When A Housing Market Crashes

There is much talk in Vancouver these days about how the “housing bubble” may have burst, that the astonishing rise of house prices over the last couple of years is coming to an end and that, perhaps, prices may actually fall.  Given this background, I was interested to have access this week to a few pages of the City of Vancouver property tax assessment register for the years 1933 to 1939.

The pages cover Block 67 in Grandview; a residential block enclosed by Clark Drive, Graveley Street, McLean Drive, and First Avenue and consisting of 24 separate lots. Nine of these lots were occupied by dwellings during the period 1933-1939, while fifteen were vacant.  The period covers the depths of the Depression before eastside Vancouver’s housing market improved with the influx of wartime workers from 1940.

Using 1933 as the baseline (100%) value for the assessment, the following two charts show the fall in assessed values through 1939.

Vacant Lot Assessments

Property Assessments

In 1933, the vacant lot assessments ranged from a low of $500 to a high of $630.  The property assessments in the same year ranged from $1,280 to $3,500.

As a further indication of how housing markets can fall from dizzying heights, lots 15 and 16 in this Block which were together assessed at $1,155 in 1933 and $795 in 1939 had been offered for sale during the crazy boom year of 1910 at $7,250.

International Women’s Day: Catherine Bufton

In honour of International Women’s Day, I thought I’d write a short piece on one of the most dynamic women ever to grace Grandview and Commercial Drive.

Catherine Bufton (nee Drake) was born in Gloucester, England, in 1881.  She emigrated to Manitoba where she met and married Hubert Bufton.  After Hubert’s service in World War One, the couple moved to Vancouver in 1919. Hubert had been seriously injured during the war and during recuperation, he and Catherine learned floral basket weaving.  They put this to use by opening Bufton Florists at 1520 Commercial in 1923, living in an apartment upstairs. The company would be a fixture on the Drive until 1982.

In the late 1920s, Catherine pushed the Grandview Chamber of Commerce to create a Women’s Auxillary branch of the Chamber and she became the Auxillary’s first President. The Auxillary’s first project, devised and organized by Mrs. Bufton, was the War Memorial in Grandview Park which was dedicated in November 1930.  Their next project was the creation of the Grandview Lawn Bowling Association’s greens which took over Victoria Park and the building of a large clubhouse on the Salsbury side of the park. It was opened for the first season in the spring of 1933.  Catherine Bufton helped persuaded the necessary authorities to make this a works relief project and many local artisans suffering in the Depression received useful paychecks while preparing the ground.

Catherine and Hubert had been founding members of the CCF in the early 1930s, and in the 1937 Provincial election, Catherine ran unsuccessfully for the Reconstruction Party.  They were also active in veterans’ issues and helped lead Victory Bond fundraising during the Second World War.

When Hubert died in 1944, Catherine continued with the business, being joined by their son Frank. However, in early 1950 she retired to her new home and garden in West Vancouver.  She returned briefly when Bufton’s Florists moved to the new Bentholme Building on the corner of First and Commercial, but spent much of her retirement traveling the world with her daughter.  She died in West Vancouver in May 1967.

The image is taken from the Highland Echo of May 27, 1937.