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3 little-known Nelson heritage buildings

Updated: Sep 26, 2021

Nelson boasts about 350 heritage buildings — commercial, residential, and institutional — based on those listed in 1981 in Nelson: A Proposal for Urban Heritage Conservation.

However, the city’s heritage planning webpage identifies 206 heritage sites (not all buildings), including 69 on the Canadian Register of Historic Places, of which 12 are municipally designated. One of the latter (the CP station) is also federally designated.

There are also 137 more sites on the community heritage register, although only about half have statements of significance, which list character-defining elements. This document, updated in 2011, broadened the definition of heritage to include buildings which wasn’t previously thought of as having heritage value, such as the Dairy Queen.

While there are many well-known buildings on the above lists, here are three much lesser-known ones that aren’t on any of them (although statements of significance are in the works for two of them, in preparation to add them to the community heritage register).

Maple Leaf Grocery/Mustard Palace, 911 Stanley St.

This building was a corner store from its birth until the mid-1960s when it was turned into apartments. BC Assessment dates its construction to 1910, but by then there had already been a store on the site for 13 years.

The Nelson Miner of Jan. 1, 1898 noted Thomas J. Scanlan built a store in the preceding year on Block 43 worth $1,300. He was granted a plumbing permit to add a kitchen sink on March 15, 1898 for Block 43, Lot 6 on the east side of Stanley and another plumbing permit on Oct. 4, 1901 for alterations to “store and residence” at the same location.

The Nelson Tribune of Jan. 25, 1900 reported:

T.J. Scanlan, who for nearly a year past has managed the furniture business of D. McArthur & Co., has decided to resume the management of his own store on Stanley street. Mr. Scanlan is deservedly popular and his business venture should be a success.

The 1901 directory lists T. Scanlan as a grocer on Stanley Street, while in 1904-05 he’s listed as Thomas Joseph Scanlan, grocer on Stanley near Mill. The first mention of the address 911 Stanley was this ad in the Daily News of Dec. 8, 1908:

Wanted – General servant for family of three. Apply 911 Stanley street.

Unfortunately, the family wasn’t named. It probably wasn’t Scanlan, for he had a wife and five children. (The 1911 census found them living across the street at 914 Stanley, a home that is still standing. I can’t find 911 Stanley on the census.)

Thomas Scanlan served two stints on Nelson city council, decades apart. The portrait at left is from 1902 and at right from 1933.

In the 1910 directory, Tom Scanlan’s sister is listed as running the store, Tom having by this time gone to work as a collector for the department of inland revenue in Nelson. The Daily News of June 22, 1910 also reported:

S.H. Seaney, the well known confectioner, who has been in business in Nelson for the past five years, has sold out to Miss Mary Scanlan, of Nelson, who will conduct the business on her own behalf. Miss Scanlan has gained a useful business experience in the grocery store of her brother, T.J. Scanlan, and under her management this popular confectionery can be depended on to remain on to remain in popular favor. Miss Scanlan took over the business yesterday.

I’m not sure who took over the store on Stanley Street or if the current building went up around that time, as BC Assessment suggests. I can’t find any further information until this notice appeared in the Daily News on Feb. 15, 1912:

T.J. Scanlan’s grocery store on Stanley street has been purchased by C.A. Drake and Capt. D.C. McMorris. This store was one of the first of the kind to be established in the city, priority being claimed only the Hudson’s Bay company store.

No explanation what “first of the kind” meant. The first ad for The C.A. Drake Co., 911 Stanley St., appeared a few days later. The business shows up in the 1913 civic directory as C.A. Drake and Co., Staple and Fancy Groceries. McMorris must have been a silent partner.

An ad from the 1913 Nelson civic directory.

Clarence Adelbert Drake was born in South Dakota but grew up in Iowa. In 1906, he moved to BC, although we have no indication why. On July 26 of that year, he married Leota (Lillie) Haggerty, 28, in Nakusp, where he had been living. She was also from Iowa and had most recently been living in Denver. She had a nine-year-old daughter, Margaret. On the marriage registration, Drake gave his occupation as farmer.

The 1911 census showed the family living in Nelson at 408 Latimer St. By 1915, Drake’s store in Nelson was being managed by Walter Fleetwood. When Drake filled out his US World War I draft registration card in 1917, he was living in Seattle and working as a salesman for the Pacific Coast Company. He later moved to Portland and died there in 1939.

Tom Scanlan, meanwhile, died in Nelson on March 22, 1938, age 70. This obituary appeared in the Spokane Spokesman Review three days later.

Another obituary pointed out that Scanlan’s death came 25 years to the day after his wife’s early passing.

I lose track of the store for a few years after 1915. In 1918 and 1919, Mark Campbell is listed as the operator of a grocery, with no address given. But by 1920, the address is shown as 911 Stanley. In 1922, Mark Campbell is listed as working for Charles Morris Co. Ltd. while L.O. Campbell, formerly a bookkeeper at Swift Canadian Co., is the new proprietor of the grocery at 911 Stanley. He also lived in the building.

By 1927, the store was called the Maple Leaf Grocery and operated by Albert K. Thirsk. An ad in the Pop Inn Annual that year said the proprietor was “formerly L.O. Cambbell [sic].” The 1928 civic directory indicated Thirsk lived in the building.

By 1930 the proprietor was Joseph Pogson Herron. He ran the grocery until April 1950 and died that November, age 72. According to his obituary, he had the store for 21 years. He was born in Dunfries, Scotland, and came to Canada in 1908. For 18 years he was the manager of Dixon Brothers store in Maple Creek, Sask., and before coming to Nelson he ran the grocery department of W.W. Cooper in Swift Current, Sask. for two years. He was survived by his wife and daughter Shirley, who was well known in Nelson musical circles and became a piano teacher in Nelson and Trail. In 1949, she married Joe Kobluk of Trail, the longtime manager of CJAT radio. Joe’s brother Mike was a member of The Chad Mitchell Trio, a 1960s folk act.

Apparently through most of this time, the building was still owned by Tom Scanlan or his heirs. A plumbing permit for the property was granted to his estate on Oct. 26, 1940.

By 1953, Hugh Horswill took over the store. He was one of 11 children of A.S. Horswill, whose wholesale grocery is now home to Jackson’s Hole restaurant, but still has his name painted at the top of the building. Hugh also worked for 27 years at Hipperson Hardware, which was also in the Horswill family (and still is). He and wife Kathleen moved to Victoria in 1978 and to Fruitvale in 1993. He died the following year in Trail, age 88, survived by his wife, two sons, and a daughter.

The Maple Leaf Grocery closed in 1965 or 1966 and was converted into apartments, which is what it is today, although it still retains its false front and looks like the commercial building it once was.

Shirley Karasz recalls: “My husband Joseph and I rented the apartment upstairs as newlyweds in May 1965 for two years or so. Rent was $65 a month! I think the apartment was already there [before we moved in] as it was older. The plumbing was absolutely awful … The bottom apartment was brand new but we couldn't afford the rent on it.”

I don’t know when the building received its present paint job that resulted in a small sign above the front door declaring it the Mustard Palace. (That’s also the nickname of Heinz Field in Pittsburgh because of its yellow seats.) But Karasz says when she lived there, “I think it was a pale yellow or beige colour. And no brown things on the windows.”

Houston Block addition, 461-63 Josephine St.

This building, home to Nature’s Health Natural Foods and Serendipity Nail Studio, is attached to the Houston Block on Baker St., built in 1899. The Josephine St. facade does not betray its age.

Walk around to the alley side, however, and you can see from the style of the brick that it is a heritage gem in hiding.

We know exactly when the addition was built thanks to the Nelson Daily Miner of Jan. 10, 1902:

W.G. Gillett has secured the contract from W.R. Seatle for the extension of the Houston block on which work is to be started shortly. The work is to cost $3,500 and will consist of extending the building to the lane to the north of Baker street. The addition will be of the same style as the rest of the building, and will make a considerable improvement in the appearance of the whole.

(William R. Seattle was listed in the 1902 directory as a clerk at the Imperial Bank, which was then in the Houston Block.) The following day the Nelson Tribune added:

Work on the $3,500 addition to the Houston block has commenced and W.G. Gillett has his gang of men employed in demolishing the temporary buildings standing on the site of the new building. Excavations for the foundations of the new building will be commenced today and the contract for the stone work has been let to E. Palmquist, who was busily engaged yesterday in quarrying a block of stone near J.A. Turner’s house on Josephine St.

Five days later the Tribune reported: “The excavations for the addition to the Houston block will be commenced today, and work on the foundations will be commenced on Friday morning. Architect Carrie will superintend the work.”

Later that month, Alex Carrie asked city council to extend a sewer main to connect to the new building. The authorization was provided in March. We don’t, however, know who moved into the space immediately.

In 1913 there was no listing for 461 Josephine, but at 415 Josephine, Fred Starkey had a real estate office and S.E. Newell had an insurance brokerage. It was probably the same building by a different fire number.

In 1950, Tickner Tailors was listed at 461 Josephine and Olson and Son barbers at 463. The Wardrobe cleaners and R.H.J. Tarling were at 453 Josephine, which might have been in the same building. That address no longer exists. Today Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall’s office is next door at 433 Josephine (which is on the heritage register.)

513 Front Street

This is another building whose age is not readily apparent from the front facade, except for the dentils along the roof line. It is a brick building that has been stuccoed over. It’s now home to several businesses, including Feelings With Flowers. An addition is seen at right. The Ellison’s Market building is at far right.

From the back, the brick and stonework reveal the building’s age. The addition is seen at left while at right is the No. 6 Coffee Co., formerly a brewery and print shop. Front St. was once the warehouse district, and the buildings were placed close to the railway tracks for loading and unloading goods.

This building was constructed in March 1911 at a cost of $10,000 by the contracting firm of Waters and Pascoe as the home of their Kootenay Lake Sash and Door Factory and warehouse. It manufactured window sashes, doors, and moldings for use locally and across the province. It also doubled as a building supply. It initially had a staff of six and a capacity of 50 doors and 100 sashes per day. The factory’s location was advantageous, as the rail line ran immediately behind it.

The main floor was home to eight pieces of electric woodworking machinery, while part of the rear was partitioned off as a glazing and stock room. An office was at the front and the basement was used for storage, including a room dedicated to lime.

Pascoe and Waters had several significant Nelson buildings to their credit, including the Brackman-Ker Milling Co. warehouse next door (now Ellison’s Market); the YMCA (now the Royal Canadian Legion), and the Presbyterian Church. They also contributed woodwork to Kerr’s Apartments and built several early bungalows along the West Arm of Kootenay Lake.

The 1913 and 1914 civic directories listed the Kootenay Marble Works at 507 Front, Waters & Pascoe’s Kootenay Lake sash and door factory at 511 Front, and Brackman-Ker (the present Ellison’s Market) at 523 Front. Today the No. 6 Coffee Co. gives its address as 511 Front.

By 1916, Waters and Pascoe dissolved their partnership, and Waters continued on as T.H. Waters & Co. The sash and door factory was listed at 515 Front as of 1920, when a new company, the T.H. Waters Co. Ltd., was created to take over the plant, install new equipment, and expand its product line to include things like furniture, ladders, washing boards, clothes pins, broom handles, and boxes.

The factory remained at the same location until 1931, when the operation moved a few blocks east to the foot of Hall Street. That same year, Waters built an eastern extension on the building, and entire space was leased to the Vancouver Milling and Grain Co., which operated a wholesale flour and feed house there.

Wholesale grocery chain W.H. Malkin moved in to 513 Front St. in 1934. Their address was first given as 507 Front, then 517 Front, and later 513 Front. They were there until sometime between 1976 and 1983. In 1984 and 1989, 513 Front was vacant.

Updated on March 19, 2018 with additional details about Joseph P. Herron and Hugh Horswill, on April 25, 2018 with memories from Shirley Karasz, on Dec. 18, 2018 with details about Mark and L.O. Campbell, and on Nov. 27, 2019 with details about Thomas J. Scanlan, and on Dec. 15, 2020 with details about the Kootenay Lake Sash and Door factory, and on Sept. 26, 2021 to add the portraits of Thomas Scanlan.

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I remember Maynard Olson, had my haircut there many years ago when I was a kid. My dad also had his cut there as well. I think it cost about 25 cents then back in the 1950's.


Feb 20, 2018

It's fun when you come across a little reference to some place or some person that may well be thought of as long-since dead, buried and forgotten. In the Houston Block extension example in your story, there's a reference to Olson and Son Barbers. That was my great-grandfather, Gerhard Olson, and his son Maynard.

The Olsons lived in Herridge Lane in what is now the All Seasons Cafe. (When I'm visiting Nelson and having dinner there, it gives me shivers, remembering how I stayed with my great-grandmother in that very place in the '60s. There are just a couple of remaining give-away touches, such as the granite block step as you enter the yard.)

Both Gerhard, his wife Julia, and…

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