There were a couple of early Vancouver businesses that were named “Ontario”: a rooming house/hotel and a grocery store.
J. G. Taylor was the proprietor of the Ontario House from 1889 to 1892. It apparently was so named because proprietor Taylor had come to Vancouver from Ontario, specifically from Gravenhurst. Ontario House was a business that operated on temperance principles; meaning, I assume, that there was no liquor sold (or permitted?) on the premises. The rate was $1/day.
By 1892, Taylor was worn out and he sold his business to one Isaac Brown. The only thing notable about Brown’s ownership was that he advertised (with apparent pride) that “no Chinese” were employed by the hostelry. Whether that was a change introduced by Brown or a policy that was established by Taylor and continued by Brown isn’t clear.
In 1894, Ontario House was leased by Mrs. Henry Wise and renamed, grandly, “The Palace Boarding House.” The rooming house seems to have stood at this corner at least until the 1950s — in these later years as Lamona Rooms.
The Ontario Grocery was owned initially by William Templeton and Joseph Northcott (Northcott withdrew from the partnership, apparently, by 1889). It had to be one of the first grocery stores in Vancouver. It was destroyed in the 1886 Great Fire and was speedily re-built with bricks on the site of the first grocery — the NE corner of Carrall and Hastings — and was known as the Templeton Block. Indeed, according to the Vancouver Weekly Herald (cited in Major Matthews’ Early Vancouver, Volume 4, p. 70), it was the second brick building to be erected in the City.1
Like Ontario House, Ontario Grocery was named apparently because Templeton came to Vancouver from Belleville, ON.
Templeton unsuccessfully ran for Mayor of Vancouver in 1890 and in 1891 was successful in becoming an Alderman of the Vancouver City Council. After serving one year as an Alderman, he was elected a member of the Vancouver School Board. He ran for Mayor successfully in 1897.
Templeton died suddenly in his 45th year (in January 1898) of an “apoplectic stroke” just weeks before his first term as Mayor was over and the next election was due. In August 1898, James Foran (a former clerk at the grocery) and N. Frost (the former book-keeper) took over the Ontario Grocery. At some point, Frost withdrew from the partnership and Ontario Grocery was taken over by the Foran Brothers. By 1901, the name of the firm became Foran Bros. Grocery and in the same year they moved the business from the Templeton Block up Carrall a bit and across the street to the Harris Block (309 Carrall).
The Templeton Block still stands. As does the Harris Block (which today also houses the Rainier Hotel).
1Maurice Guibord has pointed out that at least two buildings claim the honor of being the first brick building in the city (the Tremont Building on Carrall just south of Water Street and the Oppenheimer Building on Powell Street where Bryan Adams has his recording studio), so the claim that the new Templeton Block was the second building built with bricks is probably open to question.