March 25 letter from GHG to Mayor and Council

The photo at the top of this website was taken in about 1920 by Edward Faraday Odlum from the top of the very tall flag pole in Victoria Park. The fire hall at Salsbury and Charles is gone, but pretty well all the original houses you can see in the photo are still here today.

Attached is a PDF letter our group sent to Mayor Robertson and Councillors about the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the Grandview Community Plan process. The TOR were scheduled to be presented to Council March 28. In our letter, we ask that the report be deferred in order for the TOR to be revised and expanded with regard to heritage and the neighbourhood context. We request that information in the TOR includes maps, zoning bylaws, design guidelines, and existing zoned capacity. We also request that the GHG be recognized as an official Working Group with standing in the Community Plan process.

GHG-Plan Mar 25-2012-1

Historic Victoria Drive Building Unveils 1920s Ad Mural and New Tenant

March 23, 2012, two hours after the grand opening

On Friday evening, March 23, 2012, Dominic and Giorgio Morra’s Via Tevere PIzzeria Napoletana opened for business, clearly a unique local business and a welcome addition to the neighbourhood. It actually gives the neighbourhood a whole new feel after the  vacant, run down storefront that was there for about a decade. And thanks again to them for saving the historic sign! And what a great little vintage car they park out front, the Fiat 500  ‘Cinquecento’ that was introduced back in 1957.

Last fall the workers removing stucco on the old Doctor Vigari building (Victoria Drive at William Street) revealed an amazing 1920s advertising mural. Hidden for decades was a classic cartoon baker flogging fresh 4X bread from the ovens of Vancouver’s successful Shelly Bakery.

By wonderful coincidence the old mural could pass for a mural depicting a chef making a pizza.

Also historically speaking, besides being the original home of Dr. Vigari art gallery (now at 1816 Commercial Drive), this building was the location of the bookstore where the climatic scene of the movie Better Than Chocolate was filmed in 1999. The movie was directed by Anne Wheeler and featured Canadian actors Ann Marie MacDonald (the novelist) and Jay Brazeau. The plot was very Commercial Drive: “Two attractive young lesbians, Maggie and Kim, meet in Vancouver, develop a passionate romance, and move in together…” One scene was based on the infamous lesbian kissing incident at nearby Joe’s Cafe, two blocks down William Street at Commercial Drive.

The bookstore in Better Than Chocolate was a representation of Vancouver’s Little Sisters Bookstore, and the plot covers some of the historic censorship issues that Little Sisters had to content with back in the stone age of the 1980s.

Brookhouse Looks Safe

The wonderful century-old Queen Anne heritage building at the corner of Victoria & Parker — known as Brookhouse from a doctor who lived there in earlier times — seems to be heading safely into the future. The new owners have applied for an HRA which will renovate and maintain the house.

Their application with drawings is found at City of Vancouver Developments page (note that the header gives the wrong address: the attached drawings are for Brookhouse).

The image above is from 1932

Mapping, Naming, Retail History and Fun

We had a splendid meeting last night, headlined by an excellent presentation from Bruce Macdonald regarding the need for a genuine mapping of Vancouver’s neighbourhoods and, most importantly, the use of historically accurate  and functionally useful names for these neighbourhoods.

He noted, for example, that the bureaucratically-defined area of “Grandview-Woodlands” doesn’t meet either criteria.  The wide area was always called simply Grandview until an unknown civil servant added “-Woodlands” in the 1970s, and within Grandview there are a number of well-defined neighbourhoods, each of which has an historically valid name. There were lots of maps — and we love maps!

I also presented some preliminary investigations into the history of businesses on Commercial Drive from 1900 to 1999.  I am attaching a downloadable pdf of the presentation.  I’ll be happy to answer any questions about the data.These two presentations and discussions about the upcoming Community Plan created lively and interesting conversations.

Another member brought along a wonderful interior design handbook from 1907 with colour images that just leapt from the page.  Bright and crisp, it is marvelous that such ephemera has survived in such great shape.

Altogether, it was a very worthwhile meeting.

Fred Herzog show at the Equinox Gallery Project Space extended to the end of March

If you have time before the end of March to visit the Equinox Gallery’s Project Space (525 Great Northern Way) on the Great Northern Way campus, there is a splendid and enormous show of Fred Herzog’s photos of Vancouver (and a few of other places, but primarily Vancouver), most from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, that is well worth seeing. It’s open Thursday-Saturday from noon – 6 p.m.

There aren’t many that pertain specifically to Grandview, but so many of the photos of Vancouver are iconic and memorable … and his sense of colour is uncanny.

Here’s one of my favourites!

Cheers, Penny

Meeting Tonight

Just a reminder that our monthly meeting is tonight.  Everyone is welcome to join us at 7pm at the Britannia Info Centre, Napier & Commercial.

We will be discussing neighbourhood mapping (in advance of the upcoming Community Plan), possible heritage walks, our plan for “100-year old” property signs, and there will be a short presentation on the history of business development on Commercial Drive.

As our meetings are informal, with no agenda, I’m sure that other items of interest will come up.  Come along and join the conversation!


International Women’s Day: Catherine Bufton

In honour of International Women’s Day, I thought I’d write a short piece on one of the most dynamic women ever to grace Grandview and Commercial Drive.

Catherine Bufton (nee Drake) was born in Gloucester, England, in 1881.  She emigrated to Manitoba where she met and married Hubert Bufton.  After Hubert’s service in World War One, the couple moved to Vancouver in 1919. Hubert had been seriously injured during the war and during recuperation, he and Catherine learned floral basket weaving.  They put this to use by opening Bufton Florists at 1520 Commercial in 1923, living in an apartment upstairs. The company would be a fixture on the Drive until 1982.

In the late 1920s, Catherine pushed the Grandview Chamber of Commerce to create a Women’s Auxillary branch of the Chamber and she became the Auxillary’s first President. The Auxillary’s first project, devised and organized by Mrs. Bufton, was the War Memorial in Grandview Park which was dedicated in November 1930.  Their next project was the creation of the Grandview Lawn Bowling Association’s greens which took over Victoria Park and the building of a large clubhouse on the Salsbury side of the park. It was opened for the first season in the spring of 1933.  Catherine Bufton helped persuaded the necessary authorities to make this a works relief project and many local artisans suffering in the Depression received useful paychecks while preparing the ground.

Catherine and Hubert had been founding members of the CCF in the early 1930s, and in the 1937 Provincial election, Catherine ran unsuccessfully for the Reconstruction Party.  They were also active in veterans’ issues and helped lead Victory Bond fundraising during the Second World War.

When Hubert died in 1944, Catherine continued with the business, being joined by their son Frank. However, in early 1950 she retired to her new home and garden in West Vancouver.  She returned briefly when Bufton’s Florists moved to the new Bentholme Building on the corner of First and Commercial, but spent much of her retirement traveling the world with her daughter.  She died in West Vancouver in May 1967.

The image is taken from the Highland Echo of May 27, 1937.


The Drive’s First Ad

This advertisement appeared in the Vancouver World in January 1908. It is the earliest ad I have yet found for any business on Commercial Drive (then known as Park Drive). This pioneering grocery business operated by E.F. Hepper at 1703 Park Drive in 1908 and 1909 and moved across the street to 1742 Park Drive in 1910 where it lasted until the following year.

And they really were pioneers.  I have identified only eleven business that had operated on the Drive by the end of 1908. These included six grocery stores, three hardware stores, one real estate office and a painter/decorator company. Two of the grocers and the realtor had already closed before 1908.

1909 was a slow year for growth but by the end of 1910, the Drive could boast more than 44 businesses.  Perhaps Hepper & Lovelace couldn’t handle that much competition.