This modest commercial building is still standing over 100 years after it was built. We think it was in part designed by the prolific Parr and Fee partnership – that’s their trademark centre-hung windows in the 1940 Vancouver Public Library image. The tax record says the building dates from 1910, but we suspect the bones are older than that. In 1909 Parr and Fee were hired to alter the building at a cost of $7,000 – suggesting a very substantial change. Their client was listed as H Abbott. We assume this has to be the former superintendent of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Although there were other people called Abbott in the city (all called Harry) no others were likely to own a Granville Street property. There were a series of buildings that were early investments funded by CP Directors along Granville Street.
Checking the 1903 insurance map confirms this was indeed the Abbott Block. (There was also an earlier building with the same name on West Hastings Street that dates back to the 1890s). It was originally commissioned to be designed by the Fripp Brothers in 1889, the same year that a Hastings building was also built to their designs. A year earlier another Abbott Block had been built on Hastings, designed by N S Hoffar.
We saw this Granville building in context in an earlier post, but by 1940 the store fronts had been altered quite a bit. To the north at 548 the Polar Fur company had their store, and to the south in 552 were Betty’s Hat & Gown Shoppe. Maison Henri had the biggest sign, and occupied the centre unit for their beauty salon. Polar Furs were run by Conrad Matoff, while Betty’s was owned by Mrs B B Crawford. Maison Henri had been in business a long time – as early as 1910 the West Hastings store announced “TO THE LADIES OF VANCOUVER: We wish to announce to our numerous clientele the return of Mr. Henri from Europe, where he has been taking up the NESTLE PERMANENT HAIR WAVING with the inventors, C. Nestle & Co. direct. This is the new complete wave, and entirely eliminates the old home treatment of heating by hand. You should come in after the return of Mr. Henri on Thursday to see the beautifying effects. Appointments may be booked from Thursday. The beautiful wave effect will absolutely not wash out. In fact noisture only accentuates the wave. To see is to believe. Let us demonstrate. MAISON HENRI, The Premier Hair – Dressing House of Vancouver”.
By 1940 Maison Henri described themselves as Vancouver’s Oldest, Largest and Most Exclusive Beauty Salon. If exclusive implies a bit too expensive, Maison Henri could help with that; next door at 556 Granville was the “Maison Henri Ltd Annex – First Class Beauty Work at Lower Prices”.
Henri Gautschi was Swiss according to the 1935 record when he became Canadian, although his 1911 Census record and his death registration said he was French. He arrived in Canada in 1905, and his wife May a year later. She was born in London, England, and was seven years younger than her husband. By 1911 they had a daughter, Nancy. May died in 1931, the year that Nancy emigrated to Honolulu, Hawaii (although we think she returned and married in Vancouver later). Henri died in Vancouver in 1951, having retired not long after this picture was taken; his business was contined until after the war, run by Miss A D Sutherland.