Elysium Hotel, West Pender Street (2)

This is our second look at this surprisingly short-lived hotel building, the New Elsium Hotel built on West Pender Street. The image in our first post wasn’t particularly good (as the photo had faded, or been badly under-exposed) and we now have much more information about the mysterious developer ‘C C Smith’. Robert Moen, of the comprehensively researched WestEndVancouver blog, has worked out who C C Smith probably was – not a Smith at all, but a gentleman called Christopher Cameron McRae.

The September 1909 permit for the $95,000 construction was to C C Smith, and the architect was identified as Sholto Smith, to be built by ‘McNeil & Marsegh’. The building was described as apartment or rooming house. Expectations were for the building to open in April 1910, but before it was completed, Robert Forrest took on the project, and it would seem that C C Smith was no longer involved as a developer. Robert Forrest, a civil engineer who ran the Glenwood Rooms, also on West Pender, purchased the site.

A court case in 1911 tells a different story to the building permit (and tells us something about the construction of the building). A bricklayer called Sydney Hosgood filed a claim in the BC Supreme Court for over $10,000 for the injuries he received when the scaffolding he was working from collapsed. In November 1909 he was working on the fourth floor, when ‘the walls separated, allowing the fifth floor to fall in on top of him’. He was knocked unconscious and thrown onto a verandah two floors below. In the case C C Smith was described as the contractor, and Joshua Mansergh was the client. (The case was found in favour of Mr. Hosgood, who was awarded $3,500 in damages against Mr. Smith, who declined to pay, and was cited for contempt. We don’t know if he went to jail, or eventually paid up).

There’s considerable confusion about the roles of Smith, and Mansergh. A 1909 Daily World article said “Mr C C Smith is having this magnificent structure erected having great faith in the future development of Vancouver”. One article about the judgement referred to him ‘of North Vancouver’, but that seems inaccurate. Charles C Smith, a real estate broker there, was perhaps being confused for the developer.

Joshua Mansergh has been as elusive as ‘C C Smith’. He was listed as a contractor between 1909 and 1911, in partnership with a variety of changing partners, and while he was sometimes listed as John, a mining claim he made in 1911 shows he was a contractor, and confirms he was named Joshua. In a 1909 court case Mansergh and Burkley failed to get additional payment for a stables they erected in the West End. In 1910 the architect, Sholto Smith, designed a house for himself (and his wife and child) on W 14th Avenue, which was built for him by Mansergh and Walker, so there was clearly a business relationship between Sholto Smith and Joshua Mansergh.

Another court case in 1910 strengthened that connection; J Wilson sought $500 from Mansergh for wages from the construction of the Wigwam Inn. The defence was that he was a partner, and not entitled to wages, but the court awarded him $421. The Wigwam Inn was up Indian Arm, developed in 1910 by Benjamin Dickens and Konstantin ‘Alvo’ von Alvensleben, and one of the few buildings we know was also designed by Sholto Smith.

J Mansergh lived in rooms at 991 W Pender, which was the home of a Mrs. Cropley. As a contractor he only seems to have built two houses in three years, (one of them the house for Sholto Smith). He doesn’t seem to have been listed by any Canadian census, or indeed, in any other publications except reported court cases – where he generally lost. He’s most likely to have been born in 1873 in Yorkshire in England; the only Joshua Mansergh we can find born in the later half of the 1800s was a joiner in 1901.

In 1923 an obituary appeared in the Vancouver Sun under the headline ‘C C Smith dies in City Hospital’. It references his wife, daughter Donalda, and a home on W 11th Avenue, and says he was a 58 year old contractor who came to the city from Ontario 31 years ago. All the other newspapers referred to the death of C C McRae, with the other details the same. There’s no indication why the Sun should identify Mr. McRae as ‘Smith’.

C C McRae called himself an architect in 1894, with on office on Cordova, and married Jennie Boyd McMillan, of Mount Pleasant, in 1902, when he described his occupation as architect. The Museum of Vancouver has a copy of their framed wedding photograph. Jennie was a school teacher, and their daughter Donalda was born in 1909, and became a social worker. (In 1907 the couple had a son, who only lived for a week). Jeannie McRae lived in Vancouver until her death in 1951, and Donalda died, having never married, in 1987.

Apart from the name ‘Smith’, there seems unlikely to be any connection between C C McRae and Sholto Smith. The architect was born in Nice, to English parents, and arrived in Quebec when they emigrated, and he was aged ten. His training as an architect was in Montreal, and he ended up practicing in Moose Jaw between 1906 and 1908, and then moved to Vancouver. He married Charles Woodward’s daughter, Peg, in 1909, and picked up some work for the retail magnate, as well as the Elysium and the Wigwam Inn. As the economy paused, work dried up, and the family moved back to Moose Jaw. Following the war, and the failure of his marriage, he moved to New Zealand.

The earlier post describes the fate of the hotel following its construction. It was demolished in the late 1970s, and replaced with an office building designed by Hamilton Doyle in 1985.

Image source: Simon Fraser University, British Columbia Postcard Collection.

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Posted 25 July 2022 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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