A Lost Church Refound

“You have a very nice, bright little church here — even if it is out in the stumps,” declared Rev. Merton Smith as he preached the afternoon sermon of the Park Drive Methodist Church on Sunday 26th June, 1904. (1)

The brand new Park Drive branch of the Princess Street Methodist Church had been erected “on the fringe of the City’s populated district” standing “almost alone in the midst of what remains of a one-time huge forest. Burned and charred stumps, an undergrowth of green shoots, and a rough newly-opened road” surrounded the building. Though there were very few houses within shouting distance of the new church, there “poured forth a goodly number of persons who filled the new building to overflowing both at the morning and afternoon services.”

The idea for a new church had arisen the previous fall. At a meeting of the Quarterly Official Board of the Princess Street Methodist Church in November of 1903, it was noted that “the far east [of Vancouver] is so rapidly building up that it will ere long boast a not inconsiderable population.” They were already overcrowded at Princess Street, and had moved their Sunday school into rented space at the old Episcopal church building on Campbell Avenue. However, the Board members decided the rent money would be put to better use paying for another church that would be their own property, and realtor J.B. Mathers was contacted to assist them in this endeavour. (2)

Mathers secured for them two lots on the northeast corner of Park Drive and Barnard Street. After some delay while the property owners were contacted in England, the lots were purchased for $350 which was advanced by eight church members. Robert Clarke, secretary of the Princess Street church, then wrote to the Vancouver Board of Works (BOW) requesting that Park Drive be opened from Venables Street north to Powell. The BOW wouldn’t go that far, but agreed to open the street from Venables to Barnard. Later, the BOW also approved the laying of a sidewalk from Venables to the new church. (3)

On 14th April 1904, the Church was issued a building permit. They had secured a contract with builder A.E. Carter who agreed to construct the building for $1,000. A few weeks later, two dozen members of the Princess Street congregation “took a holiday” and cleared the lots. (4)

By June, the building was ready, with workers busy until nine o’clock the night before the dedication completing the final touches. Even after that late hour, Trustees William Raine and J.W. Burns had worked to clean up and decorate the interior with “a mass of flowers gathered by the children of east end families.” (5)

The 11:00am dedication service was supervised by Rev. J.F. Betts, chairman of the Vancouver Methodist district. He arrived ten minutes late, “mopping his brow” with heavy perspiration, having walked through the hot morning all the way from Greer’s Beach in Kitsilano where he and his family were currently camping. Notwithstanding his exertions, Betts was “in one of his happiest sermon moods” and the service, enliven by the Princess Street choir, was “thoroughly enjoyed” by the congregation of about 175 people. A similar number came for the afternoon service given by Rev. Smith.

At the services on that day, the church managed to raise $227.45 which was paid to the builder’s account. Church officials stated their hope that “in five years they will have paid every cent of debt on the new building.”  We can only assume that Carter the builder was an amiable chap.

The pastor of the new church, Rev. R. Newton Powell, was a 36-year old Englishman. He had spent seven years on church work in the West Indies where he married. In 1897 they moved to British Columbia on account of Mrs. Powell’s health, and he had served at various locations in the interior before coming to Princess Street. He is described as “a thoughtful, forceful, and flowery preacher with a thoroughly evangelical ring about him.”(6)

Rev. Powell was eventually replaced by Mr. Van Dyke, “a returned missionary from Japan on furlough”, who supervised the church for about a year. He then gave way to Rev. J.J. Nixon.  In 1908, the Park Street Church became independent of Princess Street, and the Rev. R.S. Stillman was installed as pastor, supervising Sunday School attendances of up to 200. It was already clear that a larger building was urgently required and three lots were purchased on Venables Street at the corner of Victoria Drive, where a $5,000 church was dedicated in March 1909, and the Park Drive Church was abandoned. (7)

Unfortunately, I have been unable to locate any photographs of the Park Drive Church. I assume the original building was rapidly dismantled as it does not appear on the 1912 Goad’s map.  The lots have been empty since then, and were partly subsumed beneath the Commercial Drive Diversion that was built in 1931. The remainder now forms part of the parking lot on the west side of the Drive between Venables and Adanac.

 

Notes:

(1) Commercial Drive prior to 1911 was called Park Drive. Descriptions of the dedicatory ceremony are from Vancouver World 1904 June 27, p.3, and the Western Methodist Recorder 1904 July. The author thanks Blair Galston, United Church Conference Archivist for this latter reference.

(2) Vancouver World 1903 November 20, p.6; 1904 June 27, p.3

(3) The intersection is currently known as Commercial Drive and Adanac Street. The lots were DL 183 Block 9D, Lot 1-2. “$350”: Vancouver World 1904 June 27, p.3. Board of Works: Minutes 3 Mar, and 2 June 1904, CVA, MCR-36 Roll 2; Vancouver World, 4 Mar 1904, p.5, June 3, p.5; News-Advertizer, 4 Mar 1904, p.4, 11 Mar p.5

(4)  “holiday”: Vancouver World 1904 June 27, p.3

(5)  Other Trustees included Victor Odlum, J. Horner, Alderman Angus MacDonald, and Robert G. Clarke.

(6)  Vancouver World 1904, June 27, p.3

(7) Vancouver World 1909 Mar 6, p.13. The “new” church is now the Vancouver East Cultural Centre.

 

James Guinet: A Builder of Grandview

Between 1908 and 1912, during the boom that essentially created Grandview,  James Guinet was responsible for building at least 45 houses in the community, and probably more. But only the barest of facts are known about him.  These are notes for a biography of what might be one of the most important figures of Grandview’s early history.

James Edward Guinet was born in North Orilla, Ontario, just before Christmas 1873.  He was the second son of a Quebec Catholic father, Mitchell, and an Anglo Methodist mother, Elizabeth.  The family would eventually comprise four boys — James, Victor (b. 1872), Michael (1876), and John Davis (1879) — and a girl, Mary (1886.)

Family history has it that the Guinets were house builders in Muskoka but sometime in the 1890s the family moved to British Columbia, settling in New Westminster where, by 1901, all the males were working in the building trades.  The father, Mitchell, and James were carpenters, while Victor, Michael and John were employed as labourers.  In the twelve months prior to the census that year, James had worked every month and earned $650.  His brothers were making $480-$500 each.

By 1904, the youngest brother, John Davis Guinet, had moved to Vancouver, finding lodging at 242 Barnard (later Adanac) Street. In the following year he had been joined by James and Michael and they all took rooms together at 1155 Denman before moving again to 911 Drake Street. In 1906, James, then 33, married the 22 year old Margaret McInnes.  The couple stayed on in Drake Street, while the brothers took a place at 1503 Venables Street where they were joined by their father and mother.

1556 Grant Street as it is in 2012

There is a “dark ages” of Vancouver development between 1905 and 1908 during which period the building permits have disappeared.  James Edward Guinet took out a building permit for a house on Seymour Street valued at $1,000 in December 1904, the first known in his name, and he re-appears, as we shall see, as a busy builder in 1909.  However, we are left simply assuming that he was developing houses during this dark period, perhaps in Grandview.  He certainly listed himself as a contractor in the Directories for those years, and by early 1909 he and his wife had moved into the neighbourhood, to a house at 1556 Grant which he may well have built himself, though the permit is missing.

January 1909 saw Guinet receive a building permit for four “cottages” at 1128-48 Odlum Drive.  These still stand.   In March he was working on two more houses at 1133 and 1143 McLean Drive.  These first six houses for which we have records were each valued at $1,000.  His next set, four houses comprising 1704, 1710, 1716 and 1722 Cotton Drive, for which he received permits in April, each cost $1,500.  This run of buildings is also still in place today.

1718 and 1722 Cotton Drive today

By June 1909 he was building a $1,500 house at 2156 Napier Street, and another set of four houses in the 900 block McLean Drive.  These last were valued at $1,800 each and survived until the Britannia expansion in 1970.  August and September brought forth 1141, 1143, 1145 and 1149 McLean, along with another row of four houses along the 1700-block of Cotton Drive.  He closed out the year by building four more houses across the street from his own home on Grant Street. All 13 of these houses survive to this day.

1737 Charles Street in 2012

By 1910, several of Guinet’s new houses were being valued at $2,000 a piece.  In January he recieved permits for 1316 and 1322 Cotton Drive and 1216 and 1222 Woodland Drive.  In February he built a smaller house at 1953 Bismark. April saw new permits for 1423 Woodland Drive, and a series of three houses along the south side of the 1400-block  Parker Street.  In May he retuened to McLean Drive, building four more houses along the west side of the 1000-block.  He closed out the year, in October, with a permit to build 1737 Charles for $2,600.

1521 Victoria as it is in 2012

The only permit available for James Guinet in 1911 is for the four houses that make up the double corner at Victoria Drive and Graveley Street.  However, these were the most expensive series of houses in his resume to date at a cost of $2,500 each.  The four houses — 1521-1541 Victoria and 1885 Graveley — are still a part of the neighbourhood.

More importantly for James Guinet was the purchase that year of a 1905 house at 2575 Cornwall Avenue where he moved his wife and young son, Allan. Perhaps he needed more space for his family or, perhaps, the view over English Bay seemed better than that at Grant Street.  He built himself a garage and settled in.

In 1912 he built the lovely Belmont Building at 1435 Commercial Drive, and four houses on Keith Drive in Cedar Cottage.

The Belmont Block at 1435 Commercial Drive

These are the last of the permits we find in his name although he continued to be called a contractor in the 1913 Directory.  By the middle of 1914 he was working for Waghorn, Gwynn & Company as a real estate valuer.  It seems likely that he was the victim of the global economic crisis that struck in the lead up to World War One and which effectively put a stop to speculative building in Grandview and most places in Vancouver.  However, he must still have had some capital as in 1915 he purchased the John Denholm Farm on Fairfield Island in Chilliwack, moving there with his wife and son and taking up farming.

Although the rest of the family remained at 1503 Venables for several years, James’ brother John Davis also moved to Chilliwack, and it was from there that the two brothers enlisted in the Canadian Army in 1916.  They both survived the experience, James Edward Guinet not dying until 17 February 1958.  His son, Allan Guinet, became a lawyer and magistrate in Chilliwack, co-founder and benefactor of the Chilliwack Historical Society which holds his papers.

This is probably the longest post on this website but it still seems like so little information about a man who contributed upwards of 50 buildings to the Grandview community.  We need to know more about James Guinet and pioneers like him. What inspired him to choose Grandview?  How did he develop his first capital?  Why did he build the styles of houses that he did?  What really caused him to stop building in 1912 or 1913?  He and his kind are far too important to be forgotten.

[Note: I have written above that Guinet built four houses in the 1100-block McLean in August 1909.  The permits list just two houses, but the four that we see today were all built at the same time and the lot numbers in the permit include the full run.  I suspect there was a second permit or the original was adjusted later.]

How Grand View Was Sold

In 1903 and 1904, Grandview (or “Grand View” as it was generally called then) was being opened, with uncleared lots being offered in dribs and drabs in the early months, and then in a rush as 1904 began. By early 1904, one particular realtor — Dow, Fraser & Co. — seemed to have cornered the market and was offering hundreds of lots in the neighbourhood.

During the next couple of years, Dow, Fraser & Co. had a regular advertising space in the World newspaper, page 3 each Saturday, and they sang the praises of the neighbourhood they were boosting.

“Grand View — the prettiest situation in the city that affords you the advantages of tram service, pure air, lovely scenery, high and dry, above the fogs.” [24 Aug 1904]

“Grand View, the recognized coming district of the city … It has the tramline, and unsurpassed view of the entire city harbor and False Creek.  High above the fogs it gets all the sunshine in winter time.“ [23 Jan 1905]

“A greater demand than ever has sprung up for their choice section of the city.  Why? Every word we told you was so.  It is high and dry; it is on the hill; it overlooks the city.  Improved car service; new school; water mains, streets graded and opened; also sidewalk being laid.”  [18 Sept 1905]

“Every buyer here is making money.  There is a quick turnover, values steadily rising and development is rapidly taking place.  Good car service, new water mains.  A splendid $10,000 school building just completed and the city is rapidly pushing forward the street work in this section.” [12 Oct 1905]

With lots starting at $75 (with $10 down and the balance at $5 a month) it is no wonder the neighbourhood filled up so quickly!