The Funeral for 1723 Napier

A record of the event the GHG held on Sunday, September 7th, which turned out to be the last day for the house. About 25 mourners attended, plus cameramen from CityTV and Global. Impromptu but very good.

funeral

Pictures of the funeral from Jak’s blog

Global TV evening news: the funeral is from 8:28 to 9:08 (not sure how long this link will last):

The eulogy of Rev. Mullins and some words from Tony Poulsen, the last tenant of 1723 Napier:

Bruce Macdonald speaks about saving this type of affordable accommodation:

The eulogy delivered by the Rev. Mullins (a.k.a. Garth Mullins) in print:

We gather to mourn the passing of 1723 Napier (1922 – 2014.) It will soon fall to the wrecker’s ball, making way for million dollar homes.

As friends and neighbours, we commemorate the life of this heritage building, which gave affordable shelter to artists and those of more modest means. Such places are of an increasingly rare breed in East Van. And so we mourn the passing of our community as well.

At times like this we take solace in scripture. John 14:2 tells us: “my father’s house has many rooms.” And so did this rooming house off Commercial Drive — seven bedrooms and two suites at about $500 each — an example of density before it was a buzzword on the tongues of City planners. The duplex that will rise in its place will have room for only two, wealthy households.
“Density,” brothers and sisters, is that fork-tongued rationale the City fathers use to justify upscale condo towers that practically reach up to Heaven itself.

But let us not remember 1723 Napier as we see it now: empty, without windows or walls; awaiting demolition. Let us remember the generations who lived, laughed, loved, created and cried there. They nestled in the embrace of beam and timber, harvested from old growth Douglas Fir — the finest lumber of its time, now all but gone. Are those faithful old timbers headed for the landfill?
It is rumored that Tommy Chong (of Cheech & Chong fame) was once a co-owner. So was Bonnie Beck-woman, who also runs a store on the Drive that exemplifies the concept of density in the sheer quantity of stock, shoehorned into every square foot.

And so, as we mourn the passing of 1723 Napier, do we also mourn the passing of our East Vancouver? Are we now seeing a new era where the City gates are only open to those who can afford the down payment?

We watch this generation of rambling houses, once sheltering many households replaced by upscale lifestyle spaces for young, upwardly mobile urban professionals.

Oh! The hubris of Man! Dwelleth close to the earth, with thy brothers! Dwell not in the sky, in cells of gold!

Woe to he who celebrates the demolition of these affordable, green, heritage homes!

Woe to he who builds not shelter for his brothers and sisters, but shelter for his investments and those of his fellow speculators.

Let us pray, yes, but let us also be angry – and may our anger be righteous!

Let them hear in City Hall not the splintering of old timbers, but this congregation’s clarion call for social justice!

Let this not be a world for the landed gentry alone, but for us all.

Ashes to ashes, sawdust to sawdust.

And a blog post from Michael Price:

Working, can’t make it, but ‘In Memoriam’. Lived in that building thirty-some years ago. Had a folk-singer in one room, a playwright in another, and a Vancouver Sun editor in another. And me there, a so-so poet to pull down the average. The editor was named Bernard, a Brit with coke-bottle glasses and a hilarious wit. The playwright was Ron Weiss, who wrote plays/musicals about Jack Miner and other BC subjects for the horse-drawn Caravan Theatre, and rehearsed his fiddle-work. The folkie was Diane last name I forgot. Often performers on the folk-song circuit would stay in the house, and there were some nice impromptu jams in the backyard and kitchen. Sic transit…

And from Oliver…

I have attended many such funerals in my time, as I used to salvage material from doomed houses. Once I was able to build a small house from the salvage of mostly one other house, but that isn’t happening much anymore as the building codes basically make that impossible now, even then it was a nightmare getting it passed because, for example, the old growth floor joists didn’t have a grading stamp from the mill (even though they were so obviously better than anything coming out of a mill now). If it hadn’t been for one particular inspector who “overlooked” things I would have not been able to finish the house.

Advocates need to know that the biggest problem is building codes and zoning bylaws and bureaucrats. Sad.

——————

Anyone interested in photos of an earlier mock funeral? The one for the Birks Building in 1974? Here.

Stop The Demolitions

Here is the text of an email we received today about a cause close to our hearts — the preservation of heritage homes.

Stop the Demolitions: A Gathering to Save Our Character and Heritage Homes

When: Sunday May 25, 3 pm

 Where: The Legg Residence, 1241 Harwood Street

Bring your messages, pictures and mementoes of a vanishing Vancouver to attach to the orange fences.

Why: The Legg Residence is a grand Arts and Crafts mansion built in 1899 when the West End was one of Vancouver’s most desirable neighbourhoods, but this 115 year-old A-list heritage home will soon be demolished. It will be replaced by a 17-storey condo.  Last year more than a thousand demolition permits were issued in Vancouver, many for pre-1940s houses built with a high level of craftsmanship and quality materials.  As well as sending more than 50 tonnes of waste to the landfill, each demolition takes with it the history, character and narratives of our established neighbourhoods.

Please join us in honouring the Legg Residence and all the homes we have lost.  Let’s demand better protection of the heritage buildings that remain.

Heritage buildings reveal Vancouver’s history and are essential to our city’s sense of place.

Say NO to wasteful demolitions.  Say YES to preservation of our built heritage.

Stop by if you can on Sunday and show them support!

Meeting Notes: February

We had another excellent meeting last night, with some new people joining us for the first time. I think they had a good tme.  Our discussions included:

  • the Green House next to the Cultch.  Michael reviewed the history of our involvement and our desire to see the building renovated rather than demolished. It was noted that the City retains responsibility for the maintenance of the structure.  Given Clr. Heather Deal’s statement last month that the City would like to see a solution that retains the building, it was agreed that MK will draft a letter to Brian Jackson, James Boldt and others confirming our interest in ensuring the building’s survival.
  • Brookhouse — further to last month’s exciting news that our friend and colleague James Evans might be interested in saving this building in a manner similar to what he did with the Jeffs Residence, it was learned that he is still in negotiations with the current owner.  It was agreed that we would give him political backing by writing another letter to the City opposing any application to demolish the building.
  • 2014 Centenary Signs — It was agree that the next exploratory walk to find houses for this year’s celebration will take place at 10:00am on Saturday 15th March (or in the event of rain, on Sunday 16th).  A small working group will meet in advance to plan routes etc.
  • Scott’s Grocery — Blair advised us that Scott’s Grocery on Victoria is about to close.  It will cease operation at the end of this month and the building has been sold to a developer who, apparently, wants to put an apartment building on the small lot. We discussed the history of attempted “block-busiting” on both sides of that block.  It was also noted that the current zoning on Scott’s lot is RM4 and therefore a small apartment building would likely be within regulations. We discussed the history of Scott’s building (1920s) and the other corner stores (now all gone) in the neighbourhood. MK will inquire at the Heritage Commission meeting on Monday if there is any support for saving the streetscape on that block.  We also discussed the possibility of a project looking at the history of the various corner stores.
  • Astorino’s — No further developments to report.
  • Student Intern Project — No further developments to report. We hope to hear back from her soon.
  • Note was taken of two upcoming events:
    • 24th February: Meeting of the Commercial Drive Action Group at Britannia Boardroom at 7:00pm to discuss the future of Commercial Drive.  Seems like this might be mostly about bike lanes.
    • 6th March: Heritage Vancouver meeting at 938 Howe to discuss heritage in the context of the current Community Plans.
  • We finished the evening in high style with another in Eric’s Heritage Mechanics and Materials series of illustrated talks.  This was Part 2 of Home Heating.  After reviewing the various fuel types he had discussed at last month’s meeting, Eric took us on a tour of fireplaces, kitchen stoves, parlour stoves, various furnaces, steam and hot water systems, radiators, kerosene heaters and various furnace and radiator control systems.  Marvelous stuff that included the observation that the introduction of furnaces had a profound effect on building design as a basement (often a raised basement in Vancouver) was a requirement for the furnace and fuel supplies.

 

Notice of February 20th meeting

Our regular monthly meeting will take place from 7 – 9 pm in the boardroom at Britannia. On the agenda:

The Green House at The Cultch: a report on the meeting with director Heather Redfern, reported in an earlier post on this blog, and a discussion of how to proceed with a campaign to see it rehabilitated and continuing in use

– Moving forward on the 2014 Century Signs project: winter weather has delayed our usual slog through the ‘hood looking for likely candidates for our signs. This is the third year of our program that has already celebrated and researched 50 Grandview houses.

– Pending closure of Scott’s Grocery at Victoria and Georgia: neighbour Blair Redlin notified us of the “Closing Out Sale” signs at Scott’s, a 1920’s purpose-built grocery store that is the last one still functioning on the non-Drive/non-Hastings part of the neighbourhood. According to Blair, new owners of the lot are talking about building apartments – unfortunately from a preservationist’s viewpoint, the land is zoned RM-4, which permits “medium density residential development, including a variety of multiple dwelling types, to encourage the retention of existing buidings and good design, and to achieve a number of community and social objectives through permitted increases in floor area.”

Astorino’s update

Stephanie Chang‘s Geography 429 project focusing on the Woodland Park area.

– Upcoming events and new items

… and, our speaker …

Eric Phillips will present the second half of his illustrated talk on vintage home-heating systems of the early houses in Grandview, a continuation of his stellar Mechanics and Materials series.

All are welcome!