Then and Now: Menzies, Croft and Simcoe; James Bay Square
Then and Now
By Ted Ross
All photos by R. J. Paterson
Today's James Bay Centre, the area bounded by Croft, Simcoe and Menzies Streets, is much different from 1955. Along Menzies, south from Simcoe, the City Directories for that year show:
143 - James Bay Barber Shop/Haunted Book Shop
145 - Square Deal Second Hand Furniture Store
139-101 - houses and houses broken into flats
On the southwest corner of Menzies and Simcoe was W.D. Smith – grocer.
On Simcoe Street were:
420 - vacant house
434 - Coral Court Apartments built in 1923
435 - J.O. Paterson house
460 - L.D. Manhard house
Croft Street, from Niagara to Simcoe, was occupied by nineteen houses along both sides in 1955.
There was a Canada Safeway store at the corner of Menzies and Michigan.
When the J.O. Paterson family arrived to live at 345 Simcoe in 1944, son Ron was six years old. The neighbourhood was his new ground to explore. Their house was built in 1913, a time of construction of many new homes in James Bay. James Hearn built this one. In 31 years the house and its yard had developed many mysterious corners to appeal to a young fellow filled with curiosity.
The neighbourhood looked the same as it would in 1955. Ron attended Beacon Hill School six blocks away from home across from Beacon Hill Park. He played in the neighbourhood, spending time at James Bay Park on the corner of Menzies and Michigan. At one point a travelling photographer took a photo of Ron sitting on the cameraperson's pony. The shot was taken in a vacant lot next to the Paterson yard on Simcoe in the late 1940s. Months later F.C. Hardisty built a house on the lot at 161 Croft Street.
It's interesting to note, in the 1946 Grade Three class picture from Beacon Hill School that in these days at the end of wartime food rationing, and before the age of high-fat fast foods, every child is lean. There is not a chubby one to be seen.
A photograph from Ron's collection taken one day in the late 1940s shows a 1933 vehicle parked on the open field at Simcoe and Menzies. In the background are faintly seen the stores south of Simcoe on the east side of Menzies. They are still in use today.
Growing older, Ron became a photographer, taking pictures around the neighbourhood with his Ansco camera. By now he had advanced to South Park School for grades four to eight. One shot of his, from the early 1950s, was taken from a good vantage point just west of Croft Street. Looking SW toward Ogden Point, with Croft in the foreground, we see the Brackmann-Kerr grain elevator and the other industry along the seashore in that area.
Looking at the block of Menzies running from Simcoe to Michigan, we find on the west side:
202 - Peacey's Drug Store
204 - R.N. Brown grocer
206, 216 Cowper Apartments, with the building housing
208 - McColl and Sons Meats
210 - Stevenson's Bakery
214 – vacant
218 - James Bay Beaty Parlour
420 - James Bay Hardware in its own building since 1934
224 - Brite Spot Café
226 - Individual Dry Cleaners
228 - Flower Basket Florists
234 - R.R. Perullet house
Then James Bay Park ran to Michigan Street.
Ron Paterson made pocket money as a youngster by delivering items from Peacey's to their customers.
Along the east side of the block were found:
201 - Devina's Dry Goods Shop
203 - S. Rask house
209 – vacant
211 - Menzies Fish and Chips
213 - E.W. Davies Shoe Repair
215 - Mrs. L.E. Heard house
221 - A. Blanco house
223 - L. Brown house
227 - W. Forsyth house
233 - P. Rasarowich house
245 - R.H. Sagar house
257 - James Bay Upholstery
259 - James Bay Cleaners
301 - Canada Safeway, on the NE corner with Michigan
Around 1959 a Super-Valu store was constructed on vacant land east of the Paterson residence, at 455 Simcoe. This supermarket style store provided competition for the older style market of the Safeway at Michigan and Menzies. This was really the beginning of redevelopment of James Bay centre.
In 1964 Coral Court apartments were torn down, forty-one years after their construction. In their place were built the Lord Simcoe Apartments at 450 in 1965 and the Lady Simcoe Apartments at 440 in 1966.
The former Paterson house, at 435 Simcoe, disappeared from the City Directories in 1965. It was torn down in preparation for a commercial development on that property and several adjoining pieces.
At the same time, the Hardisty house, of more recent construction, was moved to another site.
In 1964 Canada Safeway moved into the store which had been occupied by Super-Valu at 455 Simcoe. The old Safeway store was demolished and a parking lot appeared in its place.
A Chevron gas station was established at 225 Menzies around 1960. It was eventually torn down, in 2007, to build the retail and condominium complex at 225 Menzies.
By 1969 the number of houses had been reduced on Croft Street. They were being replaced by apartments. By 1971 all the houses were gone. In 1976 the large apartment block, west of the Safeway supermarket, appeared. In 1989 Thrifty Foods replaced Safeway in the big food store. Ten years later Thrifty Foods closed the store to go through a total renovation, reopening on November 29, 1999.
In 1974 James Bay Hardware, with its neighbouring stores and Cowper Apartments on Menzies, disappeared from the City Directory. A new two-storey shopping centre had been constructed on that site, replacing the other businesses. It is today's Parliament Mews.
Early in 1976 the James Bay New Horizons Society purchased the house at 234 Menzies, immediately south of the park. The house was moved to another location and construction began on a new building. December 1976 marked the opening of the New Horizons Seniors Activity Centre with its north-facing windows looking on James Bay Park. In the next few years a number of additions were added.
From 1959 to early in this century James Bay Centre was developing to become what it is today. Some historic store buildings remain from decades past. At 211, James Bay Fish & Chips is in the same building as Menzies Fish & Chips of years ago.
The Blue Room Hair Studio is in a historic building. The same is true of Mark Inhoff Real Estate and James Bay Veterinary Clinic. Heritage buildings house Fine Floral Design, RX Eyeware, James Bay Coffee and Focus on Dental Hygiene.
South of those stores are found four houses. Beyond them are three large houses broken into apartments. On the corner with Niagara we find the Menzies Apartments.
From Niagara to Simcoe on the west side of Menzies are The Village Green Apartments and Town Houses, and The Cedar Townhouses. The large James Bay Square block at the corner with Simcoe is addressed 245 Simcoe.
Across Simcoe, and heading north on Menzies we pass Parliament Mews Shopping Centre and James Bay New Horizons. Irving Park (former James Bay Park) extends from there to Michigan Street.
Crossing Menzies, to the east side, and heading north, we pass Discovery Coffee, a group of businesses in one complex including Mac's Convenience Store, Dry and Fold Laundry and Prestine Dry Cleaners. Another group, including the Sushi Matsuri, Subway, Copper Mountain Centre, Coast Capital Savings and San Shukan Aikai down the stairs to the basement is found in another complex. The next group of stores includes H&R Block, an empty coffee shop, James Bay Dental and the BC Liquor Store. This building also has three floors of condominiums above. And now we are at James Bay Fish & Chips.
On Simcoe Street we find the Lord Simcoe Apartments and the Lady Simcoe Apartments. Across the street is the James Bay Square. Capreit Apartments are on the west side of the Square.
Croft Street is all apartments from Niagara to Simcoe.
Much of the confabulation between Ron Paterson and your writer took place at 234 Menzies, in the library of New Horizons. It seems fitting in a treatise on this neighbourhood.
Vancouver Public Library, City Directories, 1913-1955, online; City of Victoria Archives, City Directories, 1956-1979, on microfilm; Victoria News, "James Bay re-opening was poetry in motion," May 7, 1979; Trade and Invest BC, Parliament Mews Shopping, 2018; CAPREIT, James Bay Square, 2018; The Vicino, 225 Menzies St., 2018.