James Welton Horne was born in 1853. His mother was born in England and his father had arrived from Germany. In Canada he established a woolen mill, eventually becoming a partner in Clarke Woolen Mills in Toronto, where James was born. He died when James was nine, and as a result James left school to work on a farm to help support his mother and four younger siblings, moving to another farm in Pickering aged 11 where he was able to continue at school every other day until he was able to get work helping a church Minister when he was able resume full time schooling.
At 15 he apprenticed as a mechanical engineer for five years, leaving his salary to accumulate and then investing the resulting $3,000 in the company, (or $5,000 – even contemporary records don’t agree) and being offered a directorship at that point. He sold out aged 22, and became an insurance agent until in spring 1878 he headed to California, but by summer was in Winnipeg (still a town of only 3,000) setting up an insurance and shipping agency, later adding loan valuation to his portfolio.
In 1881 it was apparent the CPR would be extended westwards, and speculation started to guess where settlements would spring up. As an 1889 publication explains: “Mr. Horne entered into an agreement with the railway company by which he was given a certain quantity of land at a fixed price, and on his erecting business buildings he was to have a rebate. He at once opened an office, or rather erected a tent on the prairie, divided his land into lots, opened and graded streets and when this preliminary work was accomplished began the erection of buildings.” He persuaded the government land agent to set up his office here, and then to get a post office, and thus the city of Brandon was established. Although his role is acknowledged in an 1882 publication “Brandon, Manitoba, Canada and her Industries”, which concludes “We may safely state that no man in Brandon has accomplished more for the welfare of the city than Mr. Horne, and in years to come he will be remembered as one of the founders of the Infant City, and a leader in laying the foundation of her greatness” the ‘remembered’ part doesn’t seem to be true as his name doesn’t appear at all on the extensive ‘Heritage Brandon’ website. He was an Alderman, the Chairman of the City Board of Works and the province made him Commision of the Peace.
With an eye to repeating his success, Horne travelled to Burrard Inlet via California in 1883, but chose not to invest yet. He visited again in 1884, and bought some farm land, (his arrival from Nanaimo being recorded as J W Horn). In March 1886 he moved across and started serious land purchase (although many of his investments were outside the area torched by the fire).
It would appear that Mr Horne was married, but separated. He was certainly living alone in 1881 according to the census of that year, and this is also true in 1901 when he is recorded as being single, and a boarder. In 1911 he is recorded as a widower, lodging, and he has added two years to nis age, now shown as being born in 1851. Somehow he seems to evaded the 1881 census. Searching the Directories of the period shows Mr Horne moving on a regular basis – and most of the time living in a hotel. And not just any hotel – at times it was the Hotel Vancouver, at others the Badminton and earlier the Leland.
Once in Vancouver J W Horne wasted no time in acquiring, and then re-selling land. As he had in Brandon, he bought land from the CPR. They had of course been given it as an incentive to bring the terminus of the line to what would soon become Vancouver. Both David Oppenheimer’s land company and the Brighouse/Morton/Hailstorm partnership who owned the West End had given the CPR hundreds of acres. Once surveyed and in some cases cleared by CPR crews, the lots were auctioned off. Horne was an avid purchaser of land, both in the Gastown area and further west in Coal Harbour. At one point his assets were said to be second in value only to the CPR themselves. It isn’t recorded whether he had built anything to lose in the fire, but given the timing of his arrival it seems unlikely. Once the city was rebuilding, the demand for well-located lots heated up, and as a land agent Mr Horne had good sites to sell, and as demand rose so too did the prices. In 1887 1889 J W Horne’s assets were assessed at $40,000. in 1889 they were worth $125,000, and in 1891 $156,000, making him the fifth wealthiest landowner in the city (and the CPR and Vancouver Improvement Company were in the first and second spots).
This wasn’t only connected to land values rising – J W was becoming a very active developer too. It was said that “only four years after his arrival in Vancouver, Horne had built major brick blocks on most of Vancouver’s principal streets”
As in Brandon Mr Horne also built property – there it was to intice new business, in Vancouver it was just to be part of the massive growth taking place all round. In 1889 he completed a flat-iron building that backed onto the Springer-Van Bramer block on West Cordova Street.
Like Springer and Van Bramer he hired N S Hoffar as the architect. The block had elaborate cornice details and a turret (sadly, now gone) and a tiny juliet balcony on the snub point of the flatiron angel.
A year later he completed another building nearby on Cambie Street. Again, N S Hoffar was the designer. The block is unusual in having two retail floors behind the cast iron facade, with stairs up and down from the sidewalk. Among several significant tenants were the Bank of North America (1892), Rand Bros. Real Estate (1896) and G.A. Roedde, bookbinder (1896). In addition, Atlen H. Towle, architect of the First Presbyterian Church (1894) at East Hastings and Gore Avenue, had premises here. Between 1910 and 1925, several publishing and lithography firms had their offices here, no doubt due to the proximity of the Province and Sun newspaper buildings.
Another building still standing that can be linked to him is the Yale Hotel. Completed in 1889, designed once again by N S Hoffar, the Colonial Hotel (as it was initially called) was completed at a cost of $10,000. When completed it stood isolated from most development in the recently cleared forest near Yaletown’s railyards and lumber mills. The name the Yale was adopted in 1907 when new proprietors took over. In 1909 an addition was built to the east, designed by W T Whiteway. In 2011 a new condo block, The Rolston, was being built to the south of the building with a restoration of the hotel as part of the development.
J W had an additional financial operation in the city. He founded the Vancouver Loan Trust Savings and Guarantee with at least three other partners; H T Ceperley, H A Jones and R G Tatlow. Ceperley was Manager of the operation, and married to A G Ferguson’s sister. He had no money of his own, but was successful at managing other peoples’ and the Daily World commented that the company bought and sold improved and unimproved real estate. As in Brandon, Horne wasn’t content to just operate his business and make money. He stood for election as an Alderman, and topped the poll in 1889 and 1890. From 1890 to 1894 he represented the city in the Provincial Legislature, turning down offers to become a Minister because of the business he was still conducting in the city. An 1890 publication listed his many interests.
The museum goes on to note that unfortunately, in 1894 the convenience of proximity to the Fraser River became inconveniene when the river flooded, and the town was later re-established further up the hill. His 1892 credit rating was good – and interestingly he is listed as a rancher on Lulu Island, another of his successful investments.
Mr A P Horne, who arrived in Vancouver in 1889, and was not a relative of James Welton Horne remembered meeting him in a conversation recorded by City Archivist Major Matthews in 1945. “Mr. Horne lived down on the corner of about Pender and Howe Street, and used to take his meals at the Hotel Vancouver. So one day I met him at the Hotel Vancouver; he said, ‘Good evening’ as I passed, so I sat down and we talked. He was a fine man. I think Mr. Horne was mixed with Mr. McKee in the street railway, what we call the B.C. Electric Railway now, and there were a lot of IOUs when it got into financial difficulty, and some of them were not Mr. Horne’s, but, as I understand it, he paid the whole lot of them.
“Anyway, we sat on the verandah of the Hotel Vancouver, and we were talking and he told me that he thought a lot of us young Englishmen. He said he didn’t play cricket or football or baseball, but he thought a lot of the young Englishmen who did. He was a very quiet man, I don’t think he belonged to any club; he was so busy looking after his financial interests. I think he married a” [blank]; “they did not live together and I think had agreed to separate.
“He said to me as we sat there that he had no ‘vices.’ Did not smoke or drink; collected his own rents, and had a rule that if the rent was not paid, he would collect 10 per cent extra when it was overdue. So I said to him that he was full of vice; that to charge 10 per cent extra interest was a vice; to collect interest on rent was vice. So I told him how much better it would be if he stopped charging that ten per cent extra on the rent. He told me that evening that he thought he was worth three million.”
Mr Horne lived on into the 1920s, dying in February 1922. His significant assets were divided among his three sisters.