As one of Vancouver’s most unique neighbourhoods, Strathcona has plenty more to offer than just a grouping of heritage homes. The “East End”, as the area was originally called, was one the first residential settlements in the city and, unlike many other communities, it never developed its own commercial sector, preferring instead of rely on a handful of locally-owned convenience and bodega-type stores.
A great example of Strathcona’s continued romance with small markets is the street-level corner of the Jackson Apartments at 501 East Georgia. Built in 1910, the Italianate-style apartment building was designed by E.E. Blackmore, the same man behind the storied Pantages Theatre on East Hastings.
Georgia Street, which was then known as Harris Street, had been poised to be a direct streetcar route to downtown via the original Georgia Viaduct, but when those plans fell through (because the viaduct couldn’t support trams), the neighbourhood still had the BC Electric line, which not only guaranteed its popularity as a residential spot but also gave it enough commercial viability to attract some trade.
The first recorded main-floor business at the Jackson Apartments was the Costalas Costa Grocery in 1911. It began the address’ unbroken “market” tradition that continues to this day (though Finch’s Market specializes in coffees and sandwiches, it also functions as a neighbourhood grocery, selling everything from apples and dairy products to preserves and pasta).
It was here on this corner in 1917 that police chief Malcolm MacLennan famously met his end. He and an 8 year old bystander were shot and killed by a local man named Bob Tait in a shootout with the VPD. There is a mosaic memorial to the fallen chief set into the sidewalk just outside the front door.
In the 1970s, when the streetcar rails were removed, it was known to the community as Fung’s Grocery. More recently, locals will recall it as the infamous U-Go-2-Store, which featured a variety of smokes, pops, Mr. Noodles, No Name bags ‘o chips, and a few candies that cost just a nickel apiece.
Today, the address operates as Finch’s Market, whose owners, Jamie Smith and Sheryl Matthews, gutted the space and built from the ground up to reveal and maintain much of the space’s historic charms, including the original brick walls, large fenestration, radiator, and corner entrance to match the oriel windows (see above). Scout Editor Andrew Morrison lives close by and took plenty of pictures during the construction process, so be sure to also take a close look at the gallery below. You can really see just how big of a transformation it was. Oh, and pop inside sometime for a quiet lunchtime retreat (they do some seriously great sandwiches) with a little local history on the side.
Stevie Wilson is a historian masquerading as a writer. After serving as an editor for the UBC History Journal, she branched out with a cryptic agenda: to encourage the people of Vancouver to take notice of their local history and heritage with Scout columns that aim to reveal to readers the many fascinating things that they might walk past every day without noticing.