Monday, August 26, 2013

Bayley’s Hotel (1857-1874), The First Hotel in Victoria, BC



 
Bayley’s Hotel (1857-1874)
Charles Alfred Bayley
(86-88) Yates Street, northeast corner with Government Street



1858 J. C. Keenan leased the bar.

1859 P. Manetta

1871 Morton & Richards

1874-1883 name changed to the

San Francisco Saloon leased by William H. Thistle.

1883 Building Demolished


Charles Alfred Bayley owned a shipping service that operated between Victoria and San Francisco. Bayley was convinced by a friend to open the first hotel in Victoria and in 1857 Bayley’s Hotel opened. The two-story hotel was a modest building with a few beds on the upper floor that catered to working class men such as sea-farers and miners; a saloon was on the ground floor. Oysters were the specialty served for lunch and dinner as shown on the sign above the entrance to the saloon. This was primarily for out of town guests as locals knew that oysters were plentiful and one could easily gather their own for free.

 

In April 1858 the hotel got an enormous boost in business with the arrival of gold-seekers heading for the Cariboo. “When the rush came in 1858 the upper flat, a mere loft, was furnished with cots and straw mattresses, and there the early gold seekers were wont to stretch their weary limbs at $2 per head and gasp for breath in a fetid and overcharged atmosphere till the morning light forced its way into the apartment through the tiny windows on the Yates street side.”

 

In the summer of 1858 John C Keenan leased the barroom where he dispensed cocktails at two bits a glass. Water was very scarce in the dry months - the supply being obtained from a spring at Spring Ridge and drawn about town in carts and delivered at people's doors. Consequently a 'bit' a glass for water was the tariff at all the town bars.

A glass of water cost fifteen cents at the Bayley Hotel, when one customer complained,  remarking that water should be free the bar tender retorted, “See here, young feller, be lucky you don't pay fifty cents for a drink of water, it's cheap at fifteen cents."
 
Bayley retired in April 1860 and sold his hotel. Soon more modern and larger hotels were built in town and for a number of years Bayley’s Hotel was converted into a meat market. In 1874 it reverted back to a bar as the San Francisco Saloon leased by William H. Thistle known as the Thistle Corner until the building was purchased by Thomas Trounce and demolished in 1883 replaced with the three-story brick Pritchard House.

Copyright by Glen Mofford
 

 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

 
 
A History of the Cherry Bank Hotel,
1897-2005
 
Cherry Bank carved in stone.
Photograph by Glen Mofford
The Cherry Bank House was built in 1897 for John and Kate Brown and their three children and was designed by Alexander Maxwell Muir[1]. It was constructed on a hill with a commanding view of the countryside, surrounded by a cherry orchard whose trees lined both sides of Church Way Road that led up to the house. The Cherry trees came alive with colour every spring sending the sweet scent of cherry blossoms into the Humboldt valley below.
The Browns’ home was initially their private residence but within a short time they decided to build an addition which would become a new boarding house providing rooms for the weary, fine food for the famished and entertainment and cheer to the many patrons that, through the years, made the Cherry Bank House their home away from home.         
This article will look back at the rich history of the Cherry Bank, from private residence, to boarding house, to a hotel in the 1940’s through the various owners, until 1964 when brothers David & Clair Bowman purchased and operated the Cherry Bank Hotel until November 2005 when the business closed and shortly thereafter was demolished to make way for the Cherry Bank Condominiums.
 
The Cherry Bank House, located at 22 Victoria Crescent, had been completed only a few months when in the autumn of 1897 an addition was added by John and Kate Brown in order to accommodate guests at their home.[2] The Browns had arrived in Winnipeg from Scotland then moved to Victoria. The children grew


and left home and by 1906 the Browns decided to build another addition and in doing so expanded the capacity of their lucrative boarding house business which they operated until sold in 1911.
Henry and Orfa Currie purchased the Cherry Bank House and ran the boarding house with great success.  Orfa continued on as the sole proprietor until 1930 when she sold the business to Mrs Harriet J. Wood.
Lloyd Silver, who had a room under the front stairs, worked for Mrs Wood at the age of 16, in 1933, paid $29 a month plus room and board. At that time he recalled that there were only three employees: himself, a cook and a maid.[3]
In 1939 the Cherry Bank was still listed as a boarding house but by the following year it was listed as the Cherry Bank Hotel.[4]
The 1940’s and into the 1950’s saw ownership of the Cherry Bank Hotel change quite frequently, although business continued to do well. The grand old hotel had a good reputation abroad so there was a steady stream of loyal patrons that stayed at the Cherry Bank whenever they were in town. Mr. & Mrs. E.R. Cowley managed the hotel through most of the war years when the majority of customers staying in the hotel were military personnel. In 1945 Mr. F. Claude Prutton operated the hotel and by 1946 Mr. Arthur & Gladys Marcon owned the hotel in which they added a coffee shop. The following year the hotel sold to Mr. Stanley Edwards who had recently arrived in Victoria from Saskatchewan.
 
One customer wrote home about his experience at the Cherry Bank Hotel in 1948 saying,
“This place is very attractive. [The] room he showed us had an outside
          door & small porch with stairs to the lawn - The bath is shared with
          another room. While two blocks from the Empress it is partly uphill,
          four or five blocks from most of stores."[5]
 
A steady parade of owners came and went from 1949 to 1955; John J. & Mae E. Barrie with Mrs. J. Wilson manager of the Coffee shop (1949-1950), John Richardson, Proprietor (1951), Mr. Luarrell B. Curtis (1952-1953), and Alderman J. Donald Smith (1954), and Mr. Bernard Nichols (1954-1955).
The year 1954 saw the liberalization of the liquor laws which meant that cocktail lounges and beer parlours could again operate in the City of Victoria if their applied-for liquor license was approved. There was prohibition of beer and liquor by the glass in Victoria from October 1, 1917 until July 1, 1954. Bernard Nichols, the new owner of the Cherry Bank Hotel applied for a cocktail license which was approved by the Liquor Board and he opened his lounge in the newly constructed addition to the hotel in the back of the building facing Burdett Street. The Cherry Bank Cocktail Lounge opened on December 26, 1954.
Dexter Lewers, opened Dex’s Spare Rib House in the dining room of the original guest house portion of the hotel.[6] The opening of the lounge and the rib house were well received by the public and brought the Cherry Bank Hotel international acclaim. But unfortunately Lewers other restaurant in Vancouver was doing poorly and he ran into financial trouble.
In March 1955, Bert Thomas and his wife, Marion, moved to Victoria B.C., and took up residence at the Cherry Bank Hotel, owned by Bert’s manager, Bernard Nichols. Bert, a 260-pound logger and ex-marine from Tacoma, Washington became the first person to swim across the Strait of Juan de Fuca on July 8, 1955 covering the distance in 11 hours and 18 minutes.[7]
Ove Witt was the Assistant Manager at the Cherry Bank Hotel at the time and was Bert’s personal trainer. Witt was eventually hired by the Olson Family to operate their fitness centre in the Strathcona Hotel.
 
Eileen Robson, who had been hired the year before remembers Bert as “a big man” who was in the habit of eating a large steak every morning for breakfast.[8]
Eileen worked at the Cherry Bank for thirty years as did the cook, who it was said, never took a day off in all that time.
The Cherry Bank Hotel, lounge and rib house continued on through the rest of the 1950’s up until 1963 but business was on a slow decline until the owner was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1964.
The Cherry Bank Hotel received a new lease on life when bothers Dave and Clair Bowman purchased the hotel in 1964. They brought a new vision and energy to a hotel that badly needed a change. Dave Bowman was a real estate salesman in Vancouver until he ran the concessions for the Capital City Turf Club at Sandown Race Track. He then moved on to become manager of the Guv'nors Pancake House once located in the Yates Hotel. The brothers spent money in renovating the rooms in the spirit and look of the 1890’s complete with the Gay 90’s Spare Rib House, which was in keeping with the era that the original Cherry Bank House was built. They added a sing-a-long in their restaurant and hired Ken Peaker, former music director of the Bessborough Hotel in Saskatoon, to play piano.[9]  A newspaper advertisement from the Victoria Daily Colonist in November 1965 urged people to come and try their fabulous ribs and listen to “LULU - Belle nightly at the Gay Nineties Spare Rib House” inside the Cherry Bank Hotel.
The Bowman’s also renovated the cocktail lounge changing the theme to a Roaring Twenties speakeasy complete with a rotating glass chandelier.
The halls of the three-story hotel were covered in warm red with gold designed wallpaper and dark wooden beams in the ceiling throughout. For many years there were no televisions or phones in the twenty-eight rooms, as Bowman and some regular customers’ preferred it that way. The Gay 90’s Spare Rib House continued the red and gold theme and added lovely large murals that captured the 1890’s, an era of gaiety and joy. The banquet room was decorated with photographs of Dave Bowman’s favourite hobby – horseracing and over time he opened Mr. B’s Betting Parlour where patrons could bet on the outcome of horseracing.[10]
In 1974 Barbra Filby, a young woman from Louisiana, arrived in Victoria for the first time and stayed at the Cherry Bank Hotel. A few years later she was hired as a waitress and eventually she became the manager of Dave Bowman’s rental properties. Like many of Bowman’s employees, she stayed on for the long haul until the hotel closed its doors in 2005.[11]
Through the 1960’s to 1980’s the Cherry Bank Hotel had a number of managers from Cam Dixon, Al Mottershead and Brian Bowman, Clair’s son. The Bowman’s also had quite a few long-term employees like piano player Ken Peaker, Eileen Robson, Barbra Filby and Verna Young; the latter worked as a chef at the Cherry Bank Hotel for 35 years.[12] There were also long term guests such as Kathleen Hamber, who moved into a room at the Cherry Bank and stayed until her death in 1973 at the age of 91.[13] George Gerrard, a government employee and friend of the author, stayed at the hotel for seven years living in room B1 in the bottom of older original building.
 
The 1979 Victoria Guidebook mentioned a few of the drinks offered at the Roaring Twenties Lounge such as the ‘Godmother’ or the 'Alcatraz Sunshine’, “a nice change from your regular British grog.”[14]


In 1980 the Bowman’s added a new wing to the hotel with a number of modern rooms. Now patrons had a choice of the older Victoria style rooms and new modern rooms. By 1984 Dave Bowman became the sole proprietor of the Cherry Bank Hotel and he changed the Roaring Twenties Lounge into the Trivia Pursuit Lounge complete with the game built into the tables, as that fad was quite popular at the time and the lounge filled up with eager players on most nights.
 
Further changes in the mid to late 1980’s saw the addition of the horse race betting as the BC Government relaxed the rules on gambling and entered the lotto business. The Gay Nineties Spare Rib House changed its name to Bowman’s Spare Rib House as the term gay took on a whole new meaning, but the ribs were as popular as ever although patrons were spending less money on drinks.
 
From the late 1980’s and through the 1990’s society was changing and it began affecting business. The number of people attending sing-a-longs began to dwindle as did the number of patrons going for drinks. Fridays could still be relied on for a good profit but business was slowing on most other days of the week. During Expo ’86 with Sunday openings in the bar initially helped buoy business for a while but as time passed Sunday’s business slowed.
 
This slowing trend was exasperated through the new millennium as the smoking bylaw and harsh new penalties for drinking and driving kept potential customers away. Dave Bowman, now in his 70’s complained,
 
“Not enough people go to the Cherry Bank sing-a-longs anymore,
   and the ones that do are of an age that likes to go home early and
     sober. Nobody parties like they used to, not with the smoking police
        waiting to catch you with a cigarette and the police at a roadblock…”[15]
 
The last straw for Dave Bowman was the Capital Regional District (CRD) bylaw rules and the unreasonable enforcement of the rules. Hotels and local pubs were permitted to build and operate an area of their establishment into a ‘smoking room’ where patrons that smoked could legally go. Mr Bowman spent $12,000,  on his smoking room just to have the CRD bylaw officer to rule that the carpet was “the wrong kind” and that it had to be replaced by July 14, 2004 or the smoking room could not be used. Dave Bowman refused to replace the carpet and chose instead to close the bar.
 
Bowman had been considering closing the Cherry Bank Hotel for the last few years and to replace the historic building with the Cherry Bank Condo’s. The run in with the CRD hastened his decision but it would take another year before the proper permits and plans for the Cherry Bank Condo Development to be complete.
 
In November 2005 the Cherry Bank Hotel closed its doors after 108 years in business. It sat empty of another year before being demolished and replaced with the Cherry Bank Condominiums.
The Cherry Bank building was not saved due, in part, to the loss of heritage value through the many renovations that occurred throughout the years. It was demolished in the summer of 2006. Dave Bowman was given five condos as part of the deal he made with developer Gordon Denford as the 51-room Cherry Bank Condominium project began in 2006 and opened in 2009.
 
The Cherry Bank Hotel was a unique place that provided great food and good times for anyone that was lucky enough to visit or stay there. Some past patrons (of which I was one), have said:
     "We had a great stay here about 2 years ago [2005] and while we were
       there they announced they were closing the Hotel down after New Years
       [2006]. Of course we booked a room for the "last supper" thinking that
       would  be the last time we could visit. My husband had visited the
       Cherry Bank Hotel since 1965 and was sorry to hear it was to be closed.
       We made a special effort to come and celebrate for the last time only to
       find out it never did reopen and came all the way from Abbotsford.
       I would hate to come over again only to find it gone.”
     “This photo taken in 2005 is of the slowly twirling mermaid outside
      the 108 year old, 26-room cherry bank hotel near the inner
      and this was, by far, the most interesting and quietly entertaining
      hotel I've visited, with its labyrinth of warm red hallways leading to
      small quiet rooms, a large quiet bar area, 'spare rib house'   
      restaurant, strangely capricious staff, and slight seediness, no other place
      could  really compare. the gambling, via multiple small gaming areas with    
      satellite horse racing, was just eccentric icing. I tried to reserve a
      stay again recently, but when we arrived, a giant hole in the earth
      appeared where the hotel and mermaid once resided. I read condos
      are going up."
 
A person described as "roadscribe", now living in Roberts Creek, BC, was reviewing the James Bay Inn when he mentioned this about the Cherry Bank:      "...For three decades I stayed at the Cherry Bank Hotel, which I found delightful, comfortable, highly conducive to work and relaxation both – and very inexpensive compared to anything else I knew about in Victoria. When The Bank was torn down earlier in the new millennium, I felt that I had lost a friend – and that I was now homeless in Victoria. Although I had stayed once in the Strath, a few times in the old Dominion, and spent far too many evenings in the JBI pub, I couldn't see the either of former as a replacement for the Cherry Bank, and for some reason never did think of the James Bay Inn as a place to stay, rather than drink.
For years I didn't have a pragmatic reason to return to Victoria, and without a home to go to I had no inclination to visit simply for my own purposes – I love the city, I had found it an inspiring place to write. I felt deprived of a touchstone place which had informed two novels and a lot of poetry."
BOWMAN, Clair Ernest, November 18, 1922 to January 16, 2007, after a lengthy illness, Clair passed away peacefully in his sleep. This article is dedicated to the memory of the Cherry Bank Hotel, Clair and Dave Bowman.

Copyright by Glen Mofford, 2013.



[1] Reg Reynolds, Ibid.
[2] “The British Columbia and Yukon Directories, 1940”, published by the Sun Directories Limited, The Vancouver Sun,  page 1750.
[3] Reg Reynolds, “Cherry Bank Hotel Changes with the Times.”The Islander, a supplement to the local Victoria Daily Times, February 3, 1985, page 8.

[4] John Adams, “Hauntings in the Hotel”, Victoria Times-Colonist, November 2, 2003, page D11.
[5] From the Cherry Bank Postcard as see in this article and mailed in 1948, Glen A. Mofford Collection.
[6] Reg Reynolds, Ibid, 1985.
[8] Reg Reynolds, Ibid.
[9] Reg Reynolds, Ibid.
[10] Jody Paterson, “Goodbye to the Cherry Bank: Carpet kerfuffle was last straw at hotel.” Victoria Times-Colonist, 2004.
[11] Jody Paterson, Ibid.
[12] Jody Paterson, Ibid.
[13] John Adams, Ibid., p. D11
[14] Betty Campbell, The Victoria Guidebook, page 176.
[15] Jody Paterson, Ibid.