The first thing I found that interested me was that the Homer Block, though pretty old by Vancouver standards, was not the first building to stand on its location...
According to the 1901 census, Edward Hobson was born in England in March 15, 1858 and came to Canada in 1885 with his wife Mary Reilly. At the time of the 1911 census, Edward and Mary were living at 1782 Davie Street in the West End. The 1911 census lists Edward as a financier.
Edward Hobson actually built four houses in a row along the 300 block of Smithe. On May 16, 1903, Hobson applied for water service for 301 and 311 Smithe, but neither of those houses appeared in the city directories until 1906, the first year that 335 and 345 Smithe appear. These two other houses were twins as well, but had a different plan from 335 and 345 Smithe.
The first occupant of 335 Smithe, was a widow named Elizabeth "Lizzie" Sterling, who bought 335 Smithe from Hobson on August 14, 1905. The first occupants of 311 Smithe were BC Permanent Savings and Loan Corporation clerk Frederick H. Godfrey and his wife, Edna. The first occupants of 301 Smithe were American-born CPR locomotive sheds foreman Frederick R. Robson, his wife Mattie and their three children.
The Homer Block itself, was built during the latter part of 1909. Hobson, who was still the owner, applied for water service for the new block on June 29, 1909. The block had three addresses: 337 Smithe, which started out as a grocery store, and 339 Smithe, which was the address for the entrance to the apartments above. The Homer Street address, 890 (and later 892) Homer, which most people today know as the Homer Cafe, started out as The College Dye Works run by a man named William C. Barker. By 1912, this was McMillans Renovatory, and later was a barber shop, grocery, cleaners, and a number of other shops including a Japanese confectionery before it finally became a restaurant in 1952. For about two decades it was the Smithe Coffee Bar, and later Pauline's Cafe, then Rose's Coffee Shop and later Stratos Cafe.
It seems that the Homer Apartments started out with eight suites, then later ten and sometimes eleven suites. I wonder how many there will be when The Beasley is opened. Thankfully, The Homer itself has been saved as part of that development.
Here is a sample cross section of who lived in the apartments from the 1922 directory listing:
1. Charles L. & Marie Caze - CNR employee
Adrienne Caze - cashier, Dominon Theatre
2. Mrs. Minnie E. Halliday
3. ______ Nicholson
4. Charles J. Chandler - operator, Marconi Wireless Co.
5. Harry L. MacKinnon - boomer, BC Mills Timber & Trading Co.
6. James Tuff - teamster, Mainland Transfer
8. Mrs. Lily Williamson - cashier, Good Eats Cafe
9. William McCartney - salesman
10. James Enson - chauffeur, A. Macdonald & Co.
The most intriguing occupant, and someone I would like to find out more about, was cartoonist Henry G. Crumplin. From what I could find out from the directories, he and his wife Edith Annie Crumplin lived in Suite #4 from 1911 to 1917. From 1916 to 1917, Henry was listed in Active Service. According to the 1911 census, Henry was born in England in May of 1881. His wife Edith was born in England in August of 1881. They both came to Canada in 1910. So far I haven't been able to find any of his cartoons. If anyone out there knows anything about him and can drop me a line, please do. I would really appreciate it.
It is VPL photo 48502, taken in 1923 by the Dominion Photo Company. It shows the block where recreation park once stood, now demolished and empty of any buildings. There are a large number of trucks from a variety of companies: Almond's Ice Cream, Crescent Ice Cream and Fraser Valley Ice Cream, all lined up in a row. But the most amazing part about this one panorama image is that it shows that the Homer Block, up until the 1920s anyway, originally had little rounded turrets above the corner bays. This original detailing was for some reason later removed.
Hopefully, this original detailing will be reconstructed and added to the soon to be rehabilitated Homer Block as part of the new Beasley Development.