Here is an interesting post from Scout magazine about the architects Townsend & Townsend and the “diapering” design they became known for during the golden age of Vancouver building before the First World War.
Although they are not mentioned in the article, the Drive has three Townsend & Townsend buildings, none of which have the famous design. In fact, only one – the Alvarado Block on the corner of Commercial & Graveley — is in the their usual block style. The other two — 1511-1517 where the Shoppers Drug Store now is, and Joe’s Cafe — are very different creatures.
Good to know more about these folks.
The Alvarado Block, which still dominates the corner at Commercial & Graveley, opened for business one hundred years ago in 1912.
Owners J.Y. Griffin and J.M. Brown received a building permit on the 7th April 1911 and they hired architects Townsend & Townsend to design a $16,000 three-storey brick edifice with stores and apartments. Townsend & Townsend are listed as architects for more than fifty buildings right across Vancouver before the First World War, including 1515-1517 Commercial across the street which they had finished the year before. Builder A.D. Abel completed the work on the Alvarado Block early in 1912.
The apartments were listed as 1715 Graveley Street and for a while there was an additional store front at 1719 Graveley which was taken up by Louis J. Ford who delivered milk in the newly-booming Grandview residential district.
The corner store on Commercial was originally occupied by two failed clothing businesses but by 1914 a grocery store took over. Under various managements, including Piggly Wiggly, Safeway and Ray’s Stores, it would stay as a food store until the late 1950s when it became a manufacturers’ outlet and, later, a photo shop.
The Alvarado Block in 1939
In 1946, National Bakery president Ivan Grdina purchased the building from Orr’s Suburban Stores for $30,000. The building then had six suites in the apartments. Grdina may still have been the owner when the Alvarado Block was purchased by John Grippo in 1975. Thereafter, the Grippo family’s electronics business occupied at least one of the storefronts for more than a quarter century.