Meeting Notes: April 2015

We had another exciting and stimulating meeting of the Grandview Heritage Group last night, with about 20 folks in attendance.  The topics we discussed were as wide-ranging as ever.

  • Ann presented information about a film screening and an art show, both of which will be of interest to Vancouver urbanists.  At the Grunt Art Gallery right now, until May 16, is an exhibition of photographic work by Henri Robidaux called “Eraser Street”, a take-off on Fraser Street.  Also, on Friday 24th April, Julia Kwan’s documentary exploring the changes in Chinatown and called “Everything Will Be” is being shown at the Hasting Community Centre.
  • Eric presented the latest in his series of monthly “Happening In the ‘Hood” guides. We looked at a number of older buildings that have been sold recently. There was a discussion about the City’s long term plans for the north side of E.1st by Clark Drive where they have owned the block for many years now.  This led to an interesting side-bar on the effect moving St Paul’s Hospital to the East End may have on local development and traffic patterns.  The future of the Bosa Grocery building on Victoria was discussed, as was the development right opposite that site. Eric also pointed out the deterioration in the Grandview Smoke Shop “Star Weekly” sign on Commercial.  Perhaps GHG could assist in the restoration.
  • Eric also reported on his visit to a workshop by Nickel Brothers on how to move a heritage house.  The average cost to move a house off-lot is about $35,000, and trolley lines are the biggest obstacle.
  • Our 429 Geog UBC student Kevin Shackles gave us his excellent prresentation on the history (and possible future) of the corner grocery stores in residential neighbourhoods, featuring Grandview. He covered the history of small retail merchandising and then examinded the histories of several local stores.  He noted the almost universal change to Chinese owners since the War.  In addition to his presentation, Kevin has produced a 20+ page XLS spreadsheet covering the entire range of stores in residential Grandview; a fabulous resource.  He also outlined a number of future research ideas for the future. It was an excellent exercise working with Kevin this year, and I know we all wish his the very best in his continuing education and future career.
  • Jak presented the idea (suggested by many others) that thereshould be Grandview Museum/Archives component in the Britannia Renewal planning that is currently ongoing. Jak will draft a letter giving GHG’s support to the idea.
  • We briefly discussed the 2015 Century Signs campaign, and whether or not to participate in Car Free Day this year.  These two events will be discussed in detail at the May meeting.
  • We also broefly discussed the current state of the Grandview Community Plan Citizens’ Assembly, which is now getting close to formally endorsing their recommendations.  Some cynicism of the process was still expressed.  The next, possibly final, Public Roundtable event is on 5th May.

All in all, another worthwhile event from GHG!

Next meeting this Thursday the 16th of April, 7 pm

Another action-packed GHG meeting on the horizon, as always in the Britannia Boardroom (go into the info centre just west of the lane on the north side of the Greenway – the continuation of Napier Street west of The Drive). Everyone is welcome.

Agenda items will include:

•Eric Phillips’s Happenings in the ‘Hood – what’s been going on in the past month;

•Kevin Shackles will present the results of his study of Grandview grocery stores of yore – Kevin is a student in the UBC Geography 429 course and undertook a project for the GHG on the history of grocery stores not on either The Drive or Hastings Street.

• We will put dates on the calendar to begin our Century Signs campaign for 2015; the 20+ signs in the neighbourhood need to be rounded up and cleaned and a set of new houses must be found and researched.

Everyone is welcome!

Heritage Salvage Sale — This Saturday!

The Vancouver Heritage Foundation is holding a sale that should be of great interest for those with heritage houses or looking to do a fix-up. As they write:

We have collected enough material to host a one-day sale of architectural salvage. The types of items we will have range from hardware and small metal pieces to leaded-glass windows and solid wood doors. There will also be a few unique pieces that may just be the missing part of your project. Please come prepared to take away purchased items the day of the sale.


Saturday, April 11th
1pm – 4pm
593 E. Georgia St (access via the lane)


Notes From The March Meeting

Another full house attendance last night — the Boardroom was bursting — including several new attendees, with a lively level of conversations and questions.  As usual, we covered a lot of ground:

  • We began with a presentation by Tania Willard about a piece of public art she is organizing.  The art work will be two 5.5m diameter limestone rings on which will be imprinted an image of a Douglas fir’s complex root systems surrounding an image tree rings from a 1400-year old fir from the Island.  The work is to symbolize the interlocking roots of First Nations’ history and languages.  She is negotiating with Translink to have the work placed on the SkyTrain’s new platform in 2016 and its placement will also represent the First Nations’ presence in our district for scores of generations.
  • This was followed by another of Eric’s popular Happenings in the Hood series. It was noted that there are a lot of renos going on right now (2036 and 2038 Graveley, and the Cultch’s Green house [see below] for example), along with a high number of house sales.  We discussed the recent sale of 918 Salsbury, 2084 Commercial, 2154 E. 1st, and 2111 Kitchener [see below].  We noted the “sale pending” on the former Salvation Army Building at 1648 First Avenue, and the almost $1 million dollar price for each half of the new duplex built at Napier near Commercial. The lack of apparent progress on renovating 1731 Commercial was also mentioned.  This agenda item always evokes a great deal of lively discussion.
  • Michael discussed the current status of the Green House at 1985 Venables.  The Cultch had planned to demolish the heritage building and replace it with a modernist structure. GHG had opposed this and had met with Heather Deal and Libby Davies to discuss our concerns.  We also wrote a letter to Council.  The Cultch had $1m in its coffers that was going toward the $2m of the new building; however, that money will now be spent, after Council’s decision, on renovating the Green House.  A marvelous building has been saved.
  • 2111 Kitchener has been sold for $2.05.  It is on a double lot. It seems there are some issues with simply bringing the old house up to speed, which left offers only from developers.  We understand the purchaser may try to move the house closer to the Lakewood side of the property and then build a coach house behind. However, there may also be issues with an easement on the lane. We await developments.
  • Bruce showed us another of his video interviews with Grandview seniors.  This time it was with Doreen Herman who recently died at the age of 90, just a few months after the video was completed.  In the video, Doreen talked about going to school at Grandview School of Commerce, going dancing, working in the lumber industry for 30 years. She used to live on William Street in a Guinet-built house that was demolished to make way for the Britannia School expansion in the 1970s. She said she missed the house a lot.
  • We discussed the project to create heritage stories for houses being listed by local realtors.  Dorothy and Penny are leading this effort. They have met with a couple of realtors who are interested in the concept for special properties. Lance suggested that we try to get information from realtors, especially interior photographs, that we can place in the wiki.
  • We had our first brief discussion of the 2015 Heritage Signs Project. We noted that we have to soon collect and clean the signs that have been gracing houses since 2014. Maria suggested breaking down the map and having volunteers make the first cut of potentials for this year. A volunteer sign-up sheet was circulated.  We will discuss the 2015 campaign further at next month’s meeting.
  • The Community Plan and its effect on heritage was discussed.  It was noted that at the Commercial Drive workshop, there was some push to raise the height limit to 6 storeys. This was countered witgh a suggestion to downzone it to two storeys. However, we have to understand that downzoning or creating a form of heritage designation may well cost us additional density elsewhere in the neighbourhood. There was a discussion about the value of RT8 zoning such as is availabke in Kits.
  • Bonnie Beckwoman joined us for the meeting. She discussed the fire that has closed Beckwoman’s and her preparations for re-opening soon. She also discussed the issues facing small businesses in the current climate.

Lots to talk about indeed!

The First Through Tram

My book, “The Drive: A … History of Commercial Drive to 1956” is a study of the period from 1935 to 1956. In an introduction, I attempted in a few paragraphs to sketch the history of Grandview prior to 1935. One of the anecdotes I used for this purpose went as follows:

“[I]n the fall of 1891, the first tramcar to make a through trip from Vancouver to New Westminster carried Vancouver Mayor David Oppenheimer, the CPR’s William Van Horne, and Lords Mount Stephen and Elphinstone.”

Though I took this from previously published work, I am now convinced this is inaccurate.

George Stephen, who just months before had become the first Canadian to be elevated to the British peerage as Baron Mount Stephen, and who had been almost single-handedly responsible for the management and financing of the CPR construction, was indeed in Vancouver in the fall of 1891. He accompanied Cornelius Van Horne (to whom he had passed on the CPR presidency) and Lord Elphinstone, a Scottish peer with extensive investments in both the CPR and BC property, on a cross-country tour of the CPR line from Montreal, arriving in Vancouver in the second week of September [see “Vancouver Daily World“, 11 September 1891, p.5].

The group spent “a few days” in Vancouver and they did in fact travel by train to New Westminster on their way to visit Mission. However, this trip was on the CPR main line via Coquitlam, not the Electric Tramway via Grandview, which was not completed until early the following month.

I am glad to have that corrected.  However, the date of the first through tram on the New Westminster & Vancouver Electric Tramway is still something of a mystery.

Heather Conn’s execellent history of transportation called “Vancouver’s Glory Years” suggests that the line was complete by October 8th, 1891 [see page 33].  However, the News-Advertizer of 10th October, 1891, says that the tram was still only running from New West to the Vancouver City boundary at 16th Avenue by that date [p.5], and its edition of October 16th suggests that the through service was only then finally in operation to some part of the city [p.6]. On October 22nd the same paper reported on a trip by Mayor Oppenheimer and an invited party of guests: “The car came for them to Westminster Avenue [Main Street], the furthest any car has yet gone” [p.8]

Not important, perhaps in the scheme of things.  By the end of October 1891 at least, the full service was already full of eager passengers and extra trips had to be laid on.

March Meeting

It’s that time again!  On Thursday 19th we will meet for the March meeting of GHG. We will, as usual, meet at 7:00pm sharp in the Boardroom at Britannia Info Centre.

We have a full agenda that includes:

  • Current heritage happenings in the neighbourhood
  • Michael Kluckner will talk about the restotration of the Green House on Venables
  • We will discuss the sale of 2111 Kitchener, a heritage dream house
  • Ms. Tania Willard will discuss her proposed public art piece regarding the Grandview Cut
  • Bruce will present another of his pioneer videos — this time an interview with Doreen Harman about life in Grandview in the 40s and 50s
  • Penny and Dorothy will discuss the realtors’ history proposal
  • If there is still time, we will begin preparations for this year’s Heritage Signs project

Everyone is welcome and we look forward to seeing you!

Jack Burch at Age 92 Recalls Grandview’s 1920, 30s, 40s…


Jack Burch worked at Grandview’s local newspaper, the Highland Echo, from 1949 until he retired in 1994 as the owner and publisher.
This video interview starts with Jack’s experiences in Grandview in the 1920s and 1930s, and covers his experiences overseas in World War II. After the War, Jack describes his work at the Highland Echo and his experiences with the Italian immigrants – who made great soccer coaches.
The interview ends with various images and articles from the Highland Echo over its long history since 1917.
This film was part of a New Horizons grant to encourage people to use their smart phones to record interesting people for the benefit of everyone, and then to encourage the use of free computer software to make the footage into interesting short films. Anyone can do it!

The Sensational Develoment of Grandview

One hundred and ten years ago today, Grandview was essentially empty of residents with, perhaps, two score of enterprising families staking their claim in what was still mostly scrub and tree stumps. But then Dow & Co became agents for the newly opened sub-division, and they became our first boosters.  This Vancouver Daily World ad was published on 6th March 1905.

Dow ad_Vancouver_Daily_World_Mon__Mar_6__1905_Grandview, read the ad, “has attracted more attention than any section of our city the past few months. It is not speculation but rather bona fide investment that is marking its progress. Homesites are chosen with care by residents for building on.

“Corners are  being bought by merchants with a view to establishing business in this growihng healthy neighbourhood …

“We will be pleased to show you over the ground or have a talk on Grand View and its many advantages; no bridges to cross; no steamer travel, just the ordinary every day up-to-date streetcar transportation.”

Green House report going to Council

Council is set to approve a report from the city manager that will see the funds that were to go to the demolition and replacement of the Green House (the former rectory next to The Cultch at 1885 Venables) used instead for the repair and upgrading of this historic structure.

Grandview Heritage Group is specifically mentioned as an advocate for the retention – our plea to the city was heard! We congratulate the City on this example of stewardship and the statement it makes about reusing and adapting existing buildings rather than the tear-down/build-new paradigm that is wrecking some of the city’s old neighbourhoods.

There will be an article coming out in the Straight this week on it.

Update from Heather Deal on March 4th: “Done – passed on consent!”