Barron/Belmont Hotel

There is a hotel on the SE corner of Granville and Nelson that has stood there for nearly 110 years. It has been known for most of that time as the Hotel Belmont. During its early years, however, it was called the Hotel Barron.

Hotel Barron (1912-1925)

The 6-storey hotel block (with, initially, retail space occupying much of the ground floor) opened in February, 1912. It was a hotel with 120 rooms and was of brick construction.

It was co-owned by Colonel Oscar G. Barron, an American millionaire hotelier, his wife, Jennie Barron (nee Lane), Mr. T. S. Brophy and his wife, Mrs. Brophy (who was Mrs. Barron’s sister). The Brophys were active partners in the Barron Hotel venture, managing the business and living in Vancouver, while the Barrons took a less active role in the Vancouver hotel business and lived in New England (World 6 Jan 1913).

Hotel Barron postcard (n.d.). Courtesy Neil Whaley’s Collection. Note: The person who created the image on this postcard, added a couple of extra stories to the structure. Here, the 6-storey building is shown as having 8 stories.

Oscar Barron died in 1913 from blood poisoning which cost him part of a foot and then a leg due to amputation and, ultimately, his life. “He had served in the New Hampshire House of Representatives and on the staff of the New Hampshire governors, hence his title of colonel.” (Rutland Daily Herald (Vermont), 8 Jan 1913). Brophy (who also had the — presumably honorary — title of colonel) and Barron had a hotel partnership near Vancouver dating prior to the establishment of the Barron Hotel. It was the Hotel Fairfield in Seattle at 6th and Madison (currently, the site of the Renaissance Seattle Hotel complex).

There was a second building under Barron/Brophy ownership, a block south (1161 Granville) of the main hotel property (1002-1006 Granville) called — unimaginatively — the Barron Annex. The 5-storey Annex was sold in 1917 and became known as the St. Helen’s Hotel. Today, St. Helen’s is a single room occupancy rooming house.

Barron Hotel Restaurant ad. UBC Totem. 1920. UBC Open Collections.

The Barron Hotel was originally named in honour of two of the owners — Oscar and Jennie Barron. But the Barron Restaurant (a component of the hotel), as part of an early marketing campaign, hinted broadly in its ads that its name had European roots and that it was named for the famous “Le Baron” restaurant in Paris, France. As with many ad claims, this just wasn’t so.

Hotel Belmont (1925-ca1971)

Hotel Belmont Brochure. Inside pages. n.d. (1920s?) MDM Collection.

In 1913, following Col. Barron’s death, Col. Brophy left the Barron. William D. Wood became the manager. In 1916, the Barron/Brophy interests were sold, and by May 1925, the hotel was bought by the Belmont Hotel Company, of which Wood was part. At that time, the name of the hotel was changed to the Belmont.

CVA 99-1507 – Barron Hotel Radio Station ca 1924. Stuart Thomson photo.

By 1922, William Downie Wood, confusingly the 19-year-old son of Belmont manager, W. D. Wood, had made a name for himself as an amateur radio operator at the hotel. Wood Jr., a native of Santa Cruz, CA, was granted a special experimental amateur radio operator’s license by the Canadian federal government (Santa Cruz Evening News [California] 8 March 1922).

The presence of an existing radio station at the Barron/Belmont was likely central to the eventual broadcast on CNRV radio (which would ultimately become part of CBC’s radio network) of the Belmont Orchestra from the Rose Room. By the 1930s, the orchestra would be broadcast from the Belmont over local commercial station CJOR (Sun, 30 April 1930).

A Guest Goes Missing

Shortly after the hotel opened as the Belmont, it became the fulcrum of a missing person case that made headlines in local papers for 7 months. Clarence Peppard was a 45-year-old businessman from Minneapolis. He came to Vancouver in December, 1925 to visit his brother who lived in Chilliwack. On December 10, he left the Belmont, where he was a guest, ostensibly on a BCER interurban train bound for Chilliwack. He never arrived at his destination (Sun 16 Dec 1925). The last he was seen was leaving the Belmont and later at a Vancouver telegraph office where he sent a wire to his brother asking that he meet his train upon its arrival in Chilliwack. Someone matching Peppard’s description was seen near Marpole, which borders on the north arm of the Fraser River, on the day he went missing (Sun 23 Dec 1925).

For months, police searched for Peppard or his body, without success. Then, in June, 1926, a body was found just off Kirkland Island on the North Arm of the Fraser. The build of the dead man seemed to match that of Peppard, but decomposition was so advanced that it was nearly impossible to be certain of identification (Province, 28 June 1926). In the end, however, the body was confirmed as Peppard’s (as closely as police technique would permit identification in 1926) (Chilliwack Progress, 8 Sept 1926).

Other Identities and Return of the Belmont

The Belmont Hotel became Nelson Place Hotel in the early 1970s and remained so until it was re-named the Dakota in 1997. It became a Comfort Inn in the 2000s and, in 2017, it was again branded the Belmont Hotel as part of a $12 million renovation by new owners. The new Belmont seems to be aiming to attract, primarily, a millennial demographic, judging from the gallery at their website.

Exterior and Interior images of Nelson Place Hotel (aka Belmont). Postcard. n.d.

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3 Responses to Barron/Belmont Hotel

  1. Hmmm… I wonder if it was determined that Foul Play played any role in Peppard’s death?

    • mdm says:

      Foul play was widely speculated in the press prior to finding the body. But there was no report in the press – that I could find – of discovering anything about the found body to indicate that as cause of death.

  2. Antique Trailmaster says:

    Stayed there back in 86 to visit the Expo. As I recalled, the hotel bar/restaurant was a strip joint.

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