Captain Copp’s Exciting Life

One of the major real estate men who helped boost Grandview in the 1900s was Captain W.H. Copp who built a magnificent estate on Victoria Drive in 1905. An experienced sea captain, he had based himself in Vancouver before the city was even founded. In 1888, on a trip from Liverpool to Vancouver via Australia, he and his wife found themselves in deadly danger as this clipping from the Sydney Morning Herald on 29th December 1888 attests:

This was certainly not the end of his adventures. In 1892, after taking a vessel from Vancouver to the Bering Strait on a hunt for seals, he was taken into custody by the Russian authorities. However, he somehow managed to talk himself out of trouble; he was allowed to sail away with some British sailors who had also be apprehended. His exploits were reported to the British Privy Council.

Grandview must have seemed very tame after this!

The Brandon Block Revived

The problems that the Brandon Block at 1731-1739 Commercial has been having this year, with severe structural damage to the upper storey, have been documented elsewhere. Now I am glad to report that the reconstruction work seems almost complete:

The building which dates from 1912 has an elegant design, and the current owners are to be commended for taking the effort to restore it so promptly.

Next meeting: January 19th!

The next meeting of the Grandview Heritage Group will be Thursday, January 19th, 7:00, at Britannia Centre (in the Board Room in the Info Centre).

In the spring of 2012, the City of Vancouver will formally launch a Community Plan process for the Grandview-Woodland Local Area. The Planner overseeing the process is Andrew Pask, and he will be at the meeting on January 19th, to get our input.  He writes:

Community Plans are policy documents that provide guidance and direction on a wide range of topics, including housing, transportation, public realm (parks and open space) improvements, land-use, urban design, social issues, and cultural spaces and activities.  In the case of Grandview-Woodland, the planning area will comprise the full neighbourhood — bounded by Nanaimo, Clark, Broadway and Burrard Inlet.

We’re at the beginning stages of this work, and are in the process of developing a neighbourhood specific Terms of Reference (T-O-R) to that will outline how the 21-month planning process will unfold.

 As part of developing the Terms, I had spoken with a few of you about conducting a small focus group with the heritage committee.  The purpose would be to gather some preliminary input on the following items:

  • Issue and asset identification (what are the strengths of the Grandview-Woodland neighbourhood?  Where are there opportunities for improvement?)
  • Sub-Area geographies (identifying areas in the neighbourhood that require more focused attention)
  • Specialized outreach and engagement considerations (how can we best involve the G-W community — and the people that you work with — in the planning process?)

The information that I gather during this session would be used to directly shape the planning process that then unfolds in the neighbourhood.

Please attend! It should be a very interesting meeting!

The Jeffs’ Residence at Charles and Salsbury

Local history buff and Grandview resident James Evans is the developer of the site on the northeast corner of Charles and Salsbury. He has negotiated a Heritage Revitalization Agreement with the City that enables him to retain the enormous 1907 Jeffs’ mansion, move it closer to the corner, and renovate it. He will also add market infill housing behind the mansion and along both Salsbury and Charles.

He has made some interesting discoveries while stripping the mansion down for its big move, including a hidden stained glass window, a five-panel pocket door, and, in the basement, some charred joists (indicating that there had at some point been a fire).

In this first photo, you can see the stripped-down mansion (photo taken today, December 16, 2011). The actual moving of the mansion will take place sometime in January.

The original wood siding is being revealed under the stucco:

The five-panel pocket door:

The Little stain-glass window:

A Wall Decoration Uncovered

The ongoing restoration of the old York Theatre in the 600-block Commercial has revealed an old wall and what I take to be its decoration.

It is hard to say exactly what it is. However, it would be nice to think it might be from the original Alcazar motion picture house days of the 1910s. It seems to fit where the left-hand side of the original entrance arch would have been.

Robertson Presbyterian Church Development

A large part of the iconic 1908/c.1921 Robertson Presbyterian Church (and from 1978-2011 a Fijian Hindu temple and cultural centre) will be demolished to make room for a ten-unit housing development on the corner of Napier and Salsbury. The south-facing wing and the west-pointing lean-to will be torn down. The remaining BC Mills Timber & Trading Co. structure, along the north lane, will be transformed into three townhouse units. There will also be six units of row housing along Napier Street and a separate “carriage house” in the northwest corner. Underground parking will be entered from the lane.
The first photo shows the building in about 1921, and the second photo was taken in 2011.
Construction will likely begin soon.

New copper steeple at St. Francis of Assisi


In this era of metal theft and high copper prices, it’s wonderful to see the new copper steeple atop the St. Francis of Assisi Church on Napier at Semlin. The church dates from 1938; Franciscan monks had used the grand old house adjoining it as a monastery beginning about 1924. The monastery evolved into a chapel and became the focus of a Catholic parish in the 1930s and, post war, was one of the draws for Vancouver’s Italian community settling into Grandview. The old house itself, facing Semlin Street, was built in 1908 for an Australian real-estate speculator named William Miller; his brother J.J., the founder of the PNE, built the Queen Anne house called “Kurrajong” at Napier and Salsbury, two blocks to the west.

Creating A New Storefront

I see that Liberty Wines are just about ready to open at 1622 Commercial, in the storefront that used to be Waazubee Cafe. I also see they are only taking the south side of what has now become a two-storefront building for the first time.

The original property on this lot was an office with a peaked roof that was set back 35 feet from the Drive. It was originally used as the office for C.E.Railton who was a civil engineer for B.C.E.R., presumably when they were laying track for the Chilliwack interurban. The building became increasingly isolated from the Drive as the block filled in along a more normal setback. In this image from 1926 (VPL 7144), it would be easy to miss the peaked roof showing above the “General Repairs” sign. The woman by the pole is standing in front of the “gap” made by the extended setback.


In 1929 or 1930, the building was demolished and the present structure was erected. Safeway was the first tenant and they stayed until their new supermarket was built at First & Commercial in 1940. For the next dozen years the building was used by appliance stores (Warman’s and Moore’s) and then was taken over by a series of furniture outlets. In then end, they didn’t survive and the property was vacant for a year.

In September 1963 the Grandview Chamber of Commerce issued a strong protest when it heard that Guido DiGiacinto was preparing the place to be a billiards hall. They said that such a use might be “detrimental to the area.” However, by the end of January 1964, the hall was in operation and the owner was working on plans for a coffee and snack bar. The Grasmasso Billiards Hall eventually morphed into the Gransasso Italian Restaurant and survived until the early 1990s.

The wonderful Waazubee Cafe opened up here in 1995, keeping a lot of the Gransasso decor, but adding more art and heavy doses of trance music.


The good old place kept going until November 2010 when it just couldn’t get up one morning. It has been sad to see the space vacant for a year, and so the moving in of Liberty Wines can be seen as a plus.


It will be interesting to see what takes over the northern storefront, a storefront that has never existed before

The Development of the 1500-block Commercial

From the earliest days of Grandview’s development, the lots on the southeast corner of Commercial and Grant were owned by the Odlum family. Professor Odlum, the pioneering patriarch of the family, built himself a large house on Grant Street, leaving the lots along Commercial vacant, paying taxes on them and keeping them neat.

In this late 1935 photograph taken by the Professor’s son Edward Faraday Odlum (and available courtesy of Ruth Raymond) the view is from the northwest corner of Commercial looking SE across the street. The Odlum house can be seen and pedestrians are walking beside the Odlum lawns on Commercial.

The Odlums finally sold the lots at the end of 1935 and in January 1936 Signal Oil began excavating the lawns to prepare for the gas station they were going to build.

In this early 1936 image (again from E.F. Odlum, courtesy Ruth Raymond), the photograph is taken from the Odlum House looking west. The stores are on the westside of Commercial and the machine can be seen excavating the eastside lawns. The Signal Oil gas station had its formal opening in May 1936.

A year or so later, E.F. Odlum snapped another shot from his house, again looking west (once again we must thank Ruth Raymond for the image). The forecourt of the gas station can be seen beyond the wooden fence. There was a gas station on that corner — under various names and owners — until 1972 at which time the lot was completely changed.

This modernist building was completed in 1973 and the TD Bank was the principal tenant. The Odlum house can still be seen peeking out at the left of the photograph. Today, this structure houses different business and this is a recents StreetView shot:

Quite the change from the quiet lawns of the 1920s and 1930s!

The York Theatre

The old York Theatre at 639 Commercial Drive is undergoing a massive renovation.

It was originally constructed in 1913 as the Alcazar moving picture show theatre. It quickly became the home of Vancouver’s Little Theatre Company who used the facilities for 54 years under the name York Theatre. Some while ago it became a movie house for Indian films called the Raja, and closed for good about two years ago.

This image from Heritage Vancouver shows the Alcazar, the York and the Raja:


Now, the front section has been demolished and today it looks like this:

Hopefully by next summer it will be a brand-new York Theatre once again.