Notes From The March Meeting

We had another interesting meeting last Thursday. Thanks to our logistics wizard Eric and others we weren’t thrown too much by a last minute change of venue.

  • Donato gave an illustrated report on the refurbishment of a heritage fireplace in the oldest house in Grandview;
  • Eric presented some fascinating material on the use of bricks as street pavement, covering cobble stones, special bricks to assist horses on hills, and wood blocks;also discussed were the various brickworks on the Lower Mainland;
  • We were joined by Daniele of the Mount Pleasant Heritage Group who explained their use over the years of posters, signs, and colouring pages for Heritage Week and similar events; there were some excellent ideas for us to follow next year;
  • Maria reported on a list of possible houses for this year’s Centenary Signs project; following an idea from MPHG, Jak will contact our BIA about signs on Commercial Drive retail building this year;
  • Jak presented a number of number of photographs illustrating changes on the Drive and in the neighbourhood between 1985 and today;
  • Neville gave a good interim report on the historical work he is researching on the 1800 block of Parker Street and, in particular, the house at 1829 Parker;
  • We had a brief Neighbourhood Update which included news on the paiting of Brookhouse, and the history of the Wonderbucks building which is now for sale;

We look forward to seeing many of you at our next meeting on 19th April.

The Wonderbucks Building

In the most recent Changes On The Drive, I reported that the building at 1301 Commercial, which most of us these days know as the Wonderbucks Building, is now for sale after lying empty for more than a year. The building has a fascinating history which I thought I might relate here.

The Fraser family built 1301 Commercial in 1927 to house their Crystal Dairy. Founded in 1922, Crystal Dairy was the largest independent dairy in Vancouver by 1936. Most of the building was essentially a milk delivery depot and stables, but some of the frontage along Commercial Drive had served retail.

The retail space was completely renovated in 1939 to be the finest soda-and-ice-cream fountain in East Vancouver. This was a title they fought over with Louis Toban’s Toots Restaurant at Commercial and Broadway. For more than a decade the two competed mainly in a series of renovations, using new chrome, glass, and lighting, each trying to outdo the other in popularity with the teen crowd.

In those pre-feminist days, girls would vie for positions as waitresses at Crystal Fountain as it was the best place to meet eligible boyfriends and husbands.

The Frasers sold the dairy a few years after the War and by 1954, the new owners had consolidated operations elsewhere and the dairy and fountain were closed. For the next 15 years, the building served as the offices and warehouse of the Select Music Company, a division of Acme Novelties.

In 1968, the building, damaged from two recent fires, was purchased for $90,000 by Carlo Gallo and Giuseppe Padovano, and renovated into the Italian Melodi Dance Hall. When it opened, the Echo called it “fabulous, new”, and described it as “in the style of old Venice with a terrazo floor, beautiful pictures on the wall,and a statue complete with fountain in the foyer.”  Dinner and dancing for New Years Eve that year was $15.

It was a success for a while but in 1974, the same owners closed the hall and remodeled the store into G & P Food Market.

From 1995 to 2001, the building was used first by a liquidator and then by a haulage company.  Wonderbucks took over the space in 2001 and stayed until the size of the rent forced its closure in early 2017.

Now it is for sale, and we are ready for the next chapter.


Sources:  “Highland Echo” 1936-1960; City Directories; GHG Database


Next Meeting: 15th March

The next meeting of the Grandview Heritage Group is this coming Thursday, 15th March, at 7:00pm.  We meet in the Britannia Boardroom on Napier Street.

This month’s agenda will include, in no particular order:

  • the restoration of a heritage fireplace in Grandview’s oldest house;
  • heritage brick, including those used for street paving;
  • a visit from the Mount Pleasant Heritage Group regarding their use of posters in Heritage Week and how we might follow next year;
  • A trip down nostalgia lane: photographs from 1985;
  • a teaser perhaps on the ongoing history work taking place regarding Parker Street;
  • the monthly neighbourhood update.

Plus any other topic that attendees would like us to discuss. Everyone is welcome to attend and we look forward to seeing you on Thursday!

Grandview Database v.20

We have today uploaded a new and updated version of the Grandview Database.  

We were obliged to take a few months’ rest from working on the Database this winter. Now we are back, starting in a small way. This version incorporates about 100 new and amended data points since the previous release:

  • Another 60 entries have been added from the 1914 City Directory;
  • Another 40 entries have been updated to reflect current MLS sales and listings.

In March we will once again be concentrating on completing the data available from the 1921 Census.

We hope you find the Database of value, and we encourage and welcome corrections, and additions.