We are all familiar with the adage a picture is worth a thousand words, so when I came across this (ca. 1972) charming image of a man and woman in the window of a store in Strathcona, I wondered what thousand words would describe it? Seemed like a good opportunity to delve into a little historical research.Being a true Vancouverite, my first thought was: Is the building still standing? [knowing full well that many old buildings in Vancouver get torn down before their time] And if so, what was its history? A quick check on Google Maps street view showed that, indeed, the building was still standing and a field trip to the area confirmed it.
Perhaps a little worse for wear, but actually looking pretty good for over 40 years on. I next wondered, just how old is the shop and building anyway? The best way to find this kind of information out was to do some building history research.
One of the first resources I checked was the Heritage Vancouver Society’s Building Permits database. Checking the Building Permits registry allows the researcher to get a general idea of the age of a building. Volunteers at Heritage Vancouver have transcribed building permit data from original hand-written permit ledgers stored at the City of Vancouver Archives into a searchable online database. Currently the database covers the years from 1901-1921 and includes building permit data from Vancouver, South Vancouver and Point Grey (prior to amalgamation in 1929).
I first searched the address “894 East Georgia Street”, this search came up empty. I next searched under East Georgia Street’s former name Harris Street (prior to 1915). Again, I got no results. Knowing that, unlike the legal address, the street address of a property can change over time, I tried searching without the address number and only using Harris Street. Eureka!
|Owner:||Smith & Keats|
|Architect:||Honeyman & Curtis|
|Builder:||Brehaut, W. W.|
|Legal Address:||DL: 181 Block: 93 Sub: Resub: Lot: 20|
|Street Name:||Harris Street|
|Remarks:||Apartments/rooms (also 705 Campbell)|
The building permit information reveals that 894 is part of a parcel of buildings on the same property and that a building permit was issued in 1913.
[To get a more exact date of when a building was occupied researchers can check Water Service Records. Since water hookup is usually saved until the very end of construction, these records can give a date close to the completion of a house or building.]
Using the legal address of a building, instead of the street address is the best way to accurately research any given property. Street numbers and names can change over time, but the legal address is constant. A great tool to use to determine the legal address of a property is VanMap. VanMap is a Web-based application that lets you view data about Vancouver in map form. VanMap has many features that allows you to research the development of a neigbourhood.
Another great resource that you can use when researching property are Fire Insurance Plans. They reveal details on buildings gathered for insurance purposes, including type of construction, number of stories, position of building on the lot, and lot features such as driveways and location of oil tanks and water hydrants. This kind of research requires a trip down to the Archives (in this case the City of Vancouver Archives) to view the plans on microfiche. Handy finding aids and guides help you through the process. The COV Archives also have microform scanners which allow you to create a PDF copies for your own reference.
The 1912 Fire Insurance plan (Map 342) corroborates the date of 1913 for the age of the property as no buildings are indicated on the lot.
I next checked out Fire Insurance plans for the years 1925-1950 (Map 599) hoping that I could glean more historical information about the building that housed Handy Meat Market.
The location of the future Handy Meat Shop at 894 E Georgia now clearly shows up next door to a Beauty Shop and the map clearly indicates that there are rooms (or apartments) over the ground level shops (as indicated on the building permit). The dotted line between 894 and 890 also indicates that previously the two addresses were once a larger shop.
City Directories are also a great resource to help determine the approximate year a building/house was first occupied. Searchable by either address or name, directories can provide information (names, occupations, marital status) about owners or tenants. The Vancouver Public Library has an online collection of digitized British Columbia city directories dating from 1860 up to and including 1955. To access Directories after 1955 you will have to visit either VPL Special Collections or COV Archives in person.
Some systematic checking in the city directories revealed that the location of Handy Meat Market (894 E. Georgia) had previously been a grocery store (combining 894 & 890), a gospel mission, and vacant (during the Depression) before finally becoming Handy Meat Market by 1942.
More research in the directories revealed that Antonio (Anthony) Negrin (likely pictured in the image below) was the proprietor of Handy Meat Market right from the start. When he started the Handy Meat Market, Negrin lived at 533 Union Street (along with the rest of his family it seems). Later directories list his wife’s name, Hazel M, and I can only assume that she is pictured below alongside her husband. Negrin is listed as the proprietor of the Handy Meat Market until the 1973 City Directory. By 1974, there is no longer a listing for Handy Meat Market.Since the Handy Meat Market had been in operation since approximately 1942, one can only assume that the Negrin’s retired their mom-and-pop meat shop some time in 1973, after some 31 years in business serving the residents of Strathcona in East Vancouver.
After a little on line sleuthing I found Antonio Negrin’s obituary in the Jan 26th, 1977 edition of the The Chilliwack Progress newspaper. He was 59. It stated that Antonio was born in Vancouver, worked as a butcher, was a member of the Legion and lived in Sardis for the last 4 years (moving there after giving up the Handy Meat Market). Prior to moving out to the valley, the Negrin’s lived in Burnaby (confirmed by the City Directories). Antonio and Hazel had three children.
Fun Fact: This post is actually 1,028 words.