York Theatre Anniversary

Seventy-five years ago today, the then-newly renovated theatre in the 600-block of Commercial Drive was opened and re-named as the York Theatre.

The theatre, previously called the Palace, had been operated by the Vancouver Little Theatre Society since the 1920s. During the late 1930s, the group had fundraised enough money for a complete refurbishment of the building, including a new street-facing front. The work was completed in February 1940 and the new York Theatre was re-opened.

This building is not to be confused with the modern York Theatre put up on the site a couple of years ago; a building that has no relevance to the design of the heritage structure.

York Theatre Sign

At our September meeting we discussed the wonderful “Little Theatre” sign that has emerged on the York Theatre’s south wall, and we agreed to write to the architects and developers in an attempt to preserve this important artifact of our cultural and community past.

We have now heard back from the architects and Don Luxton their heritage consultant.  Their letters said in part:

The appropriate due diligence was performed, with comprehensive input from envelope consultant, heritage consultant, structural consultant, and paint/coatings authority …  The consultations concluded that exposing the ghost signs and protecting them with an encapsulating coating is not feasible due to the too irregular and rough surface of the clay tile substrate and proper adhesion would not be achieved ,,,

[A] glass box option would also require the application of a UV resistant coating on the ghost signs, which may again lead to deterioration of the historic paint …

It was concluded that the signage could not be effectively available for visual display, but will continue to exist and will be protected and preserved accordingly … The design intent is to protect the ghost signs with an interlayer that separates the signs from the new stucco layer that will be appllied on top.  This conservation strategy will preserve the ghost signs behind the new facade render for future research and treatments when enhanced conservation technologies are available …

As an homage to the recommended concealed ‘ghost’ signage, the historic lettering was documented and is being replicated, to be incorporated as ‘ghost lettering’ in the renovation on the Commercial Drive facade roof screen.”

Not a bad result and we thank the architects and their principals for taking these steps to preserve the signs for the future.

Meeting Notes — September

We had a splendidly full and interesting meeting last night.

Michael Kluckner led a discussion about how best we can approach the preservation of historic signs in Grandview.  These would include the Shelly’s sign at the Via Tevere Pizza restaurant on Victoria, and the Cozy Apartments sign on Commercial. It was noted that there are other signs on the Drive that are beneath thin veneers of whitewash. It was agreed that we should meet with the Tevere owners and discuss a possible repainting in the spring.

While we are talking about the Shelly’s sign, it is worth noting that the excellent images of the sign by one of our members, Egon Simons, are being used by the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan folks.

The talk of signs led us inexorably to the question of the Little Theatre sign that has been revealed by the redevelopment of the York Theatre.  The development plan shows that the wall is supposed to be covered by what appear to be white metal sheets.  However, we all agree that retention and diaplay of the sign would be a desirable outcome in what is an otherwise non-heritage renovation.  It was agreed that we will write to the developers to ascertain their plans for the sign and lobby for its continued public display.

We then turned to the matter of the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan.  Many of the people at the meeting are also members of the Community Plan PACE group and we discussed the first meeting of that Process Advisory and Community Engagement group that took place on Tuesday.  It was noted that heritage was a key factor in the discussions, especially in what the planners were keen to call “the Heritage area” east of Commercial Drive.  It was agreed that there are also pockets of important heritage value west of the Drive, many of which offer affordable housing options, and these need to be protected from any sweeping apartment-zone changes that may be contemplated in the new Plan.

There was a long and interesting discussion about the creation of a mixed cultural-industrial zone along and to the east of Clark Drive.

Talk of the area west side of Commercial was also timely because the next of our Walk & Talk series will feature that area.  One of the City’s most experienced guides, Maurice Guibord, will be leading the walk on October 20th and we’ll be publishing more details in the next little while.

Finally, we spent some time discussing additions and improvements to this website of ours.  It was suggested and agreed that we should have a page about resources for heritage home owners looking to repair and renovate their houses, and we will be gathering data for that.  We will also include a page with pointers for those looking to research the history of their homes, and this will tie in with our scheduled Talk in January on the same subject.  So, look for changes coming here soon!



York Theatre Renovation

The renovation of the old York Theatre at Commercial and E. Georgia is moving ahead quite quickly.   As a result of the stripping of stucco from the south wall we now have another “ghost” sign:  this one for the Little Theatre.  It is not so easy to see, especially with the scaffolding still in place, but hopefully you can get a flavour of it from this image:

Tom Durrie, who has written a sketch of a history of the York Theatre, believes the “Little Theatre” sign was painted in 1923 when the Little Theatre Society purchased the site.

Will the sign be saved?   We can only hope!

The York Theatre

The old York Theatre at 639 Commercial Drive is undergoing a massive renovation.

It was originally constructed in 1913 as the Alcazar moving picture show theatre. It quickly became the home of Vancouver’s Little Theatre Company who used the facilities for 54 years under the name York Theatre. Some while ago it became a movie house for Indian films called the Raja, and closed for good about two years ago.

This image from Heritage Vancouver shows the Alcazar, the York and the Raja:

Now, the front section has been demolished and today it looks like this:

Hopefully by next summer it will be a brand-new York Theatre once again.