Notes From The May Meeting

We had another lively, informative, and well-attended meeting last Thursday evening. After introductions:

  • We took note of our fifth anniversary on 5th May
  • Centenary Signs Campaign
    • All the previous year’s signs have been collected
    • Maria and Donato have assembled a number of possibilities on the west side of Grandview
    • It was agreed we will look for other potentials to tie in with the route of this year’s Eastside Garden Tour
    • Penny, Dorothy, and Donato volunteered to collect more addresses
    • Michael and Jak will do write ups
  • Neighbourhood Update
    • The continued upward pressure on house prices was noted
    • Also noted that Commercial Drive is on Heritage Vancouver’s Top 10 Endangered List again this year
    • 1102 Commercial was discussed
    • A number of renovations on Graveley were examined
    • A number of sales and demolitions in the neighbourhood were discussed
  • Gastown Historic Area was noted
  • A number of upcoming events were noted, including
    • 5 June: Heritage House Tour
    • 11 June: Heritage Vancouver Garden Tour
    • 18 June: Architectural Salvage Sale
    • 19 June: East Van Garden Tour
    • various walking tours from the Vancouver Heritage Foundation
  • Eric reviewed a number of Vancouver Heritage Brown Bag lectures, including the old Remand Centre in DTES, Taylor Manor, and St George’s School
  • The debate on What’s So Special About The Drive which took place the previous evening was discussed, as were some of the ideas for density and affordability
  • We discussed Car Free Day 2016 on 19th June.  It was agreed we would not have a table this year as many members were involved with other tables and activities that day.  We will request that the GWAC table hold some basic materials for us.  It was agreed we will definitely have a table in 2017 and that some effort this year will go toward producing materials and displays for that table.
  • We discussed the idea of having as a regular part of each month’s meeting a short presentation on the history of one house in the neighbourhood.
  • It was noted that this year’s student, Claire Shepansky, has produced an excellent report on the displacement of residents during the establishment of Britannia Centre. As soon as possible we will put up a link on our website to the report.

Meeting Notes: April 2016

The GHG had another interesting and productive meeting last night with a fine turnout for a warm “early summer” night,

  • After introductions, Jak attempted to show a short video entitled “Living In Gunter’s World” which takes viewers through a short history of surveying measurements and how that has directly affected the shape and history of Vancouver.  Unfortunately, technical issues made the viewing impossible, but the link is included in this post and everyone is encouraged to view the 3 minute presentation.
  • There was a quick review of John Stuart’s interesting and successful industrial heritage walk.
  • The monthly Neighbourhood Update report covered a lot of ground including commercial property changes on Commercial Drive, and sales of properties on E. 7th, Venables, Semlin, Lakewood, William, Napier, and a number on Charles Street — all with typically high prices, and many seemingly slated for demolition and redevelopment.  It was noted that 2088 Charles is being retained by the new owners, using an HRA to include a small infill coach house. Further, work on restoring the Green House at 1985 Venables is moving ahead and should be completed this summer. It was agreed this was a far better use of funds than the Cultch’s original plan to demolish the heritage building and replace it with a modernist and inappropriate box-like structure.
  • We reviewed a number of upcoming Vancouver Heritage Foundation events and workshops, details of which can be found on their website.
  • John Aitken’s “Researching The History of a Building” workshop is part of the Heritage BC event at Granville Island (see 2c on the schedule). A half-day registration for the event is $70. We recommend Penny Street’s excellent seminar on the same topic, her on our website for free.
  • Maurice Guibord’s tour on “Grandview: Places of Worship” is on Saturday from 10am until noon.
  • It was agreed to sponsor a Jane’s Walk tour of the Drive on 8th May. Jak will contact Steve Bohus and Lewis Villagas who are interested in organizing the event.
  • The ongoing Heritage Vancouver series, “Shaping Vancouver” continues on 18th May with a discussion on “What’s So Special About The Drive“. Registration is required.
  • It was agreed that Jak will conduct a history/heritage walking tour of Commercial Drive on 11th June.  More details to follow,
  • Further walking tour ideas were briefly discussed, including the possibility of one focusing on the women of the neighbourhood,
  • We discussed the possibility of a 2016 version of our annual Centenary Signs program.  Maria and Donato have begun to collect potential houses. It was agreed that Penny and Maria will commence the task of collecting last year’s signs (for cleaning and refurbushment) and Penny will write letters of thanks to last year’s recipients.
  • To complete the evening, Michael gave a very interesting illustrated presentation on “The Curious Case of Shaughnessy Heights“. The presentation took us through the history of First Shaughnessy from before the CPR land grant to the 1970s and beyond. Michael noted the curiosity that the single-family nature of Shaughnessy was in its DNA — not to mention the various restrictive legislation and by-laws that have governed the district for good or ill.

Another interesting and full evening.

Notes from the February 18th meeting

Our February meeting ranged over a number of topics:

• Cynthia Low, the ED of Britannia Community Services Centre, attended the meeting to ask whether GHG would be willing to coordinate a research project on the history of First Peoples in the Grandview area. It would involve consultation with Elders, a review of historic documentation, a study of the landscape and natural history, and suggestions for showcasing the results as part of the Carving Pavilion recently erected next to the community centre. If at all possible, the work would include involvement with students at all levels. We are going to liaise with Cynthia to try to come up with terms of reference and a time line.

• Eric Phillips presented a detailed edition of his Mechanics and Materials series, this time on Seismic upgrading for homeowners. He referenced the SafeStrongHome website for further investigation. It was a good, comprehensive primer on the top handful of tasks homeowners should contemplate to minimize the damage their houses might suffer from the Big One and the Not-Quite-As-Big One.

• Michael Kluckner presented a handful of images and some speculation about the rumours of redevelopment swirling around St. Francis of Assisi School at Victoria and Venables and the possible implications for the church/presbytery at Napier and Semlin (especially its large lawn area) and the other church property, the former “Poor Claires” convent at the northwest corner of Napier and Semlin (now the Church of St. John of Shanghai). He included some informal history of the Italian community in Grandview.

• John Stuart will figure out a time to give his industrial heritage walking tour, sometime in late March or early April, which we will report on this site.

• We agreed to put together a table for Car-Free Day, June 19th. Details to follow.

• Eric Phillips wrapped up the meeting with pictures and commentary of changes in the neighbourhood, including the demolition of the old Bosa’s store/apartment building on Victoria Drive.

Next meeting will be on Thursday, March 17th at 7 pm, in the boardroom of the Britannia Info Centre at 1661 Napier, as always.

Meeting Notes, January 2016

The GHG had another well-attended and fascinating meeting last night, covering a wide range of topics:

  • Eric took us through a long list of items on the regular Neighbourhood Update segment. We discussed the recent fires on Lily Street and Commercial Drive; land assembly around Broadway; new buildings on E. Peder and Ferndale; and another dozen or more developments throughout Grandview;
  • We reviewed a number of upcoming courses and lectures of heritage interest;
  • We discussed the projects we had lined up for two GEOG 429 students this year. One student, working specifically for the Britannia Planning & Development group, will be examining the social aspects of the earlier development of Britannia, including the demolition of many houses and the displacement of residents. A second student was planning to conduct a research project on Grandview’s transportation history. Unfortunately, he has withdrawn from the class;
  • The idea of reviving GHG walking tours was bruited.  Jak agreed to conduct a new Commercial Drive tour in the summer. John described his idea of a tour of the industrial areas north of Hastings. We welcome other ideas;
  • Jak discussed the next update to the Grandview Database due to be published on 1st February. As an example of what can be derived from the collated date, he presented a series of maps illustrating the historic growth of Grandview from 1900 through 1915;
  • Eric presented another of his highly informative Heritage Mechanicals and Materials series — this time on gutters. Who knew they could be so interesting?

 

Notes From The October Meeting

The October meeting of the Grandview Heritage Group was very well attended, including a very welcome visit by Patrick Gunn of Heritage Vancouver. Although a presentation took up much of the meeting, we were also able, as usual, to discuss a wide range of other topics.

  • Jak King presented his Database of Grandview Properties which includes historical details of almost 5,000 houses in Grandview, more than 1,100 of which no longer exist.  After examining the database, the presentation discussed the formation, surveying, and use of Districts, Blocks, and Lots within Grandview and reviewed them in the context of the history of Grandview. Finally, Jak discussed the need, over time, to incorporate this data into GHG’s wiki.  Jak will be working on ways to make the database public, probably on this site.
  • Following the presentation, we looked at a number of ways of using VanMap, Google Maps, and Goad’s 1912 atlas for historical research.
  • Eric noted that several parts of his Mechanicals and Materials series have been published on this site as Heritage Life Hacks. There will be more to come.
  • Eric also presented a shortened version of his monthly Neighbourhood Updates. This edition included the Terminal City Iron Works (now demolished), changes at 2111 Kitchener, 920 and 1102 Commercial, 540 and 1115 Victoria, and 906 Salsbury. This discussion also touched on environmental remediation and the art of debuilding rather than demolition.
  • Michael updated the group on the new First Shaughnessy heritage designation, and on updates to the Heritage Registry and possible changes to evaluation standards

It was another full and fascinating evening for heritage and history buffs.

 

Notes From The September Meeting

The new season of meetings kicked off on Thursday with a good attendance. As usual, the discussion was wide-ranging and fascinating.

  • We began as usual with our Around The Hood segment in which Eric leads us through an illustrated tour of various changes, sales, rumours etc within Grandview. This month we covered 17 properties. In many cases we looked at heritage properties that were or had been for sale; for others (such as 2111 Kitchener and 1102 Commercial) we wondered at the quick flipping of sites for huge short-term profits. We noted that three major apartment blocks on Commercial, each of which had supplied affordable rentals for decades, have now been or are being renovated with rental rates expected to increase dramatically.At 2088 Charles, we noted that this double lot was to be split as part of an HRA. Finally, we were pleased to see that 1003 Commercial (“The Peg”) which recently sold is having its roof repaired and thus seems likely to be preserved, at least temporarily.  These tours always spur interesting discussions and often produce nuggets of genuine historical value.
  • Eric has also transformed some parts of his earlier “Mechanicals and Materials” series into handy Life Hacks for Heritage presentations.  Within the next short while they will appear on this site on their own page.
  • We then spent some time reviewing and discussing the 2015-16 Centenary Signs houses.  The map and the short descriptive listings are already up on the site. Some years we have had a cake to celebrate the houses; this year, Penny made peanut butter cookies which were at least as good as cake!
  • Michael reviewed the new Heritage Register renewal project, and discussed the First Shaughnessy designation as an Historic Area.  Michael doesn’t believe other areas of Vancouver will receive such a designation because, in neighbourhoods such as Greandview and Mount Pleasant, the current RT zoning seems to be working as a reasonable defence of heritage.  This is not working so well, however, in commercial areas such as Main Street.
  • Mount Pleasant Heritage Group is looking for assistance to find old pictures of the Triangle Building in their neighbourhood at Main & Kingsway.  They can be contacted via their website.
  • The next meeting is on 15th October. Jak will be presenting his database of Grandview properties.

 

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!

Notes To February Meeting

Once again we had a full house for our meeting on 19th February. We covered a lot of ground and had two very special visitors.

  • Eric began the meeting by taking us through some of the changes in the neighbourhood that we have noticed over the past month or so. These included the sale of a heritage house at 918 Salsbury for $1.6m, along with other houses being sold or modified (or seemingly being abandoned) on William, Kitchener, McSpadden, E. 1st, E.4th, and E 5th. We looked once again at the damage to Beckwoman’s building after the fire there, and the potential loss of the BC Mills House behind it. This section ended with a discussion about the potential for loss in the apartment area west of Commercial due to renoviction.
  • Up next was one of the 25 video interviews that Bruce has completed as part of the Grandview Seniors’ project.  This one was an interview with Jack Burch who was owner, editor and publisher of “The Highland Echo” from 1947 to the mid-1990s. Mr. Burch’s family moved to Vancouver in 1923 when he was one year old, and settled at 3rd and Nanimo in 1928. We were privileged to have Mr Burch, aged 92, and his wife Jean as visitors to the meeting, and it was an especial treat to hear him talk about growing up in Grandview in the 1930s (including meeting with the residents of the Depression hobo camp on Clark) and how he and his family ran The Echo for so long. He presented the group with four beautifully framed copies of The Echo from various times in its history. These will be treasured and, hopefully, will form part of a Grandview Museum at the revitalized Britannia Centre.
  • We talked about the plaque the group had affixed to the Shelly’s Bakery sign two years ago. The sun and elements have made it quite unreadable. It was decided the simplest solution will be to replace the plaque with a new one.  Michael agreed to handle that this during March.
  • A First Nations’ artist Tania Willard is proposing to erect a piece of art at the Grandview Cut. We agreed to meet with her to discuss the proposal during our March meeting.
  • Penny suggested that we prevent the destruction of heritage houses for sale in the neighbourhood by assisting with an historical overview of any such property which we could offer to the agent as a value-add.  Penny and Dorothy agreed to work on a format and Jak agreed to do the research for 2172 Adanac, currently for sale, as a test case.
  • In a brief Q & A session at the end of the meeting, one of the local oweners presented a heritage column base that needs replacement and asked for advice. A number of suggestions were made.

Our next meeting will be on 19th March.

Notes To January Meeting

We had another full house for our monthly meeting on Thursday, and it was an interesting one.

  • Eric Phillips continued his marvelous Mechanicals and Materials series, this time with a lively discussion of what and how to keep records of your house. Using his own home as an example, he talked about property records, such as building permits, ownership and residency changes, and making an inventory of building components, such as mouldings, tiles, fireplaces, original paint colours and wallpaper designs, etc. He went on to explain the value of documenting, with images preferably, renovations made, including discoveries exposed during such renovations. He closed with ideas for maintaining these records in what he thought could be a House Manual.
  • We then discussed changes in various buildings around the neighbourhood including Brookhouse (becoming ever more derelict), Rob Wynen’s old house (in which the interior has been gutted, and the Brandon Block in the 1700-block of Commercial Drive where building/renovation work in the basement and the upstairs apartments is ongoing. The impending sale of both the Odlin Block in the 1600-block and 2064 Commercial were mentioned. The latter is being sold with the assumption that the 1945 building will be demolished.
  • Michael Kluckner led a very informative discussion on how heritage buildings are evaluated in Canada, in general, and in Vancouver in particular.  He went through the creation of Statements of Significance and how those documents are evaluated and edited, and he also explained in detail the scoring system used to give buildings an A, B, or C in Vancouver’s Register.  He closed by discussing current efforts to formalize building descriptions, mainly through roof styles.
  • It was noted that the deadline for applications for the City of Vancouver Heritage Awards is 2nd February.
  • Penny Street circulated the old photographs that Ron Segev found within the walls during renovation of his house at 1746 E. 3rd.
  • We briefly noted that our heritage plaque at Via Tevere has essentally disappeared through reaction with elements in the atmosphere.  We will endeavour to find a more permanent replacement.
  • Finally, we briefly discussed another intervention on behalf of Grandview heritage into the still-ongoing Community Plan process.  Jak will circulate the 2012 document that we sent to the City in advance of the Plan.
  • Our next meeting will be on the third Thursday of February in the Britannia Boardroom at 7pm.

Notes From Our October Meeting

We had another fine turn-out for our October meeting, with some new and welcome faces.

  • We began by discussing the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhood’s all-candidates meeting.  The candidates’ responses re: the Heritage Action Plan were discussed.  It was also noted that all parties other than Vision had stated their opposition to the current Grandview Community Plan process.
  • The GHG presentation (by Penny and Brice) to the Community Plan’s Citizens’ Assembly on 4th October was briefly discussed.  The CA’s next meeting is on 25th October.
  • The sale of 2185 E. 5th was next up. With an asking price of about $1.6m, it was finally sold for over $1.9m, to a developer.  We understand he will probably do an HRA with infill, similar to Jeffs Residence. We will approach the realtor for a discussion of this and similar sales.
  • Next on the agenda was Brookhouse, 1872 Parker.  This is still sitting, apparently unoccupied but with the occasional light to be seen at night. There is no fresh news but, a couple of weeks ago, James Evans suggested that perhaps the current owner was realising his asking price is too high. So, maybe there is a still a hope for a sale to someone like James and then an HRA.
  • The history of the Howe House at Lakewood & Kitchener, and our method of tackling the mystery through directories, building permits, and censuses, was described. The family was tracked from a hotel in the West End at the turn of the century to Lakewood in the 1910s, and to a farm Langley in the 1920s.
  • Bruce Macdonald presented a first cut of his new 40-minute presentation work that describes the history of Grandview in terms that are specifically designed to be useful for considering the future of our neighbourhood. Very good conversation ensued.
  • One particular point that Bruce raises is that Grandview has been cut off from its sea shore, and very recently too.  There was general agreement that we need to regain that shore in some way despite the heightened security at the Port.
  • It was noted that the next GWAC Meeting, on Monday 3rd November at Astorino’s, will be a presentation of changes to Commercial Drive from a bike-lobby group.
  • Finally, we reviewed a request from Prof. David Brownstein for us to take another of his students to perform a project this year.  Last year’s exercise did not go particularly well, but we discussed a limited-focus idea about corner stores in Grandview.  This idea will be discussed further with Prof. Brownstein.

So good, so stimulating to meet with these folks every month.  Come join us!