2050 Comox Street

We know who commissioned and also who designed this 1902 wooden house, seen here around 1910. Major Matthews labelled the image in the Archives as ‘George Buscombe residence ‘, and the permit says J P Matheson designed the house for G Buscombe, who spent $2,900 to build it. By 1903 George had moved in, leaving his previous home on Homer Street.

George was born in Hamilton, Ontario in 1875, son of Edwin and Isabella, who had arrived from Cornwall in 1870. They had 12 children, and George came in the middle of the pack, younger than his brother Fred who had come to BC before George, and was already established with a large family in 1901. George arrived in 1891, and like his brother, worked for James A. Skinner, a glass and pottery dealer from Ontario.

In 1899 he married Ada Maud Whitworth, originally from Wales (who had arrived in Canada aged 13 in 1887), and by 1901 they already had an infant son, also called George. His father was obviously doing well, working as a traveler; he built this house when he was 27, two years after the Skinner family had retired from business and Fred had acquired it, renaming it as Buscombe & Co. Two more children were born here, a son, Ernest, in 1903 and a daughter, Barbara, in 1905.

While Fred moved to a much fancier $10,500 West End home in 1905, (the year he was elected mayor), George continued to live here for 50 years. When Fred sold control of the company to a Montreal business at the end of 1911, George continued to work for Fred Buscombe & Co Ltd. as vice-president and general manager. Another brother, Charles also worked for the company. By 1914 Fred had established Buscombe Securities, with his son Robert as the insurance manager.

By 1916 George had become vice-president, while still working Fred Buscombe & Co, but by 1919 that was his only employment. In 1918 Charles Buscombe was the only brother working for Fred Buscombe & Co, now renamed as Cassidy’s, after the buyers of the business. A year later he had also moved on, establishing Buscombe Importing Co, a rival glass, silverware and china business. George also established his own business, George Buscombe Limited, Agents for the Western Assurance Company of Toronto. Fred’s involvement with Buscombe Securities wasn’t mentioned, but he was president of George’s company for a couple of years, before moving to live in Burnaby.

Charles’s Importing Company and George Buscombe’s Insurance business shared premises through the mid 1920s on Cambie Street, overlooking Victory Square. Buscombe Securities owned premises on West Hastings run as Cal-Van Market, owned by a Calgary company but managed by H Arthur Buscombe, another of Fred and George’s brothers. In 1926 Charles was working for another company, V J Creeden, and George was running Geo Buscombe & Co, real estate and George E, his son ran a newly formed business, Buscombe & Co, wholesale crockery, both at 119 West Pender.

In 1928 Fred left Burnaby and moved to West Vancouver. George E Buscombe was living here in 1928, and in 1931 one George was living on Beach Avenue, and another was living here, but in 1932 George jnr. had moved to West 33rd, and Ernest Buscombe, George’s other son was shown living here. The street directory had considerable difficulty keeping up with the two George E Buscombe families, usually identifying one or the other, but not always both. It helps that from 1935 the names of spouses were added to the entries; that year George E (Maud), was identified as a clerk at Buscombe & Co, and living here, while George E Buscombe (Ethel) his son and manager of Buscombe & Co was living on W33rd.

By 1939 George jnr. was still manager, and had moved to SW Marine, and George was president of the company. That year he was elected as an Alderman, and was aged 70 when his final term ended in 1945, when he was still company president. His son, George was managing director of the china firm, and one of the two was also running the insurance brokerage. Ernest Buscombe was the accountant to the business. Ada Maud Buscombe died in 1948, and in 1952 George was finally shown as retired, and still living here. In June 1952 the house was demolished. George moved to live with his son on SW Marine Drive, and was still listed as president of the businesses, still based on Water Street.

George was an owner of two racing power boats, “Sea Snipe” and “Thetis.” In 1905, Frederick (who had a 53 ft. power boat built in 1908) and George had donated the Buscombe Trophy to the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club. George was also a member of the Camera Club, a Freemason, and a member of the Knights Templar Mystic Shrine. George joined city planners in lobbying to obtain Japanese Canadian properties around Powell Street for ‘slum clearance’. The Federal government were unwilling to go along with the idea, although they did renege on their original promise to the Japanese community of keeping the property in trust and leasing it out.

The site was redeveloped in 1952 with a 4-storey wood-frame apartment building called ‘Sharon Manor’, soon after renamed as ‘Cumberland Court’, owned by Mayfair Properties. In 1982 architects Romses Kwan proposed a 13 storey building to replace Cumberland Court, but a year later it was redesigned at 6 storeys.  In 1985 the 22 unit rental building, called Liza Court, was completed, owned at the time by T C Fong. A two-bedroom apartment cost $1,550 a month in 1989, and these days the attractive location means the building is still a popular, and far from cheap rental building.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Bu P735

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Posted 12 May 2022 by ChangingCity in Gone, West End

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