Ruining The Streets in 1910

In September 1910, Mayor Louis D. Taylor and Aldermen Stevens and Enright toured the city “to see just what the [public] work was going on.”  They began in Cedar Cove and then moved into Grandview. The following report, which gives a good description of some parts of Grandview at that time, is from the Vancouver World 24 September 1910 (page 18) and is headlined:  “Terracing Fad Ruin Of Streets”:

full piece

What Might Have Been

Anyone who knows Commercial Drive knows Joe’s Cafe on the corner of William Street.


It is an unprepossessing single-storey flat-roofed structure, not unlike many other similar buildings along the Drive.  This one has been that way since Harry Evans had it built in 1910:

  • Building Permit issued 9th November 1910
  • Owner: Harry Evans
  • Architect: Townshend & Townshend
  • Builder: Mr. Lauger
  • Value: $3,550
  • single storey, three storefronts

But this is not what Harry Evans had really wanted. In fact, a year before he had announced something completely different for that site. In the 3rd March 1909 edition of the Vancouver Daily World, we find this:


I can only surmise that, even in the hyper-ballooning real estate market of 1910-1912, he couldn’t raise the $10,000 and had to settle for a less ostentatious addition to Commercial Drive.


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.

Daring Hold-Up In Grandview!

I was researching something this morning and came across the following story from “The Vancouver Daily World” of 10th January 1910 which illustrates what parts of Grandview and Vancouver were like at that time:


“A daring attempted holdup was made on a laundry driver Saturday night at 6 o’clock, when three men pointed three revolvers at S. Robinson and ordered him to hold up his hands. The driver’s presence of mind stood him in good stead, and whipping his horse, drove off at a furious gait amid a fusilade of revolver shots.

The driver was accosted by three masked men as he was proceeding along Third Avenue, Grandview. Robinson had been delivering parcels in the 1900 block when he saw two men approach the rig while another stood on the sidewalk about 10 feet away, also flourishing a gun. As soon as he found out the nature of the visit, Robinson drew his whip and applied it stealthily to his horse with good effect. A secfond command to stop was given which was also unheeded. Then the three opened fire on the wagon and its single occupant. Two bullet holes, one below the driver’s seat and the other in the side of the cover, remain to show what a close call the driver had and the desperate characters the affair.

At the time of the attempted holdup Robinson had $87 on his person, much of it in silver. It is evident that the would-be highwaymen had been following the movements of the rig and its driver for some time, as at this particular point most of his parcels had been delivered and consequently he carried more money. The point of the hold up is at a dark place on Third Avenue, and is frequented by pedestrians but very little.

Owing to the darkness and in his hurry to escape, the driver was unable to learn much regarding the description of the men. He states that the three men are of medium height and build, while one of the men wore a brown slouch hat. Later on in the evening as Robinson was finishing delivering his load of laundry on Park [Commercial] Drive he saw three men who looked very much like those implicated in the attempted holdup get into a buggy and dfrive rapidly down Park Drive towards Venables Street.  Owing to the snow, which was falling thickly at the time, Robinson was unable to state whether the rig turned east or west when reaching Venables.

Within twenty minutes the police were at the scene of the holdup, and although they searched the neighbourhood thoroughly, no trace of the men could be found … The theory advanced by the police is that a band of desperate characters are camping in the vicinity of the city in Hastings making nightly visits to the city while they spend the day in seclusion in the fastness of the forest somewhere in Hastings townsite.

This is the fourth occurence of this nature within the city within the past three weeks.Two were unsuccessful, while $8.75 were taken from a young man on Victoria Drive under a street light last month, and more recently two masked men succeeded in robbing a street car conductor at the point of revolvers at the terminus of the Powell Street line last week.”


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.]