Local History Advent Calendar 2022 – Day 1 – Hanna Block

It’s back! I has been 3 years since I published my last Local History Advent Calendar! So much has happened since that last time—including the publication of my first book, Mount Pleasant Stories—that I figured it was about time to dust off the Local History Advent Calendar once again. Similar to a regular advent calendar but instead of chocolate treats, each day you “open” a new historical treat. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder– 24 facts or stories about local history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Hanna Block (1908), 2747-51 Main Street at East 12th, 1978. Photo: CoV Archives, CVA 786-61.12.

The Hanna Block is one of Mount Pleasant’s unsung historic heroes. Architecturally, the Hanna Block building is notable because it is constructed with hollow “cast stone” concrete blocks, a relatively rare early form of concrete construction and one of the few examples still found in Mount Pleasant. The earliest known example is from a 1905 house located at 2617 Ontario. American inventor Harmon S. Palmer patented the H. S. Palmer Hollow Concrete Building Block Machine in 1901. The concrete blocks used in the construction were made on site with a special moulding machine that combined the processes of texturing and forming the hollow concrete blocks.

Detail of cast concrete block house at 2617 Ontario Street decorated with cast acanthus. Photo: C. Hagemoen

Vancouver’s longest running independent sports store, Abbie’s Sports Shop, got its start at this location. You can see the Abbie’s sign in the 1978 photo above.

Albert (Abbie) Bevilacqua opened his store at 2749 Main in 1948 and ran Abbie’s for 50 years. In addition to running his business, Bevilacqua coached, played on, managed, and sponsored many local sports teams. In a 2013 Courier letter to the editor, Bevilacqua’s daughter, Debbie, wrote that her community-minded father “helped everyone out and always gave special deals and payment plans to those who couldn’t afford a lot and sometimes even gave things away”. Abbie’s operated out of the Hanna Block until around 1978 when it moved to its present location at 32nd & Main.

You can find more about the Hanna Block, the lot that it sits on, and other Mount Pleasant histories in my walking tour book, Mount Pleasant Stories. Copies are available for purchase in Mount Pleasant at Pulpfiction Books – 2422 Main Street and in Chinatown at Massy Books – 229 E Georgia St. It makes a great gift or stocking stuffer for your favourite local history buff!

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