Updated: Aug 1, 2020
When the Nelson Daily News closed in 2010, it vacated its home at 266 Baker St., where it had been since 1908. However, the newspaper itself had been around since 1902, and therefore had some earlier quarters.
The Nelson Daily News building in 2001 …
… and in 2019, as Mountain Waters Spa and the UBC teacher training campus. (The spa has since moved out.)
When F.J. Deane bought the Nelson Daily Miner in 1902 and changed its name to the Daily News, he remained in the same location as the Miner, which in 1900-01 was given in the civic directory as Ward near Baker.
The rival Tribune suspended publication in February 1902 amid financial problems. The Victoria Daily Times reported on June 3, 1902 that a court order allowed the Tribune’s liquidator “to accept an offer from F.J. Dean [sic] of the Nelson Daily News to use the Tribune plant, upon giving a bond in double the value of the plant.” And the Economist of June 14 further noted: “The News is now printed in the old Tribune office, a thing never dreamt of in the philosophy of the manager of the latter paper.”
The old Tribune office referred to still stands at 356-58 Baker and has a fascinating history that you can read about elsewhere. The Daily News stayed there until mid-March 1903. and then moved to 524 Vernon Street — the present home of Jackson’s Hole and Grill. Although it wasn’t there very long, it’s surprising this detail has completely fallen from local memory.
524 Vernon Street has been a lot of things, including a series of wholesale grocers and restaurants, a candy factory, and the offices of the Nelson Daily News.
Despite its imposing size, attractive appearance, historic use, pair of phantom signs, and star turn in a movie, this three-storey building has received relatively short shrift in local heritage circles until recently.
It gets little attention in Nelson: A Proposal for Urban Heritage Conservation. It was added to the city’s heritage register in 1994, but it took until 2020 for a statement of significance to be written. It is on the Columbia Basin Trust’s built heritage inventory, as seen below.
The building was erected in 1897 by A. MacDonald and Co. as a wholesale grocery warehouse. The firm of Lapointe and Brown did the brick work. The grand opening was marked with a Dominion Day ball on the second floor. The Knights of Pythias met on an upper floor. Mrs. D.B. Murray also offered voice and piano lessons there.
The Nelson Electric Tramway Co. purchased the building in the summer of 1899 for their offices, after which it was known interchangeably as the MacDonald Block and the Tramway Block.
This is one of the earliest known photos of the McDonald Block, taken from a ca. 1899 panorama that belongs to Douglas Jones. Unusually, it also shows the Klondyke and Kootenay Hotels to the west. There aren’t many photos of those two hotels, and fewer still that show all three buildings.
Here’s the smoking gun about the Daily News’ move into the building, from the March 17, 1903 edition:
524 Vernon was also home to a candy factory, run by J.A. McDonald. Here’s one of his ads from 1905.
McDonald is listed in the 1905 civic directory as operating a wholesale fruit, produce, and confectionery business on Vernon street, near Josephine. In 1911, he built a jam factory in the 300 block of Vernon Street, which was later expanded and is also still standing. The latter has been home to the Kootenay Cattle Co. and Academy of Classical Oriental Sciences among other businesses and is now Retreat Guru.
The Daily News was only at 524 Vernon until 1907, when it moved to the Alan Block at 503½ Baker, on the corner of Baker and Ward (now the site of the Medical Arts Building, built in 1930).
F.J. Deane sold the paper in 1908 to a Conservative consortium who soon bought the London and BC Goldfields building and moved the office there, where the paper remained for over a century, albeit with several additions (sympathetic and otherwise).
In 1913, the Tramway Company sold the building to Carl Mohr of Winnipeg, but the deal appears to have fallen through.
The worst moment in the building’s history occurred on Sept. 22, 1913 when three-year-old Waneta Clark fell from the window of her family’s third-storey apartment. Dr. W.O. Rose hurried to her aid, but she soon died.
In 1914, the building became home to Nelson’s first public market. Local ranchers came on Saturday mornings to sell their produce. Also that year, National Plumbing and Heating Co. set up shop while Charles W. Riley rented out furnished rooms.
On Jan. 29, 1916, A.S. Horswill & Co. opened a new wholesale store there, selling groceries, cigars, and animal feed. It’s his name that remains emblazoned in a phantom sign at the top of the building, which has been touched up at least once.
Horswill operated until sometime in the 1920s when his manager, William R. Campion, started his own grocery there, but it failed during the Depression. Campion’s name nevertheless survives in a phantom sign at the entrance (which is covered when the restaurant patio is out).
From 1922 until the mid-1960s, the building was owned by the Marsden family and known as the Marsden Block. (The family is also the namesake of Marsden Road in Taghum.)
I’m not sure what the building was used for in the rest of the 1930s, but Jacob Chess had a second-hand store there from 1939-51. It was also Arrow Van and Stage’s warehouse in 1951. It was Schneider’s Exchange, another second hand store in 1953, and Kootenay Exchange, operated by Roy Kilford from 1955-66.
The building was also home to a barber shop, operated first by William Sommers from 1936 to the late 1950s, and then by Carl Swanson in the 1960s and early 1970s.
524 Vernon St., 1979. Image I-06118 courtesy of the Royal BC Museum and Archives
Hood’s Bakery proprietor Herbert Miller owned the building from 1967-76. By 1971, it was Village Pizza, the first in a long line of restaurants. It was Mamma Rosa’s Trattoria from 1978-84, owned by Kennedy Facchina, and the Prospect Inn Towne in the mid-1980s. In 1986, the interior and exterior were used as Dixie’s Cafe during filming of Roxanne.
524 Vernon Street became Dixie’s Cafe for filming of Roxanne in the summer of 1986. Al Peterson photo
Here are two classic scenes featuring the building.
In the 1987 civic directory, the building was listed as Antonio’s Restaurant. By 1989 it became the All Star Restaurant and Grill (Tony Arcuri and Pat Price, props.), then Alycia’s (1992-93), Rickaby’s (around 1994), and finally Jackson’s Hole (2006).
Updated on Jan. 15, 2020 to correct the fact that the building is indeed on the city’s heritage register and on June 18, 2020 to add details from the statement of significance and to note the Daily News moved to 524 Vernon from 356-58 Baker. Updated on July 31, 202 to add the 1979 photo.