arlington Billiard Parlour was at 308, which was the next building to the west. The store was no longer associated with the meat trade after this: A J Bloomfield sold cigars here in 1902. A couple of years later the street address disappeared, and the retail space appears to have become associated with the hotel upstairs. In 1905 it was run by Cottingham and Beatty, and a year later John Beatty on his own, later corrected to Beaty.

Within a few years the premises had been renamed from the Arlington Hotel to the Arlington Rooms; Alice Gill ran them in 1915. The retail uses reappeared here; in 1920 Mrs Tosa Takaoha had a barber’s shop and S Nunoda sold confectionary. The courtyard was built on in 1909, to house a printing wing of Thomson Brothers Booksellers.

In 1950 The Arlington Rooms were still upstairs, over Low Yow’s Confectionary store, but by 1955 the rooms had closed and the Triangle Coffee Shop and a fabric shop were on the main floor. Today there’s a tailors and dressmaker’s in one unit, and a locally-made clothing store in the other. Upstairs the offices have a range of businesses just as they did in the 1890s, including a counselling service, a construction company, the offices of the Central City Foundation, the Latincouver Cultural Society office, a Registered Psychologist’s practice and a language school. There’s also a business that would have made no sense to the earliest tenants: the office of an “online archive/designer and luxury clothing store, known for its finely curated selection of niche Japanese brands, well-known European labels, and vintage Americana”

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 810-277 (copyright) and CVA 810-15 (copyright)

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Posted 16 May 2022 by ChangingCity in Gastown, Still Standing

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