The Lodge Cafe

CVA 99-3424 – The leftmost building is the Lodge Cafe (556 Seymour), on which are birds that I take to be bluebirds. A residence which, by this time, had been converted into commercial space (574 Seymour) is next door. Rexmere Rooms is two doors south of the Cafe (at 568 Seymour). The 3-storey Arts & Crafts Bldg (576 Seymour) is the rightmost structure in this photo; the A&C Bldg was later built up to its current height of 5 stories (ca1928). ca 1922. Stuart Thomson photo.

The Lodge Cafe was an eatery and dancing establishment from May 1919-1924. The original proprietors were Mr. M. B. Fleming and Fred A. Bush. Not much is known by me about these two, except that they were new to the city (and possibly to B.C.). 556 Seymour was occupied earlier by McIntyre’s Cafe (1911-1916); this well-known establishment (proprietors, James A. McIntyre and Herbert M. Rose) was located at 439 Granville before it moved to 556 Seymour, and was afterwards at 720 Pender.

Before it was opened as The Lodge Cafe, the interior was decorated by Southwell & Aiken at a cost of about $9,000:

The whole interior will be beautified with a series of floral and mural and decorative panels, a number of which will comprise well-known local scenes artistically executed. Over 700 yards of fine carpet have already been contracted for and in addition there will be a special, hard, maple polished dancing floor of 30 square feet laid near the orchestra stand for dancing purposes. The new proprietors will…cater to high class trade only.

BC Record Apr 11 1919
VPL 20676. Exterior of the Lodge Cafe. The building to the north of it (left) would become home to Clarke & Stuart Stationers in 1920; C&S purchased the property for $100,000 from the owner of the Virginia Hotel. May 1919. Dominion Photo.
CVA 99-5283 – Interior of the Lodge Cafe (a Victory Loan Lunch, shortly after the Lodge opened). 1919. Stuart Thomson photo. (Note: This luncheon event didn’t have the need of the dance floor, but presumably it was located near the rear of this image back where the band was situated).
VPL 20674. Interior of the Lodge Cafe. May 1919. Dominion Photo. Note the pre-fire murals.

There was a good dance floor at the Lodge. Calvin Winters and his Novelty Jazz Orchestra played there from the opening of the Cafe in 1919 for an indeterminate period. The Lodge introduced four other entertainers to its regular roster by September 1919. In addition to “the Orchestra” (presumably Cal Winters’), there were Harry Belting, Bob Manning, Shirley White, and Neva Latham. Except for Shirley White and Harry Belting (White was apparently a vocalist and Belting a pianist/accompanist), just who these people were is a mystery to me. White went on to be an opening songstress at the Columbia Theatre, after the Lodge closed; White would sing prior to the showing of a film.

In the Victory Loan lunch photo above, there is on one of the pillars these words: “Shimmying Strictly Prohibited”. This sign was directed at dancers. The shimmy had become popular in about 1919 and consisted of dancers shaking their upper torsos (to put it politely). Madame Sonia Serova had this to say about the dance: “It was never a popular dance, if it may be called such….Instead of the ball room it belongs rightfully to the bedroom.” As it turned out, the shimmy was not to die so quickly as forecast. It continues to be a move still used today in modified form.

In February 1921, a fire broke out at the Lodge Cafe (Province 15 Feb 1921). Apparently the blaze began at about 2:30 a.m. in the basement (below the dining room), long after guests and workers had vacated the premises. The cause of the fire was unknown. The worst of the damage was in the kitchen and in the “musicians’ balcony” (although that is how the balcony was referred to in the Province, I have never seen any photos of the interior which shows anyone, musicians or otherwise, in the balcony).

After the fire, the Cafe was closed for about a month. In March 1921, the Lodge was reopened following a complete redesign of the interior. The design work was done by James J. Osborne, assisted by Mr. H. H. Meeker, of the Merchants’ Display Service, located at Cordova near Cambie Street. This re-do included a “beautiful new wall mural design” (Sun March 21 1921). The account in the press as to the nature of the wall mural was vague. But according to it, the ceiling consisted of a painted representation of a summer sky of white clouds with blue peeping through. High above, evidently, bluebirds were discernible, soaring and swirling. By 1921, Francesco Maracci’s Bluebird Orchestra had taken over as the resident dance band at the Lodge.

By September 1922, the Lodge had a new owner. Mr. A. I. Harvie had purchased the Lodge and he wanted it to have a new look and taste. This included a dance floor that had been doubled in area and a new chef — namely, Monsieur Rioual –formerly of the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco.

CVA 778-403: The site (if not the building) of the Lodge Cafe and the earlier McIntyre’s Cafe. The site was the flagship of A&B Sound until it went belly-up in 2008. 1974. (These days, the Lodge Cafe site is occupied by a nightclub at a slightly different address, 560 Seymour).

Despite Mr. Harvie’s efforts, the Lodge Cafe evidently folded in 1924. The site went on to house the flagship store of A&B Sound from ca1970 until it folded in 2008. Most recently, it has been a nightclub.

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