700 Broughton Street

Today the corner of Broughton and West Georgia has the podium base of a residential tower, one of a pair called The Lions. Artray photographed its predecessor, an apartment building called The Majestic Apartments. C Drew had a house built here in 1904, with R McLeod building the $2,000 dwelling, that can be seen on the corner of Alberni behind the apartments. The apartments were built for, and by J J Dissette, who hired architect H B Watson to design his $35,000 investment in 1908. They were described as “Store and apartment building with stone veneer, four stories”. By 1950 (around the time this image in the Vancouver Public Library collection was taken), the stone veneer was only visible on the bottom storey; the top three floors had a stucco finish.

John J Dissette was from Simcoe, in Ontario, and worked as a a carpenter, then builder, then contractor in Minneapolis from the early 1880s until around 1901, when he moved to Vancouver. In moving here he knocked about eight years off his true age when he filled in the 1911 census details. By 1913 J J Dissette’s success has translated to a house in Shaughnessy Heights on Matthews Avenue. That year his recreations were listed as fishing, boating and horse racing.

This was a high-class set of apartments. Georgia Street only led to Stanley Park, so was a relatively quiet street, with some fine houses behind, and there was a view of the Inlet and the mountains. The Social pages of the local papers listed many of the residents in their comings and goings; a 1908 entry in the Province illustrates the kinds of tenants: “The rain yesterday afternoon did not prevent a large number of people from calling on Mrs. J. D. Mather, who received for the first time since coming here from Winnipeg, where she was one of the season’s popular brides. Her pretty rooms In the new Majestic apartments were brightened with clusters of lovely yellow chrysanthemums, while yellow roses decorated the tea table. Mrs. Mather received in an exquisite gown of maize satin brocade with yoke and sleeves of tucked net, while the bodice was draped with rarely beautiful rose point lace. She was assisted in receiving the callers by Miss Mather, who was looking charming in a lovely white lace empire gown. In the tearoom, Mrs. Charles J. Peter who was wearing a cream dress with lace bodice and a white felt hat trimmed with white feathers and touches of black, and Mrs. J. C. Kennedy, who was in a becoming gown of black net over green taffeta and a large black hat faced with white chiffon and trimmed with black plumes and pink roses, poured at the prettily appointed table. They were assisted in serving by Miss Kennedy and Miss Marjorie Mather, both of whom wore dainty frocks of white organdy. Mrs. Mather will be at home on the first and third Wednesdays of every month.”

Many of the suites were advertised as 5-room apartments, and a few had as many as eight, and Mr. Dissette handled the initial leases himself. In 1917 he appears to have left the city for the US, although his wife, Mary, was still in Vancouver, and still running her own real estate business. He seems to have adopted Joseph rather than John as his name, and was in Detroit for a while, and then Tampa, Florida, where he was involved in real estate and formed a loan company in 1930. In 1937 records show that Joseph Dissette was living in Mobile, Alabama, where he died on January 29, 1938.

In 1920 two apartments were ransacked by ‘the suite prowler’ who had been visiting different buildings over a period of two months. At the end of the year another suite was broken into, with clothing and $3.50 being taken. In 1921 a five room suite was offered at $65 a month, unfurnished. A fire was successfully extinguished in 1929, but there was extensive damage to interior woodwork. In 1936 another prowler was disturbed, trying to break into a suite at 3.30am.

In 1946 it was announced that the 14 suite building had been sold by H R Henriksen to Nick Demchuk for $26,700. It was flipped to G F Tull in less than two months for $29,000. In 1957 there was another fire that significantly damaged one suite, and threatened the entire building, but the Fire Department prevailed.

In 1972 a one bedroom suite was offered at $85. The building was demolished in 1974. The Sun covered the story, interviewing John Geldard, the longest serving tenant, whose mother had moved into the building in 1939. “I said I’d stay to the very ‘last day and I did.” said Geldard. “1 was very sorry to see the Majestic go. In the early days it was an attractive building, one of the best in Vancouver. But it had been living on borrowed time for years, you might say. “There was no need to demolish it. but it would have had to have some work on it.

The Guinness people, who owned it before the present owners, were mad. They wanted to put up a space needle, and city hall wouldn’t let them. They (Guinness interests) owned the parking lot alongside and sold it all. The
apartments had various owners in the past 10 years.” Ms. Josephine Boolinoff, who lived at the Majestic for
five years, said she hated to move out. “I loved it. We thought we might have another four to five years, but got our notices. It was full to the very end. As soon as someone moved out, someone else moved in.”

Mrs. John Whalen, who lived in the Majestic for 33 years with her husband, a former city detective, said a Cappy Hendrickson, a fur trader, paid $19,500 for the building in 1923. She recalled when he had to go back to shovelling coal because oil was rationed in the Second World War.”

The site sat vacant for twenty years. Wall Financial acquired it and developed The Lions, a pair of 31 storey condo towers, completed in 1999, and designed by IBI Group.

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Posted 24 October 2022 by ChangingCity in Gone, West End

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