The recent fire and demolition of the Winters Hotel at Water and Abbott Streets was a shock and is a loss for Gastown and the city. Designed in 1907 by W.T. Whiteway for Mrs Alice Winters, the hotel welcomed travellers and businessmen to Vancouver. For its day it was a good hotel with 120 rooms, 50 of which were ensuite, all rooms had hot and cold running water and a telephone. The tag line on their initial adverts was the “Perfect Hotel for Particular People.”
The hotel continued to welcome the travelling public through the First World War, but as the war neared its end the hotel began to transition to a residential hotel. A classified ad in 1916 noted that the rooms were fully furnished throughout, the now 96 rooms had hot and cold water, there were 9 private and 6 public baths and the rent was low “for good parties.”
A small item in the May 20, 1918 edition of the Vancouver Daily World caught my eye, it was a classified ad in the Lost and Found and Personal classifieds asking about the whereabouts of a steamer trunk left in the hotel’s storage room in 1915. The classified ad was placed by a Mrs Isabella McAfee of Glammis, Ontario, the trunk belonged to her son John.
So, curious I dug into a bit of research and found that John McAfee was born in Ontario to Hugh and Isabella McAfee in 1876. The census listed him as a farmer but in 1915 John is on the west coast to enlist in the Great War. His papers show he joined in March, 1915 in New Westminster and left for Europe from Montreal shortly thereafter. He was assigned to the Machine Gun Corps. and was posted to France. During his time was awarded the Military Medal for bravery under fire. The citation read in part: Private McAfee, from Apr 27 to 29 acted as runner and carried messages, through heavy artillery fire from his Section Officer to Coy. Hdqrs and also to guns of GIS section. His untiring energy and great courage called for special mention and his good work.
Unfortunately, John McAfee lost his life in March of 1917, almost exactly two years after enlisting. He was 38 years old and was buried at Vimy, Departement du Pas-de-Calais, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France.
It would appear the fate of the trunk remained a mystery and no other ads appear after the one month run in the Daily World. Mrs McAfee died in 1938.