Invermay Hotel – 828 West Hastings Street

800 W Hastings south

We saw this 1906 hotel in the previous post. After a series of name changes over the years, it became the Invermay Hotel. It was still the Invermay Hotel in 1930, at that point run by Merritt G Gordon who was also President of the Gordon Hotel Co, and lived on W15th Avenue. He was one of seven brothers born in Quebec but raised in Minnesota, three of who bought the Commercial Hotel in Harris, Saskatchewan in 1910. The brothers had previous experience mining in Butte, Montana, and a prospector brought some ‘rubies’ into their bar which they promised to look after, and then quickly filed a mining claim. Like many of the sharpest profiteers they made a fortune, once word was out, running the hotel, and building a camp at the instant mine townsite. It was populated almost instantly by over a thousand ruby-seekers; they operated a saloon, a restaurant and other entertainment in three large tents. It took quite a while before it become known that the rubies were almost worthless garnets. Once the hotel burned down in 1923 the family split up, with Merritt heading to Vancouver where he ran a series of hotels over the years. In 1940, 514 Richards was the Merritt Gordon Beer Parlour and 518 was the Merritt Gordon Hotel; that’s the former Marble Arch Hotel that has recently been renovated and has now reverted to it’s original ‘Canada Hotel’ name.

The Invermay Hotel name continued until 1971, when it became the Invermay Inn, as it was in this 1974 image. The final name change came when it was renamed the Jolly Taxpayer, and was painted a deep cherry red. Although it has been demolished for over 5 years, you can still find a website that say the hotel “has twenty-seven rooms with all modern facilities. Each room has ensuite bathroom facilities and private shower. The hotel also provides large screen sports, satellite televisions, pool, darts, golf games and more. It also serves fish, chips, juicy burgers, sizzling steaks, chunky chicken wings and a daily drink special.”

On the sites to the west are two other older buildings. While the hotel has gone, they survive – one as a façade, one completely intact. The façade that was retained belongs to a building known as the BC and Yukon Chamber of Mines. Actually, they were a later tenant, the building was erected to J C Day’s design for the Royal Financial Trust Co in 1926, but they went bankrupt in the depression. After a number of other brokerage and insurance tenants the building became home to the Chamber of Mines, an information and publicity organization for the BC and Yukon mining industries. In 2007 the façade was retained while a deep hole was dug for a new office and condo project. Out of shot to the right is the Ceperley Rounsfell Building that was also incorporated into the project underneath the dramatic overhang of the new building. It was retained in its entirety, chocked up laterally and suspended over the excavation before being given a new foundation and a heritage restoration.

In 2011 the new building that was completed here showed some unusual international design flair: Jameson House is an office and condo tower squeezed onto a 100′ site in the middle of the block. Designed by Foster and Associates in London (lead architect Nigel Dancey) with Walter Francl of Vancouver, the development ran into some financial and sales problems and Bosa Properties stepped in to complete the project.

Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 778-178

Posted February 9, 2015 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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828 West Hastings Street

828 W Hastings

Here’s the Hamilton House in 1906, with the Hamilton House Bar downstairs (well, up the stairs, technically) and the rooming house above. The new level wood plank sidewalk was in front, although the street wasn’t quite as level. The hotel itself was also new – there’s nothing showing on the 1903 insurance map, and the first appearance in the Street Directory was in 1906 – The Hamilton: Francis J Hamilton, prop. We’ve met Francis – or Frank through his ownership of an East Side building. Francis didn’t keep the hotel very long – in 1907 it had become the Orpheum Hotel, run by George Fortin. That same year George was making sure he could get a licence, but in a totally different location, in North Vancouver. “A letter was read from Messrs. Cowan & Parkes, Barristers, Vancouver, stating out that their client, Mr. George Fortin, had purchased Lots 54, 55, and 56 in Block 166 for the purpose of erecting a Hotel thereon. Mr. Fortin, who was present, submitted plans of the Hotel proposed to be erected by him. After discussion and expression of opinion, the Board assured Mr. Fortin that, if the Hotel was constructed according to the plans submitted, the would have no hesitation in granting a Licence for same.”

Unlike Mr Hamilton, we can trace Mr Fortin back to at least 1896 in the city, and in 1904 he owned the Leland Hotel on West Hastings where he carried out some alterations. He only kept our building for a year – by 1908 it has been renamed again as the Fairmont Hotel, run by James Pope. Mr. Fortin in 1909 was running the Café Fortin in the Fortin Block on West Cordova where Frederick Fortin was the manager of the Pool Room at the Fortin Hotel.

This hotel retained the Fairmont name after that for several years, although the proprietors changed as we’ve seen with many of the city’s hotels and rooming houses. In 1910 it was run by Flanagan and Smedley, and they kept it all the way to 1916. In 1910, presumably when they bought it, they carried out $5,000 of alterations, designed by G M Baly and built by T E Young. In 1918 it was Mr Flanagan on his own running the hotel, and in 1919 it had become the Invermay Lodge run by Mrs A Blackburn. It was still the Invermay in 1924, but the Invermay Hotel run by E W Arnott with J LaChance.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives  CVA Hot P87

Posted February 5, 2015 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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845 Burrard Street

845 burrard

We’ve already seen a series of buildings on Burrard Street with automotive connections. Here’s another; A W Carter’s Hudson showroom in 1936.

 The Old Motor blog outlines what the Carter garage was selling. “In the air, it’s aeroplaning, on the water, it’s hydroplaning and on the ground, it’s Terraplaning.” So went one slogan about Hudson’s low priced car. The Essex-Terraplane was advertised as costing $20 less than the equivalent Chevrolet and $35 less than the new Ford V-8 when it was introduced in 1932. Many credit it’s sales success with saving the parent company’s market share as economic conditions in the country worsened.

Spun off as a separate line in 1934 by Roy D. Chapin, Sr. after he returned to the company from the Hoover administration, Terraplane continued to provide some real bang for the buck and by the time of our feature photo today, April 6, 1936, some of the most distinctive styling of the era, too. The elaborate window display at the A.W. Carter Limited showroom at 845 Burrard Street in Vancouver touts some interesting mechanical highlights. 

Double Brakes refers to a mechanical linkage to the rear brakes that operated off the pedal should the primary hydraulic system fail. The Air Conditioning system is their Automatic Draft Eliminator, and not true refrigeration. It operated in concert with a large cowl vent to provide lots of fresh air for passengers, and the Electric Hand was their pre-selector semi-automatic transmission they offered.”

Carter garageThe garage featured some fancy equipment for the day – the early version of a plug-in diagnostic system. This didn’t start out as Carter’s garage – initially it was Fordyce Motors Ltd, who in the 1920s were located on Granville Street and were probably the first Chrysler dealer in the city. In 1933 it became Barton Motors, and in 1934 A W Carter, an established Victoria dealership took over.

A W Carter birdieThe son of David and Martha Carter, Alfred Williams Carter (who seems to have been known as Nick) was born on a ranch near Calgary and enlisted on 23 December 1915 at Kingston, Ontario where he had been a student at Queen’s University. In 1916 he joined the Royal Naval Air Service and attended flight school at Thomas Brothers’ School of Aviation in St. Augustine, Florida. In 1917 he successfully flew the Sopwith Pup and Sopwith Triplane,  and by the end of the war the Sopwith Camel. He was promoted to command his squadron and after the war he worked for the Air Board until April 1922. In 1923 he opened his automobile dealership, A W Carter Ltd, in Victoria.

Carter was an active member of the Air Cadet League of Canada, and during the second world war his role in organising the Air Cadets led to him being referred to as Squadron Leader Carter.

We noticed this detail in the background of the 1936 image – presumably gas loss was an issue in 1936.

Today the Sutton Place Hotel stands where the garage once stood, featuring finely crafted Louis XV-style furnishings, and until recently the Fleuri restaurant was where the garage stood – now reopened as Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar.

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-4862 and CVA 99-4878 – Stuart Thomson

Posted February 2, 2015 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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1259 West Georgia Street


1259 W Georgia 2 summer

We’ve recently looked at several houses on West Hastings (when it was called Seaton) but most of the West End was once residential in character, including West Georgia (which today is a major traffic arterial, but until the arrival of the Lion’s Gate Bridge was a dead end to Stanley Park). Indeed, that residential character continued for a surprisingly long time: this is a 1948 picture of a much older house. There’s another picture of the house, still standing in 1956. When it was photographed it was 1259 W Georgia, but when it was built it was numbered as 1219.

It’s identified in the Archives as R W Gordon’s house, and while that description isn’t wrong, the Scottish Mr Gordon wasn’t responsible for building it – that looks like it was the (probably) Welsh Owen Evan-Thomas. It was most likely built in 1891: Owen Grant Evan Thomas (recorded as English in the census that year, although we’re not sure we believe that given the Welsh name, his children’s names and the fact that he died in Wales in 1942), his wife Bessie and their newborn son Elystan were living here. (Five years later another son was born, Glodrydd – a Welsh prince, Elystan Glodrydd is said to have founded the fifth royal tribe of Wales, and died in 1010). Owen Evan-Thomas was an insurance agent with Wulffsohn & Bewicke, Anglo-German bankers and financial agents. His name appears many times in the Vancouver newspapers as an amateur actor and a talented singer. He organized a number of shows, leasing the Opera House for the proceedings.

By 1894 he was described as manager and leasee of the Opera House, booking touring shows (and a 1923 memoire recalled his management as very successful, citing his former involvement with Italian opera at Covent Garden). In 1891 he also played cricket in a team that included architect R McKay Fripp, although we don’t know if Fripp had anything to do with the design of the home. In 1896 it was announced that Mr O G Evan-Thomas was moving to England “where It Is understood he will enter upon a professional career on the stage.” We don’t know how successful he was, although in March 1896 the paper noted “O. G. Evan – Thomas, who Is at present In England, will return to New York in January to fill a six months’ engagement with the Carleton Opera Co., playing only in the large cities of the East.” By 1902 thee family were living in Kensington. We haven’t found out what happened to Bessie, but Mr Evan-Thomas appears to have married at least twice more, in 1914 and in 1922.

Robert William Gordon and his family were first shown living on West Georgia in 1898. The family had several prominent citizens for neighbours: two barristers, George DeWolf, a broker, and four doors down Baron de St Laurent, the French consul. In 1900 R W Gordon’s occupation was rather unusually being spelled out as “none”. He arrived in Canada in 1886 (aged about 42), having been born in Moffat in Scotland and a year later was Manager of the Vancouver San Juan Lime Co. Francis Carter-Cotton was born in Yorkshire and also arrived in Vancouver in 1886 (aged 40). At the time, Vancouver had two newspapers the Daily News and the Daily Advertiser. Carter-Cotton partnered with R W Gordon to purchase both and founded the Daily News-Advertiser in 1887. (Gordon ran the business; Carter Cotton edited). Cotton was also secretary of the Lime Co; Gordon was President and Manager. The lime was burned at the works on Carrall Street, and was mined in the San Juan Islands.

That relationship fell apart in a spectacular court case in 1894 – a letter to the Daily World (a rival newspaper) spells out just how unhappy Mr Gordon had become: The following is the concluding portion of Mr R W Gordon’s exhaustive history of his case with Mr. Cotton, whom he charges with having, viper-like, stung the hand that fondled, aye and fed, him. I am no slanderer, I am not a false accuser, neither am I a blackmailer, but I am up-holding justice and truth. What I have said privately and by letter I now repeat publicly In a still more emphatic form. I imagine I have shown you conclusively that Francis L Carter – Cotton is AN INTRIGUER AND ADVENTURER, and, to put it mildly, is untruthful. He is A HYPOCRITE, because while I have proved him an intriguer and untruthful, he endeavors to pose as an honest and honorable man. He poses also as the friend of the workingman. He GAMBLES IN COMPANIES and SPECULATES BEYOND HIS MEANS, and forces his employes and others to sue him fur their just rights. He has splendid abilities, any amount of will-power, wariness and craft, but is evidently WITHOUT ANY MORAL GUIDING PRINCIPLE, and as any man possessing such a character is TOTALLY UN-WORTHY OF BELIEF, it is quite evident that any statements he makes must be verified by the most incontrovertible proof. The foregoing is a plain straightforward statement of facts without any embellishment or one-sided intention.”

The case seems to have concerned Mr Cotton’s pretending he knew nothing about some debts he had assumed, that Mr Gordon was then liable for. The case became quite complex, and ended up with an order to imprison Mr Cotton for refusing to answer ‘certain questions’. The court (or Mr Justice Walkem, at least) obviously thought more of Mr Gordon’s case than Mr Cotton’s silence, as he committed Cotton to jail. That was, as would be expected, appealed. Five years later similar accusations were leveled at Mr Cotton again – but this time he was in Government rather than a mere newspaper editor, so the consequences were greater.

In the 1890s R W Gordon was shown living on the 600 block of Richards Street. In 1896 R W Gordon junior was a clerk with the Telephone Co, and lived at home. By 1901 the census shows Robert William Gordon, aged 57 (although 58 if his death notice is to be believed) in the West Georgia house with his younger wife Julia (formerly Julia Ann Gardner) who had arrived in Canada in 1893, and six children, five from an earlier marriage to Esther Gibson aged between 17 and 28, including Jessie and Ann Mary, and six-year-old Dorothy (Julia’s child). Robert and Esther had married in Traquair, Peebles, Scotland in 1871. Jessie, who died in 1951, was born in Dumfries.

The school’s history tells us that Crofton House School was founded here in 1898 by the Gordon sisters, Miss Jessie Gordon and Miss Mary Gordon, in their father’s home on Georgia Street with just four girls. Three years later, in 1901, the school moved to the corner of Jervis and Nelson in the West End. Mr Gordon was the developer of the new school building, as we have him requesting a new street lamp outside (as young ladies would be attending classes in the evening).

While we’ve often noted that the 1911 census was often patchy in its coverage, for Robert Gordon it may be justified. While the 1911 street directory shows him resident at the West Georgia address, by 1912 he had gone. There’s less excuse for missing Jessie, who was still running Crofton House School on Jervis for many years after the census. We’re not quite sure where Robert had gone; (he doesn’t seem to feature in any newspaper cuttings after 1911, but his death (in Vancouver) wasn’t recorded until 1928 when he was aged 84, and widowed (Julia having died in 1918).

1259 West Georgia today is part of a private open space associated with a condo tower called Venus, designed by Howard Bingham Hill and completed in 1999.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Bu N212

Posted January 29, 2015 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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265 & 271 East Pender Street

265 - 271 E Pender

Here’s another example of Chinatown’s subtle change. The 1981 image shows two buildings from the 1970s, using a ‘Chinese’ style of architecture with glazed clay tiles that were never a feature of any of the heritage buildings in the area. The taller building to the east was designed with recessed balconies that pick up some references to the older buildings in the area, and was designed by Urban Design Group Architects and completed in 1978. The balconies were originally only found on the Association buildings and were wrongly assumed to be a  general design character to be encouraged in new buildings to ensure the “Chinese character” of the area.

The uses show how Chinatown has changed – this started life as a branch of the Royal Bank, the name over the door today is for Ng Fung Enterprises, food suppliers who used to operate a Chinese food store here but today it’s actually a warehouse space for some of the low-cost Chinese clothing establishments in the area, with the store front replaced with a shutter door. Next door in 1981 was Tai Hing, an import-export company (mostly selling food), and 34 years later they’re still in business at the same location. That can’t be said for the Sam Lock restaurant upstairs; today it’s a vacant space looking for a tenant, having changed names several times since Sam Lock closed its doors.

Image source: Peter B Clibbon

Posted January 26, 2015 by ChangingCity in Chinatown, Still Standing

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East Hastings Street – 100 block – north side

E Hastings from Main

Here’s another image showing how little some parts of the city have changed in over 50 years. Our ‘before’ picture was taken in 1961; the ‘after’ on New Years Day 2015. While the buildings haven’t necessarily changed much, the use they’re put to isn’t necessarily the same. The Ford building on the immediate right of the picture became low-cost rental housing in 1985, having been developed as an office building called the Dawson Building, built by Bedford Davidson. On the extreme left of the frame is the Carnegie Library which the sign shows was still the City’s Museum in the early 1960s. Heading west down East Hastings the first tall building is the Maple Hotel – looking really good in both pictures for a building dating from 1912 (designed by Parr McKenzie and Day for James Borland). In between the two pictures the building lost its cornice as our earlier post showed, but now a BC Housing restoration has given the entire building a new lease of life.

The two low buildings to the west are from 1904 and 1912; the second by Parr and Fee, who also designed the Balmoral Hotel next door for J K Sutherland, also in 1912. Beyond that are two small buildings dating from 1919 and 1920. The three-storey building beyond that is identified on the insurance maps as the ‘Crowe and Wilson Building’. We’ve looked at its history (and the buildings beyond) when we saw the same block looking east from Columbia Street. Today it’s home to Insite and Onsite, but it was a rooming house called the West Inn in 1961, having changed from the Western Sporting Club when a police raid closed down an extensive gambling operation. The ‘W’ of Woodwards can be seen in both pictures – today it’s a new sign is a slightly different location.

Image source: City of Vancouver archives CVA 2011-068.09

1145 Seaton Street


1145 W Hastings

Seaton Street was the name that the part of Hastings west of Burrard was known by in its early years. Here’s the home of Stephen Osborne Richards, right across from the Nicolls family home that we posted recently. Mr Richards house was here earlier than the Nicolls house – here it is in 1893, when we think it was newly completed. We haven’t found an architect for the house: W T Dalton designed a commercial block for a Mr Richards in 1896 (one of his earliest commissions), but he was working for C O Wickenden from 1891. If we had to guess we would suggest it was Dalton, working for Wickenden who designed the house: Wickenden designed an office building for F C Innes, Mr Richards business partner.

There was another Stephen Richards in Vancouver for a while; in 1913 his widow was still alive, so Stephen’s biography was included with her entry in ‘Northern Who’s Who’. “The late Stephen Richards was born Brockville, Ont., and practiced profession in Toronto thirty years before coming to British Columbia, settling first at Victoria, and then at Vancouver, where he died, 1896. He was a Queen’s Council; a specialist in jurisprudence; an acting judge; and Liberal.” The biography isn’t completely accurate, as Stephen’s death was reported in 1894, and it wasn’t in Vancouver – he was waiting for a ferry on Centre Island in Ontario when he died, aged 75. His widow, Susan, was American (from Buffalo, New York) and their son also became a judge, in Winnipeg.

Stephen Richards was one of three brothers born in Brockville; their father was originally a blacksmith, born in Burlington, New York. Each of the three brothers became lawyers, and later politicians and all three at some point held cabinet office.

Stephen’s brother, Albert Norton Richards was for a time Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, from 1876 to 1881. He returned to Ontario for 3 years then back to Victoria, where he practiced law. He was one of the founders of what is now the Vancouver-based law firm of Richards Buell Sutton. Richards Street was named after him, and he died in 1897. (His daughter Frances was a talented painter. Oscar Wilde had his portrait painted by her in London in 1887; while sitting he exclaimed “what a tragic thing it is – this portrait will never grow old and I shall” – this to become the plot of The Picture of Dorian Gray.)

The third and eldest brother was Sir William Buell Richards, the first chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. He had three sons and two daughters: one son was S O Richards – almost certainly Stephen Osborne Richards. No doubt he used his middle initial to distinguish himself from his uncle.

Stephen O Richards was apparently here before the 1886 fire, but apparently purchased no property, and wasn’t on the Voter’s list. In 1887 he was working as a Richards 1902barrister for Courbold and McColl. By 1889 he was a partner in Innes and Richards, land agents, and living (appropriately) on Richards Street. F C Innes was another Ontario migrant who was one of the most active real estate promoters (and developers) in the city. In 1891 Stephen O Richards was a lodger with an American couple, Joseph and Celia Lambert, (who lived on Granville) and was listed in the census as a lawyer. In 1892 he was in rooms on Pender Street. By 1894 he was shown living on Seaton Street, as were Miss M L Richards and Miss S C Richards. In 1896 the company had become Innes, Richards and Ackroyd.

In the 1901 census he was listed as a land agent, and lived with his sister, Mary, his aunt, Susan, and their domestic, Ah Wong. Neither Susan or Mary’s age is identified. By 1905 the company was Richards and Ackroyd, and while Miss M L Richards was still living on Seaton, Mrs S Richards was living on Robson with Miss S C Richards. The last time Stephen O Richards appears in a street directory is in 1909, when another partner had been added to become Richards, Ackroyd and Gall. He died in 1910, although we haven’t been able to find details surrounding his death.

We think that Stephen O Richards’ aunt, Susan, was the widow of Stephen Richards, the judge. In 1911 she was still living in Vancouver at 1951 Robson Street, aged 87, with her 34 year-old daughter, also called Susan, and her son-in-law, William Robertson. William and Susan had married in Vancouver in 1907.

Today the front gate to the Richards house has been replaced by the entrance to the Renaissance Hotel, designed by Waisman Architectural group and completed in 1975.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives SGN 329

Posted January 19, 2015 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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