Moving A Major Building in 1913

In the summer of 1913, the part of Commercial Drive south of First Avenue was being widened. This took place after a number of major buildings had already been erected on that route since 1910, some of which were in the way. This inconvenient fact was not allowed to stand in the way of progress, and one of the buildings that had to be moved was the wonderful Brandon Block on the west side of the 1700 block.

The following is a report in the “Vancouver World” of August 15, 1913 at page 24 about the Brandon Block’s move:

“Complete success attended the moving back of the large two-storey brick building on Commercial Drive, between First and Second Avenues, which undertaking was carried out this morning in connection with the Commercial Drive widening scheme.

This was the first time that such a thing had been attempted locally and the task was watched by a large crowd of interested onlookers.  The structure contained three stores on the ground floor and seven suites of apartments on the upper floor.  Many of the latter were occupied during the time of the setting back of the building, but so gently was the work carried out that the movement  was all but imperceptible.

The building weighed, at a careful estimate, 550 tons, and the whole of it, from the very foundation, was set back seven feet.  During the operation, the water supply and the sewerage system was not interfered with for a moment, the occupants of the apartments being able to continue their domestic duties without let or hindrance.

“The structure known as the Halse building was built in 1910 and constituted the last of the 19 buildings which have had to be moved back through the decision of the City Council to widen Commercial Drive between First and Sixteenth Avenue.  The work has been carried out by Messrs. McCain Brothers under the personal supervision of Land Purchasing Agent J.B. Williams.”

It is hard for me to imagine a building being moved 7 feet without any disruption to services!

Grandview’s Historic Elms Win Recognition

The stretch of elms that runs along 6th Avenue in the nine-block stretch between Woodland Drive and Nanaimo Street has been recognized by the Vancouver Heritage Foundation as one of the 125 Places That Matter, celebrating the city’s 125th anniversary.

We are told that the elms received the third largest number of votes out of the 125 spots, and that a number of plaques will be put up to recognize the importance of these trees to the community.

The group of community activists who worked hard to save these elms are to be congratulated and it is excellent news that they and their work are now to be recognized.


Commercial Drive Walking Tour: June 9th

Historian Jak King will conduct a two-hour guided walk along Commercial Drive from Venables Street to Second Avenue.  He will identify and discuss many of the heritage buildings along the route and relate stories of the people and businesses that occupied them. Meet up on the southeast corner of Venables & Commercial at 9:45am Saturday 9th June 2012, rain or shine. Please register by email to $10 contribution to the Grandview Heritage Group at the meet-up.


The Alvarado Block

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.

GHG Meeting Minutes, April 19th

Regular Monthly Meeting, Britannia Centre Board Room, 7:00-9:00

1. We began with a lively slide show and presentation by Michael Kluckner, a teaser for his new book, Vanishing Vancouver: The Last 25 Years, which he is launching on May 3 at People’s Co-op Books on The Drive. We also got to see a sneak preview of the gorgeous book itself, Michael’s own advance copy.

2. We agreed to apply for a $500 Neighbourhood Small Grant to get start-up funding for our Century signs. Michael and Jak filled out the form and Penny will take it in to Kiwassa.

3. We agreed on dates for two GHG Heritage Walking Tours over the summer. Details to follow  (which will include cost and publicity plans … Erick said he would advertise the tours on the Spacing Vancouver site.)

Jak will conduct a walking tour of Commercial Drive on Saturday, June 9, 10-noon, and

Michael will conduct a walking tour of the area just east of the Drive (including Jeffs Residence) on Saturday, July 7, 10-noon.

4. We will set up information tables at some or all of the following Grandview events: Stone Soup (May 12), Italian Day (June 10), Car-Free Commercial Drive (June 17, which is also Father’s Day and the East Van Garden Tour)…

5. We agreed to set up an account at Vancity, with two cheque-signers per cheque and five signing officers (Jak, Bruce, Michael, Judith, Penny). Signers will meet at Vancity Friday April 20th at 1:00.

6. There were inquiries about “Paint the Drive” campaign. It turns out that no one seems to know much of anything about it; the only place it’s mentioned is on the Commercial Drive BIA Web site, and the coordinator there, Rolando Cardeno (, knows nothing about it.

7. We discussed the York Theatre (and how little of its heritage is being preserved in its renewal). We also talked about the possibility of getting a second opinion re the viability of the trees at the Robertson Church site, which are slated for demolition.

Meeting adjourned at 9:00.

How Grand View Was Sold

In 1903 and 1904, Grandview (or “Grand View” as it was generally called then) was being opened, with uncleared lots being offered in dribs and drabs in the early months, and then in a rush as 1904 began. By early 1904, one particular realtor — Dow, Fraser & Co. — seemed to have cornered the market and was offering hundreds of lots in the neighbourhood.

During the next couple of years, Dow, Fraser & Co. had a regular advertising space in the World newspaper, page 3 each Saturday, and they sang the praises of the neighbourhood they were boosting.

“Grand View — the prettiest situation in the city that affords you the advantages of tram service, pure air, lovely scenery, high and dry, above the fogs.” [24 Aug 1904]

“Grand View, the recognized coming district of the city … It has the tramline, and unsurpassed view of the entire city harbor and False Creek.  High above the fogs it gets all the sunshine in winter time.“ [23 Jan 1905]

“A greater demand than ever has sprung up for their choice section of the city.  Why? Every word we told you was so.  It is high and dry; it is on the hill; it overlooks the city.  Improved car service; new school; water mains, streets graded and opened; also sidewalk being laid.”  [18 Sept 1905]

“Every buyer here is making money.  There is a quick turnover, values steadily rising and development is rapidly taking place.  Good car service, new water mains.  A splendid $10,000 school building just completed and the city is rapidly pushing forward the street work in this section.” [12 Oct 1905]

With lots starting at $75 (with $10 down and the balance at $5 a month) it is no wonder the neighbourhood filled up so quickly!


April Meeting

The next meeting of the Grandview Heritage Group is this Thursday, 19th April, from 7:00pm at the Britannia Centre board room.  Please come along and join us to discuss local heritage concerns, including our inclusion in the up-coming Grandview Community Plan.

Our meetings deliberately have no agenda as we like the free-flowing and interesting discussions that crop up whenever we get together. We will, no doubt, look at our plans for 100-year old birthday signs, guided walks of the neighbourhood, and our possible contribution to Car Free Day, Stone Soup and Italian Day.

In addition, we generally have a presentation of historic and/or heritage interest.  This month we are fortunate enough to have Michael Kluckner giving a teaser about items of specific interest to Grandview in his new book “Vanishing Vancouver: The Last 25 Years.”

We welcome everyone and it’s free!