Sentimental About Lyric Rooms and Other Businesses Lost on 600 Granville in the ’70s

CVA Str P427: West side of 600 Granville, Looking South. 1921

The scene above is of 1921 Vancouver on the west side of Granville Street, bounded by Dunsmuir (behind the photographer) and Georgia Street (where Hotel Vancouver #2 stands). Our principal interest in this post is the rooming house which is marked by a sign just this side of the Old Country Lunch sign: Lyric Rooms (635 Granville).

The Lyric Rooms were located in the upper floors of the four-storey building immediately to the south of Walter Calder’s photography studio (its location is a bit clearer in the image below as the building in which Fletcher Bros. piano house was at street level). It advertised itself as being just half a block from the Colonial Theatre, which was at the SW corner of Granville and Dunsmuir.

Why am I sentimental about this pre-1970s block, when it was gone, in its photographed incarnation, long before I first set foot in this city? I think it is a sense of regret, as much as anything, which I feel for this lost block and for the attitudes of some Vancouverites who came before me who shrugged when asked if they would miss these buildings once they were demolished.

CVA 2015-028.18 – Mid-600s of West Side of Granville Street between Dunsmuir and West Georgia. 1920-1922.

Occupants

The building in which the rooming house was located was built in 1912. In 1913, when it opened, it was known, originally, as “Granville Lodge”. It was advertised as being “beautifully furnished; hot water in every room; steam heat, splendid view; moderate prices” (World 13 March 1913). The manager of the Lodge at the time was R. Ferguson.

In 1914, an auction was held at the rooming house: “Thirty-six rooms of first-class furniture in almost new condition and large quantity of bed linen; cost originally about $4000” (Province 11 Nov 1914) [1]. By 1917, the Granville Lodge became the Lyric Rooms. The proprietor of the ‘teen years was W. H. Dial. J. N. Kidd was the manager in the 1920s.

An assortment of palmists, phrenologists, clairvoyants, and providers of “vibratory treatments” were early and regular occupants of the Lyric. An example is Madam Stella, “the world’s greatest palmist and phrenologist. She reads the entire life just as the head and hand indicate, gives advice on all business matters, love and marriage. Are you in trouble? If so consult me. Gives advice on all affairs of life. Special readings this week only $1. Business hours 9 to 9. The Lyric Rooms. Room 2” (Province 27 March 1917).

In the 1940s, the proprietor of the Lyric was John Carrison. Paul Carrison was a brother of John; he ran a small business in one of the rooms in which eyeglass repairs were made.

In the early 1950s, the Lyric became for the rest of its days the “Marlboro Hotel”. Daily ($1.50) and weekly ($8) rates were advertised. In the 1960s, the manager of the Marlboro was Enoch Amos.

In the last decade or so of the life of the Marlboro it seemed to attract, principally, old-age pensioners.

Decision Made in ’60s: Demolish the Block!

Vancouver’s mayor in the late 60s, Tom Campbell (who will likely forever be associated with Project 200 and the destruction of Hogan’s Alley), also did the deal that saw the entire 600 block west side of Granville expropriated, demolished and sold to Cadillac Fairview (the owners, then and now, of Pacific Centre) for $1 Million.

But although Tom Campbell and the City Council of his day must own this decision to expropriate and demolish the west side of this block (among other buildings, such as the Angelus Hotel), it has to be acknowledged that the earlier Mayor Bill Rathie and his Council, as well as many members of the general public, were supportive of the poor decision ultimately made.

CVA 2009-001.060 – Shops along 600 block, west side, Granville Street. 1965. Leslie F. Sheraton, photographer.

Neighbours on the Block

I love browsing the street directories of early Vancouver. They are surprisingly revealing of the culture of a district over a number of decades. I’ve surveyed the neighbours of Granville Lodge/Lyric Rooms/Marlboro Hotel below by picking representative years: 1914, 1924, 1934, 1944, and 1954.

Does a pattern emerge, upon reading through the detailed decade-by-decade account of the shops on that block? I think so. It is a pattern of some of the essential businesses of a small town. There is entertainment (theatres, sweets shops), education (beauty schools, music teachers), there are physicians, optometrists, opticians, and druggists. Hobbies are catered to (photography, bookstores, tobacco outlets), housing, cafes, and no lack of men’s and women’s clothiers and shoe stores! Indeed, the only essential service that doesn’t seem to be catered to on the block is that of a general grocer.

Contrast the 1913-1970 period with today on that block, and you will see a substantially diminished range of goods and services offered on that block at street level. Today, you’ll find a Meinhardt’s at the Dunsmuir corner where the Colonial Theatre was; a Take Five coffee establishment next door; an H&M women’s fashion outlet adjacent to that; and next door to H&M, an Aritza women’s wear. One might argue that I’m not taking into account all of the businesses in the high-rise towers that crowd that block. But I’d reply that, even if one took those into account, they serve a pretty similar clientele (white collar businessmen and women) and don’t represent much of a retail street-level draw to the block. And, it’s worth noting, H&M and Aritza are both huge multi-national chains, rather than local entrepreneurs, as were most of those businesses that appear below.

1914

The Colonial Theatre building was at the Dunsmuir end of the block (603). Sautter jewellers was at 601; adjacent to the theatre was a cigar shop (605). Anderson and Warnock hardware was next (613), followed by Thomas Allan, jewellers (615). Singer Sewing Machines had a shop adjacent to (or above) the jewellers; Drs. McKenzie and Farish had surgeries (probably upstairs) (619) as did Progress photo studio (which seemed to sublet from the physicians (619). Next door was Edwards Brothers photo supply shop (623) and next to that, London Popular Cafe (625). At 627, was space rented by Harry Speck (a ladies tailor), George Little (an artist-craftsman-decorator; and, incidentally,an outspoken critic of liquor prohibition), and by Crown photo studio (purchased that year by A. T. Bridgman of Edmonton). 629 was host to The Ark Candy Kitchen, another cigar shop called Gold Standard and to Charles Cook’s pool hall. Fletcher Brothers piano house was the retail establishment at the time that was at the retail space beneath Granville Lodge (which would soon become Lyric Rooms) (633/635). At 637 was the Oriental Trading Co. and (probably above that) was Columbia Optical Parlors (639). 641 was the Sons of England building and had as lessees James Hildreth (tailor), W. G. Sutherland (decorator), Ferguson & Eaves (artists), and the Old Country Tea Rooms. A shoe retailer (A. S. Vachon) was at 649 and another hardware shop (Fraser Hardware) was adjacent to it (651). In 655 was Thomas & McBain clothiers and probably above it was Famous Ladies Tailoring Co. (657). Adjacent to the clothiers’ shop was A&B Co. liquor store. 661 was the Victoria Chambers building, which seems to have been a rooming house of sorts (with small businesses among its tenants, much like Granville Lodge/Lyric/Marlboro). Among its tenants was one who was particularly noteworthy: Hart McHarg, who would ultimately have the first Georgia Viaduct named in his honour. McHarg would die in 1915 at Ypres, among many thousands of other Canadians. Another photo supply shop, called United Photographic Stores, was at 665, and probably beneath it was Van Floral (667). At 673-675 was the Gardner Browne Co. furniture store. The Bell Irving building (similar to Victoria Chambers) was at 679 and Gaskell Book & Stationery Co. was at 681. At 693, at this time, was Granville Theater (a tiny space that house a theatre for just a short time — from 1911 to ca 1914; it would later serve as a retail space for a boy’s wear shop, a shoe store, and many other small businesses). Norman G. Cull, Optician (695), had his professional space above Georgia Pharmacy (699) at the Georgia Street end of the block.

1924

Again, 603 was the Colonial Theatre. Adjacent to the theatre by 1924 was no longer a cigar store, but Colonial Confectionary (605). At 615 was Dall’s Real Lace Co. (which retailed items such as handkerchiefs and boudoir caps!). 619 was shared by assorted individuals, including Dr. McKenzie and a retail firm, Benson & Hedges Ltd. (presumably a purveyor of tobacco-related items). At 623 was Scottish Ham Curers. 627 was shared by Dr. Casselman, dentist, and W. H. Calder’s photo studio. Turpin Bros. haberdashers (purveyors of men’s clothing) were at 629; Fletcher Bros. piano house was still at 633; and Lyric Rooms were at 635, of course. 637 was Calhoun’s Ltd. (a hatter). Ireland and Allan, booksellers were at 649. 653 was apparently the residence of A. B. Smith (the “passenger traffic manager” in Vancouver for Northern Pacific Railway). 655 was still Thomas & McBain clothiers. Walter F. Evans music shop was at 657. At 665 was Brown Bros. florists. Walter M. Gow, jeweler was next (669). 675 was R. C. Purdy’s, purveyor of chocolate and candy. 679 was still the Bell-Irving building (there was a tenant whose name I recognized occupying one of the rooms at this time: Fred W. Dyke, a teacher with Vancouver Schools and a musician of some distinction in early Vancouver). The Bootery (a shoe shop) was at 681, then Van Stationers (683), and Rae-Son shoes (Rae was James Rae – one of the earliest shoe retailers in the city) (693). Norman Cull and Georgia Pharmacy anchored the south end of the block.

1934

The Colonial Theatre building was still at the Dunsmuir end of the block. Bert Henry’s tobacco shop was on the north side of the theatre (601), then the theatre (603) and bracing it on the south side, J. McDonald’s confectioners. 613 was W. C. Stearman’s hardware store and 617 was Dall’s (known by this time as “Dall’s Linen“). 619 was a still-unnamed building that housed various small businesses, including R. H. Marlow’s, photo studio and Maison Henri beauty shop. At 623 was Ingledew’s shoe shop (until 1925, it had been across Granville on the east side; it would later move to the 500 block on the west side). 627 was shared by W. H. Calder’s, photo studio and dentist, Dr. R. F. Edmonds. Gordon’s women’s clothiers was at 629 and Edward Chapman’s Men’s Furnishings was at 633. Lyric Rooms were at 635. At 637 was Du Barry’s women’s wear and (probably above that) was space occupied by a church group identified as Unity Fellowship in Truth (641). Ireland & Allan, booksellers, were still at 649. 651 was shared by Rae’s Clever Shoes and Miss V. Dalgleish’s women’s furnishings. 653 was shared by an early site of the Bon Ton Cafe and H. F. Storry & Co, tailors. Turpin Bros., by this year, had moved up the block a bit to 655. And 657 was occupied by the Marilyn Hat Shoppe. 659 was J. W. Kelly Piano Co. 665 was Brown Bros. florists, and 669 was the professional space shared by W. M. Gow, Jeweler and H. A. LIphardt, optometrist. By this time, R. C. Purdy’s was no longer just a chocolate and candy shop, but also a cafe (675) (here is a photo from 1935 indicating that it was forced to move its cafe out of the 675 Granville space due to crippling rent increases from the landlord; how little has changed!). The Bell-Irving building (679), at this time, was occupied by a variety of folks, from a palmist to music teachers. 681 was T. Foster & Co. men’s clothiers. 683 was Great Northern Railway’s office. 691 was the Fashion Bootery; 693 was Sobie’s Silk Shop, and 695 was space shared by Potters Jewelers and I. P. Blyth optometrist (Blyth seems to have filled the space left vacant by Norman Cull). 699 was shared by Vancouver Drug Co. (replacing Georgia Pharmacy) and Con Jones Ltd. (of the famous Don’t Argue logo).

1944

There were in 1944 businesses on either side of the Colonial Theatre (603): Who’s Your Hosier lingerie (601) and Unusual Gift Shop (605). Dall’s Linens (613) was still going. At 615, was Sally Shops women’s clothiers and Pacific Dress and Uniform( 619) shared the space with Maxine’s Beauty School. At 623 was Ingledew’s shoes; Hollywood Dance School was at 627, and a later West Hastings Street stalwart, Millar & Co. China was at 629. Edward Chapman’s men’s wear was at 633 and, of course, Lyric Rooms was at 635. Tip Top Tailors was at 637 and, sharing the space of 641 were Mrs. P. M. Schuldt (music teacher), John Goss‘s vocal studio, and F. L. Smith (a dramatic artist). Ireland & Allan, booksellers continued to hold onto 649 and D’Allaird’s women’s clothiers had the space at 651. The Bon Ton Cafe was still at 653; and there were two tailoring establishments hidden away upstairs from them. At 655 was Turpin Bros. men’s wear and next door, at 657, was another men’s wear outlet, Charlton & Morgan. At 665 was Brown Bros. florists, next door was Gow’s Jewelers (669) and sharing 669, likely upstairs, was Liphardt the optician. Purdy’s maintained their chocolate/candy shop at 675, but now shared it with the Devon Cafe (instead of their own cafe). There continued to be an odd assortment of small businesses at 679, and at 681 was Willard’s women’s clothiers. Great Northern Railway had an office at 683; Vanity Shoes was at 691; Georgia Style Shop at 693; and Potter’s jewelers was at 695. Vancouver Drug Co. had become Cunningham Drugs at 699.

1954

By this year, bracing the Colonial Theatre (603) were Pauline Johnson’s Candy Store (601) and Jewel World (605). Rae-Son shoes had moved to 609, and Dall’s Linens were still at 613. Sterling Shoes was now at 615. 619 was shared, still, by Pacific Dress & Uniform and Maxine’s Beauty School. Edward Chapman’s men’s wear was at 633 and Marlboro Hotel was at 635. 637 was Tip Top Tailors, and 645 was Sweet Sixteen ladies’ wear. Ireland & Allan was still at 649 and Aaron’s Ladies’ Wear had moved into 651. 653 was the Alano Club; Turpin Bros. men’s wear weas at 655, and 657 was Charlton & Morgan men’s wear. D’Allaird’s ladies’ wear was at 665. Purdy’s Chocolates still shared space with Devon Cafe at 675. A peculiar mix of businesses was still at 679 (from barristers to music teachers to a beauty school), although it was no longer identified as the Bell-Irving building in the directory. 681 was McKenzie’s Style Shop (for ladies) and they shared the space above them, probably, with Rae-Bennett-MacKenzie properties (presumably some sort of real estate business). 691 was a men’s shoes outlet; 693 was Renfrews English Shop (for ladies); 695 was Potter’s Jewelers; and 699 was Cunningham Drugs.

Notes

  1. There doesn’t seem to be a consensus on the number of rooms in the rooming house. In a later ad for another auction, it was described as having 37 rooms (Sun 29 Jan 1922). Another auction ad claims it had 24 rooms (Sun 2 Feb 1922). I suspect the higher numbers may have been in reference to the total number of rooms, including kitchens, bathrooms, etc. I don’t think it likely that 37 suites would have fit into three quite narrow floors.

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1 Response to Sentimental About Lyric Rooms and Other Businesses Lost on 600 Granville in the ’70s

  1. G.M. Watson says:

    This is from a slightly later era than those chronicled above, but the first time I ever saw a film in a theatre was at the Colonial in 1960. The film? “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies”, with Doris Day. I make no apologies for taste; being only 9 at the time, I was taken by my mother (12 years later I would join the Pacific Cinematheque and begin a long career of film buffery). In, I think, late 1969 the Colonial ended its long history as a movie theatre and was leased by some young folks who converted it into a concert hall, re-christening it as the Colonial Magic Theatre. Sadly, it didn’t last long in that incarnation. I only saw two acts there that I can recall: English fringe-rockers the Deviants (with Vancouver’s Paul Rudolph on guitar), and the great bluesman Mississippi Fred McDowell. No doubt there were others. In a city with a long, sorry history of cultural atrocities, the obliteration of the Colonial and its replacement by a corner of the hideous Pacific Center development is just one more small example of the infinite greed of developers and the infinite corruptibility of successive Vancouver civic administrations; two constants that have considerably worsened over the past 50 years.

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