October Grandview Heritage Group meeting, this Thursday

Our October meeting is this Thursday, October 19th. As usual, we will meet in the Britannia Boardroom at 7:00 p.m.

This month’s agenda will include:

  • Our regular review of things happening in the neighbourhood that are of interest to our group, led by Eric. Because we missed our Sept meeting, there’s a lot to catch up on.
  • Update on our century sign campaign…
  • Anything else you’d like to discuss!

Our agenda is always flexible and our discussions are always both educational and entertaining.
Everyone is welcome! Do come and join us!

Eric Phillips on Asbestos in Older Houses…

Almost any house built prior to the 1990s will contain some asbestos. This WorkSafe BC link will show you some of the more common places and give an overview of asbestos in the home.
It is interesting that the diagram uses a relatively modern house as its example. Asbestos, as the miracle do-anything product, came into full prominence after our houses were built, but there will still be some asbestos used either during original construction or during subsequent renovations/maintenance. The most common places to find materials which may contain asbestos are in vermiculite insulation (one common brand name is Zonolite, which looks like small brown popcorn), “popcorn” textured ceilings (sometimes called Spray-Tex), duct tape (asbestos tape was used to seal joints on hot-air ducts and also on furnaces and fireplaces), asbestos-board siding, flooring, drywall & fillers, and electrical boxes. We had a local Grandview example where asbestos was found in the plaster as well but it was not clear if it was in the original plaster or came from post-construction renovations (filler with asbestos). The reason for the asbestos concerns is that once disturbed, the fibres will stay airborne for a long time and the long-term consequences of inhaling them will not be immediately evident. To confirm I was not misleading you, I talked to a carpenter friend who has been through the working-with-asbestos course and he gave a few examples. He had a job of re-placing some old flooring. The 9×9 tiles and the adhesives almost certainly contained asbestos. To avoid the cost of dealing with their removal, the tiles were left undisturbed and were covered with floor-leveling compound and then with sheet flooring with the edges sealed. An engineered wood floor could also have been used with the same sealing precautions.
How do you know for sure if there is asbestos in a material to be removed during renovation? Testing in the only way to know for certain. For example, I have some vermiculite insulation in my attic. If I simply wanted to increase the amount of insulation, I could have added more insulation on top but since I needed to move some to get access to wiring, I took some samples to a lab and had it tested. Although my insulation does not look any different from any other vermiculite I have ever seen, it did not contain appreciable amounts of asbestos. While on that topic, if you are planning a renovation, someone in our ad hoc group is completely renovating their house and therefore had samples analyzed but found the City would not accept self sampling and required sample collection by a certified testing group. This is contrary to the information provided on the City’s website.

Eric Phillips
“Amateur House Mechanic”, Grandview Heritage Group

Meeting this Thursday (Aug 21)

Just a reminder that we will be having our regular Grandview Heritage Group meeting, this Thursday — tomorrow! — Aug 21st, in the Britannia Board Room (in the Info Centre), 7:00.

On our agenda we have invited Cynthia Low, the executive director at Britannia, to fill us in about Brit’s current plans for revitalization of the Britannia site (including preservation of both heritage buildings and heritage view corridors!), Eric Phillips to expand on his talk last month on historical linoleum, Bruce to talk about and and give us some examples of his interviews with Grandview’s old timers. Plus the usual free-wheeling conversation on all sorts of other heritage matters.
Please join us if you can! Everyone’s welcome.

The Green House at 1885 Venables Street

Note: The Grandview Heritage Group sent the following e-mail December 30, 2013.

To: Brian Jackson, Director of Planning
Copies: Marco D’Agostini, Heritage Planner, Mayor and Council

Subject: The Green House at 1885 Venables Street next to The Cultch

Dear Mr. Jackson:

We write to you concerning the Green House at 1885 Venables in Grandview, part of the CD-1 zoned parcel including The Cultch designated under heritage by-law 8951.


This historic building, constructed in 1912 as the rectory for the Methodist Church, has been a part of the Vancouver East Cultural Centre’s operations for many years, having been used as performance, rehearsal, and administrative space. The images below show its building permit and its location on Lot 16 from the 1912 Goad’s fire insurance atlas.


Here is the applicable by-law for The Cultch precinct:


We have watched with alarm in recent years as the building has been allowed to deteriorate. A blue tarpaulin put over the roof to avoid the latter’s replacement has itself ripped and frayed as the years have gone by, causing unknown damage to the interior. If it were a private developer who owned it, we would say “demolition by neglect” and “blockbusting.” Yet, in spite of this abandonment, the house’s ridge line is still straight; it appears to be structurally in good condition, with more of its original fabric intact than many other buildings that are candidates for heritage rehabilitation.

We are further alarmed to read of The Cultch’s plans, for example as reported below:

From “More Construction for The Cultch,” in the Straight, December 11, 2013:

Now that the York Theatre renovation has been completed—which overlapped with the Historic Theatre renewal and construction of new offices—Heather Redfern is now turning her attention to the green house at 1885 Venables Street. The 103-year-old property, which sits adjacent to the Historic Theatre, contains a rehearsal hall and office space. These were, until recently, rented out to various arts groups, providing an added revenue stream for the Cultch’s operations.

The plan, Redfern told the Straight, is to take down the current structure, which is in disrepair, and replace it with a new building designed by York Theatre architect Gregory Henriquez. Provided the City of Vancouver gives its blessing, she intends to have it renamed Jim Green House, in honour of her partner, the activist and politician, who passed away in February 2012.

This proposed redevelopment is clearly a challenge to the city’s recently passed heritage action plan, specifically Action # 1, which states that the Director of Planning is “under no obligation to consider any application that seeks development approval under the conditional provisions of the applicable zoning regulations. This principle will be more stringently adhered to for any application or proposal that seeks to demolish or significantly degrade a resource that is identified in the Heritage Register or for applications or proposals that involve heritage resources that are reasonably eligible for inclusion on the Heritage Register.” (italics added)

Clearly, the Green House at 1885 Venables deserves scrutiny under the Heritage Action Plan. We in the neighbourhood who value its historic quality have always treasured The Cultch precinct, which has evolved from a church with a rectory and a hall (now the WISE Hall across the lane facing Adanac Street) to its current form. The Cultch administration itself is also aware of this history and has accepted a city heritage plaque for the Historic Theatre and a Places That Matter plaque for the building’s previous use as the Vancouver Free University. However, when it comes to the re-use and adaptation of the Green House, the current Cultch administration seems willing to turn a blind eye to this layered history.

We would very much like to avoid a community confrontation with The Cultch and ask that you put together a meeting of key people to explore options other than demolition. Specifically, the Green House should be evaluated with a Statement of Significance and an assessment of its physical condition before any further public money is expended by The Cultch on new architects and plans.

We look forward to working with you on this matter in 2014.

Yours sincerely,

The Grandview Heritage Group
(contact: Penny Street, Bruce Macdonald)

2013 Centenary Signs Retrieved

On Sunday morning (December 29th) Michael Kluckner and Penny Street zoomed around and fetched all the centenary signs that were in people’s yards for 2013. We lost one sign this year, from the yard of 2061 East 3rd. So we are down to 24 signs, alas. We are in the process of identifying 24 splendid and well-preserved old-timers, preferably ones with good stories, to sport signs during 2014. It’s likely that we’ll wait until March or so to march around Grandview and select candidates. December is too chilly for the hunt.

Our thanks to everyone who agreed to have a sign for 2013!! We will continue to talk about the idea of “permanent” signs for houses that have had signs in past years.

May 2013 Meeting Notes

We had fantastic turnout for our May 16th meeting, filling up the Board Room at Britannia, and we also worked through an ambitious agenda.

All the signs for our 2013 Centenary Campaign have been installed and we had a celebratory party in Grandview Park to acknowledge this year’s signs and the homeowners who agreed to have signs in their yards. The party was on May 4th, which, coincidentally, was also the second anniversary of our first Grandview Heritage Group meeting! Jak got a delicious cake from Fratelli’s and we had a few speeches and gave out some hand-coloured GHG pins — these will surely be collectors’ items some day! We have accomplished a lot in two years!

Centenary celebration 2013

Michael Kluckner gave a report on the Shelly’s sign restoration project and also provided the group with a slide show about William Shelly and his Vancouver bakery empire. Via Tevere generously contributed $2000 to the sign project. Artists who worked on the sign were Victoria Oginski, our outdoor mural expert, Michael, and Penny. The idea was to revitalize and brighten up the sign, not to make it look new. Here’s the finished product:


Ann Daskal is the main organizer for the June 23rd party to celebrate the revitalization of the Shelly’s sign. She described the progress she has made so far. It’s really going to be a fabulous street party, chiefly for the folks who live in the Rose/Lily/Semlin area. It will an old-time “ice cream social” and will include a dedication and plaque unveiling, music by JazzMaTazz, a scavenger hunt with historical clues, colouring and arts and crafts projects for kids, cake, lemonade, vintage cars, and walking tours of the immediate area. (It’s a huge organizational job, and Ann would really appreciate volunteers to help her with all the aspects of putting on a big party!!)

GHG will have tables at both Car Free Commercial Drive (June 16th) and at one of the houses (on Kitchener St.) on the Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s Heritage House Tour (June 2nd).

May 16th, Bruce, Penny, and Michael paid a very informal visit to the Britannia Preschool and talked with a group of three- to five-year-olds. Our visit was organized by their teacher, Vasi Petoussis (who also happens to have one of our Centenary signs in her yard this year!). Here are photos of some of the kids and of Vasi and Bruce.

Brit Preschool

Bruce and VasiMaurice has offered to do another GHG walking tour west of the Drive in early October.

Lance and Jak talked about our upcoming GHG wiki. It has been launched and will be made public fairly soon and will enable us to organize and post a vast array of information about Grandview.

Lance also did some research into making “permanent” signs that we can offer to people who have had centenary signs for a year. The sign type he is recommending is printed on a ceramic tile. It would include the GHG logo in colour, the “title” of the house, a brief description of the house and its history, and a QR code that would take you to the page on the GHG wiki that contains information about the house. He had a sample tile printed up to show people what it would look like, and we were all quite impressed! It could be mounted on a house, on a fence, or on a wood stake. Very versatile.

The main event and highlight of the evening was Michael’s fascinating and comprehensive talk about Vancouver’s many house styles, which he illustrated with a slide show of photos and his drawings and watercolour paintings.

Penny Street

Online Resources for Researching the History of Your House

You can begin your research in your slippers and with a cup of tea, because there are good resources online. You might even find all you feel you need online. But once you start finding tantalizing tidbits of information, you will likely want to delve deeper; this will involve actually visiting the Archives or the VPL Special Collections on the 7th floor of the main branch.

To get you started, however, here is a list of the key resources you will find online — with links. When you click on a link, it should open in a new window. When you’re done with that site, you can return to this page and move on to the next one.

First, you probably already know if it is or not, but check to see if your house is on the Vancouver Heritage Register! Few houses are, so don’t be disappointed if your house isn’t on the list, which is a downloadable pdf file.

Another downloadable and searchable pdf, the next resource we recommend is a very useful short book called Street Names of Vancouver, by Elizabeth Walker. You can find out if the name of your street has changed over the years, and also what the origin of its name is.

Next, visit the City of Vancouver’s VanMap. You type your address number and street name in the search boxes and then when the map appears with your lot highlighted, double click on the lot to see details. (This will give you your property’s legal description — the District Lot (DL), Block, and Lot. The year VanMap gives for when the house was built is often wrong, but it does give you a ballpark.)

The British Columbia City Directories are online at the Vancouver Public Library Special Collections. Check years forward and backward until you find the year before anyone lived at your address and then work your way up…. You can check all your neighbours’ houses too and see which houses were built before yours and which came later. Note that street names and/or addresses may have changed. My address was 1764 Napier and later became 1760. Once you have the residents’ names, you can look them up in the alphabetical section and probably find their occupations and employers.

Heritage Vancouver has begun the painstaking process of putting all existing building permit records online in a searchable database. There are now almost 25,000 records, so you may be lucky and find your house there. If you cannot locate a record by entering your address and street name, try it with your legal description. Or even just the District Lot and Block. You may get the name of the owner, architect, and builder and a reliable date. Just because a building permit was issued doesn’t necessarily mean that a house was built, but it’s a good indication. Note also that the official records for the years 1905 through 1908 are missing, but HV researchers are apparently confident they’ve filled most of the gaps in that period using the Building Record, a trade paper of the time.

You will want to check the Census of Canada, 1911 (on the Library and Archives Canada website) to see if anyone was living in a house at your address in 1911. It’s an intimidating site, but Jak King has provided a very useful Census Finding Aid for Grandview and it’s on our website; if you do use the Census, Jak’s aid will save you countless hours. As he says, it’s relatively easy to find people in the Census, but difficult to find addresses. If the address you are researching is in Grandview, search for District 12 and one of the sub-districts suggested by Jak for your street. It’s all handwritten and, as you will find out, some pages are devilishly hard to read.

At the Vancouver Public Library Special Collections there is also a searchable collection of Historical Photographs. At the City of Vancouver Archives you can also search for whatever they might have online— news clippings, photos, etc. This is where you need to get creative in your search. There may be a photo of your house, but it may not be listed under your address. Try just the street. Try the owner’s or builder’s surname. Try the cross streets. Experiment!

One of the best maps, Goad’s atlas of the City of Vancouver, December 1912, is available online at Collections Canada. It was created to show existing structures (number of storeys, building materials, location on property) for fire insurance purposes. Jak King says he uses this resource just about every day, but it can be very difficult to use. Here’s a link to Plate 83 of Goad’s Map. If your house shows up on Goad’s Map, you can be sure it existed by the end of 1912.

— Happy Hunting!

(This was also a handout at the workshop given by Penny Street on March 23.)

GHG meeting Thurs June 21st

Just to remind you (or let you know) that the Grandview Heritage Group meets on the third Thursday of the month at Britannia Centre (1661 Napier) in the Brit Board Room, 7:00 p.m. That would be this Thursday, June 21st!
Our meetings are fascinating, fun, educational, and quite informal and open to anyone who’s interested.
See you there!