401 West Cordova Street

Buscombe Building Cordova

Here’s the other side of 342 Water Street, which started life as the Burns Building, designed by William Blackmore for John Burns, with an additional two storeys added in 1911 by Grant & Henderson.

In 1901 Turner Beeton & Co occupied the building, the company founded by John Turner who was at different times Mayor of Victoria and Premier of British Columbia. Also occupying the building were S Greenshields & Co, founded in Montreal by a Scottish businessman, Samuel Greenshields, and expanded across the country to be the largest suppliers of dry goods, including cottons, woollens, carpets, household furnishings, dress goods, and notions such as gloves, hosiery, and laces. In 1910, before the extra floors were added, Greggs, importers of Japanese Goods were here with the Canadian Rubber Co of Montreal. Ten years later the Dunlop Tire Co had half the building and the Western Dry Goods Co of Canada, Ltd the other half. Despite the ambitious title, they appear to only have operated in Vancouver, run by R B Mackedie and E St John Howley. In 1930 Dunlop were still in the building, but the other half was J H Hunter & Co, another dry goods company headed by T E Leigh.

Buscombe & Co were run by George Buscombe, and they were in a smaller building next door to the east. In 1935 they were shown at 341 Water Street, and a year later at 342 – this building. (The 1935 entry might be an error, although it’s repeated in the directory). The company had been founded in 1899 when Fred Buscombe bought out James A Skinner and Co, china and glass importers, originally founded in Hamilton. He was at different times President of the city’s Board of Trade, and Mayor of Vancouver in 1905. He was also president of the Pacific Coast Lumber & Sawmills Company, and director of the Pacific Marine Insurance Company. By the time the company moved to this building there were several Buscombe family members associated with it, but Fred had retired. He died in the same year that the picture of the building was taken; 1938.

The other company in the building were the Julius Shore Mail Order House. Dealing mostly in furniture, Julius Shore was a prominent member of the city’s Jewish community. His father, Benjamin, was manager of a coal company in the late 1920s while Julius was at UBC, and in 1935 Julius was working with Dominion Furniture and seems to have established his company soon after, moving into Water Street at around the same time as Buscombes.

The most recent restoration of the building took place in 1997, designed by Rafii Architects, and today it’s home to Brioche Urban Eatery. Upstairs are a range of office occupants, from a Massage school to a coal company and the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs.

Image source: Vancouver Public Library

 

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