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Little-known Nelson heritage buildings: The Barnard Block

Updated: Dec 15, 2020

Naomi Chester recently gave me a collection of slides and prints of West Kootenay taken by her stepfather, Al Peterson, mostly in the 1970s and ‘80s. There were also two negatives I had scanned and present here, showing a rarely photographed building at the southwest corner of Baker and Stanley streets in Nelson.

Completed around May 1892, this wooden building was modest, but not unattractive, and I’m at a loss to explain why so few photos of it exist. The pictures here show it not long before its demolition around 1959. At the time it was home to Jack Boyce Clothing and Valentine’s flowers and newsstand.

This building was originally home to the Bank of British Columbia and was known as the Barnard block, although I’m not positive if that was for Francis J. Barnard, MP for Yale-Kootenay from 1879 to 1887, or for his son Frank S. Barnard, MP for Lillooet-Cariboo, who became BC’s lieutenant-governor in 1914 and was knighted in 1918.

But I’m guessing it was the latter, for kitty corner is the Mara-Barnard block (now home to Ted Allen’s Jewellery), built in 1897 for the younger Barnard in partnership with his brother-in-law, John A. Mara, also a politician.

Mara and Barnard were also part owners of the Columbia Kootenay Steam Navigation Co., which had an office in the Barnard block in 1892-93, next to the Bank of BC. The office of surveying firm Perry, Gray, and Davis was also in the building as of 1892.

A maintenance crew at work on the streetcar track on the sharp corner at Stanley Street, ca. 1899-1905. The Barnard block is seen at right, sporting a balcony. (Greg Nesteroff collection)

Merchant A.T. Garland moved in to the Barnard block in 1895 and at the same time Winnipeg wholesale grocer Alexander Macdonald opened his Nelson branch in another part of the building. Turner, Beeton, & Co. rented a storefront next to A.T. Garland a few months later. The Miner reported that “Extensive alternations are on hand, including excavation of a large cellar.”

The Bank of British Columbia, which also had branches in Rossland and Sandon, merged with the Bank of Commerce in 1901. The bank continued to do business from the Barnard block until its magnificent new headquarters opened further down Baker Street in 1909.

The Bank of BC is seen at left in the Kootenay Mining Standard (1897). At the time, the Bank of Montreal across the street was a virtual mirror image.

Civic directories for 1913 and 1915 show the Barnard block was then home to A.G. Gelinas’ pool hall and Semaphore smoke shop. Although it’s hard to guess from the street numbers, it was probably also home during this period to the Cornwall & Co. bakery, the American Cafe, and barber Thomas Dunbar.

Stanley Street, ca. 1920s or ‘30s, showing the Barnard block at centre. (Greg Nesteroff collection)

There’s a gap in street directories from then on, but in a memoir, Dr. C.E. Bradshaw recalled the building was subsequently occupied by a confectionery operated by Mrs. A. Jeffreys, which later became Cornfields Confectionery, then the Standard Cafe, then Fairway Meat Market.

The next available street directories for 1951, 1953, and 1955 show the building still home to Fairview Meat Market, plus C.W. Appleyard and Co. real estate and insurance, Valentine’s confectionery and magazines, and, curiously, a branch of the Vancouver Province newspaper. (There were also branches in New Westminster, North Vancouver, Penticton, Kelowna, and Vernon. Were these sales offices? They probably weren’t news bureaus.)

The building was demolished and a new building was constructed in its place in 1959 that had several businesses, chief among them Oliver’s Books, founded by Bain Oliver. The store became Otter Books in 2003, which is still in business.

The same corner today.

— With thanks to Naomi Chester and Raymond Lewis

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Regarding the Vancouver Province, I found a notice from Apr7, 1934 where the "Vancouver Daily Province" announced the appointment of Valentine's News & Tobacco Stand as its Nelson agency. "All matters pertaining to Subscriptions, Delivery, Complaints, etc., will be taken care of promptly by Phoning Valentine's 125 or calling at their store, 324 Baker Street, Corner Stanley". So I assume they continued as an agent for some time.


I can add some more details about Valentine's. My grandmother was Margaret Valentine, daughter of John Valentine and I've been researching Valentine's in the Nelson Daily News:

  • June 1 1933 Valentine's News and Tobacco Stand opens, J Valentine is "late manager of the Nelson News Depot". The address given is 322 Baker, but that's the only time I've seen that address for Valentine's

  • Jan 1, 1938 has a new years ad for Valentine's that includes a picture of the inside of the business, with Russel, John and Dave Valentine

  • Dec 31, 1938 Valentines Ltd incorporated which appears to be in order to share ownership between John and his sons Russel & Dave

  • Aug 5 1949, John Valentine dies

  • David Valentine…


Greg Nesteroff
Greg Nesteroff

Posted on behalf of D. McLeod of Kelowna:

I believe I am the last remaining Valentine who worked in the store. I worked there from age 11 to 18.

My grandfather was John Alexander Valentine and my father was Russell Deans Valentine.

I think my grandfather owned and worked in the store until the mid-1940s and my father began working with him in the early 1940s. Grandfather passed away in 1949. He was buried in the Nelson cemetery just inside the gates and partway down on the righthand side. My grandmother Margaret is also buried beside him. She passed away in 1952.

Russell took over the retail part of the store and also the Vancouver Province contract was handled by…

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