Davie and Seymour Street – sw corner

This 1911 hotel is currently for sale. It has 27 vacant SRO rooms, and a former bar on the main floor, and nobody seems to want it for what the owners seem to think it’s worth. It was developed by Mrs. Priscilla Hunt, who hired A J Bird to design it, and spent $20,000 getting Robert McLean & Co to build it. Mrs Hunt was unquestionably the developer; she was a widow (although her son-in-law was in real estate, and may have advised her). It was built as a rooming house, and appeared as The Glenwood Rooms in 1912, addressed to Seymour Street and run by Mrs. A R Hansford. A year earlier she had been running another rooming house on West Pender that she also named The Glenwood Rooms.

Priscilla Chapman was born in Clinton, Huron, Ontario (in 1869, if her death certificate were to be believed, or 1861 if the headstone on her grave was accurate, and actually in 1856). When she married Jonathan J Hunt in 1884, somewhere in British Columbia, she admitted to being 25 (although she was really 28), and was living in Portland Oregon. Her husband was aged 48, a widower born in Bangor, Maine and running a hotel in Port Townsend, Washington Territory.

He was described as a widower, having married Mary, who was Irish, and building a house in Port Townsend for her in 1864. We think Mary died in 1878. This allowed Jonanthan to marry a second wife, Louisa, who he married in 1878 when she was 20, and they had three children born in 1875, 1877 and 1880, before she divorced him in 1884. (J B Hunt, Jonathan’s son, was killed in a train accident in Pendleton in 1895 when he was riding on the outside of the train, having failed to obtain a seat, and fell under the wheels).

By 1870 J J Hunt was running the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Port Townsend. A 1915 journal article said “the Cosmopolitan was the best known house in all this section of the territory, some not entirely bloodless. Being the port of entry, many seafaring men congregated there, and at times made the town lively in more senses than one” This was probably a coded reference to a fight that turned into a homicide in the bar in the 1870s. The killer spent 14 years in prison for manslaughter, was released in 1891 and swore revenge on the lawmen and J J Hunt.

In the mid 1870s J J sold his hotel for a while, and ran a wholesale liquor business, and in 1875 bought the wreck of the Orpheus, a sailing ship that had been hit by the S S Pacific, sailing from Victoria to San Francisco with 275 passengers and crew (and possibly as many as 400). The steamship was running without navigation lights, and hit the sailing ship, scraping along its side. While the sailing ship was damaged, but able to sail on, the sidewheeler was taking on water and sank with the loss of all but two on board, including Sewell Moody, owner of Moody’s Mill and founder of the north shore township in Burrard Inlet. The 225 ft. ship had a cargo manifest that included $79,000 of gold (91kg) and two barrels of opium.

Mr. Hunt paid $385 at public auction at the end of 1875, and hired the schooner Winnifred and a crew to strip the wreck of the Orpheus of anything of value. (The wreck of the Pacific was located at the end of 2022, and there are plans to attempt to locate the cargo using a remote underwater submersible, with a museum to display the finds, currently preserved in 1,000 feet of water). By 1880 J J Hunt was again running the Cosmopolitan, and in 1883 Hunt’s Hotel, to which, in 1884, he built a three-storey addition.

Three and a half years after his parent’s 1884 wedding, on 18 April 1888, Franklin Sterling Hunt was born in Port Townsend. His birth was registered then, and the same birthday appears on his 1917 Draft registration. Curiously,  some records suggest he had a sister, Violet, born just five months later in October 1888 in Portland. However, her burial record, in Burnaby, shows she was born in October 1883, and her mother’s name was listed as Tessie Chapman. Her mother’s pregnancy was no doubt a factor in her father’s 1884 divorce. Then we noted that Priscilla’s obitiary mentioned that she had two sons, Charles and Frank. Charles Cleveland Hunt was born in Port Townsend in 1882. When Charles was married in 1917 his father was listed as John, a hotelman, and his mother as Theresa Chapman.

In 1888 J J Hunt stood as a Democrat in the election for Congress, but didn’t make the cut. (Skagit chose a Republican). Jonathan Jay Hunt died in March 1893, aged 63. It looks like Jonathan and Priscilla stayed in Port Townsend until his death. We don’t know how long Mrs. Hunt stayed in Port Townsend after that, but her daughter, Violet, married Calvin Gray in Seattle in 1900, when she would have been aged 17.

C Gray is first mentioned in the Vancouver directories in 1903, when he was a machinst for Ross and Howard. A year later he was working in real estate, and by 1911 he was wealthy enough to live on Point Grey Road. In 1913 Calvin and his wife Violet took a three month trip to New Orleans and Southern California. Part of his real estate business was a management agency for owners wanting to lease their property. Calvin was a member of the Vancouver Board of Trade, and appointed a notary public in 1917.

The 1921 census confirms that both Priscilla and Violet preferred alternate names, and ages. The household of Calvin Gray aged 51, real estate broker, consisted of Elvira, aged 36 and Tessie Hunt, his mother-in-law, who said she was 50, and born in the USA. (Violet) Elvira was actually 38, and her mother was really 65. In 1923 a court case to prevent a neighbour from ‘borrowing’ the use of her skid road revealed that  Mrs. Calvin Gray was logging a 1,000 acre of forest near Sechelt.

Violet’s death was announced in June 1935. The death of Mrs. Violet Alvira Gray, aged 46, of 1034 West Fifteenth avenue, occurred Thursday. Funeral services will be held at a p.m. Saturday in Nunn & Thomson’s chapel. Burial will take place In Masonic Cemetery, Burnaby. Born In Portland, Ore., Mrs. Gray had been in Vancouver for thirty years. She is survived by her husband, Calvin Gray; her mother, Mrs. T. Hunt of Vancouver, and two brothers, Franklin and Cleveland of California.

Her husband organised an estate sale in June 1936, with $20,000 of glassware, china and silver on sale. The sale was extended in July when the contents of Mrs. Priscilla Hunt’s home were added. She had died in March 1936, and presumably the contents of her home could not be sold immediately. Calvin Gray retired to Puente in California in 1941, and died there in 1943.

In 1930 Frank Hunt was living in San Francisco. He was still there a decade later, still single, and a lodger. His brother had married in 1917, and in 1930 was in Blue Lake, Humboldt California with his wife and two children, Frances and Calvin.

The rooming house saw an auction of the contents in 1913, with all the brass bedsteads and bedding sold off.  It became known as the Canadian Apartments, and in 1924 was sold to Mr T W Roberts of Fort William, who enjoyed being able to walk around the city in February without an overcoat. One tenant was arrested for theft in 1926, and another had money stolen by a ‘prowler’. In 1945 the owners were Mrs L Thompson, and Axel Isaacson. A fire in her room, caused by a discarded cigarette in the bedding, caused smoke damage, the loss of all her personal belongings, and three ‘elderly men’ (aged between 60 and 70) to be rescued by being carried out by firemen. Renamed the Candian Hotel, it continued to advertise moderate rates and quiet rooms, with housekeeping. In 1959 Frank Saunders was arreested for carrying out illegal operations, but was acquitted, although his co-accused, Olive Williams, was found guilty.

In 1960 the building was ‘for sale, by owner’ for $97,000. The tenants of the building can probably be guessed from almost all the mentions in the press through the 1960s and 70s to the death of a tenant; unsually male, and in their 60s or 70s. One was only 58, but he set fire to his bed falling asleep while watching TV, in 1976. Our 1981 image shows the Canadian Hotel offering housekeeping rooms, and The Canvas Co and Gallery Restaurant on the main floor.

It’s hard to say what will happen to the building long term. At 40 feet by sixty it’s too small to redevelop, unless perhaps it was in conjunction with the Coast Mental Health building built in 2000 to the south, and then only with the two other buildings to the west. The SRO rooms are protected, so it’s likely to remain a low cost rental building.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-E03.27A



Posted 29 December 2022 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

Tagged with ,

%d bloggers like this: