History · urban design · Vancouver

Odd Little Bits of Ground…

The recent listing for sale of a nine foot wide piece of property in the Grandview neighbourhood drew lots of interest and I was interested in finding out why this odd bit of property existed.

Pulling out the maps you can see District Lot 264A, which the Grandview neighbourhood sits in, being carved up into various blocks of property by early speculators who were capitalizing on the Interurban trains and streetcars running on Park Drive, today’s Commercial Drive, which opened up the area to development.

The initial survey of Block 136 between William and Charles, Victoria and Lakewood was done in part by the firm of William Brothers in 1890 when they laid out the lots on Lily, Semlin and Rose Streets that included the north side of William Street. The southern portion of the block was laid out in 1893 by the surveyor Ruyter S. Sherman.

The original 1890s survey overlaid with the 1909 lot consolidation and resubdivision

Ruyter’s lots matched the 25 foot width of the earlier survey on William Street but instead of carrying the lot pattern out to the block ends he turned the lots to face Victoria and Lakewood Drives. Neither William Brothers or Ruyter made accommodation for lanes in this block

In 1909 real estate promoters, William Nesbitt and John J. McRae purchased five lots at the corner of William and Victoria and had Mr Brownlee, the Canadian Pacific’s former surveyor, reconfigure them into two parcels 60 and 40 feet wide with a depth of 100 feet. However, without a lane through the block there was no access to the rear of the properties, so a piece of the newly created lots was carved off in Brownie’s survey to provide access. And so it sat as a separate legal lot and unofficial lane.

Nesbitt built a large home of 14 rooms with four bathrooms on the corner lot while McRae built a slightly more modest structure next door. Both were constructed in 1909 by Grandview resident and builder James Ball. Within a year J.J. McRae put his house up for sale in June of 1910 and moved on while Nesbitt stayed until the 1920s.

A few owners took the house on as a family residence after Nesbitt but in 1930 it was advertised for sale as: suitable for an apartment or hospital.

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