Hotel Europe - 43 Powell Street
The 6-storey flatiron building that stands at the convergence of Water, Alexander and Powell Streets is the old Hotel Europe. It was completed in 1909 and is also known as the Angelo Calori Building after the hotelier who had it built. It was purposefully situated close to the old steamship docks at the foot of Columbia Street, from which a bus would transfer passengers to the hotel. It is the earliest reinforced concrete structure in Vancouver and was the first fire-proof hotel in western Canada. To this day, it still has its original Italian tile floors and leaded glass windows.
For its first few years, the Hotel Europe flourished. However, in 1916, the second Hotel Vancouver opened across town on the south side of West Georgia Street, between Howe and Granville Streets. The popularity of that newer, grander hotel quickly shifted the heart of the city to the southwest, away from the area that's now known as Gastown. As a result, the Hotel Europe lost favour and fell into disrepute as a brothel.
In the 1920s and 30s, the ground floor unit at the building's apex, which is currently occupied by a poster store, was a beer parlour. In the basement below was its keg cellar, which even today is accessible by stairs from the sidewalk entrance at the apex. This underground area extended beneath the sidewalk on both sides of the building in what were commonly known as "areaways". Areaways were once a typical feature of commercial buildings in Gastown. They were used to load and unload freight through trap doors in the sidewalk. The glass bricks that can still be seen in the sidewalk along Alexander and Powell Streets provided daylight to the areaways. The Hotel Europe's areaways were filled in and bricked up many years ago. Today, what remains of the cellar is used for storage. The upper floors of the building were converted into subsidized housing units in 1983.
The Hotel Europe houses one ghost for sure and possibly two. The first ghost was reported in the 1980s by a contractor who was working on some repairs on his own in the cellar, close to a bricked up areaway entrance. He had left the cellar briefly to fetch something and, when he returned, his tools had been scattered about the floor by unseen hands. He then heard scratching noises coming from behind the brick wall and felt a bad presence. Frightened by the experience, he hastily gathered up all of his tools and departed from the cellar as fast as he could, refusing to work down there again. To this day, scratching noises have been heard coming from the other side of the bricked up areaway in the cellar. It could be the sounds of rats or mice, of course, but remember - the areaways were all filled in years ago.
The second spirit, which is probably the same as the first, is the apparition of a man dressed in a black coat with a flat cap who appears in the poster shop on the street level. One evening in the early 2000s, just after closing, the poster store's owner first saw the ghost clearly reflected in the convex security mirror at the top end of the store, near the apex of the building. She was surprised to see him as she was sure that the store had been clear of customers when she had locked the door. When she went to investigate, nobody was there. The man had suddenly and silently vanished. Shaken by the strange experience, she locked up and left in a hurry. She also reported seeing the apparition again on another occasion. Whoever the man is, he's probably confused by finding a poster store where his favourite watering hole once was!