Archive for the ‘Charles Douglas’ Tag

Fortin Building – West Cordova Street

The Fortin Building has recently had a new paint job, and the sign that reads ‘Fortin Building 1893’ is now easier to read. It’s been on the building for many years – and is unfortunately entirely inaccurate. The building was designed by Grant and Henderson, and dates from 1909.

The Fortin name came from ‘George’ (actually Georges) Fortin, probably from Quebec (although some records say New Brunswick). He was in the city in the 1890s, but not as a hotelier. In 1891 he was in New Westminster, aged 23, living with his parents, Wilfred and Marie, and working as a carpenter. Most (but not all) records show he had been born in Quebec, as were his three siblings aged 14 or older, but Ernest, the youngest (who was 11) had been born in New Brunswick. George’s wife, Annie, and infant son, Henri were living with the family. In 1896 he was living on Richards, and was a glazier with the Royal City Planing Mill, which was on Carrall street. It appears he briefly moved south, as his son, Archie, was born in the United States in 1896, but came to Canada a year later. By 1900 he had moved to Robertson & Hackett’s mill, by the Granville Bridge, where he worked with one of his brothers. By the 1901 census he had five children, including four sons, and was shown born in New Brunswick.

It was only in 1903 that George was shown running a hotel – The Colonial on Granville Street, close to the mill, (today known as The Yale). The description on the Heritage BC website that says “Quebec-born Georges Wilfrid Fortin was one of the first hotel owners in Vancouver and Victoria” isn’t really accurate. He probably didn’t own the hotel – ‘proprietor’ related to the hotel business, not the building, and 1903 wasn’t that early in the city’s history. In 1904 George had moved, running the Leland Hotel on West Hastings. He continued to move around a lot. In 1905 he lived to Burrard Street, and was running the Louvre Saloon although Reinhold Minaty was also shown in charge there in the same directory. In 1906 he had retired, (at the age of 38), but a year later he was running The Orpheum hotel on West Hastings. In 1908 he had moved to Robson Street and was running the Hotel Leland again – except that had now moved to Granville Street. In 1909 he had moved to a house overlooking Kitsilano beach, and had no employment.

This building was developed in 1909 by C S Douglas and Co, who spent $23,000 in building the store and rooming house. Although it was called the Hotel Fortin, and George initially ran the Cafe Fortin here, Charles Douglas continued to own the building, carrying out alterations in 1912 costing $3,000. After the hotel opened in 1909, the newspaper adverts said “HOTEL FORTIN An entirely new. modern, fireproof hotel, containing 50 bedrooms, furnished with hot and cold water, telephone and steam heat. The cafe, run on up-to-date lines, is a special feature of the hotel. Rates European plan. 7.00 and 11.00. Special rate by the week J A. PLUMB. GEORGE FORTIN.

George was listed as sole proprietor by the end of the year, and by spring 1911 W Fortin was running the show, (presumably George’s father), but later in the same year J. Meagher, was listed as Proprietor. The street directory didn’t list George that year, although his son, Henry was shown as a clerk at the hotel’s address. The 1911 census had him living on Melville Street with Annie, and 7 children, and he was a pool room proprietor, (and shown born in New Brunswick again), with his two eldest sons working for him. The 1912 directory agreed, showing the Pool Room on West Pender, and Wilfred Fortin also working for his son. George disappears again in 1913, and a year later he’s running the Orpheum Pool Room, and living in the West End.

In 1916, he enlisted and went overseas with the 103rd Batallion CEF. On his return home from overseas, he farmed in the Fraser Valley for 10 years, retiring in 1930. His son Henry died in in 1933; he was also a hotelier, running the Strand. George died in 1951 after 64 years in Vancouver. He was survived by four sons and one daughter, all of Vancouver.

The Fortin name disappeared from this building comparatively quickly. In 1913 it had become the Panama Hotel, run by H Rogelet, and by 1919 the Shoal Bay Hotel. In the early 1920s it became the Rob Roy Hotel. John McDonald reported having $50 stolen from his room while he was asleep in 1922. That year C.F.Renfro, who lived in the hotel, was robbed at gunpoint on Powell Street of $60, but was given $1 back by the considerate gunmen for “breakfast money”. A year later a white cockatoo was stolen from a resident. and that same year the owner survived an armed holdup. “SCARED BY OWN SHOTS Holding up the proprietress and two patrons of the Rob Roy hotel, 53 Cordova street west. In dashing style, and firing two shots from a revolver to intimidate their victims, a pair of would-be bandits lost heart at the sound of the shots on Saturday midnight, and fled without obtaining any loot. The two men entered the hotel office, where Mrs. Wright and two guests were seated, and ordered them to throw up their hands, one of the pair firing two shots, after which both turned and ran out. A mask and two discharged shells were found outside by P. C. W. Mackle, who was called, but no further trace of the men was discovered.”

In the 1930s this had become the Travellers Hotel, which it has retained as a name for decades. In 1966 “cash and cigarettes worth a total of $379 were reported stolen in a break-in early Wednesday at the Traveller’s Hotel beer parlor at 57 West Cordova. Police said a Jukebox, cigarette machine and two shuffle-board machines were opened“. In 1972 an argument over seats in the crowded beer parlour led to a fight in which one of the men involved fatally stabbed the other.

Our image shows the hotel in 1985. Today it’s a market-rate Single Room Occupancy rental building, owned by Fortin Holdings, and there’s no longer a bar on the main floor.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 790-2130



Posted 7 February 2022 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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2033 Comox Street

Beaver Dam is a modest city in Wisconsin, founded in the 1850s. By the end of the 19th Century it was sufficiently important to have a university,  and Charles Stanford Douglas attended High School and then Wayland Academy in his home town. He then moved around working for newspapers in Minnesota and his home state, becoming owner and publisher of the Superior Times in Superior, Wisconsin in 1875, (aged 23), partnering with D H Pryor. Two years later he sold up, and moved to The Day Book, a weekly newspaper in Fort William, Ontario. As the Canadian Pacific looked to the west, so did Charles, moving to Emerson, Manitoba in 1878. For two dollars a year residents could read his Emerson International, the “leading paper of southern Manitoba” (“one of the largest, and the cheapest”).

He married Annie Marie Johnston of Toronto in 1881, and got involved in politics. He was a member of the Emerson town council in 1881, from 1883 to 1889 he represented Emerson as a member of the Manitoba legislature, and he also managed to be became the mayor of Emerson in 1888. His brother-in-law, Benjamin B Johnston was also in Emerson, where he was a real estate broker. He brought his family further west around the same time as his sister and brother-in-law, and joined Charles in Douglas & Co, a real estate and finance brokerage. Their firm was described in 1891 as “amongst the heaviest dealers in real estate in Vancouver. They do a general real estate business, buy and sell property, rent houses and negotiate loans on real estate securities for residents and non residents in England, Eastern Canada and the United States“. B B Johnston found a new partner in Samuel Lyness Howe, and together they developed property including the Johnston-Howe Block on Granville.

Charles Douglas continued in business, and was a member of the Vancouver Club, the Terminal City Club, the Shaughnessy Heights Golf Club, and the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club. He was also a freemason and a director of B.C. Refining Company Ltd. and president of Canadian Renard Road Transportation Company Ltd. Although Charles and Annie didn’t have children themselves, her sister, Vesta Fisher, died in 1891, and in 1901 their niece and nephew, Vesta and Charles Fisher were living with them. In 1906 Charles Douglas hired Grant and Henderson to design a new family home on Comox Street, near Stanley Park. Having spent $10,000 on construction, the family moved in a year later, seen here in a photograph taken by the Topley Studios some time before 1910.

Family bliss was short-lived; Annie died in July 1908, aged 55. Charles quickly found a diversion from his grief. He stood for election in 1909 as Mayor – and won. Then, weeks later, after a two-week courtship he married Elizabeth Manley, a widow who had also been born in Toronto. She had two sons, Davison and John. The wedding was in Toronto, and the newly weds took over a week to get home, starting on a train to Chicago, and adding a stop in Winnipeg.

As mayor, Charles didn’t support city workers having an 8-hour day, and was in favour of contracting out work rather than hiring day labour. He entertained Lord Strathcona on his visit to the city, and then Lord Grey (who donated the cup with his name attached), who as Governor General of Canada was in the city to open the new Granville Bridge. When he ran again for mayor in 1910, Charles lost to L D Taylor.

He had remained in business, developing the Fortin Hotel in 1909, and in 1910 joining George Barrett to promote the Imperial Car, Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Corporation. This was to be a major new model industry, with its own town, Rosslyn, located on the North Shore where the Seymour Golf and Country Club, Roche Pointe Park and Cates Park were developed subsequently. That idea didn’t go anywhere, and Charles and Elizabeth set off on a vacation in Honolulu, and later a road trip to Seattle. Charles was in poor health, and retired from business in 1915, the year he tried to become mayor again, only to lose again to L D Taylor. He was swimming in English Bay in 1916, when he got into difficulties, and was rescued by two teenagers, Eloise Angell and Bobby Young. (We referenced Eloise’s mother, Lora, in our previous post).

In 1917 Charles’s health deteriorated, and he had to go into Vancouver General Hospital. Elizabeth’s sons had signed up, and were fighting in the war. One morning in April when her son Davison was arriving home on a short leave, Elizabeth received a telegram to say her other son, John, had been killed at the front. Phoning the hospital to tell her husband, she discovered he too had died that morning. Charles Douglas was 65.

Elizabeth remained in Vancouver, and her remaining son, Davison Manley, married in 1920, and went on to become a building manager and later a stockbroker. Elizabeth Douglas died in 1927.

This house became a rental property in the late 1910s, and having been offered for sale as a hotel location in 1949, became a rooming house, called the Park Hotel. It was demolished in 1959, and replaced in 1960 by a large modernist slab apartment building called The White House, with 91 apartments on 8 floors.

Image source: William James Topley – Library and Archives Canada – PA-009551. More details of Charles Douglas’s life on WestEndVancouver.


Posted 27 January 2022 by ChangingCity in Gone, West End

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