In August 1911, T.A. Allan and his brother received a building permit to erect a three-storey brick apartment building on the corner of Commercial & Fourth Avenue. In the previous two years, the Allan Brothers had erected large buildings at 1872 Barclay, 1460 Bute, 1860 Comox and 3216 E. First. By the spring of 1912, the building on Commercial, then known as the Allan Block, was ready for occupation.
In this image (VPL 7418) note the condition of the unpaved 4th Avenue. The building included 1932-1938 Commercial and apartments at 1707 E. 4th.
The building was called the Allan Block until 1921 when, for reasons I have yet to pin down, it became the Henderson Block. However, it was once again the Allan Block between 1924 and 1928. In the latter year it was called Highland Block which is what is known as today.
As the image above shows, the building was designed with two storefronts on Commercial. The storefront at 1932 had a hard time finding tenants who lasted more than a year of so. Mrs. Flora Murray’s dry goods store was the first tenant but she was swiftly followed by electricians, a fish store, a meat market, several music stores, a couple of beauty parlors and an upholstery dealer. The storefront has not been used for retail since 1943.
The corner storefront had better luck. A series of real estate agents were the first tenants and they lasted until the mid-1920s. In 1930 Cut Rate Cleaners opened and the store remained a dry clearers (under the names Cut Rate, Uneeda, Steve’s) until the mid-1970s. Later, there were furniture stores and the return of a real estate agent. However, the store has been used by a series of cafes since 1998.
The Highland Apartments have always been very popular and “The Encyclopedia of Commercial Drive” lists 497 residents from 1912 to 1999.
This image from 2011 shows the building with Prado Cafe on the corner.