Archive for the ‘H Schlomer’ Tag

Powell Street – 500 block, south side

Here are two images of the same buildings on Powell Street. We looked at 566 Powell, the small wooden building with the A-Z Cafe, in an earlier post. It was built as stores and a rooming house by William McNeil in 1911. To the west (on the right of the cafe) are the Powell Rooms at 556 Powell, designed by H H Schlomer, and developed by in 1912 by Smith & Smith.

The three storey building to the east are the Hampton Rooms, dating back to 1908. They cost $5,000 to build, and were developed by John Wickham, although the permit has been lost so we don’t know who designed the building. In 1914 ‘Wickins’ carried out repairs – we’re betting that was the absent Mr. Wickham as well.

The most obvious John Wickham was a resident in the city in 1911, listed as a lodger in the census, and in the street directory living on Bidwell Street. However, a J Wickham had built a series of houses near here, starting in 1904. John O Wickham, and his brother Alfred opened Wickham’s Restaurant in 1911, and we think he must be the same John Wickham who was living in Portland, Oregon in 1900. He was listed there as a restauranteur, as was his younger brother Alfred. They had been born in England, and were still living with their parents in Oregon in their late 20s.

The last building on the block (on the left edge of the picture) is now the Princess Rooms, on the corner of Princess Avenue. It was designed by Bird and Blackmore, for M and J W Whitman, and built by Coffin and McClennan for $30,000 in 1910. These days it’s run as a low-barrier housing building by a non-profit operator, but it started life as The Eureka Apartments. Marcellus Whitman was born in Galena, Illinois, in 1854 according to his headstone in Mountain View Cemetery, and his son Jay Ward Whitman in 1885 in Fargo, North Dakota. Marcellus and his wife Abbie, who was from Minerva, New York, had six children. Florence was also born in Fargo in 1889, but Thomas was born in BC in 1890, so we can tell when they moved west. Marcellus had bought a 160 acre Fargo homestead in 1881. His departure from Fargo was sudden, and attracted attention in the local ‘Jamestown Weekly’. “Marcellus Whitman, the oldest son of N.Whitman, has been absent since Sunday, and in­vestigation disclosed that some twenty merchants are losers by his absence. Saturday he drew about $800 out of one of the banks. Then he went to the va­rious merchants and bought goods for small amounts, presenting checks for a larger amount and asking for the differ­ence that he might pay a hired man. In this way he obtained from $5 to $40 from each, making some $400 all told. In some places he paid old debts with these checks and always reaped a balance in cash. The checks were protested on Monday and Tuesday, and Wednesday the fun commenced. It is said that he has mortgaged over fifty horses, when he owns but sixteen. He has a fine farm in the northern part of the county of 800 acres, but it is said this is mortgaged for $16,000, and everything is covered with a mortgage. The First, National bank has commenced suit against him, and included his father in the suit, who is reported worth $100,000. Much surprise is expressed at these de­velopments. as Marcellus Whitman has lived here some sixteen years.”

He was listed as a labourer in the early street directories in Vancouver, so it was a surprise to see him as a developer, but he was obviously ambitious and successful in a new endeavour. In 1909 he obtained a patent for a rope-handling device (a cleave), and in 1911 he was identified in the census as a logger. His son, Jay, married Alice Carlile, born in Wolseley, North West Territory, Saskatchewan, in 1906. In the 1911 census Jay was living on Valdez Island in a logging camp where he was foreman with at least 20 labourers working for him. They were from the US, Japan, Norway, Scotland and Sweden. Alice was living in Washington, in  the US, where their daughter Erna Edna Whitman was born that summer. Another daughter, Eldra Adelaide was born in 1913 in Vancouver. In 1915 a third daughter, Pearl Thurla was born when Alice was living on Thurlow Island, BC.

In 1915 and 1917 he and Marcellus applied for logging licences on Vancouver Island. He owned the Whitman Logging Company, located in Topaz Harbour (just north of Vancouver Island, across the Johnstone Strait, between Knight Inlet and Loughborough Inlet). In 1922 Jay was married to Hazel Jex, a widowed school teacher; his first wife Alice having died in 1919 aged 31. Marcellus Whitman died in 1920, and his burial was recorded in the Daily World as being in the IOOF section of Mountain View. Abbie Whitman died at Sumas in 1936 aged 81. Her son J W was at the time living in Clinton. Jay died in 1973 in Prince George, aged 88. His parents were recorded as Marcus and Abbey, and he was also interred in Mountain View, and Hazel joined him there after she died aged 90 in 1982.

The Eureka Apartments, as part of the Japanese community, were managed by B Kawasaki in 1920. Ten years later Y Tanida was running the rooms, and in 1940 K Suzuki. After the Japanese were moved away from the coast Eng Foo took over in 1945 and C Korsch in 1955. Today RainCity manage 42 units of transitional housing for people who have been repeatedly homeless and have complex health issues. It’s supported low-barrier housing, from a harm reduction and housing first philosophy.


Powell Rooms – 556 Powell Street

This modest rooming house was designed in 1912 by H H Schlomer. E R and W S Smith developed and built the $17,000 investment. Herman Schlomer was listed as an architect for only a year, and this was the only building of any size that he designed. He briefly advertised as an architect in partnership with Schmidt in 1911, and they seem to have received just one commission for a house. His partner may have been Carl Schmidt, who was a draughtsman. His directory entry in 1911 says he was an architect living on Heatley Avenue, but a year later it said he was ‘of Georgia Realty’, and he had moved to Vernon Drive. He wasn’t in the city a year later, and he doesn’t appear in the 1911 census, so he was probably in Vancouver for only two years, just as the economy shifted for boom to bust.

The owners were probably Edward and William Smith, of Smith & Smith, who had their real estate office on East Pender, and lived on Comox Street. They had plans for a substantial apartment building on Burrard in 1914, but the Daily Building Record said it was ‘delayed’ – and probably never built, so this may be their only commercial development. William Smith built a house at 1250 Comox in 1906, and was living there in both the 1911 and 1921 censuses. Initially he was listed as a ‘millman’. He was from Ontario, and his age was inaccurately shown as 50 in 1911, and correctly as 64 in 1921. His wife, Hannah was also from Ontario, and they had two daughters still living at home, Edna and Estella, who were teachers, and a son, Erwin. Hannah’s sister, May Purcell was also living with them in 1911.

Hannah Purcell was 24 when she married William Smythe Smith, 28, in Clifford, Wellington, Ontario in 1885, where he was a miller. Their daughter, Mary, was born in the same year. (She died in Vancouver, having never married, in 1960). Another daughter, Jeanette was also single when she died in 1943, aged 55, and Erwin Smith died in 1976. Hannah Smith died in 1943, and was a widow for 19 years – William died in 1924.

Edward Smith had a house on West 1st in 1913, and Alma Road in Kitsilano in 1915. He first shows up in Vancouver in 1910, living at his brother’s address, listed as a partner in Smith & Smith real estate. William Smith switched from ‘millman’ a year earlier (It’s possible that having been a miller in Ontario, William ran a flour mill rather than a sawmill, as was more common in Vancouver). Edward married Elizabeth Hillhouse in 1884 in Wellington, Ontario, and he was also shown as a miller. Their daughter, Florence, born in 1887, was married in Chatham in Ontario in 1910, and Isabel, their first daughter born in 1885, married in Vancouver in 1913, and moved to Moosejaw where her new husband was an accountant with the Bank of Montreal. It looks as if Edward had moved away from Vancouver by 1917.

When it opened, this had a pool room, an import company run by K Usui, and (like the smaller building next door), a Japanese Rooming House upstairs. He had been the manager of Kobeya & Co, who had a store next door, and was an import broker for Japanese goods and food. In 1935 S Iwasahi was running the rooms, but a few years later the Japanese had been forced to leave the coast and into camps, and in 1943 C Alstrom and C W Vilman were running the Powell Rooms. Many of the Japanese who were forced from the neighbourhood chose not to return, but this is a rare example where it wasn’t true. In 1955 Mrs M Nakatsu was running the rooms. In the store Marine Supply Co Ltd, ship chandlers and fishing supplies, operated here, with A C Vick the manager.

During the early 1990s the Powell Rooms were managed by a Chinese couple. We know this because one of their tenants attempted to kill them, while they were cleaning his room. A subsequent judgement in 2006 outlined the context: “On November 7, 1991 the defendant is alleged to have tried to murder his landlord (Wai Ping Chan) by stabbing him with a knife in the neck and chest area. The defendant is also charged with aggravated assault in regard his landlady (Yet Wah Chan) by stabbing her in the upper arm with the knife. Both the complainants were cleaning the defendant’s apartment in the Powell Rooms, located at 556 Powell Street in Vancouver, when they were allegedly attacked by the defendant who wielded a large cleaver. Wai Ping Chan spent about three weeks in hospital as a result of his injuries and Yet Wah Chan was in the hospital for four or five days.“. The defendant had a history as a paranoid schizophrenic, and was eventually able to be released to live in the community, but due to his mental health he was never considered sufficiently able to understand the arrest process and nature and severity of his outstanding alleged offences.

The Powell Rooms had 21 rooms when they sold in 2006. The building is now owned by the City of Vancouver and offers 23 rooms with shared bathrooms and a communal kitchen. It’s managed by Community Builders. Their Whole Life Housing services are provided to all tenants in need of support including nutrition assistance and opportunities for training and employment.


Posted 15 November 2021 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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