Archive for the ‘Smith & Smith’ Tag

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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