Yesterday, I was looking at a printout of Sheet 16 of Goad’s Fire Insurance Atlas of Vancouver (March 1920) when I noticed the name of a business that was new to me: “Little Brown Inn”. What could that be, I wondered?
The name of the commercial enterprise was, in fact, Ye Little Brown Inn, and appears to have been one of the legion lunch counters in downtown Vancouver in the early decades of the twentieth century (among its near competitors were the 800-block Granville outlet of White Lunch and the Old Country Lunch and Tea Rooms at 641 Granville).
YLBI was first established at 606 Granville in 1915 by three ladies: Anna Fletcher, Agnes McKay, and Mary H. Lawrence. It appears that two of the women dropped out of the enterprise sometime within the first year or so of operation. By the time the 1916 Vancouver City Directory was published, Mary Lawrence was the sole proprietor listed. By 1918, the business had moved a couple of blocks, presumably to somewhat less expensive digs, at 745 Dunsmuir (roughly where Holt Renfrew is located today).*
There is no way of knowing how well YLBI did against its many competitors. But by 1922, the business was finished. Mary Helen Lawrence succumbed to Tetanus and died on March 5th, in her 55th year (just five days after being diagnosed with the illness)**. According to the Immunize Canada page pertaining to Tetanus (aka Lockjaw), after 1920, “[t]he introduction of horse antiserum neutralized the effect of tetanus toxin and improved the care of wounds, leading to reduced cases and deaths in Canada and other industrialized countries.” By the 1940s, the serum was readily available and the practice of immunizing infants for Tetanus began.
However it was that Miss Lawrence contracted the disease (whether as part of her work at YLBI or elsewhere), if it had happened just a few years later, chances are good that she would have survived.
*I was unable to track down any images of YLBI at its Granville or Dunsmuir locations.
**The following details about Miss Lawrence’s life prior to owning YLBI are excerpted from her obituary, published in the March 6, 1922 edition of the Vancouver Daily World: “Miss Lawrence, who owned and managed the Little Brown Inn, had resided in Vancouver for the past eight years. She came here from Paris, France, where she had lived for several years. She was born at Niagara Falls, Ont., and at an early age went to New York, where she trained as a nurse. She followed that profession first In New York, later in Paris, then in Rome, Cairo and again in Paris. She was appointed by the Italian government matron in charge of the hospital ship which was sent to Messina at the time of the big earthquake disaster there and was later decorated by King Emanuel for her services. Her only brother lives in Buffalo and her only near relative in this city is Miss M. A. Leith. The late Miss Lawrence was a member of the I.O.D.E. and the Woman’s Canadian Club. The body will be sent to Niagara Falls, Ont. for burial.”