The July 17th meeting

About 20 people packed into the surprisingly cool boardroom at Britannia for the monthly meeting of the Grandview Heritage Group. A surprise visitor was a Vancouver Sun photographer/reporter, attracted by the Burnaby Lake tram presentation.

Michael Kluckner began the meeting with a brief update on the city’s Heritage Action Plan. The city’s heritage commission, at its last meeting, heard a presentation on “best practices” and heritage tools used elsewhere in North America and in Australia for urban heritage conservation. Vancouver’s toolkit is just about as comprehensive as anywhere else, using zoning, density bonuses, bylaw relaxations and a density bank to try to support building conservation; unlike a few Canadian cities (Victoria being one), Vancouver doesn’t use municipal tax relief to a very great extent; and, unlike in American cities, Vancouver commercial building owners can’t receive personal or corporate income tax relief for conservation activities – in the USA, building owners get accelerated capital-cost writeoffs for heritage work, a program that goes back more than 30 years. Vancouver also uses Heritage Conservation Areas, which in the USA are usually called HCDs or Heritage Conservation Districts, to achieve some of its aims, but these are zoning districts to control the rate of evolution and the design of neighbourhoods rather than real “conservation districts,” where you would presume (if you have a fairly linear understanding of the English language) that few if any buildings could be demolished. There are four Heritage Conservation Areas in Vancouver: Gastown and Chinatown (both designated provincially in 1971), Yaletown and First Shaughnessy. The city considers its RT areas – the duplex zones which include much of Grandview east of The Drive – to be de facto Heritage Conservation Areas, and to a certain degree they are working in that way with design control and a fairly slow rate of change.

There was also a brief discussion of pending changes to building bylaws to make older residential buildings more energy efficient. 19% of the city’s GHGs (greenhouse gases, not Grandview Heritage Groups) come from the RS and RT areas – the single-family and duplex zones.

Michael Kluckner then gave a Powerpoint presentation on the old Burnaby Lake interurban line.


The highlight was some vintage film that can be seen in its entirety on YouTube, showing interurbans leaving the Carrall Street depot (sw corner of Hastings and Carrall across the street from Pigeon Park), heading along Hastings to Clark, Venables and Commercial Drive at 5th…


… where the motorman switched onto a branch line that followed a loop northeast across what is now the edge of McSpadden Park and made its way to 1st Avenue at Nanaimo, where it ran down the median of 1st to the gully where the freeway now heads east into Burnaby. Like its modern counterpart, the Millenium Line, it wasn’t as heavily used as the Central Park Line (the Skytrain’s Expo Line) and there was never the population density to justify its existence. When the consumer economy finally got going in the late 1940s, consumers wanted automobiles. B.C. Electric shut down its interurban system in the early 1950s; both the Burnaby Lake and Central Park lines closed on the same day in October, 1953.

Eric Phillips then gave a presentation on the history of linoleum, showing many images of patterns from the 1900s through the 1950s and explaining the differences between it and other types of flooring and the various types of linoleum that were manufactured. Durable, made of natural materials, naturally sanitary, linoleum continues to be a favorite in hospital settings and high-traffic commercial applications.

Finally, Bruce MacDonald gave a brief presentation, thwarted somewhat by the lack of good audio speakers, on the project to interview Grandview seniors and record their memories of the city and neighbourhood in the 1930s–1950s era. He personally is trying to record 20 interviews; the larger, city-wide project will gather about 100 oral histories. At a later meeting, Bruce will do it again.

The next meeting, with agenda to be announced, will take place August 21st (the third Thursday) in the boardroom at Britannia.

Next meeting Thursday July 17th, 7 pm

We’re having our regular monthly meeting, time and date above, location same as always (the Britannia boardroom) for all who are in town.

The four items we have as an agenda so far are:

• a brief update from Michael Kluckner on some of the work the city is doing to look at heritage conservation tools elsewhere in North America, Britain and Australia in search of innovative strategies.

• an interview Bruce Macdonald recorded with legendary planner/politician Bob Williams, a Britannia grad and Dave Barrett’s right-hand man during the NDP government of 1972–5.

• a presentation by Eric Phillips on linoleum, part of his series on the materials and workings of early Vancouver houses; and

• a presentation by Michael Kluckner on the old Burnaby Lake tramline, which until the early 1950s branched off Commercial Drive at 6th Avenue (the post office site) and looped down onto 1st Avenue before heading east into Burnaby along the corridor now used by Highway 1; it includes some glorious Kodachrome film from the late 1940s of interurbans running on the line and on Venables and Clark.

Please join us! There are no formal memberships or other folderol. We’re just a casual group of local historians and other heritage enthusiasts exchanging information about our historic community.

Missing Block in 1921 Census

I have been doing more work on the 1921 Census for Grandview and have discovered that the north side of the 2000-block Venables Street was missed by the enumerator.

The south side of the block (house numbers: 2012, 2030, 2036, 2052, 2056, 2062 and 2076) is captured on pages 4, 5 and 6 of district 22, sub-district 74 of the Census.  But after several hours of looking, I can find no trace of the north side on any page in that sub-district or its surrounding neighbours.

To double check, I did name searches in the Census for the residents listed in the City Directory for that year and again came up blank.

Given that the Census in those years was reliant entirely on fallible human surveyors, I wonder how many blocks or partial blocks were missed across the country?


Our June 19th meeting

About 20 people showed up at the boardroom at Britannia Community Centre for the monthly GHG meeting.

the launch party for the 2014 Centenary Signs, with cake and refreshments, will be at 11 am Saturday June 28th at Mosaic Park at the corner of Charles and McLean in the heart of the “west of The Drive” area we’ve highlighted with this year’s set of houses. There will be an email reminder to everyone and we hope that the occupants of the houses who have agreed to host the signs this year can come along.

• Michael described the recent policy changes the city has instituted as part of its Heritage Action Plan: a one-year moratorium on demolitions of pre-1940 houses in First Shaughnessy; a new, interim checklist to determine pre-1940 “character houses” that the city is using while it formalizes an inventory of them; suggestions by city staff for carrots and sticks that would encourage house owners to retain character houses rather than demolish them; and, the implications of the city’s deconstruction and recycling policies that will force demolishers of character houses to divert 90% of the material from the landfill into salvage and re-use. There was a lot of discussion and questions. The policies, although city-wide, are specifically targeted to try to reduce the numbers of demolitions on the big lots of west-side neighbourhoods like Point Grey and Kerrisdale, where there is a considerable business opportunity (i.e. the ability to construct a much larger house) compared with that available on the standard 33 x 120 foot lots of Grandview and other east-side communities; the implications for communities like Grandview will, hopefully, be an increased awareness of the value of the smaller 1920s-1930s houses and more flexible city regulations to encourage their retention.

• There was a brief report on the plan, in abeyance for several months, to create permanent plaques for Grandview heritage houses and offer them to the 74 owners/occupants of the Centenary houses from 2012, 2013 and this year. More effort will go into finalizing research on the houses for the wiki and sourcing a plaque that will be durable (more so, at least, than the one installed at the Shelly’s sign at Victoria and William, which has faded badly after a year).

• Penny showed slides and offered hilarious commentary on her recent trip to Kansas’s depopulated towns of fine old buildings standing vacant under The Big Sky. And Eric, self-described “Amateur House Mechanic,” gave a brief presentation on the stone walls and foundations of vintage Grandview, including demonstrating how to split granite blocks with hand tools, part of his fascinating series of talks on the inner workings of early Vancouver houses.

The next meeting will be at 7 pm on Thursday, July 17th (the third Thursday of the month, right?) in the boardroom at Britannia Community Centre.

Mount Pleasant Heritage Group

black houseThis fascinating structure is what is known as the Black House, on E. 6th by Main.  Bruce Macdonald has been researching this property and is sure it is from 1889 and is perhaps the oldest building extant in Vancouver outside of the old downtown core.  It is in solid shape and is currently occupied by six artists as a living/display space.

The reason I have used this image is that last night, five members of the Grandview Heritage Group joined the Mount Pleasant Heritage Group for their regular meeting which took place in this house.

The Mount Pleasant folks are pulling their organization together in a fine way. Last night’s meeting was to introduce the candidates for their Treasured Properties sign campaign (similar to our Centenary Houses Signs Project).  While Mount Pleasant has a number of well-known Victorian and Edwardian buildings, the MPHG has deliberately chosen a much wider assortment of buildings to celebrate, including houses, apartment blocks, and stores.  It was a very cool list and we look forward to the group finalizing the plans for celebrating them.

On behalf of GHG, I’d like to thank the hosts for their interesting presentation, their kind hospitality with beer and snacks and, last but not least, a grand tour of this wonderful old building.

Next Meeting: 19th June 2014

Another month, another meeting!   The Grandview Heritage Group will have its monthly meeting this coming Thursday evening at 7:00 pm at Britannia Boardroom (which will no doubt be drier than our booth yesterday!)

As usual, the agenda is open to anything we want to discuss, but include a demonstration of granite splitting by Eric, some excellent images from Penny, a brief discussion about Vancouver City Council’s latest heritage pronouncements from Michael, and final arrangements about our House Celebration party scheduled for June 28th.

Come along and join the conversation!

GHG At Car Free Day 2014

20140615 Car Free Day for GHGHere are Maria and Eric manning our booth just as the torrential downpour began to ease off.  Thank goodness for sunshine later!

We had a wonderful time on the Drive yesterday, meeting folks and having a number of fascinating conversations about heritage houses and local history.  Thanks to everyone who stopped by, and to all the volunteers who help with the booth!