550-560 Yates Street

Perhaps the most intriguing building on Yates Street is the Oriental Hotel, named for its location adjacent to Oriental Alley (the alley no longer exists). In 1883 William McKeon commissioned the eastern half of this structure adjacent to his Oriental Saloon. Designed by John Teague, the hotel was “a brick hotel of three stories… The front is supported on arches resting on an iron columns, and bay windows run through the upper stories” according to the Daily Colonist report of January 5, 1884. An addition in 1888, also by Teague, doubled the frontage on Yates Street and replaced the old saloon building.

A feature of this addition was an ornate cupola-like tower that once graced the southwest corner of the hotel. From sunset to sunrise, a light was kept burning in the tower; mariners used the light as an aid to navigation. The name was changed to the St. Francis Hotel in 1906 and retained that name for several years, although it suffered a severe loss of business during Prohibition from 1917-1921. It survived by renting rooms and, in 1958 was acquired by Goodwill Enterprises for the Handicapped who used it for a second-hand store and warehouse; they sold used materials to raise funds to help their disabled clientele. It has since been acquired by LeFevre and Co who will be undertaking a complete restoration and adaptive reuse project in September 2009.


This Hallmark Heritage Society project was funded by the HBC Foundation and the BC150-Heritage Legacy Fund

Project manager and researcher: Helen Edwards

Principal Photography & Consultant: Ron Bukta, West Ventures Photography