The building at 131 Station Street was built in 1909 by Mrs. G.S. Potts. When it was built in 1909 it was considered “the finest store building in downtown Duncan.”  For much of its history the main floor space has been occupied by hardware stores.

The main floor is currently being converted into a small theater by the Duncan Showroom.

131 Station Street, built in 1909 for Mrs. G.L.Potts
131 Station Street, built in 1909 for Mrs. G.S.Potts

Additional Information on 131 Station Street

  • Assessed Value (July 2015): $358,000; Land – $213,000, Buildings – $145,000
  • Assessed Value (July 2014): $358,000; Land – $213,000, Buildings – $145,000

History of 131 Station Street

In the summer of 1906, George S. Potts opened a grocery store in a new building he had built on this lot and operated this business successfully until August 1908, when he died suddenly, aged 35, during a trip to Seattle, Washington, leaving a widow and two young sons.

George S. Potts‘ widow (local records of the day simply refer to her as Mrs. G.S. Potts; we’re currently researching her full name but we think it may have been Alexandra Maud Potts) apparently decided to keep the Potts grocery operating and to build a new building (the current building at 131 Station Street) for the business on this lot while moving the existing building to another lot directly across Station Street.

In the summer of 1909 the local Cowichan Leader newspaper reported that:

“Work will commence shortly upon the construction of a large brick store building upon the lot at present occupied by the Potts grocery store.

The building at present upon this lot will be moved across the street, where a large office building will also be erected upon the triangular lot, having an extensive frontage on both Station and Government Streets. The purchase price of this property is stated to have been $2000.

The new brick block, when completed, will be the finest store building in town, being the full size of the lot, with two stores and a basement….”

Mrs. Potts hired a manager for the Potts grocery and continued the business in her new store under the name Duncan Trading Co. until the summer of 1910, when she apparently decided to give up the grocery business and sell the new building.

As the Cowichan Leader reported in October 1910, the “business of the Duncan Trading Company has changed hands, Mrs. G.S. Potts having decided to retire from business. Mr. S.W. Walter, a successful young business man of Strathcona, Alberta has acquired the store and promises to make extensive additions to the stock already in the store. With an up-to-date stock and a hustling manager the Duncan Trading Company should make good and become one of Duncan’s solid business houses….”

S.W. Walter ran the business for only one year before selling the Duncan Trading Company to a “Mr. MacKenzie, late of Moose Jaw, Sask.”

By 1919, the Duncan Trading Company had run into business difficulties. It is possible it was having trouble competing with the much larger Cowichan Merchants department store, which had opened in 1910, less than one block away at the corner of Station Street and Craig Street. But whatever the reasons(s) for the company’s problems, the end result was that the City of Duncan took ownership of this building in 1919 for unpaid taxes.

The City of Duncan sold the building in August 1919 for $5,000 (with $500 down payment and the remaining $4.500 due in three equal annual payments at 7% annual interest) to J.H. Smith, who quickly announced plans to open a new “general store.”

There is some evidence that this building had been allowed to deteriorate significantly under its previous owner. One of the City of Duncan’s conditions in the 1919 sale to J.H. Smith was the the purchaser “undertakes to place the premises in a state of repair and occupy it for his business forthwith.” J.H. Smith announced that his first priority was the “re-decoration and general repair” of the building and the “nine rooms” on the second floor be “placed in order” as office space.

J.H. Smith ran his business as “J.H. Smith Ltd., The People’s Store” until March 1921 when he sold his inventory to “Messrs. Kirkpatrick & McLaughlin” who announced to the public that “our present policy to to carry on the [J.W. Smith] business as heretofore until we have an opportunity to go over the situation thoroughly.”

Messrs. Kirkpatrick & MacLaughlin apparently decided they didn’t like “the situation” and, within one month, had sold the hardware business to Alexander S. Hadden, who had worked at Cowichan Merchants and had decided to go into business for himself under the name Hadden’s Cash Hardware.

“Having served the district for many years as an employee of the Cowichan Merchants Ltd.,” Alexander Hadden advertised in the Cowichan Leader, “I have much pleasure in soliciting a share of your valued patronage on my own account. I shall endeavour to serve you to the best of my ability and to keep a stock well up to the requirements of the district and that will prove to our mutual advantage.”

Hadden’s Cash Hardware remained in business here until June 1924, when Alexander Hadden sold the business to Philip Jaynes, who ran it as Jaynes Hardware until 1963.

Since 1963, the main floor of this building has been home to several retail stores. It is currently being renovated into the new location of the Duncan Showroom, which was previous located in the Duncan Garage.

 

 

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