A Vancouver time travelogue brought to you by Past Tense.
Few Vancouver addresses have as many stories attached to them as 1215 Bidwell Street, the old Maxine’s Hideaway in the West End, now a condo tower called the Alexandra. While the many stories of secret tunnels, rum runners, the death of Errol Flynn, a secret brothel in the basement of a beauty school, and ghosts may be exaggerated or fabricated, one verifiable tale ended in 1960 after six cars filled with FBI agents and plainclothes Vancouver Police descended on Maxine’s Apartment Hotel and arrested Fulbright Scholar and murderer, Joseph Corbett Jr.
Corbett earned the title America’s Most Wanted after kidnapping and murdering Adolph Coors III, the heir to the Coors beer family dynasty. A nationwide manhunt, which included the distribution of 1.5 million wanted posters of Corbett, led the fugitive to Canada, first Toronto, where investigators found a copy of Anatomy of a Murder in a room Corbett had stayed in, then Winnipeg, and finally, 1215 Bidwell, where he had checked in under the name Thomas C Wainwright nine months after committing the dastardly deed. Mary Bell, the landlady at Maxine’s, said Corbett was polite, quiet, and always paid his rent on time.
Corbett had been a brilliant student with a promising future but broke bad after his mother died in a fall from a balcony in 1949. The following year, Corbett killed a hitchhiker in California and was convicted of second degree murder. A psychiatrist judged him to be intellectually gifted but emotionally unstable. In 1955 Corbett escaped from prison, headed to Denver, Colorado, and began using the name Walter Osbourne. He abducted Coors and sent his wife a ransom note demanding half a million dollars. She got the money together, but never heard from him again, perhaps because Coors died during the abduction attempt and Corbett was already on the run. Detectives found that Corbett had sent away for handcuffs and related accoutrements, and had recently bought the typewriter that he used to type the ransom note.
Joseph Corbett Jr was released from prison in 1979 and committed suicide in 2009.