We know who designed the older building in these pictures – or at least how it looked in 1958 when Cunningham Drugs had the corner lot at Burrard and Davie. The Daily Building Record in early 1912 reported the contract to alter and add to the existing buildings with stores and some apartments above, designed by J P Matheson for B B Brown at a cost of $5,500 and built by Alonzo Smith. A year later there was a further alteration to the stores at a cost of $1,000 by the same architect for the same owner. There was a house standing on this spot in 1901, one of four that faced onto Burrard Street, so perhaps that was the building that was altered and added to – it would explain the somewhat unbalanced symmetry of the facade.
B B Brown was almost certainly Bliss Blair Brown, a grocer who in the 1911 census was shown born in New Brunswick (as was his wife Ella) and who lived at 1193 Burrard, just across the street, and managed Brown’s Grocery at 1195 Burrard. The family included three children at home aged 8 to 14, all born in British Columbia, so the family had moved further west before the turn of the century – son Alvin was born in Vancouver in 1898. (Oddly, Bliss’s wife was called Alice in the 1901 census when the family lived on Hornby Street, but that’s an error as he married Ella in 1895 in New Westminster). Ella was an only child but Bliss was one of 14 children. There were several remarkable names in the family; as well as Bliss there were Arletta, Amasa, Tressa and Eldon.
The family apparently moved to the building, living at 1008 Davie in 1914, although there’s no sign of the grocery business. Bliss died in 1919 aged 56 and In 1920 Mrs E F Brown was still living at 1008 Davie, and died in 1938. Cunningham Drugs was started in Vancouver in 1911 by former Woodward’s pharmacist George Cunningham. This store appears to have been opened in the late 1920s and in 1939 the company absorbed rivals the Vancouver Drug Co. By 1941 there were 37 stores – and this was Store No. 4 – although it wasn’t the fourth store to be opened. Eventually there were over 100 stores and Cunningham became chair of UBC’s Board of Governors. He died in 1965 and in 1970 the chain was sold to Shoppers Drug Mart.
Today it’s an almost extinct Downtown species – a gas station. The Esso station here was built in 1995 – it’s one of only two left in the entire Downtown: there were once 99 gas stations on the peninsula.
Image source; City of Vancouver Archives CVA Bu P508.17