While reading through the entertainment section (typically called by the Chinook, “Music and the Drama at Vancouver’s Leading Play Houses”) of the January 18, 1913 issue, I came across this reference under the headline “Sensible Sundays”:
The meeting at Franklin Hall, Granville Street, corner Robson Street, on Sunday night was a magnificent success. Over 300 people attended in spite of the bad weather, and the program of orchestral music given by an orchestra numbering 20 included selections from Mayerbeer, Haydn, Gounod and others. . . .
My initial surmise from this report was that Franklin Hall might have been part of the recently-renovated “old” Orpheum complex (formerly the Vancouver Opera House at NW corner of Granville and Robson); it seems from the write-up as though Franklin Hall had been suitable for smaller, more intimate performances and audiences. But I was wrong about its location.
Franklin was actually the building kitty-corner to what had been the Opera House, located on the SE corner at 640 Robson (Lennox Pub and Payless Shoes are on the site today). I’m not certain what year the building shown above was constructed, but I suspect it was in the late 1890s. It seems to have been demolished in the 1920s to make way for the two-storey that is there today. CVA maintains that the two-storey was “demolished” in about 1972, but I think that the work which they interpreted as demolition was, in fact, renovation. The give-aways are the window casings which appear the same today.
“Franklin Hall” was known by that name for a remarkably brief time; roughly 1912-1919. Before then, it was called the “Elks Hall” (presumably named after the men’s fraternal group of the same name) and post-1919, the space was occupied by the dancing school called in some sources “Vancouver Dancing Academy” and in others, “Franklin’s Dancing Academy”.
Just who was the “Franklin” in “Franklin Hall”? That is one of those niggling historical questions that may never be fully resolved. For what it’s worth, though, I’m going to lay my money on “Franklin” being W.E. Franklin (WEF). He (typically only males were referred to in city directories of that time solely with their initials) was shown as a “music teacher” at 640 Robson in the 1913 city directory. In 1917, WEF appeared in the “names” section of the directory as the instructor of the dancing academy at that address (the Dance Academy didn’t appear at 640 Robson in the “streets” section until 1920). Just who WEF was, I have no idea. He was shown as residing at 640 Robson, in addition to working there, around 1919. So if he was, as I suspect, the chap after whom Franklin Hall was named (albeit, briefly); it seems unlikely that he was a wealthy Vancouver ‘mucky-muck’.
I suspect it was a matter of convenience to refer to the hall after Franklin. If you are going to be having events that feature music by the likes of Haydn and Gounod, it must be admitted that “Franklin Hall” sounds higher class in advertising copy than “Elks Hall”!