1357 Barclay Street

Here’s another West End old timer, still standing on Barclay Street. We think it opened as a private hospital around 1907; BC Assessment say it was built in 1906. Dr. Thomas Underhill, the City’s Medical Officer of Health, lived next door (on the left), on the corner of Broughton Street, from around 1898. In 1899 there was a garden party in the grounds of his home – with an orchestra – to raise funds for All Hallows Girl School in Yale (an Indian Mission). Although there are references that say the hospital was converted from his home, we think that’s inaccurate. This lot may have been part of the grounds of his home – there was nothing built here on the 1903 insurance map, or shown in any street directory entries until 1908, when the West End Private Hospital was listed for the first time. In January the Province advertised “WEST END Private Hospital, 1357 Barclay street, for medical, surgical and maternity cases; also children”.

We’re not certain whether Dr. Underhill had any role in the development of the hospital business, which was run by Lena M Clermont, and sometimes referred to as “Miss Clermont’s Private Hospital”. While he was associated with the building – the water connection permit was in his name – in November 1908 a notice was published in the Province “I wish to contradict the report that I have sold half-interest in the business of the West End hospital, 1357 Barclay street, Vancouver. Lena Clermont, proprietress.” and if that wasn’t clear enough, two days later “Notice. This is to certify that the proprietorship of the West End Hospital has not changed and the business is solely in the hands of the undersigned. Lena Clermont, Proprietress.” This 1909 advertisement in the Saturday Sunset shows their typesetter made errors sometimes.

Miss Clermont was an Australian, who was 40 when she arrived in 1907, and was shown as superintendent of the hospital in 1908. She was working at the hospital in Temora, New South Wales in the early 1900s. She seems to have felt the need to lose a few years, and was shown as aged 41 in the 1911 census, where she was head of a household of 14 nurses and 3 maids. She ran the hospital (where nurses were trained as well) until around 1917 when Miss Helen G Tolmie had taken over running the hospital. That year a letter was published in the Sun from “Lena Clermont, President BC Equal Franchise Society”. She may briefly have moved to Enderby. A 1919 court case sought repayment of a mortgage there, but it was apparent that she had already moved south of the border.

In 1919 Lena Clermont emigrated to Seattle, and then moved to Texas. Ranger General Hospital, owned by Lena Clermont, with beds for 41 patients, opened in 1919. A history of Ranger says ‘The hospital was beset with problems from the beginning, including a lack of running water, inadequate sewage disposal and problems with electricity’. By 1925 Miss Clermont was in Shreveport, Louisiana. ‘The Post’ reported that ‘The old Haynesville Sanitarium was erected out of material moved to Haynesville from Ranger, Texas, by Miss Lena Clermont, As a practical hospital manager Miss Clermont soon demonstrated to Haynesville that even an old wooden building with ramshackly equipment was a worthwhile investment, and when a greater hospital was planned the board of director purchased the old building and used it in order to keep alive until the new one was finished.”

Miss Clermont was living in San Antonio, Texas, running the Mountain View Sanatorium in 1933 which is where she became a US Citizen in 1939. She was lodging in New York, aged 74 in the 1940 US Census, and had a patent registered in December 1939: “My invention relates to new and useful improvements in women’s under-garments, and more particularly to a brassiere. One of the objects of the present invention is to produce a brassiere that will hold in the diaphragm and hold up the breasts and thus prevent them from sagging on the diaphragm.” By 1944 she had apparently moved to Los Angeles, where she was on the voter’s list.

By 1910 the West End Private Hospital had moved a block away, to 1447 Barclay, and this building became the Nurses Club. It was shown as the Vancouver Graduate Nurses Association Registry in 1913, and became the home of Miss A Macdonald Dewar from 1914. Fortunately, she was still living here in 1921, so we can find her in the census. Amelia Dewar was shown as aged 45, and her sister Sara was 40. They were from Nova Scotia, and ran their home as a boarding house, with eight ‘roomers’, all aged 50 or more, including James Low, the treasurer of a loan company, an insurance broker, a secretary, and several living on ‘income’.

Ten years earlier the 1911 census recorded Macdonald Dewar as born in 1865, (so aged 46) and her sister Sarah was 11 years younger (born in 1876). They were living a block away from here, and neither were shown to be employed.

There are many confusing records that record the Dewar family, but going back to the earliest census records they show Allan and Julia Dewar, living in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, with six children. The 1871 census showed Julia as head of household and a store keeper, with Annie, born around 1850, Gordon (who was actually Allan), 1856, Harry, 1858, Amelia, (sometimes known in her youth as Minnie) in 1862, Blanche in 1864 and Sarah (called Dolly as a child) in 1865. In 1881 Mary DeWolfe was also living in the household, possibly Julia’s younger sister. All four of the daughters ended up in Vancouver.

Various subsequent events show several family members shaving years – or even decades – off their real age. Annie, born in 1851, died in Vancouver in 1932, shown (accurately) to be aged 81. When she died she was Mrs. Annie Taylor, a widow. Sarah Andrews Dewar was shown aged 66 when she died in 1945, having never married. (She was actually aged 80). Blanche Dewar, who was also unmarried, died in Vancouver in 1953 aged 83; actually she was 89.

In 1923 Amelia McDonald Dewar said she was 40 when she was married to James Low, a widower born in 1866 in Ontario, and her former lodger. When she died in 1948 she was shown born on Christmas Day 1862, (so aged 85) so she was just short of 60 when she married, twenty years more than she indicated, and older than her husband. She had shaved years off her Vancouver census responses to gradually lose the years up to the point she was married.

James Low was treasurer-secretary of BC Permanent Loan, and the couple moved to a house on Beach Avenue when they married. He died at the age of 83 in 1949, a year after Amelia. Sarah Dewar continued to run the boarding house here, but by 1930 A Anderson had taken over. The appearance of the building differs from its early days as a hospital, and it’s possible this took place in 1942, after the 16 suite building was extensively damaged in a fire. Tenants were reported at the time to be able to return to their suites, once repairs had been made. Two tenants had to rescued by firemen on ladders, and one fireman was injured by broken glass in a window he crawled through.

It stayed as a boarding house until at least 1949, but BC Assessment records say it was renovated in 1955, and is seen here in a 1953 Vancouver Public Library image by Artray. It is known as the Halbert Apartments, although some units still have shared bathrooms. The building sold for $2m in 2005, but today is valued at over $7m.

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Posted 6 October 2022 by ChangingCity in Still Standing, West End

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