Tag Archives: History

A Little East Van History – Motel Row On Kingsway

11 Sep

MotelVacancyTraveling along Kingsway through Collingwood, I noticed some inconspicuous street signs the City installed a few years back. Designed in the style of 1960ʼs era Trans Canada Highway markers, the signs proclaim Indigenous Trail and Wagon Road. This was done as an acknowledgement of Kingsway as a historical route into and out of Vancouver for indigenous and non-indigenous people.

These signs got me thinking about my own use of the route. In particular how I had designated some navigational points along Kingsway which I used to gauge my progress entering or exiting the City. These points are or were motels that stand out against the shifting commercial landscape of Kingsway. I set off to rediscover my motel route.

Heading east the starting point was always the Biltmore at 12th and Kingsway. Once a Howard Johnsonʼs Hotel, and previously various others, it is now social housing. The next point is the Days Inn at Kingsway and Victoria. This place has been there for 70 years and in the early days was considered quite upscale. I know because the hotel is where my mom stayed on her wedding night. Either that or my Dad really was the cheapskate he was suspected of being.

Continuing east to Kingsway and Nanaimo, where there once stood a vast motel with beer parlour and off-sales called the Eldorado. It has since been replaced by several condo towers although the motel name lives on with the small Eldorado liquor store on the corner. I wonder if the owners actually did their research on the name. The beer parlour with off-sales was called Mulhernʼs Pub, named after the family that owned the Eldorado. A curious side note about the pub is that a family member apparently attempted to pull a stick-up of Mulhernʼs, but had a little problem with the stocking over their face and was recognized. Always helps to have a proper disguise when robbing family.

Past the old Eldorado site is the iconic and hard to miss 2400 Motel. This city owned 3 acre enclave of 18 cottages has been a frequent film location for everything from the X-Files to Smallville. The 2400 also briefly hosted Ahmed Ressam the Millennium Bomber, who fortunately didnʼt overcook anything during his stay. After the 2400 Motel is the last point before Boundary the Mr. Sport Hotel at Kingsway and Battison. This placeʼs marquee always seemed to advertise it as the last stop for strippers and off-sales before the wilds of Burnaby. The Mr. Sport eventually became a Ramada and then like the Biltmore was bought by the City and turned into social housing. A painted over Ramada sign and faded “Lobby “awning stand as a reminder of its intimidating previous lives. The Mr. Sport looked then and still looks to me now like a place you went into and instantly got shit kicked.

Aside from these motels, there are two other strange atolls of accommodation along the Kingsway route. One, almost directly across from the old Mr. Sport, is the Deluxe Hotel. I suspect it is as deluxe as that burger you get from the cafe gas station garage in Boston Bar. One the other hand the Deluxe, which has been around since 1958, recently changed hands. It has a nice new sign and may be slowly drifting towards the boutique style. Although youʼll probably never find out as it is probably booked full of would be novelists trying to get that gritty East Van feel.

More suspect is the Cassandra at 3075 Kingsway. While it advertises itself as a “comfortable and connected 3 star”, youʼve got to wonder what it’s doing there. From the outside it definitely has that must be a front for something feel. Certainly if you are in a witness protection program,  or generally have at least one hand gun stuffed into your saggy baggy jeans, you might not feel out of place.

By Contributing Writer Al Tee

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A Little East Van History – The Lakeview Disaster And The Wild West

12 Jul

LakeviewDisasterVancouverHeritageFoundationWe introduce you to a new contributing writer Al Tee. Al loves a good story and has his eye on East Van’s history.  His East Van roots go back to his grandmother’s childhood home and farm at 41st and Sophia. Today, he’s going to share a little East Van history in the Kensington-Cedar Cottage area.

You live in East Van, youʼre always rushing. In a hurry. Youʼre rushing for the bus, for the Skytrain. Youʼre riding in the bike lane rushing to make the next light. Youʼre rushing trying to avoid traffic from pop-up city road work. All that rushing, and no time to take a side glance at what youʼre rushing past in East Van. Short anomalous streets and tiny micro neighborhoods. All of them bubbling over with anecdotal history. Because if you hadnʼt realized, East Van is where Vancouver started.

So let me do the side glance for you while you rush. As you rush North down Victoria thereʼs a point where you hit a big curve that becomes Commercial Drive. On your right you pass a large patch of green that hides a community garden. Plenty of those in East Van, except this has some history. At the bottom of Lakeviewthe garden is a shed thatʼs been built like a replica of one of the old shelters for the Interurban. The Interurban was the original Skytrain, Vancouverʼs first rapid transit. These shelters offered both protection from the elements and often a ticket agent to sell riders their fare. More importantly the shed has a plaque, placed there to remind passersby of the events of the Lakeview Disaster.

In 1909 at the current location of the community garden, a BC Electric Interurban train collided with a runaway railcar loaded with timber. The collision resulted in 14 people killed and another 9 seriously injured. What happened at Lakeview became the worst transit accident in Vancouver history. While you give that a pause as you rush by, two blocks east is a short strip of Commercial Street that was itself once considered a village. The Commercial Street Cafe located at East 20th and Commercial Street, is particularly significant. While I canʼt vouch for the coffee – Iʼm too anti-social to have coffee anywhere but home – I can vouch that this was the sight of Vancouverʼs first armed robbery. The restored Cafe was once home to the Bank of Hamilton, a forerunner of the CIBC, and on one August Saturday night back in 1912, six armed men entered the bank and robbed it. While this was going on, members of a nearby gospel meeting began singing. At the same time two South Vancouver Police Constables Pcʼs Thomas and Winters happened by. There was a shoot-out. According to PC Winters; “ …men came running out of the bank and opened fire on me. Quite a fusillade was opened on me…I raised my revolver to shoot, but the crowd that had been singing and preaching now began to realize what was on and they scattered. “

Picture the opening scene in Sam Peckinpahʼs The Wild Bunch happening two blocks from the Croatian Cultural Centre. A running gun battle ensued and the robbers, some possibly wounded, escaped into the bush around Trout Lake. Which brings us back to Lakeview. Because these six “ desperate outlaws “ all passed by the sight of the cityʼs worst traffic accident ever. Think of it, a train wreck and an armed robbery with a shootout only a couple of blocks apart. Is this is a side glance of East Van? Or the Wild Wild West?

Contributing Writer: Al Tee

Photo Credit: Vancouver Heritage Foundation (above)
Photo Credit: Commercial Street Below (below)

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