The 900-Block Commercial east side

A group of us were at Zawa’s the other night, after the Heritage Awards, relaxing over food and beers, when the conversation turned to the short one-storey flat-roofed building that sat at Commercial & Venables until it burned down at the end of the 1990s.  It seemed that most of us had memories of one store or another that had done business in those four storefronts:  Everbest Grocery, Master Tailor, Grape Escape, the conctionery store that had twelve owners in its first twenty years, and many more, including cafes, furniture stores and political hang-outs..

000079-1That got me remembering the problem of dates. There was an assumption that the building had been erected in 1907.  However, I was never sure of that date. There had been no entries for any buildings at that end of the block until 1923, when they all suddenly appear at once.  A more logical suggestion is that the building was erected in 1922 ready for full occupation by the following year. It has the appearance of similar buildings erected by Angus Campbell up and down the Drive in the late 1920s and 1930s, but I am not sure exactly who built this one. The image above is dated 1922 by City Archives.

Just today it occured to me to look at Goad’s map from December 1911,

Commercial and Venables 1911

And the evidence is plain, there were no buildings in that entire quadrant of Block 22 in December 1911. Thus, the 1907 building date previously accepted by most of us appears to be inaccurate. I am not aware of any later photographs that could prove the case, but I strongly suspect that those first four lots on Commercial remained vacant until 1922.

Another brick in the wall of Grandview history.

Many thanks to Patrick at Heritage Vancouver for wading through his pile of water permits!

More On The Buftons

In another place, I have written about a marvelous lunch I had this week with JoAnn Bufton, granddaughter of Hubert and Catherine Bufton, founders of the florist shop that flourished on the Drive from 1920 through the mid-1980s. In addition to the wonderful oral history she was able to provide, she also gave me some images of the shops. This first one is the store at 1520 Commercial Drive, and is therefore from before December 1955.

1520 Commercial Drive1

The second is from after they moved to 1675 Commercial, in the Bentholme Building.

1675 Commercial Drive1

Excellent examples of historic window dressing, for which Bufton’s won numerous awards.

More History of the Waldorf Hotel

There is a fascinating article in the Vancouver Courier today containing an oral history of the Waldorf Hotel on East Hastings by Rick Mills, son of the founder.

“There used be a lot more houses in the east end so people could walk home after a night at the Waldorf. But our main business was the long-haul truckers who stayed at the hotel between hauls,” Mills recalls. “The lunches in the dining room were packed in the daytime with a lot of railway execs and lawyers from nearby offices. At night we were always busy with the crowds returning from the games at Empire Stadium or the racetrack.”

He recalls corruptable food inspectors, and bookies who used the hotel for their business.  He also describes the end of the Mills’ family relationship to the hotel:

The Mills decided to sell the Waldorf by the end of 1970. “They built that Longshoreman Hall behind the Waldorf, and those guys weren’t as nice as the truckers. They had a 40-foot tractor-trailer in the back of the parking lot full of TVs and stereos they’d stolen off the docks that they were selling and they were fencing the stuff in the beer parlour. It was a good time to sell. The business had changed and it wasn’t so much of a family anymore.”

One small but interesting point is that Mr. Mills says the hotel opened on 26th December, 1948.  That may well be true, but the formal opening, advertized in the Highland Echo was a few weeks later, on 24th January, 1949.


May 2013 Meeting Notes

We had fantastic turnout for our May 16th meeting, filling up the Board Room at Britannia, and we also worked through an ambitious agenda.

All the signs for our 2013 Centenary Campaign have been installed and we had a celebratory party in Grandview Park to acknowledge this year’s signs and the homeowners who agreed to have signs in their yards. The party was on May 4th, which, coincidentally, was also the second anniversary of our first Grandview Heritage Group meeting! Jak got a delicious cake from Fratelli’s and we had a few speeches and gave out some hand-coloured GHG pins — these will surely be collectors’ items some day! We have accomplished a lot in two years!

Centenary celebration 2013

Michael Kluckner gave a report on the Shelly’s sign restoration project and also provided the group with a slide show about William Shelly and his Vancouver bakery empire. Via Tevere generously contributed $2000 to the sign project. Artists who worked on the sign were Victoria Oginski, our outdoor mural expert, Michael, and Penny. The idea was to revitalize and brighten up the sign, not to make it look new. Here’s the finished product:


Ann Daskal is the main organizer for the June 23rd party to celebrate the revitalization of the Shelly’s sign. She described the progress she has made so far. It’s really going to be a fabulous street party, chiefly for the folks who live in the Rose/Lily/Semlin area. It will an old-time “ice cream social” and will include a dedication and plaque unveiling, music by JazzMaTazz, a scavenger hunt with historical clues, colouring and arts and crafts projects for kids, cake, lemonade, vintage cars, and walking tours of the immediate area. (It’s a huge organizational job, and Ann would really appreciate volunteers to help her with all the aspects of putting on a big party!!)

GHG will have tables at both Car Free Commercial Drive (June 16th) and at one of the houses (on Kitchener St.) on the Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s Heritage House Tour (June 2nd).

May 16th, Bruce, Penny, and Michael paid a very informal visit to the Britannia Preschool and talked with a group of three- to five-year-olds. Our visit was organized by their teacher, Vasi Petoussis (who also happens to have one of our Centenary signs in her yard this year!). Here are photos of some of the kids and of Vasi and Bruce.

Brit Preschool

Bruce and VasiMaurice has offered to do another GHG walking tour west of the Drive in early October.

Lance and Jak talked about our upcoming GHG wiki. It has been launched and will be made public fairly soon and will enable us to organize and post a vast array of information about Grandview.

Lance also did some research into making “permanent” signs that we can offer to people who have had centenary signs for a year. The sign type he is recommending is printed on a ceramic tile. It would include the GHG logo in colour, the “title” of the house, a brief description of the house and its history, and a QR code that would take you to the page on the GHG wiki that contains information about the house. He had a sample tile printed up to show people what it would look like, and we were all quite impressed! It could be mounted on a house, on a fence, or on a wood stake. Very versatile.

The main event and highlight of the evening was Michael’s fascinating and comprehensive talk about Vancouver’s many house styles, which he illustrated with a slide show of photos and his drawings and watercolour paintings.

Penny Street

Next Meeting: 16th May

Another month gone and we are ready for our next public meeting.  It will take place on Thursday 16th May at 7:00pm at the Britannia Board Room on Napier Street.  Everyone is welcome, as always.

We have a lot of material to discuss (and show) this month.

  • Michael Klucker will be giving a short presentation on the history of William Shelly, the man behind the glorious sign he and other volunteers have just restored at Victoria & William.  We will also be presenting more details of the street party we are organizing there for June 23rd;
  • We will be finalizing details for our involvement in the Heritage Vancouver Heritage House Tour of June 2nd, and of CarFree Day on the Drive on June 16th.
  • We will have more news of our 2013 Centenary House Signs campaign, including a suggestion for permanent ceramic plaques for the houses;
  • The highlight of the evening may well be another presentation by Michael Klucker, this one about the various types of House Styles found in Grandview heritage houses;
  • Several of us will talk about our experiences talking to 5-year olds about heritage at Britannia Pre-School later this week;
  • We will also discuss future walks and talks.

As usual, there will be interesting items not even on the list above.  Do come and join the conversation that helps us identify, protect and enhance the heritage of Grandview!

Grandview in 1945

Here is a map prepared by the City of Vancouver that shows almost all of Grandview in 1945.

grandview 1945This image is constructed from two maps (343.10 and 343.11) in the City of Vancouver Archives collection.  The series of maps is captioned as being “hand coloured to show tax sale property for sale, property with no water, street widening and drainage, replotting, reserved land for schools, reserved land for parks, sundry land, capital assets not including schools and parks, schools, and parks, as applicable.”  It is not clear what colours are meant to represent what item but, from other data I have collected, I would suggest that the houses marked in red were those in tax trouble.

If you zoom in on your screen you can see a great deal of detail.

Shelly’s 4X sign restored!

Kudos all round for the completion of the project to restore the unique Shelly’s sign on the side of Via Tevere restaurant at Victoria and William. The owners of the restaurant paid the lion’s share of the costs; our Neighbourhood Small Grant will cover the balance of the materials costs, and we have money in our “celebration” budget (thank you, Hastings North Community Partners Group) for a proper interpretive sign, which will be unveiled at the neighbourhood party planned for June 23rd. It is one of a handful of authentic painted advertisements remaining in Vancouver, and the only one I can think of painted on wooden siding.

Artist Victoria Oginski led the team of 3 in the restoration, lending her technical skills to the stabilization of the painted surface, which was falling to bits two years after it was exposed to the weather during the removal of the 60-year-old stucco on the side of the old Victoria Drive Grocery …
She is also the best, fastest colour-matcher I’ve ever seen. I, Michael Kluckner, worked with Penny Street on the preparation and the painting. We finished up today by applying a coat of high-tech acrylic/epoxy sealer that will protect the surface from UV and any sort of graffiti that might happen along.


72wcshelly.tiffWilliam Curtis Shelly had a very significant career, including the founding (with his brother) of the namesake bakery, a huge operation for its day, with hundreds of employees and branches in New Westminster and North Vancouver as well as the head office at the northwest corner of 10th and Ash. He also built the first highway and ski chalet on Grouse Mountain in the 1920s, served terms on the Park Board and was provincial minister of finance from 1928-32. Ironically, he is commemorated in Grandview at the misspelled S-H-E-L-L-E-Y Park at 8th and Woodland! The house in Shaughnessy, 1563 Matthews, where he lived for the final two decades of his life, before dying in 1951, is now the American consulate. I will be giving a brief Powerpoint show on him at the next GHG meeting on May 16th, and we have contacted the Park Board to let them know about the spelling mistake.

How old is the sign? Based on surviving examples of 4X advertisements that date from 1939 and the 1940s, we figure the sign’s design is at least as old as 1935. Whether it was touched up later seems unlikely given the systematic way that the company (by then owned by Canadian Bakeries Ltd., founded by Shelly himself) engaged the Stewart-McIntosh advertising agency in 1939 to update its typography and the “happy baker” image. The sign was probably more or less forgotten during the Second World War years and then covered with stucco when the store was modernized, perhaps about 1950. Doubtful we’ll ever know for sure unless some dated photographs of the store have survived somewhere. The Shelly’s 4X brand disappeared in the 1950s.

There’s another interesting piece to the story of the Victoria Drive Confectionery. It was built in 1922, two years after Scott’s Grocery at Victoria and Georgia (the only surviving operating store in the neighbourhood today). There were a myriad of small groceries in Grandview and elsewhere, affiliated with the big wholesalers – Kelly Douglas, Malkin, H.Y. Louie – the little storefronts dotting Victoria Drive and scattered on side streets like Semlin, Venables and McLean. When Victoria Drive Grocery closed it became an art gallery owned by Bill Gotts that looked like this…


Simon Kendall, the keyboard player for Doug and the Slugs and a neighbour and friend of Gotts, went up on a ladder one day and started making anagrams with the surviving letters from the store’s sign. The upshot was Doctor Vigari, the name that stayed with the gallery when it migrated to The Drive at 2nd and the former grocery building was sold to its new Via Tevere owners. Patrons of the restaurant will see the old sign mounted on a wall inside.