The Growth of Grandview 1901-1915

As mentioned in the report on this month’s meeting, I gave a presentation on the growth of Grandview using the data collated in the growing Grandview Database. This post is a brief and attenuated version of that report.

In the maps that follow, the following streets are highlighted to allow orientation:

Street Names

It has often been thought that the laying of the interurban tramline between Vancouver and New Westminster in 1891 brought about the growth of Grandview. While it is true the line ran down Venables Street and proceeded along Commercial Drive (then, Park Drive), there were no stops in Grandview itself.

What little development took place involved bringing building materials along the half-open Clark Drive and hauling them up the timber skid roads that ran down from the later Victoria Drive to False Creek between what would become William and Grant Streets.  This was probably a disappointment for the land owners of the area, but they did well enough in Cedar Cottage and Central Park where the tram really did spur development.

By the time of the 1901 Census, there were barely a dozen houses in the core area of Grandview, virtually all of them in the area of the skid road west of Park Drive.


The blue block in the north-east was the Isolation Hospital, where Templeton School is today. In the following maps, public buildings, generally schools, are shown as blue blocks. Official parks will be shown in green.

It is important to realize that at this date there were NO roads cleared. The entire area was in heavy stubble from the logging operations of the previous decades. However a few years into the new century, the large landowners of the area (mostly financiers and monied gentlemen in the city of Vancouver) began to subdivide and offer up lots for sale.

There were still many desirable areas available closer to the city centre and so business was slow at first. This is the situation by 1905.


Future growth was clearly anticipated in the acquisition of sites for Macdonald School on Hastings, and the Grandview School at Park and First.

The trajectory of growth is clearly from north-west (closest to city centre) to south-east. However, the next few years saw such explosive growth that the direction became irrelevant.  From 1907 until 1913, Grandview was the subject of an extraordinary speculative boom in lots and houses, the speculation justified by major population influxes, mainly from Great Britain. By 1910, Grandview is well established.


The boom continued until the pre-war financial crisis of 1913 brought building almost to a halt throughout the city. The level of building between 1910 and 1915 can be compared in the following map.


In this map, what would later become Grandview Park on Commercial Drive is shown as a brown block. In 1915 the area was controlled by the Dominion War Department and was used for drilling soldiers and recruitment. It would not become a park until much later in the 1920s.

Building in Grandview was essentially halted by the recession, the war, and post-war economics until well into the 1920s.

The Sensational Develoment of Grandview

One hundred and ten years ago today, Grandview was essentially empty of residents with, perhaps, two score of enterprising families staking their claim in what was still mostly scrub and tree stumps. But then Dow & Co became agents for the newly opened sub-division, and they became our first boosters.  This Vancouver Daily World ad was published on 6th March 1905.

Dow ad_Vancouver_Daily_World_Mon__Mar_6__1905_Grandview, read the ad, “has attracted more attention than any section of our city the past few months. It is not speculation but rather bona fide investment that is marking its progress. Homesites are chosen with care by residents for building on.

“Corners are  being bought by merchants with a view to establishing business in this growihng healthy neighbourhood …

“We will be pleased to show you over the ground or have a talk on Grand View and its many advantages; no bridges to cross; no steamer travel, just the ordinary every day up-to-date streetcar transportation.”

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.

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!