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Then & Now: Burns Block

Updated: Mar 17, 2019

The rare postcard below, which sold recently on eBay, shows the Burns Block at 560 Baker Street (formerly 514 Baker) in Nelson — although if the photo had been cropped any tighter on the right, it might have been impossible to recognize.

The postcard is unmailed, but probably from about 1910. Fortunately, the distinctive ornamentation of the steer’s head and 1899 date stone above the front door is partly visible. This building was the Kootenay headquarters of Alberta beef baron Pat Burns. A sign above the front door appears to say “California something silver-lead Mines.” The decorative piping in the storefront windows is quite interesting.


The following is from the Nelson Heritage Register:

The building is important for its architectural design attributed to A.E. Hodgins and Alexander Carrie, both of whom were architects of note in Nelson during this time period. Its impressive Italianate design and use of materials is suitable for a company headquarters, while at the same time, the building was practically designed to facilitate retail through its attractive storefront, and storage appropriate for a butcher and meat shop, with a purpose-built cold storage facility designed by Francis Rattenbury located on the second floor.

The storefront today looks quite different:

Here is what the whole building looks like today.

And here it is in July 2010.

When did Pat Burns clear out? The meat market was last listed in the civic directory in 1937, with G. Perkins as retail manager and L.S. Bradley as wholesale manager. The end of the business is explained by the fact that Pat Burns died in 1936. But his buildings outlived him, in Vancouver, Calgary, and Nelson.

Pat Burns had meat markets in Trail, Rossland, Nelson, Pilot Bay, Sandon, Three Forks, and Kaslo in 1897, but his empire was still growing.

(Greg Nesteroff collection)

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