Research Methods For Local History

Vancouver is fortunate in having a very fine Library and City Archives (CVA) system that maintains an enormous body of documentary and visual evidence of Vancouver’s history and heritage. There is, in fact, so much data available that it can be overwhelming for both professional and amateur researchers alike. To assist researchers, the CVA has developed an excellent system of identification of its enormous collection and, especially for City of Vancouver records, the big red binders in the reading room that describe each fond are a mandatory first stop for any serious research.

But the ease of access to so much data leads to another problem — how do you maintain your own records of what you find? And how do you find specific information within your own records when you need it?  As my own large collection of data for Grandview has grown over the past many years, I have had to develop (and often, trash and re-develop) systems to handle this problem. I;m still not sure I have it right.

I recently came across an interview with Billy Smith, Professor of History at Montana State University, which addresses this specific issue.  It is an audio podcast of about 45 minutes duration. There are a couple of minutes of introduction before the interview begins, but then we get into the useful material.

Episode 097: Billy Smith, How to Organize Your Research

Select “Episode 097” above and then, when the new page opens, the Listen Now feature can be found with a couple of PageDown clicks.Grab your favourite beverage, settle down into your favourite chair, and listen to some excellent advice from a long-time successful researcher.

Lecture about the Shelly’s 4X sign

ghostsign-600x450

The neighbourhood’s ghost sign at Via Tevere Ristorante on Victoria Drive at William is the subject of a Vancouver Historical Society lecture on Thursday, September 22nd. I will be talking about the discovery of the sign, its restoration by the Grandview Heritage Group in 2012 or was it 2013, and the advertising campaign the bakery used in the 1920s. The title is “Selling Bread to Housewives in the 1920s”; there is an article about the talk in Spacing magazine.

Notes To September Meeting

We enjoyed a wonderfully full and productive meeting last night. There were almost thirty people in attendance, many of them new to the group. They were interested and articulate, and it was great to welcome them all. The following agenda items were covered:

  • Donato Calogero began the meeting with a wonderful presentation on his house at 1350 Graveley. He has conducted considerable research on the property including the collection of a marvellous group of photographs. Donato has discovered that the house was built on the shore of False Creek (then, 1200 E. 1st) probably in 1900. As part of the construction of the First Avenue Viaduct, the house was moved in 1937 to 1726 Clark Drive. In 1956 it was moved again to its present location on Graveley. It is concluded that this is the oldest continuously existing building in Grandview. Over the next short while we will work to put the presentation on this website for all to see. It was also agreed that we will design and erect a plaque noting this important history.
  • Centenary Celebration Houses 2016:  We discussed this briefly. Unfortunately there was an online technical issue and we were unable to show the photographs.
  • Eric gave another of his fine What’s Happening In the Neighbourhood presentations.
    • We noted the replacement of the Heritage Plaques previously stolen on Salsbury
    • We agreed to replace (for a second time) the plaque on Via Tevere building, damaged by sunlight
    • Work on the Cultch’s Green House is progressing well
    • There was a general note that some heritage houses for sale seem to be staying on the market longer than earlier this year
    • It was noted that Brookhouse (1872 Parker) is showing considerable signs of being damaged due to the length of time it has now sat unoccupied
    • Other properties on Victoria, 7th, 5th, Commercial, William, and Venables were reviewed
    • The current state of the maple trees in Grandview Park was also noted, several trees having already been felled
    • It was also noted that a number of development applications on Commercial Drive are asking for very limited or zero parking
  • Eric also took us through a number of Upcoming Events. These include a number of tours via Heritage Vancouver, the Van Hist Society’s lecture on 9/22, and the Friends of Vancouver Archives fundraiser on 10/23
  • Finally we discussed the future of GHG itself.  It was noted that the founders are getting older and several are currently working on projects unconnected to Grandview (and thus not suitable for presentation at the monthly meetings). Younger and active volunteers are needed to ensure that we carry on as successfully as we have in the past. However, tonight’s excellent turnout and program shows that the group clearly does have a promising future.

Next Meeting This Thursday

Our summer break is over, and the Grandview Heritage Group is ready to begin its 6th season of public meetings. The next meeting is on:

Thursday 15th September, 7:00pm at Britannia Board Room, Napier Street

The agenda will include:

  • an important historical presentation about the oldest house still existing in Grandview;
  • our Centenary House celebrations for 2016;
  • what’s happening in the neighbourhood;
  • and an important discussion regarding the Heritage Group and how it moves forward into the future.

We would not be surprised if other matters come up for discussion too.

The meeting is open to everyone and we look forward to seeing many of you there on Thursday evening!

Rise and Fall of the Grandview Market Hall

In the first decade of the 20th century, Vancouver was a tiny outpost of civilization; its 20,000 people linked to the rest of the continent by railroads and steamships. That being said, the city was somehow able to track and follow certain market trends. And Grandview became involved.

According to the vital new work by Frank Trentmann called “The Empire of Things: How We Became a World of Consumers, from  the Fifteenth Century to the Twenty-First“, the growth of consumerism and department stores across the world at the end of the 19th century, led to an increase in disorderly and disreputable street hawkers and “cities turned to market halls to bring them under central control.”   Inside these new areas, “spitting, swearing, and shouting were forbidden.”(1)

I have not noticed a call in Vancouver at that time complaining about problems with street hawkers, however that did not stop notary William Astley building the East Side Public Market at 1502 Venables on the corner with Woodland. The hall was built on a 66 x 126 foot lot and was to “serve the same purpose as the recently opened market that has been such a success in the west end.” It cost $45,000 including land (at a time when a store on the Drive could be erected for less than half that) and included 40 separate stalls and offices on the ground floor. The upper floor would be for public entertainments. Mr Wentzy, the manager, had opened previous markets in Seattle, his motto being: “High class merchandise and low prices, courteous treatment and honest weights.” There was a fireproof glass awning along Venables and the building was illuminated by 400 electric lights.(2)

The market opened in May 1911. In 1912, the City Directory listed a cigar store, a grocery, a bakers, a meat store, and Astley’s office as occupying the hall. However, by 1914 the market was vacant and sat unused for several years. Astley moved his real estate offices along the street to 1516 Venables.(3)

In Europe and elsewhere, the craze for market halls had come to an equally rapid halt. AsTrentmann writes:

By 1911, observers began to notice their ‘growing insignificance’ for ordinary people … It could be cheaper to buy from a street dealer who did not carry the extra expense of renting a stall.” (4)

Without more research it would be hard to say if Grandview’s Market Hall failed for the same reasons as those in London and Manchester and Buenos Aires. But the timing of the rise and fall seems eerily coincident.

 

Notes:

  1. Trentmann, Frank 2016, “Empire of Things” (Allen Lane, London), p.207
  2. Vancouver World, 24 Jan 1911; Western Call 19 May 1911, p.1
  3. Vancouver City Directories, 1911-1914
  4. Trentmann 2016, p.207-208

Progress on the Green House

greenhouse

The wraps are off the Green House – the former rectory of the Grandview Methodist/United Church on Venables near Victoria, which is being renovated to resume its role as the administrative and workshop space for The Cultch. Kudos to the city and the contractor! Earlier posts on this thread tell the story….

Meeting Notes — June 2016

We had another interesting meeting last Thursday evening.

  • Claire Shepansky gave an excellent presentation on her recent project which was to document and analyze the residential displacement caused by the building of the Britannia Community Centre in 1973-1974.
  • The regular monthly feature on Neighbourhood Changes discussed Heritage Conservation Areas (as is being mooted for Mole Hill in the West End); the renewal of porches and balconies, the upcoming public hearing for the Brookhouse HRA, and a number of recent real estate activity of interest to heritage;
  • A discussion of upcoming Events included an Architectural Salvage Sale, walking tours in Mount Pleasant, Downtown, and the PNE, and various fall workshops;
  • This year’s Centenary Signs project continues with seven new signs going up this week; we will celebrate them in September;
  • It was agreed that the summer season meetings of July and August will be cancelled this year. Our next meeting will be on 15 September.

Next Meeting: 16th June

The world keeps spinning and before you know it is time for another Grandview Heritage Group meeting. This Thursday evening. This month’s agenda will include:

  • a presentation by Claire Shepansky on her paper about the residential displacement caused by the creation of the Britannia Community Centre in the 1970s;
  • a review of Centenary House candidates for 2016;
  • the monthly round up of neighbourhood changes;
  • a quick look ahead to our display at Car Free Day 2017 (yes, always thinking ahead!).

As always our agenda is open and fluid, so who knows what else might be discussed?

Do come join us on Thursday at 7:00pm at the Britannia Board Room.  Everyone is welcome!