More On The Buftons

In another place, I have written about a marvelous lunch I had this week with JoAnn Bufton, granddaughter of Hubert and Catherine Bufton, founders of the florist shop that flourished on the Drive from 1920 through the mid-1980s. In addition to the wonderful oral history she was able to provide, she also gave me some images of the shops. This first one is the store at 1520 Commercial Drive, and is therefore from before December 1955.

1520 Commercial Drive1

The second is from after they moved to 1675 Commercial, in the Bentholme Building.

1675 Commercial Drive1

Excellent examples of historic window dressing, for which Bufton’s won numerous awards.

The Bentholme Building

Those residents of Grandview who have been here for more than, say, seventy years might remember that the north west corner of First & Commercial was the site of the Grandview School of Commerce.

0111-1Since the mid-1980s,this has been the site of Il Mercarto Mall, which is how most people think of it.However, from the demolition of the School in the 1950s until the construction of the Mall in the 1980s, there existed a rather undistinguished building called the Bentholme which is rarely recalled today.

The School had been built in 1905 and flourished for several decades. From 1940 until 1955, the site was the subject of protracted and unpleasant negotiations between the Vancouver School Board (VSB), the Vancouver Library Board (VLB), and the Grandview Chamber of Commerce.  The Chamber wanted the school demolished and replaced with commercial and retail businesses more suitable to such a major intersection. The School Board kept changing its mind as to whether it needed the space, and the VLB kept changing its mind about whether they would become a tenant in a new building.

Eventually, the VSB closed the School in 1950 and, to make matters worse from the Chamber’s point of view, they allowed the main building and various sheds and playgrounds abutting Commercial to fall into ruinous disrepair.  At the same time, the VLB decided that Grandview didn’t deserve a library at all.

In 1954, Super-Valu paid $40,000 for the west half of the School lots, the School was demolished and the supermarket built, leaving the lots along Commercial still vacant and decrepit.

After a further year of difficult negotiations, a developer managed to buy the lots and, after promising an elegant two-storey building with offices above, eventually threw up a single-storey flat roofed structure with the unexplained complaint that “the City had tied their hands.”  The Grandview Chanber of Commerce made the best of it, wheeling out former alderman and local man Syd Bowman to officially open the project on a rainy cold day in January 1956.

The structure was called the Bentholme Building, the name a combination of long-time alderman John Bennett and long-time Echo editor Alex Holmes.  The Bufton’s popular florist shop, which had been on the Drive since the 1920s, took the prominent corner space and they were joined as founding retailers by Docksteader Drugs, Bo-Peepe Children’s Wear and a group practice of doctors and dentists.

I had never found a photograph of the Bentholme Building — though some must exist — and I was reminded of this history when today I found, with great pleasure, the following photograph in the Echo of 13th June 1974.

First and Commercial 1974If you know of any other photographs of this building, we would appreciate seeing them and sharing them here.

Remembrance Day 1930

On Remembrance Day 1930, the flagstaff and cairn to the memory of the Grandview lads who had fallen in the First War were dedicated in Grandview Park by Archbishop DePencier.

The memorial had been the idea of Catherine Bufton who, with her husband Hubert, ran the very popular Bufton’s Florists on the Drive. She had made the war memorial the primary project of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Chamber of Commerce for several years and her efforts had finally paid off.

Thousands turned out for the dedication. Mayor Malkin gave a brief but “stirring” speech and massed choirs sang “O Canada”, “For All The Saints” and “O God Our Help In Ages Past.”  Finally, the solemn ceremony was completed with two minutes’ silence.

Hubert Bufton organized Remembrance Day ceremonies at the Park for several years thereafter.  When the Grandview Branch of the Canadian Legion was formed in 1945, they took over responsibility.

[See King 2011, p.28; Province and Sun, 11/11/1930; and News Herald 1/7/38]

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.