A Block of Libraries

CVA 1376-517 - [Clearing the lot at 2818 and 2820 Granville Street] 1928_

Crop of CVA 1376-517 – Workers clear front of lots at 2818 and 2820 Granville Street (east side of street between 12th and 13th Avenues) for construction of commercial space. One of the businesses at front would be The Stanley Library, not to be confused with The Library, another bookshop, initially located across the street. By the time this image was made, The Library had moved across to the east side of Granville, right beside where Stanley Library would be (note ad on The Library’s wall, cheekily facing the home). 1928.

 In 1925, Mrs. A. J. Davidson would start a little bookstore business across the street from the home shown above (later she would move the business next door to the home, later down the block a few doors; it would never be far away). She called the bookshop, perhaps with a vain hope of exclusivity, The Library.

But by about 1928, Mrs Davidson had a competitor on the block. The owner of the home at 2818 Granville was Mrs. Maud Leslie, a widow. Mrs. Leslie’s daughter*, Miss Lorna-June Leslie had an entrepreneurial drive and wanted to run her own little book and china shop. Start-up capital was doubtless an issue for June Leslie; if she was going truly to be an entrepreneur she wanted to own the property rather than be forever beholden to a landlord. So the Leslies decided they would capitalize on the front yard of their residence** and have June’s Stanley Library built on their home property. This was not by any means the first such residence/business mash-up in Vancouver. Indeed, in the downtown area (Davie Street, e.g.) this early variant on densification was fairly common. I don’t know whether a rezoning permit from the City was required in 1928.

CVA 1376-521 - [2820 Granville Street - the Stanley Library %22June Leslie's store%22] 1933

CVA 1376-521 – The Stanley Library, 2820 Granville. 1933.

Mrs. Leslie and June lived in the home at 2818 Granville for a couple of years, and then moved, presumably preferring to collect rent on the property.

One of the most remarkable things about this tale is that the home remains on the site today, its exterior at least, apparently substantially unchanged.

image2

Maud and June Leslie’s former home (2818 Granville) poking up behind Black Goat Cashmere and Daniel Chocolates, as it appears today. It isn’t clear to me whether the home is still used as a residence. But judging from a parking sign in the laneway (“Rear Entrance ONLY for Employees and Deliveries”), it doesn’t seem likely (Note: The concrete tower in left background of image is Chalmers Lodge, a seniors residence). 2016. Author’s photo.

What became of the apparent rivalry between The Library and Stanley Library? Who outlasted whom? Stanley Library seems to have remained in business for 17 years (1928-1945); a Mrs. Raymer took over the business in 1943. The Library, on the other hand) endured for more than a quarter century (1925-51); a Mrs. Kirby had assumed the reigns by the mid-1940s.

Even more interesting, perhaps, is that one block in the South Granville/Fairview area was able to sustain two independent bookstores for the better part of 20 years. How things have changed.

Notes

*I haven’t been able to establish beyond a doubt that Maud was June’s mother, but it seems to me to be all but certain.

**The home was built ca1909 for Fred Deeley by a J. Curtis for about $1,200.

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