In this space I have previously told the story of Pete Larson and his Hotel North Vancouver, built at the corner of Esplanade and Chesterfield in 1902. Recently, in the Vancouver Archives I came across a cute story about Larson as collected by Vancouver’s first official archivist, Major J.S. Matthews in 1932.
There is a rather good story of how Pete Larson of North Vancouver got his wooden sidewalk to his hotel— just to the west of what is now Lonsdale Avenue — on what is now Esplanade, the road was just a trail though the orchard to the Indian Reserve, etc.; there was no sidewalk, and Pete wanted one, for his hotel was a Sunday afternoon resort for Vancouver people who wanted ‘somewhere to go.’
So Pete went to the mayor of North Vancouver, and suggested that if the mayor would supply the labour, he (Pete) would supply the lumber and nails. The mayor agreed. Then Pete went to Joe W. McFarland, who owned a lot of property there, and said that if he — Mr. McFarland — would supply the lumber and nails, he (Pete) would supply the labour. Joe agreed, and the sidewalk was put down.
Some time after Joe and the mayor met, and Joe said to the mayor, ‘What do you think of my sidewalk?’ ‘Your sidewalk,’ exclaimed the mayor, ‘Your sidewalk! We supplied the labour.’ Soon afterwards, Joe and the mayor decided that they had better wait upon Pete and ‘see about it.’ Pete saw them coming, and slipped into the bar, and when they arrived Pete was behind the bar, and greeted them luxuriantly with, ‘Come right in, gentlemen, and have a drink.’
A nice little tale that shows the cleverness of Larson, who also built The Canyon View Hotel near the present-day spot of the Cleveland Dam. Who exactly were the two men that he tricked into providing him with a free sidewalk? In the original tale from 1932, the Mayor of North Vancouver is not mentioned by name, but since North Vancouver did not even have a mayor until it was incorporated in 1907, the mayor in question was likely the very first one; Arnold Evan Kealy. Born in 1870 in England, Kealy was initially a Reeve of North Vancouver starting in 1905 and would actually chair the committee that put in motion the incorporation of the city.
The other gentleman mentioned in Larson’s sidewalk story was Joe W. McFarland. He was born in Ontario and was an early real estate investor in Vancouver and the North Shore. He was involved in the creation of Vancouver’s Water and Electric Light Companies in 1886. In 1894 he created the brokerage of Mahon, McFarland and Mahon that would own many investments in North Vancouver.
It would appear that Larson, the immigrant sailor from Sweden and successful hotelier, managed to outwit two very prominent individuals in order to procure a sidewalk to his popular establishment. I certainly hope he ended up providing Kealy and McFarland a few complimentary drinks that night they angrily stormed his hotel bar.