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.
Since 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.