Last night, at the monthly meeting of the Grandview Heritage Group, I presented my research on an early church in Grandview. The following is a version of that presentation (1).
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This story began with a mystery. In the 1905 Vancouver City Directory, there are just a few listings for Park Drive, the original name of Commercial Drive. One of those listings, with no address given, was for a Methodist Church. By 1907, the district was established enough to have blocks and street numbers; and the Methodist Church is listed as 900 Park Drive.
As I was the compiling my Grandview Database at the time I found this, I was keen to locate the Church properly but my original researches showed nothing at all about a church in the neighbourhood and, by 1910, it had also disappeared from the Directory. As I knew what was on the eastside of the 900-block around 1912 (or, rather, what was not there as the lots in that block were listed as vacant on maps), I began to believe that the Directory makers had made an error.
However, much later, and while researching something else, I came across a brief article in the Vancouver Daily World of June 26th 1904, describing the dedication ceremony for what they called the Park Drive Methodist Church. With a name and a date, I was then better able to direct my research.
The idea for a new church had arisen during the previous year. At a meeting of the Quarterly Official Board of the Princess Street Methodist Church in November of 1903, it was noted that “the far east [of Vancouver] is so rapidly building up that it will ere long boast a not inconsiderable population.” They were already overcrowded at Princess Street, and had moved their Sunday school into rented space at the old Episcopal church building on Campbell Avenue. However, the Board members decided the rent money would be put to better use paying for another church that would be their own property. (2)
Realtor J.B. Mathers secured for them two lots on the south east corner of Park Drive and Barnard Street. After some delay while the property owners were contacted in England, the lots were purchased for $350 which was advanced by eight church members. (3)
Robert Clarke, secretary of the Princess Street church, then wrote to the Vancouver Board of Works (BOW) requesting that Park Drive be opened from Venables Street north to Powell. The BOW wouldn’t go that far, but agreed to open the street from Venables to Barnard. Later, the BOW also approved the laying of a sidewalk from Venables to the new church. (4)
On 14th April 1904, the Church was issued a building permit. They had secured a contract with builder A.E. Carter who agreed to construct the building for $1,000. A few weeks later, two dozen members of the Princess Street congregation “took a holiday” and cleared the lots. Construction went ahead rapidly and by early May, the builders began to put on the roof. (5)
By June, the building was ready, with workers busy until nine o’clock the night before the dedication completing the final touches. Even after that late hour, Trustees William Raine and J.W. Burns had worked to clean up and decorate the interior with “a mass of flowers gathered by the children of east end families.” It is clear that this brand new Park Drive branch of the Princess Street Methodist Church was being erected “on the fringe of the City’s populated district” standing “almost alone in the midst of what remains of a one-time huge forest. Burned and charred stumps, an undergrowth of green shoots, and a rough newly-opened road” surrounded the building, as the newspapers described it. “You have a very nice, bright little church here — even if it is out in the stumps,” declared Rev. Merton Smith as he preached the dedication sermon of the Park Drive Methodist Church on Sunday 26th June, 1904. Though there were very few houses within shouting distance of the new church, there “poured forth a goodly number of persons who filled the new building to overflowing both at the morning and afternoon services.” (6)
The 11:00am dedication service was supervised by Rev. J.F. Betts, chairman of the Vancouver Methodist district. He arrived ten minutes late, “mopping his brow” with heavy perspiration, having walked through the hot morning all the way from Greer’s Beach in Kitsilano where he and his family were currently camping. Notwithstanding his exertions, Betts was “in one of his happiest sermon moods” and the service, enliven by the Princess Street choir, was “thoroughly enjoyed” by the congregation of about 175 people. A similar number came for the afternoon service given by Rev. Smith.
At the services on that day, the church managed to raise $227.45 which was paid to the builder’s account. In fact, at a social the day after the dedication which was “packed to the doors” and they raised another $252. Church officials stated their hope that “in five years they will have paid every cent of debt on the new building.” We can only assume that Carter the builder was an amiable chap. (7)
The pastor of the new church, Rev. R. Newton Powell, was a 36-year old Englishman. He had spent seven years on church work in the West Indies where he married. In 1897 they moved to British Columbia on account of Mrs. Powell’s health, and he had served at various locations in the interior before coming to Princess Street. He is described as “a thoughtful, forceful, and flowery preacher with a thoroughly evangelical rung about him.” In July 1904, one month after the church was opened, Rev. Powell took a three-week holiday to Ontario. While there, he received a gift from a friend, Timothy Eaton, Toronto’s merchant prince. The gift was new carpet for the church, sufficient for the aisles and platform. (8)
The church may have had fancy carpeting but it didn’t have water for quite some time. It was just before Christmas 1904 when the church trustees applied for a water pipe to be built from the Venables Street main, a distance of 25 feet. Ten days later, the Board of Works agreed. However, the trustees — always a moral bunch — withdrew their request when they realised that other residents had had their requests denied. But the pipe was laid anyway. (9)
The church became so popular that , within a year of its dedication, it had become clear that a larger building was urgently required. The Princess Street church held special services on 7th May 1905 in an effort to fundraise $1,200, partly to pay for an addition to the Park Drive branch. However, it was determined to move the congregation to another location and three lots were purchased on Venables Street at the corner of Victoria Drive, where a $5,000 church was dedicated in March 1909. (10)
When I first did this research, I had assumed the original building was dismantled as it does not appear on the 1912 Goad’s map, and that would be the end of the story. However, local heritage enthusiast Neville Hodgson found a building permit from October 1910 concerning the moving of a church, and that allowed me to follow the story to its conclusion.
Further research showed that the church was sold to the Seventh Day Adventists in the early summer of 1910. During 1910, the Seventh Day Adventists were very busy, erecting or purchasing five local churches, and they were regularly listed as having services in the church on Park Drive from June 1910 until early January 1911. On the 30th January 1911 the Adventists held their Tenth Annual Convention at their “new church” on Barnard Street. Thereafter, Seventh Day Adventist services are regularly listed at the Barnard Street address until at 1918. However, the listings for services then stop, no listings for that address are shown in the City Directory for several years. (11).
Some years later, the First Christian Reformed Church was founded to support Dutch immigrants who had settled in Vancouver. They began meeting in 1926 in a space on Hastings Street but that quickly became unsuitable. In 1927, the Reverend Peter Hoekstra, who spoke English better than the majority of his parishioners, negotiated to buy the church on Adanac Street which by that time had been deserted for some time. (12)
Their services were in Dutch, and the Directory listing calls it the Hollander Church. There were congregations of Dutch people south of the Fraser, but the church on Adanac was their main congregation in Vancouver. So much so that, when she visited Vancouver in 1944, the then-Princess Juliana came to the church on Adanac to take communion. (13)
By the end of 1948, the Reformed Church began erecting a new building at Victoria and 11th, and services were held in the new location from May 1949. The church on Adanac was put up for sale. (14)
By the following year, the Directory listing is for “new apartments” and it is reasonable to suppose that that, finally, was the end of the old church building. In 1986 that entire block was demolished to make way for the Grace MacInnes Housing Co-op.
- An earlier version of the original research can be found here.
- Vancouver World 1903 Nov 20, p.6; 1904 Jun 27, p.3
- The intersection is currently known as Commercial Drive and Adanac Street. The lots were DL 183 Block 9D, Lot 1-2. “$350”: Vancouver World 1904 June 27, p.3.
- Board of Works: Minutes 3 Mar, and 2 June 1904, CVA, MCR-36 Roll 2; Vancouver World, 4 Mar 1904, p.5, June 3, p.5; News-Advertizer, 4 Mar 1904, p.4, 11 Mar p.5
- News-Advertizer, 1 May 1904, p. 8; “holiday”: Vancouver World 1904 June 27, p.3
- Descriptions of the dedicatory ceremony are from Vancouver World 1904 June 27, p.3, and the Western Methodist Recorder 1904 July. The author thanks Blair Galston, United Church Conference Archivist for this latter reference. Other Trustees included Victor Odlum, dry goods merchant J. Horner, Alderman Angus MacDonald, and Robert G. Clarke.
- Vancouver World 1904, June 29, p.5
- Vancouver World 1904, June 27, p.3; Aug 1, p.8; Aug 2, p.4
- Province 1904 December 20, p.5, December 29, p.2
- Vancouver World 1905 May 6, p.7; May 8, p.1; 1909 Mar 6, p.13. The new church is now the Vancouver East Cultural Centre.
- For services at Park & Barnard see for example Province 1910, June 18, 25, August 27, November 12; Daily Advertizer 1910 August 28, September 9, 1911 January 21; Vancouver World 1910 September 27. For the Convention see Province 1911 January 30, p 6 and Daily Advertizer 1911 January 31, p. 10. The moving permit mentions Turner Street but that is simply a clerical error; the block and lot number on the permit correspond to 1760 (or 1758) Barnard (now Adanac) Street, just half a block from its original position.
- This paragraph and several that follow owe much to information kindly supplied by Pastor Trevor, the current leader of the congregation.
- For services see for example listing in Province 1929 April 14, p. 5; “Hollander church” in City Directory 1927. Juliana visit: Province 1944 Feb 7, p.5; Sun 1944 Feb 7, p. 11
- Province 1948 Oct 15, p.50