The Development of First & Commercial

May 16, 2022

I have today published a new research essay on the 15-year fight for the development of the old Grandview High school site at First & Commercial.

The essay can be found at: https://grandviewheritagegroup.ca/2022/05/16/battle-for-the-school-site-1940-1955/

I hope you find it of interest.


Smallpox! Grandview’s Isolation Hospital

May 3, 2022

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I have today published another research essay, this one tells the history of the smallpox Isolation Hospital erected in Grandview in 1892 and which stayed in place until it became part of Templeton Park in 1912.

The essay can be read at https://grandviewheritagegroup.ca/blog


Grandview’s Parks (1890-1930)

April 19, 2022

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I have today published a brief essay on the history of parks in Grandview from 1890 to 1930.

The essay is posted at https://wordpress.com/post/grandviewheritagegroup.ca/3429 and I hope you find it of interest.


The Widening of Commercial Drive

April 12, 2022

Visitors and locals alike often wonder why Commercial Drive south of First Avenue — a wide arterial road — is different than the northern half which is narrower and more intimate. The reason goes back more than 110 years and it all had to do with political intrigue in the Balkans.

Like many streets in Vancouver, Commercial Drive (or Park Drive as it was then called) began as a path through tall stands of timber, or at least the stumps thereof. It was barely wide enough for the interurban tracks that were laid in the early 1890s. As Grandview began to grow in the first years of the twentieth century, and as the Drive developed into the retail and commercial hub of a burgeoning residential neighbourhood, the roadway was widened and improved to a standard width of 66 feet.

As early as 1909, the Grandview Progress Association had written to the Vancouver Board of Works suggesting that Park Drive be widened. But it was not until 1911 that City engineers had begun planning to widen several main thoroughfares, including Main Street and Park Drive. Discussion of this possibility became a matter of concern for developers wanting to erect new buildings and wondering what street line they should plan for. In July of that year G.W. Fuller and other Park Drive property owners approached the Board of Works for clarification. He suggested that the Drive be widened from 6th Avenue south to the City limits from 66 feet to 80 feet. Fuller asserted that 75% of the property owners were in favour of the plan, each to give seven feet on either side of the road. He noted that the southern end of the Drive was not yet built up but would become busier once the tram cars started to make their planned turn at 6th Avenue. It was, he suggested, a good time to make the improvement while local owners were willing to defray the costs. Alderman Williamson moved that the City Engineer report on Fuller’s request. However, Alderman Cameron felt it was “unfair that the residents of one portion of the street should pay” for improvements desired by the other portion; and so the motion was amended to seek the Engineer’s report on widening the Drive all the way from Venables to 16th Avenue.i

Later that same month, the Ward 5 Ratepayers Association wrote to the Board urging that the Park Drive widening be completed as soon as possible. But the Engineer reported that there were issues with the sewer system which needed to be solved before any street widening could take place. The matter seems to have been settled quickly as the Board in August was urging that the widening from 6th Avenue south should be rushed forward “with all possible speed.”ii

The Engineer also recommended that the widening be divided into two parts. He noted that the Drive from Venables to First Avenue was “fairly built up with brick buildings” and was already under contract for pavement. It would be more complex to deal with a widening of that section compared to the barely developed southern section. This recommendation was approved by the Board of Works in September where a budget of $208,772 was agreed for the northern section, and $215,137 for the much longer southern part, to be paid by local assessment. The details were published as a Public Improvement By-Law on October 18th 1911.iii

Opposition to the plan emerged in November 1911 when a number of Drive ratepayers met at Grandview Hall under the chairmanship of realtor A.E. Tregent who was secretary of the Property Owners Association. They were concerned about what if any compensation would be paid for losing seven feet of their land. Moreover, many of them claimed that the Drive was already wide enough for the amount of traffic they were seeing. The majority attending believed, following an address by Professor Edward Odlum, that if the widening was to go ahead either the City or the BC Electric Railway should pay as the streetcar operators woud be the main beneficiaries. In a sumbission to the Court of Revision, they complained again about what they considered the excessive costs of the project.iv

Whether it was this opposition or simply pressure of other work for the engineers, the widening project took a long time to get started. In September 1912, almost a full year after the meeting in Grandview Hall, propery owners had taken to complaining that they still did not know the street line against which they should be building. A letter from the London and British North Amerca Company noted that some buildings had been erected seven feet back from the old street line, and other owners didn’t know whether they should move their buildings back or not. They complained that they could not get the City to make the necessary arrangements to acquire the strip required for the widening nor, indeed, get confirmation that the widening was actually going to happen. Meanwhile, they were unable to rent their stores and houses due to the uncertainty and had lost considerable revenue. Land Agent J.B. Williams said the problem had been caused by “the mixed-up condition” of papers at the Land Registry Office which was delaying the surveying of road widening across the city. He thought that another four months would be needed before the work on Commercial Drive could begin.v

By January 1913, the sidewalks south of First Avenue had been laid on the new streetline, but only one building had been moved. Property owners led by Charles E. Smith appealed to the Board of Works to allow them to move the buildings themselves if the City was unwilling to proceed even though the work had been contracted with McCain Bros. The Board ordered the Purchasing Agent, the City comptroller and the City solicitor to report on the situation by the next meeting.vi

Two weeks later, the Purchasing Agent reported to the Board that only 101 of the 175 property owners had signed their approval to accept the assessment. He suggested that support for the widening scheme was flagging with each delay. Board chair Alderman Crewe agreed that the whole matter was a “muddle,” but promised that the removals would begin just as soon as final terms had been agreed.vii

To the relief of just about everyone, the work began in earnest in early February 1913. A total of nineteen buildings were to be moved back between First and Fifeenth Avenues, and Messrs. McCains planned to set a second gang of men to work by the middle of the month. They anticipated completion by April.viii

We are fortunate to have photographic evidence of one of the building moves.

In the 1900-block of Commercial, the Frederick Block was erected in March 1911 along the former streetline. In the photograph above from 1912 it can be seen as jutting forward compared to the Allen Block next door which was built several months later along the new streetline. The right-hand image shows the same blocks today, with the Frederick Block having been moved back seven feet to align with its neighbour.

The work of moving buildings actually took longer than anticipated but, by the middle of August 1913, the final building to be moved was dealt with. This was the Halse Block at 1729-1735 Commercial which had been built in 1910 at a cost of $14,000.

The Vancouver Daily World covered the unusual move in great detail and their report is worth quoting at length: ix

“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 work may have been completed successfully but the building’s owner, George Halse, was not happy. He successfully sued the City, seeking $7,000 compensation for the seven feet of property he lost. After protracted negotiations, the City settled by paying him $4,200 plus $300 costs.x

The moving of the Halse Building turned out to be the final act of the Commercial Drive widening saga. Not unlike today, Vancouver’s growth before the First World War was driven in large part by foreign money. In the early 1900s it was British funds that drove the market. However, in late 1912 a serious crisis erupted in the Balkans and, cautious as money managers tend to be, they decided to hoard their cash in London rather than invest in Canada. By March 1913, the financial market situation in Vancouver was grave, leaving the City with a large amount of unsold municipal improvement bonds. The City was obliged to cease all local improvement work for the balance of the year. xi

Although the bond markets would quickly recover once the Balkan crisis was over, this recession was followed almost immediately by the start of the First World War, and the Commercial Drive widening scheme was never resumed, leaving the section north of First Avenue at its original width. In November 1915, the Improvement By-Law for the northern half of the Drive was repealed.xii


i  GPA request: Daily News Advertizer 1909 Dec 21, p.8. The discussion at the Board of Works meeting is covered in Vancouver Daily World 1911 Jul 12, p.9; Province, p.7

ii  Vancouver Daily World 1911 Jul 26, p.8; Daily News Advertizer 1911 Aug 3, p. 5. Discussion of the sewer issue can be found at Province 1911 Jun 15, p.13, Oct 13, p.7

iii  Engineer’s comments reported in Daily News Advertizer 1911 Aug 9, p.10. Approvals: Vancouver Daily World 1911 Sep 20, p.3

iv  Vancouver Daily World 1911 Oct 31, p.8, Nov 1, p.11; Province Nov 1, p.11; Daily News Advertizer Nov 14, p.7

v  Sun 1912 Sept 12, p.11; Vancouver Daily World, p.16

vi  Daily News Advertizer 1913 Jan 22, p.2, Province, p.9; Vancouver Daily World p.7

vii  Vancouver Daily World 1913 Jan 29, p.13; Daily News Advertizer, p.3

viii  Vancouver Daily World 1913 Feb 5, p.4; Mar 7, p.14; Province Mar 8, p.40

ix  Vancouver Daily World 1913 Aug 15, p.24. This is now known as the Brandon Block. Building details from the building permit dated 8th November 1910.

x  Daily News Advertizer 1914 Jan 24, p.7; Province Oct 6, p.2; Sun, p.2, 1915 Aug 13, p.8

xi  Province 1913 March 19, p.22; Vancouver Daily World, p.17. The financial crisis affected the private market, too, causing bancruptcies among local developers such as James Guinet in Grandview

xii  Province 1915 Nov 18, p.15


Shoot Out at First & Commercial

April 8, 2022

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It was the spring of 1949 and Commercial Drive — after two long decades of Depression and War — was reveling in the first flush of postwar prosperity: the stores were full and people finally had money to spend.

No doubt, it was this very prosperity that drew Robert Harrison to the corner of First & Commercial that 8th April.

Harrison, a 29-year old with a criminal record stretching back to before his 16th birthday, and who had already served eight years for armed robbery in a federal penitentiary, was a short stocky man with a round face and high cheekbones. He was well dressed in a tan topcoat over a leather jacket and a sports shirt, as he stood outside the Commerce Bank building after parking his car just around the corner on First Avenue. It was 10:30 on a sunny morning and Commercial Drive’s sidewalks were already crowded.

Harrison, who had stolen $6,000 in an armed robbery of a bank in Victoria just two months previously, used a band-aid to attach a white handkerchief across the bottom half of his face. He then pulled a Canadian Army-issue 9mm pistol from his pocket, and strode into the bank, following behind an older woman.

Once inside, Harrison roughly pushed the customer aside and started shooting wildly, firing six times. Every shot missed the customers waiting in line, but others weren’t so lucky. Bank manager Charles Scanlon was grazed in the thigh, while another of Harrison’s bullets passed through an office door and hit accountant Arthur Pearson in the shoulder, damaging his lung.

Harrison took his time. He stuffed three thousand dollars in mixed bills into his pockets and then ran back to the door.

By this time, everyone out on the street knew a robbery was in progress and an alert Fraser Transfer truck driver had already blocked off Commercial to the south with his vehicle. After being alerted by a Mrs. Clarke who rushed into his shop, Lloyd McWilliams called the police from his drug store on the southeast corner of the intersection while his clerk, standing on a chair, could see people with their hands up through the bank windows.

A cashier who had been returning to the bank from her morning tea break but had been stopped at the door by the noise inside, ran in a panic into the Quality Shoe Store next to the bank. Thirty-nine year old manager William Bishop and his father Arthur had already heard the gunfire next door. Encouraged by the cashier, Bishop ran out into the street to flag down Constable Cecil Paul, who he knew was on motorcycle patrol that day. Looking back as he ran, Bishop saw Harrison leaving the bank, gun in hand, and the gunman immediately saw him. Bishop just managed to duck behind a parked car as a bullet crashed through the side of the engine hood and came out under the fender, a few inches from where Bishop crouched.

Harrison shouted “Stand back!” to the world in general and moved toward the corner where his car was parked. A number of elderly women happened to be gathered on the corner and at least one of them attacked him with an umbrella as he tried to push through. Harrison, realizing that his car had been blocked by the Transfer truck, grabbed one of the women to use as a shield and began to cross Commercial heading west. But the woman proved too awkward to carry and he dropped her. Just at that moment, five year old Ian Erlandson, not understanding the danger, ran by and was grabbed by the gunman to use as a shield instead.

By this time, 26-year old Constable Cecil Paul, a veteran of six years active service in the war, had arrived on the scene and dropped his motorcycle. He pulled out his gun and deliberately fired a shot over Harrison’s head. Harrison fired back, almost hitting 26-year old housewife Gloria Groome who was standing on the west side of the street. She felt the bullet graze her hair.

Constable Paul aimed again and his second shot hit Harrison in the forehead, killing him instantly. Blood spattered everywhere as Harrison crumpled to the ground, the boy still in his arms. The gunman’s Browning automatic still had five live rounds, and there were 32 more rounds in his pocket. The $3,650 he had stolen fell from his jacket and lay scattered across the sidewalk.

Young Erlandson was unhurt and scampered off, to be found later playing with friends near his home on Cotton Drive, seemingly unfazed by his adventure.

The coolness and bravery of Constable Paul was recognized by all and he would eventually be awarded the King’s Gallantry Medal. Immediately after the shooting he had been promoted from second class to first class constable with a pay rise of $21 a month.

Manager Scanlon, though not badly injured, took three months’ stress leave, not returning to work until July. The seriously wounded Arthur Pearson also recovered and returned to the bank well before his manager.

* * * * *

References: The details of the robbery and its aftermath have been pieced together from reports in the Highland Echo (April 14, June 30, 1949), Vancouver Sun (April 18, 26, 1949), Province (April 8, 9, 19, 1949), and News-Advertizer (Nov 10, 1949)


Catherine Bufton of Commercial Drive

March 31, 2022

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In a belated honour of International Women’s History Month, 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.


A Church Lost, then Found

March 19, 2022

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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.


  1. An earlier version of the original research can be found here.
  2. Vancouver World 1903 Nov 20, p.6; 1904 Jun 27, p.3
  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.
  4. 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
  5. News-Advertizer, 1 May 1904, p. 8; “holiday”: Vancouver World 1904 June 27, p.3
  6. 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.
  7. Vancouver World 1904, June 29, p.5
  8. Vancouver World 1904, June 27, p.3; Aug 1, p.8; Aug 2, p.4
  9. Province 1904 December 20, p.5, December 29, p.2
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. This paragraph and several that follow owe much to information kindly supplied by Pastor Trevor, the current leader of the congregation.
  13. 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
  14. Province 1948 Oct 15, p.50

Changes On The Drive #126

March 5, 2022

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I have had a number of correspondents write to me asking where this month’s Changes on the Drive edition is. Unfortunately, after more than ten years of monthly reporting, I am no longer physically able to walk the walk that makes it happen.

Especially now that the Drive is reviving from the pandemic slump, I shall miss cataloguing the changes and tracking the vacant storefront. I will do my best to report what I can see each month, but it is unlikely I can go into the detail that I like to produce.

Here are a couple of items I had planned to feature this month:

At 2247 Commercial, Juno Provisions opened a couple of months ago. Scout magazine had an interesting article about them.

Image: Scout

Also, at 1590 Commercial, we now have Hanai, a Hawai’ian themed restaurant that opened earlier this week. Once again, Scout has a piece on the refurbishing of the old Ugly Dumpling spot.

Image: Scout

I feel sure there were plenty more interesting items available this month on the Drive and I am sad not to be able to bring them to this space.

I want to thank the many people who read this column every month, many of whom sent me tips and stories.

Previous Changes on the Drive editions


A Lost Church Found

February 20, 2022

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“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 afternoon sermon of the Park Drive Methodist Church on Sunday 26th June, 1904. (1)

The brand new Park Drive branch of the Princess Street Methodist Church had been 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. 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.”

The idea for a new church had arisen the previous fall. 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, and realtor J.B. Mathers was contacted to assist them in this endeavour. (2)

Mathers secured for them two lots on the northeast 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. 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. (3)

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. (4)

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.” (5)

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. 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.

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 ring about him.”(6)

Rev. Powell was eventually replaced by Mr. Van Dyke, “a returned missionary from Japan on furlough”, who supervised the church for about a year. He then gave way to Rev. J.J. Nixon.  In 1908, the Park Street Church became independent of Princess Street, and the Rev. R.S. Stillman was installed as pastor, supervising Sunday School attendances of up to 200. It was already clear that a larger building was urgently required and three lots were purchased on Venables Street at the corner of Victoria Drive, where a $5,000 church was dedicated in March 1909, and the Park Drive Church was abandoned. (7)

Unfortunately, I have been unable to locate any photographs of the Park Drive Church. I assume the original building was rapidly dismantled as it does not appear on the 1912 Goad’s map.  The lots have been empty since then, and were partly subsumed beneath the Commercial Drive Diversion that was built in 1931. The remainder now forms part of the parking lot on the west side of the Drive between Venables and Adanac.

Notes:

(1) Commercial Drive prior to 1911 was called Park Drive. 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.

(2) Vancouver World 1903 November 20, p.6; 1904 June 27, p.3

(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

(4)  “holiday”: Vancouver World 1904 June 27, p.3

(5)  Other Trustees included Victor Odlum, J. Horner, Alderman Angus MacDonald, and Robert G. Clarke.

(6)  Vancouver World 1904, June 27, p.3

(7) Vancouver World 1909 Mar 6, p.13. The “new” church is now the Vancouver East Cultural Centre.


Grandview Housing Prices, 1918-1946

February 17, 2022

Here I present some preliminary research on house prices in Grandview from 1918 to 1946.

Select graph for a better view.

The data is drawn from real estate ads in the “Vancouver Daily World“, “Province” and “Sun” newspapers.  The data was filtered to include only those ads that (1) related to property in Grandview; (2) were for a house (rather than an apartment building or business); and (3) listed a price.

The high point for average prices between the wars was in 1923, and the nadir was in 1935.  The average price in 1935 was 60% lower than in 1923.

The Great Depression, from 1929/30, had an obvious effect on prices.  However, the graph shows that the decline in prices began almost a decade earlier. Similarly, the effects of the second world war (an increase in Vancouver’s population for war work, the inclusion of more women in the paid work force, and emergency tenancy regulations) greatly stimulated house prices. However, here, too, we see that the increase had begun before the war.


Drugs and Booze: The Rowdy History of 1761 Grant Street

February 16, 2022

The one-and-a-half storey house at 1761 Grant was built under a $2,250 building permit  issued to W.H. Creitz at the beginning of January 1910. By May it was on the market, described as having seven rooms “with every up-to-date convenience built in.”  It was “not an ordinary house; come and see it; if you see it, you will want it.”[1]

It was still on the market the following January when the owner’s ad pleaded that “it must be sold this week”, and again in March.[2]  However, by the time of the census in July 1911 the house was occupied, mainly by the Jessiman family. Alfred Jessiman was a clerk at the Bank of Vancouver, William was also a clerk, while Norman worked at a hardware store on E. Cordova. They had a housekeeper, Agnes Chino.  But the Jessimans didn’t stay long and by the following year the house was vacant again.[3]

A year or so later, 1761 Grant – along with 1749 which becomes an integral part of the story that follows – was occupied by “Chinese” and “orientals” as the Directories chose to call them.  In 1914, the “oriental” was named as Jim Lem.  According to the 1921 Census, Lem was the owner of the property and lived there with his wife, Gin Shee, three daughters and three sons. He was described as a merchant.[4]

The 1700 block of Grant was a residential street of impeccable character; after all, world-travelling historian, social reformer, and former City Councilor Prof. Edward Odlum had his Queen Anne mansion there, on the corner lot with its lawns flowing down to Commercial Drive.  With the racist tinge that was so prominent in its day, the Province described 1761 and 1749 Grant as having windows that were “nicely curtained, the front yards unusually neat”, so you wouldn’t even know a Chinese family lived there. [5]

For several years, we hear nothing about what the Lem family is up to. In court reports in 1918, Jim Lem is described as “a type of up-to-date Chinese who drives a motor car” and had a position with a bank.  Suddenly, following “information that was obtained,” the house – or more particularly, the garage – of 1761 Grant was raided by Deputy Police Chief Don Leatherdale and three detectives on the evening of 17th October 1917. [6]

Donald Leatherdale CVA AM54-S4-: Port N3 1

When the police arrived, the garage door was wide open, and crates of liquor could clearly be seen.  In the end, 12 barrels of Chinese whiskey, each containing 36 gallons, and 52 cases of Chinese wine worth $4,000 were confiscated under the new Prohibition Act.  Two horse-drawn drays were needed to move the booze to the Police Station. Jim Lem was arrested and charged with keeping liquor in an improper place.[7]

Lem protested that he had purchased the liquor for his own use “for cooking purposes,” and that the police were mis-interpreting the Act.  The police contended that a garage is not a “dwelling place” under the meaning of the Act. Magistrate Shaw agreed with the police, fined Lem $100 plus costs, and confiscated the liquor.

It would take until a hearing in the following February, but Lem was eventually to get his booze back.  He and his father sued the police for the return of their goods and proved that they had laid in the liquor “with characteristic Chinese foresight” to see them through the introduction of Prohibition. Two days before the Act came into force, Lim borrowed $500 from his wife, and $1,700 from his father. He used the money to pay for the liquor from the Western Canada Liquor Company. Lem’s father was known throughout Chinatown, apparently, as a heavy drinker.  Judgement in their favour was issued by Justice MacDonald who declared that Lem was correctly fined under the Act but that the Act did not allow for subsequent confiscation. The police were obliged to return the barrels to 1761 Grant. [8]

Just a year before the liquor bust, a new Chinese resident appears at 1749 Grant. He is J.W. Mang, and given subsequent events, one wonders if this timing is not related.

Mang appears as resident of 1749 Grant from 1916. However, he does not appear in the Names section until 1919 where he is listed as owner of J.W. Mang & Co, a grocery store at 2652 Main.  That same year, he ran an ad in the Vancouver Daily World — “Best quality, small profits. Give me a try” — where the grocer was listed at 532 Kingsway. [9]

During the winter and early spring of 1920, the two houses on Grant Street had been linked by the police to a network of cross-border drug smugglers. It was believed that a building on Columbia Avenue was being used as a storehouse for the drugs. An automobile number plate was tied by surveillance to both the Columbia Avenue and Grant Street addresses. The Grant Street premises had been watched by police for some time before, on the morning of 1st May, a raid took place, the houses were searched, and Mang was arrested.[10]

The raid was led by Vancouver Police Inspector Jackson, along with three other Vancouver officers and an Inspector from each of the Inland Revenue and Customs Departments.  One hundred and fifteen tins of No.1 opium, worth about $12,000, was seized along with seven parcels of morphine and cocaine, valued at about $50,000 retail, and several thousand cigarettes; all imported from China.  The opium, the largest quantity seized up to that time, was found in the living room of 1761 Grant after Mang, who had the key, let the police into the house.

“In premises at the rear, the detectives found implements for ‘cooking’ crude opium for smoking purposes, and several photos of white girls were also discovered.”  [11]

The name of the putative owner of 1761 Grant, Jim Lem, never came up in the first reports of the raid. Mang claimed that he was merely looking after the house and that the goods had been left there that morning.  He appeared at Police Court on May 3 and was remanded until the 7th[12]

Before that hearing, the police struck once more. On May 5th they again raided 1761 Grant Street and tore it apart using hammers and axes in their search for more drugs. After removing flooring and paneling they found another $10,000 worth of cocaine, heroin, and opium. The police believed that the new drug haul had been secreted into the house since the raid just four days earlier, “the owners thinking that it would be hardly possible that the officers would visit the premises so soon after the last raid.” The press was alive with claims that a major continent-wide drug smuggling operation had been broken. [13]

Justice was swift in 1920. On May 10th, less than two weeks after the raid, J.W. Mang was up before Magistrate Shaw.  He presented a highly involved story. He claimed the owner of 1761 was his son-in-law who had been visiting China for the past two years. Before leaving for his visit, he had asked his father-in-law to allow a certain Chinese man to come and go in the house.  On the Saturday morning an unknown oriental delivered packages of grapefruit which he stored in 1761.  Mang claimed to be as surprised as anyone that drugs were found beneath the fruit. Shaw didn’t believe a word of it and sentenced Mang to one year in jail, along with a fine of $500 and costs.  He was fined a further $250 for possession of illegal cigarettes. [14]

Mang was allowed out on $5,000 bail while he appealed the conviction. Mang’s counsel J.A. Russell negotiated a plea on account of Mang’s age, which was 65. It was agreed he would return to China and not return to Vancouver. However, Mang returned to the city in April 1921 and “had no difficulty in passing the immigration authorities.”  He is still listed in the Directories at 1740 Grant until 1923, after which time he drops off the map. [15]

In 1924, the residents of 1749 and 1761 Grant Street are back to being “orientals”. But the reversion to gentility is completed later that decade when all the names associated with the houses are anglo once again.

1749 Grant was demolished in 1940 and replaced. But 1761 Grant is still with us. It has been altered, but is clearly the same house that Creitz was selling back in 1911.

Image: Google Street View

* * * *

These raids and their coverage reveal details of the drug trade in 1920 that are otherwise hard to find. Opium was reported to retail in tins costing $110 per; cocaine was sold at $250 per adulterated ounce; while heroin pills were two for a dollar. I would assume that these are prices to a middleman who would break down the product for sale on the street. [16]

References:

[1] Image: Vancouver Daily World, 1911 March 31, p.30; description: Province, 1910 May 4, p.26;

[2] Vancouver Daily World, 1911 March 8, p.28; see also World March 14, p.23 where the price is listed as $3,300 with $600 down;

[3] City Directory 1911; Canada Census 1911;

[4] City Directories 1912-1925; Canada Census 1921; “merchant”: Province 1917 October 18, p.20;

[5] Province 1920 May 1, p.25;

[6] Province 1918 February 25, p.1; 1917 October 18, p.20; Vancouver Daily World 1917 October 18, p.9;

[7] Vancouver Daily World 1917 October 18, p.9; Province 1917 October 18, p.20;

[8] Province 1918 February 25, p.1;

[9] City Directory 1919; Vancouver Daily World 1919 June 20, p.17;

[10] Province 1920 May 1, p.25; Vancouver Sun 1920 May 2, p.4;

[11] The police also noted that both garages and basements were regular storehouses of liquor, piled high with goods.  Province 1920 May 1, p.25;

[12] Province 1920 May 1, p.25; Vancouver Sun 1920 May 2, p.4; May 4, p.1;

[13] Vancouver Daily World 1920 May 6, p.15; Vancouver Sun, 1920 May 6, p.1;

[14] Province 1920 May 10, p.15; Vancouver Sun 1920 May 11, p.14; Vancouver Daily World 1920 May 10, p.13; May 12, p.3;

[15] Vancouver Daily World 1920 May 12, p.3; Vancouver Sun 1921 May 21, p.5; Vancouver City Directories 1921-1923;

[16] Vancouver Sun 1920 May 6, p.1


Another Sad Loss on The Drive

February 2, 2022

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Thanks to Penny for the heads up: I had completely missed an important business closing in my last Changes on the Drive report. The Drive Coffee Bar at 1806 Commercial has closed down according to a sign on their window.

They were a nice bunch in there, but apparently the covid-downturn was just too much for them. They will be missed.


Changes On The Drive #125

February 1, 2022

Having missed the January edition due to the snow and frigid temperatures (my first miss in more than ten years), I was glad to do the walk again yesterday. It was a gorgeous day for it and there are some interesting changes to report.

The storefront at 2247 Commercial has re-opened as Juno Provisions, serving “sushi and more”.

The former Western Union office at 2245 has closed, while the Canntina Cannabis store at 2223 has now opened.

Spartacus Books is just about to open at 1983 Commercial.

What used to be the Terra Housing offices at 1848 Commercial is now Access Employment Services, and the former Expedia Cruise office at 1832 Commercial is now a sales office for the Linx East Van housing development at 2268 E. Broadway.

The former travel bureau at 1733 Commercial seems to have become an extension of the KushKlub cannabis store next door.

What used to be Federico’s Supper Club at 1728 Commercial will soon become another live music venue called Ostia.

The storefront at 1706 Commercial, which has rarely done well as an eating place, will soon morph into a hair salon called Darling Hair Designing.

Yesterday was the last day in business for Exposure Home at 1616 Commercial which has been having a closing out sale for months.

As expected, the Ugly Dumpling at 1590 Commercial has closed, while Don Oso’s at 1305 Commercial opened in December.

The former Renzo’s Cafe, which has been closed at 1301 Commercial for more than a year, has become the Dope Coffee shop. It has the dark-lit atmosphere of a cabaret bar (the photo I took did not come out well).

We have a new beauty salon at 1126 Commercial called Willow’s Wax Bar which promises all sort of interesting vegan services using cruelty-free products.

The storefront at 902 Commercial is not yet open, but the shopfitters were working hard yesterday getting the Liquid Amber Tattoo and Art Collective ready for opening.

Vacancies on the Drive this month: 

2277 Commercial (vacant 31 months), 2245 (1 month), 2111 (21 months), 2058 (7 months), 2057 (14 months), 1929 (2 months), 1858 (5 months), 1851 (3 months), 1816 (21 months), 1748 (18 months), 1728 (20 months), 1706 (2 months), 1590 (1 month), 1303 (2 months), 1124 (3 months), 902 (16 months).

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We are now at the lowest vacancy level since April 2020, and there are several more storefronts that I anticipate will re-open within the next two months. Clearly, the Drive is looking up!

Previous Changes On The Drive editions.

PS: While formatting this post, I managed to press the wrong button and thus deleted December’s Changes. Very annoying.


Changes Delay

December 1, 2021

Good morning. For those regular readers who would be expecting to find a new edition of the Changes on the Drive series here today, it will be available later on Thursday. The torrential downpours of the last few days have kept me indoors. I believe tomorrow will be dry, so I’ll do my survey walk in the morning.


Changes On The Drive #123

November 1, 2021

Yesterday, when I did the walk, was weather-wise the best day of the year for my taste: clear blue sky, bright sunshine, and a cool temperature. Fabulous feeling. And the Drive was packed with people seeming to enjoy it as much as me. There were, I noticed, a surprising number of adults dressed up for Halloween (at least I guess that’s what they were dressed for).

Down at the southern end of my patch, on the north west corner of Grandview Highway and Commercial, an informal street market seems to be growing beside the convenience store.

Things are changing for the CCEC credit union at 2248 Commercial: The single-branch CCEC is looking to merge with the 7-branch Community Savings Credit Union.

CCEC Credit Union - 604list: Vancouver's Best Businesses

Grandview Lanes at 2195 Commercial is featured as somewhere to go on a rainy day.

The Dive In Dessert Bar at 1706 Commercial is finally closed and the storefront is being offered for lease. It hasn’t seemed open for weeks.

Loula at 1608 Commercial and Havana at 1212 make it onto the Daily Hive list of restaurants that make you feel you are on vacation.

Ugly Dumpling, 1590 Commercial, is closing at the end of the year, with the owners moving back to Japan. I didn’t manage to visit here and when I heard it was closing I decided it would be a great place for me to celebrate my birthday this week. However, looking at the menu, I saw that it would be a minimum of $150 for two, and so we went to Western Lake for dim sum instead.

Image: Scout Magazine

The big double-front at 1305, which has been vacant for 18 months since the Storm Crow Tavern closed, has now been leased and will soon be another Mexican restaurant called Don Oso’s. They were open on Hastings Street in Burnaby. I am not sure if this is an additional location or whether this is a move.

Next door, the oft-vacant space at 1303 is now occupied by Wolf Pack Apparel. However, at the moment it looks like it may just be another temporary pop-up for that space.

Vacancies on the Drive this month: 

2283 Commercial (11 months vacant), 2277 (28 months), 2247 (4 months), 2223 (32 months), 2111 (18 months), 2058 (2 months), 2057 (11 months), 1983 (6 months), 1858 (2 months), 1851 (2 months), 1816 (18 months), 1748 (15 months), 1733 (14 months), 1728 (19 months), 1706 (1 month), 1503 (10 months), 1305 (18 months), 1301 (13 months), 1191 (6 months), 1126 (5 months), 1111 (2 months), 902 (13 months).

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The number of vacancies has not fallen this month. However at least 7 of these vacant stores are either leased or well advanced in preparation for re-opening. These include the three large double-fronts at 1728, 1305 and 1191 Commercial.

Previous Changes On The Drive editions.


Changes On The Drive #122

October 1, 2021

I usually do my walk on the Drive on the last day of the month so that these posts can come out early on the first of the next month. However, I decided NOT to be drowned in the downpour yesterday. Which was a good choice because the Drive was resplendent in autumn sunshine today.

Last month we began with a quote from a Seattle newspaper. This month, we have this from Portland:

“Traditionally a bastion of the local Italian community, Commercial Drive in East Vancouver is still home to superb Italian food (try Oca Pastificio and Fratelli Bakery). But you can also dig into—literally, with your hands—a lavish Filipino boodle fight at Kulinarya Filipino Eatery, pile into some crispy prawn fritters at Lunch Lady (a spinoff of an Anthony Bourdain–approved soup stall in Saigon), or settle into some of the most meticulously prepared sushi in the city at Kishimoto Japanese Restaurant.”

The storefront at 2223 Commercial which has been vacant for a year and a half is still closed but now sports new windows advertising something called Canntina Cannabis.

Cafe Deux Soleils at 2096 Commercial is in a stage play.

The laundromat called Wash Out at 2058 Commercial has closed.

It looks as though Carthage Cafe is returning to its old location at 1851 Commercial, while BC Donair, now closed, was just a temporary interloper.

What used be Federico’s at 1728 Commercial and has been vacant for a year and a half, now has a LEASED sign on the window. No indication of what’s coming, but my guess would be another restaurant.

Although it was closed when I walked by today, I believe that the new Vancity Fried Chicken joint at 1678 Commercial is now open for business.

Lombardo’s Restaurant at 1641 Commercial gets a good review in Daily Hive’s Best Italian Restaurants.

At Mezcaleria, 1622 Commercial, the bartender makes a cool elote cocktail according to Scout Magazine.

I noted last month that Exposure Home at 1616 Commercial was closing down. It is still having its closing out sale, but there is already a LEASED sign on the window.

The newish Loula’s at 1608 Commercial gets another review in which it is described as “like if the Avengers opened a Greek restaurant.”

The Vietnamese café called Merci Beacoup at 1468 Commercial gets a nice review in a list of best pho restaurants.

Havana at 1212 Commercial is looking for staff. For the front of house, a manager, servers, hosts, and a bar back. For the back of house, line cooks, a head chef, and dishwashers are available. Apply at info@havanavancouver.com

Well at last we now know what’s happening with the former Biercraft at 1191 Commercial. It is soon to re-open as Community Taps and Pizza. The interior is being transformed by Sydney Earle of Jute Design and there will be 40 or so beers and wines on tap.

902 Commercial is still vacant, but there is a sign promising the soon-to-open Liquid Amber, tattoo and art collective.

Finally, I was sitting having a beer on the patio at Zawa’s the other day and heard the following review en passant: “I really like the Japanese curry at Mogu, but the chicken is better at the Downlow.”

Vacancies on the Drive this month: 

2283 Commercial (10 months vacant), 2277 (27 months), 2247 (4 months), 2223 (31 months), 2111 (17 months), 2058 (1 month), 2057 (10 months), 1983 (5 months), 1858 (2 months), 1851 (1 month), 1816 (17 months), 1748 (14 months), 1733 (13 months), 1728 (18 months), 1503 (9 months), 1305 (17 months), 1303 (3 months), 1301 (12 months), 1191 (5 months), 1126 (4 months), 1111 (1 month), 902 (12 months).

While it appears that the vacancy rate on the Drive is getting worse, I would note that several of the vacant storefronts are leased and/or are ready to open soon. I have confidence that next month’s figures will show an improvement.

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Previous Changes On The Drive editions.


Changes Update

September 1, 2021

After posting the most recent Changes post, I learned that Spade Coffee at 1858 Commercial has also closed permanently. They had one of the most evocative websites.

That means we have 21 vacant storefronts this month rather than the 20 shown previously.


Changes On The Drive #121

September 1, 2021

I’ll begin this month’s edition with an overview of the Drive from the Seattle Times by Brendan Kelly last week:

“At first, this neighborhood will confuse you with its pleasantly startling mix of cuisines, ethnicities and income brackets — that’s a good thing. In just a few blocks, you’ll pass places advertising injera, sushi, tandoori, mezcal, Italian coffee, samosas, Cuban sandwiches and Vietnamese food both upscale and down-home. Upscale pet accessory stores live next to well-worn used bookshops; some people on the street look like they have a lot of money, others look like they don’t have much. Andy Yan, an urban planner with Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, says this coexistence is explained by gentrification in slow motion. Commercial Drive was an Italian stronghold, then a multiethnic neighborhood, and is now attracting the “bobos” (bourgeois bohemians).”

Well, that’s us all over, isn’t it? In the meanwhile, it was the perfect day for the walk this morning; my kind of weather.

My southern Drive correspondent advises me that City Avenue is expanding south and north. I have noted for the last couple of months that they are displaying their produce in front of what was a Cash Exchange office at 2283 Commercial. I’m told they will also be taking over the old restaurant space at 2277.

Tangent Cafe, 2095 Commercial, Cafe Deux Soleils at 2096 Commercial, and Prado at 1938 Commercial all get good reviews in I Live In East Vancouver‘s brunches on the Drive.

My correspondent also tells me that Frank of Frank’s Jewelers, 1937 Commercial, has died, but that his wife may try to keep the shop going.

The Del Ray barbershop at 1798 E. 4th gets a shout out in the Hive’s list of Vancouver’s Best Barbershops.

What used to be LaLa’s at 1748 Commercial is still vacant but there is a sign saying that Cob’s Bakery will be opening soon. That is interesting on a couple of levels: first, we have a large number of bakeries on the Drive already; second, we used to have a Cob’s here and it closed more than a decade ago.

Note that J,N,Z at 1729 Commercial is closed for their summer vacation.

Another of the great brunches on the Drive is Mezcaleria at 1622 Commercial.

The new Loula’s Tavern at 1608 Commercial gets another review.

Exposure Home at 1616 Commercial is closing out.

My personal favourite, the Dime at 1565 Commercial, makes it onto the list of best brunches on the Drive.

The Vietnamese cafe Merci Beaucoup at 1468 got a great review on one of the local message boards: “The Pho broth is probably the best I have ever tasted… and I’ve tasted a lot! Banh Mi is so fresh! If you haven’t tried it yet you don’t what you’re missing!”

The Community Cash store at 1340 Commercial has closed, now dealing online only.

Havana at 1212 Commercial also gets a high five in brunches on the Drive.

The Arcane Tattoo Parlour at 1111 Commercial has finally closed, moved to East Hastings.

The DownLow Chicken Shack at 905 Commercial has proven so popular, they are opening a new location at UBC.

Vacancies on the Drive this month: 

2283 Commercial (9 months vacant), 2277 (26 months), 2247 (3 months), 2223 (30 months), 2111 (16 months), 2057 (9 months), 1983 (3 months), 1816 (16 months), 1748 (13 months), 1733 (12 months), 1728 (16 months), 1678 (12 months), 1503 (8 months), 1305 (16 months), 1303 (2 months), 1301 (11 months), 1191 (4 months), 1126 (3 months), 1111 (1 month), 902 (11 months).

Previous Changes On The Drive editions.


Changes On The Drive #120

August 1, 2021

As the title states, this is the one hundred & twentieth edition of Changes — one each month for the last ten years. Taking a quick look back through those posts, I am amazed at how much change has happened in the relatively compact stretch of fourteen short blocks from Venables to N. Grandview Highway that is the world of Changes. Unfortunately, this may be one of the least interesting editions as there are very few changes since the last post.

It sure was humid yesterday when I did the walk, though fortunately not nearly as hot as I had expected.

I have noted over the last few months the significant growth in the number of patios on the sidewalk. Most of them make a good deal of sense, but the brand new one outside the bowling lanes seems oddly placed as there is only a small snack bar inside and no other restaurants nearby.

The one new opening this month is Loula’s Taverna at 1608 Commercial. There is a good piece on the new place, and something odd about the bathroom here.

Image: Loula’s

There is a long advertorial about the Tandoori Palace‘s 20th anniversary at 1434 Commercial.

The Little Earth toy store at 1020 Commercial has a smart new sign.

Vacancies on the Drive this month: 

2283 Commercial (8 months vacant), 2277 (25 months), 2247 (2 months), 2223 (29 months), 2111 (15 months), 2057 (8 months), 1983 (2 months), 1816 (15 months), 1748 (12 months), 1733 (11 months), 1728 (15 months), 1678 (11 months), 1503 (7 months), 1305 (15 months), 1303 (1 month), 1301 (10 months), 1191 (3 months), 1126 (2 months), 902 (10 months).

As the graphs show, Commercial Drive is still deep into a pandemic slowdown. However, we are in far better shape that commercial streets in the UK where one in seven shops are now vacant: One in seven shops now vacant across the UK | Retail industry | The Guardian

Previous Changes On The Drive editions.


Changes On The Drive #119

July 1, 2021

Well, I can really appreciate the fact that the heat dome moved east overnight; I doubt I could have managed the walk in the temperatures of the last couple of days. Even at this more “tolerable” level, I was struggling. I was surprised at the number of businesses that had remained closed because of the heat.

On the walk today, I noticed an ever-growing number of street-side patios. They have been growing apace recently but this month sees them outside the Portuguese Club, Sula, Kulinyara, Bombay Kitchen, Absinthe, and others. Now that these seem to be a permanent fixture, I was wondering how that will affect Italian Day and Car Free Day when cafes have brought their cooking skills into the street. I like the change a lot.

The former restaurant at 2277 Commercial is still vacant after two years. The change this month is that the hopeful stickers that have for about a year announced a new café to open soon have been taken down and replaced by the always-attractive brown paper. Not sure yet if that is a good or bad sign.

Poke 5, at 2247 Commercial, has closed, as has the Dollar Plus Store at 1983 Commercial.

The new Sal y Limon at 1752 Commercial gets a quick review in the Daily Hive.

Loula’s — the new Greek concept at 1610 Commercial brought to us by a group of local restaurateurs: Petro and Yianni Kerasiotis (Nammos Estiatorio on Fraser), Bill and Niko Kerasiotis and Marco Mirisklavos (Sopra Sotto), and John Pavlakis (Minerva’s on W. 41st) — has not yet opened, but I suspect we are just days away from that event.

Sopra Sotto at 1510 Commercial makes the list of the best pizza places to visit.

The former Beckwoman’s store at 1314 Commercial has for a few months now been operating as a fashion boutique. However, its long term future appears to be as yet another cannabis dispensary.

Havana at 1212 Commercial gets another shout out for best brunch.

Next door, the small storefront at 1206 Commercial, which has been a pop-up outlet for a while, is now the new home of Manifesto Hair salon which has moved from its long-time spot at 1126 Commercial. I wish them great success at their new location.

Kin Kao at 903 Commercial has announced it will be opening a new Vancouver location. The concept will be setting up shop at 317 E Broadway (the former location of The Black Lodge) this summer, according to its social media accounts.

I noticed a sign in the window of Bump n’Grind at 916 Commercial that they are under new management. I hope they do well.

Finally, and just outside my normal location range, we now have a Bunny Cafe. Just around the corner at 1696 Venables we have a space where you can go pet the rabbits!

Vacancies on the Drive this month: 

2283 Commercial (7 months vacant), 2277 (24 months), 2247 (1 month), 2223 (28 months), 2111 (14 months), 2057 (7 months), 1983 (1 month), 1816 (14 months), 1748 (11 months), 1733 (10 months), 1728 (14 months), 1678 (10 months), 1608-12 (18 months), 1503 (6 months), 1305 (15 months), 1301 (9 months), 1191 (2 months), 1126 (1 month), 902 (9 months).

Previous Changes On The Drive editions.