Archive for the ‘Fred Buscombe’ Tag

27 West Hastings Street

The Army and Navy store closed its doors here in 2020, after 81 years in this location. Before 1939 the store was on the same block, but on the south side of the street. The building the business initially occupied here is the extensively glazed “Five-storey brick store building with basement and mezzanine on first floor; north side of Hastings, adjoining the warehouse of Wood, Vallance & Leggat;” This description was from a 1906 newspaper article titled “New block for Mayor Buscombe” So although the permits for that period are missing, we know the developer was Fred Buscombe, and the plans are in the Vancouver Archives so we also know that the architects were Parr and Fee. Smith & Sherbourne were the builders of the $45,000 investment.

Wood Vallance and Leggat occupied the building to the east which had been built around 1899 for E G Prior & Co. Later it was redeveloped as the Rex Theatre, and subsequently became an addition to the Army and Navy store. Our 1908 image shows Buscombe’s store here was called ‘The Fair’, and it replaced The Brunswick built in 1888 “on the fringe of the woods”. Perhaps this expansion of his business was a bit too much; a year later Stark’s Glasgow House moved in, having previously been on Cordova Street.

Fred Buscombe was mayor in 1905 and 1906. A merchant who had been president of the board of trade before he was elected mayor, he was elected to cut municipal spending, earning him the support of the business class and all three daily newspapers (who seldom agreed about anything). Born in Bodmin, in Cornwall, he was aged eight when the family moved to Hamilton, Ontario. He went to work for china and glassware company James A Skinner & Co. He visited Granville in 1884, and moved to Vancouver (as it had become) in 1891. He bought Skinner’s business in 1899, and had wholesale and retail businesses, as well as a Securities firm. He was also President of Pacific Coast Lumber Mills. A conservative, he was a prominent Freemason and a pillar of the Church of England, helping fund the construction of Christ Church. With his Ontario born wife Lydia the family had at least eight children, only five of whom survived.

Stark’s didn’t last very long here either; James Stark died in 1918, but this had already been renamed as The Hastings Street Public Market. A new tenant briefly moved in, but in 1919 “Terminal Salvage Co. is compelled to move so the entire building can be turned over to a Calgary Concern who will remodel the building for a public market”. This was the Cal-Van Market, and Buscombe Securities spent $3,000 in 1919 for the works for their new tenant. It was obviously a success, as Buscombe hired J E Parr to carry out another $25,000 of repairs and alterations in 1923, and Cal-Van was still in business through the 1930s. It had a boxing gym and whist arcade on the third floor.

The building has been altered behind the facade over the years, but despite the windows being painted over, it offers an opportunity to retain one of the most impressive early retail buildings still standing. The redevelopment of Army and Navy is apparently imminent, with a developer and architect working with the Cohen family (who ran Army and Navy, and still own the building) to design a rental housing, retail and possibly office project.

Image source: Vancouver Public Library

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Posted 27 September 2021 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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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 in 1899 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, including George, Fred’s brother, 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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