The Chatelaine – 905 Chilco Street

This 1930 building, designed by W M Dodd was built towards the end of a wave of West End development, when family houses were replaced with multi-unit rental walk-up apartments. J W Fordham Johnson had built a house here in 1904, which by 1928 had been split into five suites. The contents were sold off in June 1930, and the new apartments were complete by April 1931. This Vancouver Public Library image was probably taken later that year.

While some buildings of the era were fairly simple, this block has a patterned brick facade, an ornate stepped brick parapet and a gothic arched entry. The Journal of Commerce confirms the architect, and said that a ‘local investor’ was developing the $62,500 project. The building permit confirms the identity of the builder, J Galloway, and also identifies him as the developer. John Galloway also developed and built the Kenmore Apartments on Gilford Street, as well another apartment building on West 14th Avenue.

John, and his son John jnr. lived on East 7th Avenue, and James L Galloway on West 27th. Fortunately for us, he had been living on East 7th a decade earlier, so we can find him in the 1921 census. John and Margaret were both shown arriving in Canada in 1888. In 1921 they were both aged 57, and John was listed as a builder, and they were both born in Scotland. John Galloway had married Margaret Logan in Lanarkshire in 1885, and they had eight children, five of them girls. Margaret, the eldest daughter was born in Scotland in 1885, Sabina, Mary and Jean were born in Quebec from 1889 to 1894. The family headed west for a while, with Jean born in Vernon. A Daily World news story shows the family had previously been in Vancouver – and why they might prefer big city life.

John Galloway, late of this city, but now a contractor at Vernon, had a rough experience last month. He left Granite Creek on Tuesday, May 14th, intending to make the west side of Okanagan lake that night. In endeavoring to make a short cut over the mountains he lost his way. On the following day while attempting to cross a canyon his horse fell with him. The animal got so badly used up that he was not able to walk, and In trying to get him to a more open part, he kicked out and broke one of Mr. Calloway’s arms, close to the shoulder. After wandering about he at last made Granite Creek on the Saturday, having to swim very deep rivers. He was without food all this time, and suffered untold pain from his broken arm. Dr. Sutton, of Nicola, happened to be at Granite Creek that day and set the limb, after which the plucky contractor secured a new horse and rode on to Vernon by way of Nicola and Grand Prairie.”

John, the oldest son (who joined his father in the contracting business) was born in Montreal in 1896, and Florence was born in Scotland in 1900. James was born in Vancouver in 1902, and the final son, William, in Scotland in 1905.

In 1932 the building was in receivership, at the request of Halifax Investors Ltd. In 1937 the ownership question got really complicated. The Sun reported “Judge Declares Property Deal “Conspiracy”. Declaring that the transaction was part of a conspiracy to defraud the creditors of Joseph Francis Langer, Justice Murphy, on Friday, dismissed the suit of Langer’s wife, Jennie Louise Langer, 3138 West Fifteenth Avenue, for an interest in the Chatellaine Apartments, 905 Chilco Street. Another action, in which Langer joined his wife, for a declaration that they are owners of the Chatelaine subject to a $39,000 mortgage, also was dismissed for the same reason. 

DEPRIVED OF COSTS
James Torrance Armstrong, broker, Armstrong & Laing: Halifax Investors Ltd., and Mrs. Armstrong, as defendants, were deprived of their costs because they, too, were parties to the “illegal transaction,” the Judge declared. In a Judgment, Mr. Justice Murphy referred to a $78,000 Judgment obtained against Langer in 1932 by McTavish Bros. He recalled also that Mrs. Langer won a decision from the Court of Appeal restoring to her the furnishings of her home after they had been seized by McTavish Bros, for costs in that case; that Langer placed mortgages totalling $31,000 on their Granville Street home; that he sold the Orpheum and six other Vancouver theatres, admittedly, at great sacrifice, for $110,000 cash; all before he left British Columbia on Dec. 26, 1931, not to return until this year to assist his wife in this litigation.

LOST A FORTUNE
Langer testified at the trial that he sacrificed a fortune in South Africa to return to Vancouver. The Judge stated that not only did Langer invest $5,000 In a second mortgage on the Chatelaine in the name of Halifax Investors Ltd. in a plan to cover up his assets, but he and Armstrong carried out a scheme to defraud Mrs. Langer of money to which they both knew she was entitled. J. Edward Bird and Ronald Howard conducted the Langers’ case; J. A. Macinnes and Percy White appeared for the defendants other than Kapoor Singh and his wife, who were represented by W. B. Farris and Ernest Bull. The latter obtained a dismissal with costs at the close of the plaintiff’s case on the ground that they were innocent purchasers for $2500 of stock in Halifax Investors.

For decades this was the home of Percy Williams, an insurance agent. Percy was better known as the double gold medal winner at the 1928 Summer Olympics. On his return there was a homecoming parade, ending at Stanley Park where awaiting him was a new car, $500 in gold and a $1600 trust fund. In 1930 he set a world record in the 100 meters, followed shortly with the gold medal victory in the 100 yards at the first-ever British Empire Games. At the Olympics in 1932 he had an injury, and wasn’t as fast. He never liked the spotlight and later claimed he hated running. He never again attended a track meet, even as a spectator, from the day he retired until the day he died In 1982, following a decline in his health, including two strokes. He took his life in his apartment with a shotgun he received as a prize for winning the gold medals.

The Chatelaine, 40 years after his death, still offers classy apartments in what is now a heritage building.

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Posted 3 November 2022 by ChangingCity in Still Standing, West End

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