Sylvia Court Apartments (later the Sylvia Hotel)

Sylvia Court, about 1932; Sylvia Court - English Bay [cropped]; Vancouver City Archives, CVA 99-2632; http://searcharchives.vancouver.ca/sylvia-court-english-bay.

Sylvia Court, about 1932; Sylvia Court – English Bay [cropped]; Vancouver City Archives, CVA 99-2632; http://searcharchives.vancouver.ca/sylvia-court-english-bay.

Sylvia Court (later Sylvia Hotel) is on the northeast corner of Gilford Street and Beach Avenue. The street address is 1154 Gilford Street. The legal description of the land is District Lot 185, block: 71, lot: 7.

Before the arrival of Sylvia Court, lot 7 was the site of two small buildings. One of these was a grocery store and restaurant at 1897 Beach Avenue.

Gilford Street and Beach Avenue, detail from “The Pier, English Bay, Vancouver B.C.” [postcard], between 1908 and 1912.

Gilford Street and Beach Avenue, detail from “The Pier, English Bay, Vancouver B.C.” [postcard], between 1908 and 1912.

Gilford Street and Beach Avenue, detail from Insurance plan - City of Vancouver, July 1897, revised June 1903 - Sheet 45 - Comox Street to English Bay and Bidwell Street to Stanley Park.

Gilford Street and Beach Avenue, detail from Insurance plan – City of Vancouver, July 1897, revised June 1903 – Sheet 45 – Comox Street to English Bay and Bidwell Street to Stanley Park.

Abraham Goldstein (sometimes called Abe or Adolf) decided to build a hotel on the site. He applied for a permit to build a hotel /apartment building.

District: Vancouver
Permit: 2266
Owner: Goldstein, A. D.
Architect: White, W. P.
Builder: Booker, Campbell & Whipple
Legal Address: DL: 185 Block: 71 Sub: Resub: Lot: 7
Date (Y-M-D): 1912-05-06
Street Number: 1154
Street Name: Gilford Street
Value: $250,000.00
Remarks: Apartment/rooms; Sylvia Hotel; 8-storey concrete apartment house, one store ground floor; exterior pressed brick terra cotta & cut stone; hardwood interior, marble stairways & entrances, tiled hallways; vacuum system of hot air heating [DBR]
Reference ID: VN-3300-3301-1057

The architect for Mr. Goldstein’s building was William P. White (1862 -1932), the same architect who had recently designed Englesea Lodge at 2046 Beach Avenue. Mr. Goldstein’s builder was Booker, Campbell & Whipple.

Henderson’s Greater Vancouver City Directory, Part 1, 1913, page 197.

Henderson’s Greater Vancouver City Directory, Part 1, 1913, page 197.

The city approved the building permit in May 1912.

Vancouver Daily World, May 7, 1912, page 19, column 3.

Vancouver Daily World, May 7, 1912, page 19, column 3.

In the fire insurance plan below, Sylvia Court is the pink area (lot 7), just left of centre.

1800 Block Beach Avenue - Detail from Goad's Atlas of the city of Vancouver - 1912 - Vol 1 - Plate 8 - Barclay Street to English Bay and Cardero Street to Stanley Park

1800 Block Beach Avenue – Detail from Goad’s Atlas of the city of Vancouver – 1912 – Vol 1 – Plate 8 – Barclay Street to English Bay and Cardero Street to Stanley Park

Although Mr. Goldstein had intended to run the building as a hotel, the city would allow only an apartment block. Mr. Goldstein named it Sylvia Court, after his daughter, Sylvia, who was born in Vancouver on March 1, 1900.

Sylvia Court became a prominent sight on English Bay beach.

Sylvia Court, detail from An August day at English Bay, Vancouver B.C., about 1914, Vancouver City Archives, Be P144.2; http://searcharchives.vancouver.ca/august-day-at-english-bay-vancouver-b-c-2.

Sylvia Court, detail from An August day at English Bay, Vancouver B.C., about 1914, Vancouver City Archives, Be P144.2; http://searcharchives.vancouver.ca/august-day-at-english-bay-vancouver-b-c-2.

In 1919, Sylvia Court was decorated for the Great Peace Celebration to celebrate the return of peace at the end of the First World War.

Vancouver Daily World, July 19, 1919, page 1, column 1 [edited image]

Vancouver Daily World, July 19, 1919, page 1, column 1 [edited image]

Sylvia Court, detail from panoramic view of English Bay beach and Sylvia Court Apartments; July 19, 1919, Vancouver City Archives, PAN N77; http://searcharchives.vancouver.ca/panoramic-view-of-english-bay-beach-sylvia-court-apartments-decorated-in-great-peace-celebration-and-bathhouses-from-english-bay-pier.

Sylvia Court, detail from panoramic view of English Bay beach and Sylvia Court Apartments; July 19, 1919, Vancouver City Archives, PAN N77; http://searcharchives.vancouver.ca/panoramic-view-of-english-bay-beach-sylvia-court-apartments-decorated-in-great-peace-celebration-and-bathhouses-from-english-bay-pier.

In 1923, Mr. Goldstein sold the Sylvia to Sandy Mann, and the Goldstein family moved to Los Angeles, California. Sylvia returned to Vancouver, where she met Harry Benjamin Ablowitz. In 1928, in Los Angeles, Sylvia and Harry were married. They became active in the Vancouver real estate world and they supported many Jewish community projects. Harry died in Vancouver on July 28, 1983. Sylvia died in Vancouver on April 30, 2002.

During the Depression in the 1930s, the Sylvia became an apartment hotel. In the Second World War many of the tenants were merchant mariners.

Over the years, the Sylvia’s distinctive vines began to creep up the sides of the building.

Sylvia Hotel, possibly 1940s, https://sylviahotel.com/history/ (W.A. Gale grocery was at 1875 Beach Avenue from the late 1930s until about 1950.)

Sylvia Hotel, possibly 1940s, https://sylviahotel.com/history/ (W.A. Gale grocery was at 1875 Beach Avenue from the late 1930s until 1950.)

After Sandy Mann died, Walter Roberts, along with Sandy Douglas and Alan Williamson, bought the hotel from Mr. Mann’s estate. Hilliard C. Lyle bought Mr. Roberts’s interest in 1949.

In 1954 the Sylvia had the first cocktail bar in Vancouver. There was also a restaurant on the eighth floor, which advertised that you could “Dine in the Sky.”

Sylvia Hotel, billboard, https://www.bcha100.com/sylvia-hotel/.

Sylvia Hotel, billboard, https://www.bcha100.com/sylvia-hotel/.

In 1961, Norman Mason Sawers bought the hotel. (More information on the Sawers family appears on the page for Campbell William Sawers: https://westendvancouver.wordpress.com/biographies-n-z/biographies-s/sawers-campbell-william-1853-1928/.)

Norman Sawers gave notice to the permanent residents, and the building then became a regular hotel. In 1965, he closed the restaurant on the eighth floor and converted it to rooms for guests. The hotel had a coffee shop and bar on the main floor.

In 1975, the Sylvia Hotel became a designated heritage building.

Norman Sawers ran the Sylvia for about 50 years. After he died on September 30, 2012, his daughter, Jill Davies, took over.

The Sylvia has survived for over a century, and it has become a treasured part of the English Bay scene.

 

Sources

The Sylvia Hotel, https://sylviahotel.com/history/

The Sylvia Hotel, Wikipedia article, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sylvia_Hotel.

Sylvia’s Century: The Grande Dame of English Bay retains charm of bygone era, By John Mackie, Vancouver Sun May 25, 2013, http://www.vancouversun.com/Sylvia+Century+Grande+Dame+English+retains+charm+bygone/8432398/story.html.

Sylvia Hotel – Beach Avenue, Changing Vancouver, https://changingvancouver.wordpress.com/tag/sylvia-goldstein/. (Includes history of Sylvia Court and biographical information on Goldstein family.)

Laughter and Sylvia, http://karen-magill.blogspot.ca/2011/03/laughter-and-sylvia.html.

5 things you didn’t know about the Sylvia Hotel; Vancouver Courier, September 26, 2017, http://www.vancourier.com/community/5-things-you-didn-t-know-about-the-sylvia-hotel-1.23024676.

The West End’s Beloved Sylvia Hotel, The West End Journal, February 5, 2018; https://www.thewestendjournal.ca/blog/2017/11/5/then-now

The Sylvia Hotel turns 100, by Eve Lazarus, July 1, 2013, http://evelazarus.com/the-sylvia-hotel-turns-100/.

 

Sylvia Goldstein

“Vancouver Hotel is her Namesake,” [obituary of Sylvia Ablowitz], Toronto Globe and Mail, April 30, 2002, page R-9 (includes photograph of Sylvia Ablowitz and Sylvia Hotel.)

“Recensement du Canada de 1911,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QV95-MPBM : 16 March 2018), Sylvia Goldstein in entry for A P Goldstein, 1911; citing Census, Vancouver Sub-Districts 1-18, British Columbia, Canada, Library and Archives of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario; FHL microfilm 2,417,661.

“California, County Marriages, 1850-1952,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K8NL-RYX : 8 December 2017), Harry Benjamin Ablowitz and Sylvia Goldstein, 08 Sep 1928; citing Los Angeles, California, United States, county courthouses, California; FHL microfilm 2,074,728.

 

Harry Ablowitz (husband of Sylvia Goldstein)

“United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MMP8-BKT : accessed 2 May 2018), Harry Ablowitz in household of Ben Ablowitz, Vancouver Precinct Vancouver city Ward West, North, Clark, Washington, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 29, sheet 5B, family 114, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,241,742.

“United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MLYV-9YK : accessed 2 May 2018), Harry Ablowitz in household of Benjiman Ablowitz, Portland Ward 5, Multnomah, Oregon, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 164, sheet 8B, family 294, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 1286; FHL microfilm 1,375,299.

“United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QJDG-4NVV : 13 March 2018), Harry Benjamin Ablowitz, 1917-1918; citing Seattle City no 9, Washington, United States, NARA microfilm publication M1509 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,991,926.

“California, County Marriages, 1850-1952,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K8NL-RY8 : 8 December 2017), Harry Benjamin Ablowitz and Sylvia Goldstein, 08 Sep 1928; citing Los Angeles, California, United States, county courthouses, California; FHL microfilm 2,074,728.

“British Columbia Death Registrations, 1872-1986; 1992-1993”, database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FL1B-SKW : 8 November 2017), Harry Benjamin Ablowitz, 1983.

“Find A Grave Index,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVGH-VFJD : 13 December 2015), Harry Benjamin Ablowitz, 1983; Burial, Burnaby, Greater Vancouver Regional District, British Columbia, Canada, Beth Israel Cemetery and Memorial Garden; citing record ID 117760152, Find a Grave, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/117760152: “Harry Benjamin Ablowitz; Birth: 14 Jun 1897; Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon, USA; Death: 28 Jul 1983 (aged 86), Vancouver, Greater Vancouver Regional District, British Columbia, Canada; Burial: Beth Israel Cemetery and Memorial Garden, Burnaby, Greater Vancouver Regional District, British Columbia, Canada; MEMORIAL ID: 117760152.”

3 thoughts on “Sylvia Court Apartments (later the Sylvia Hotel)

  1. Pingback: Edmund Blow (1889-1975) | westendvancouver

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