History of Apartments: June 2nd

Our own Michael Kluckner is giving what sounds like a fascinating talk on the history of apartments and condos in Vancouver.  The following is from the Heritage Vancouver Foundation’s notice:

“A century ago, half of Vancouver’s population rented. Today, that proportion is unchanged, yet the city is so physically different it’s hard to imagine it as the same place. In an illustrated talk, Michael Kluckner takes a look at Vancouver’s apartment and condo history in two parts. Michael begins with the evolution of the apartment building, from humble flats above stores to the luxurious suites of the 1920s, the walk-ups of the 1940s and the high-rises of the 1960s. He also explores the social changes in the city – the passage in 1966 of the Strata Title Act, as well as other forms of collective ownership of buildings – that have turned tenants into owners and investors into landlords.”

The lecture is at Hycroft at 7:30pm on June 2nd.  Please visit the VHF site for full details.

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.

The 2014 set of Centenary Signs houses

1749napier

For the third year in a row, we have celebrated two-dozen Grandview houses that are at least 100 years old.

This year’s set focuses on groups of historic houses and includes, for the first time, a number of houses west of Commercial Drive – a sometimes overlooked historic area that has been infilled with quite a number of apartment buildings. It also features an apartment building for the first time: the one at Salsbury and Parker, built in 1911 when about 52% of Vancouverites were tenants – a proportion, incidentally, that is the same today.

We will be celebrating in our usual way this set of houses on the morning of Saturday, June 28th: mark your calendars and check back here to confirm time and location.

Open the map with this link.

Meeting Notes: March

We had about twenty people at our meeting last night, with a couple of new visitors.  I don’t think anyone was disappointed with all that we managed to cover in a couple of hours.

  • Michael Kluckner gave a detailed and excellent illustrated talk that led us through the history of heritage legislation and regulation in Vancouver, starting with the first Heritage By-law (which has its 40th anniversary this year), which was a result of the controversial Birks Building demolition. He then segued into a review of the various housing styles that we can find in Grandview, focusing on the change from a front porch-based culture to one that prefers more privacy in backyards and courtyards.
  • Michael’s talk was by way of a primer for our 2014 Centenary House signs project walk on Sunday.  We will meet at the Britannia library at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday 23rd March.  We will cover the area west and south of Britannia.  Everyone is welcome to join us.
  • We noted that Stephanie Chang, the UBC Historical Geography (GEOG 429) student who has been wortking with us, will present her paper next Tuesday.  Michael and Jak are planning to go.
  • We discussed the situation regarding Brookhouse, 1872 Parker. The news does not seem good, and we may well lose this house to demolition very soon.
  • The meeting that several of us had with the Agnew family was described, and led to an interesting discussion about the value of family papers and photographs.
  • Jak and Bruce described the $25,000 New Horizons grant that has now been received and is to be managed by VCN.  The purpose of the project is to collect as many seniors’ stories as we can.  Interviews should begin in April.
  • Last, and certainly not least, Eric Phillips gave us a teaser about the new edition of his series, Heritage Mechanicals and Materials, that he will present at our meeting next month.  The subject is Glass.  He brought along a number of examples of stained glass and beveled plate, and then encouraged our attendance next month with some fascinating illustrations about the history of glass.

Another great meeting; I think we are really getting into our stride now.

April Meeting Notes

We had another full and fascinating meeting of the Group last night, welcoming a number of first-time visitors. We began with a series of celebrations and good news.

We have received confirmation that the Group has been selected for an Award of Merit for Heritage Advocacy in the 2013 City of Vancouver Heritage Awards. The award ceremony is at the Georgia Hotel on May 27.  We are very proud recipients.

That was good news, followed by the great news that we now have the funds to complete the revitalization of the Shelly’s 4X Sign at Victoria and William.  The sign has suffered badly in the elements since it was revealed last year when the stucco covering was removed during renovations prior to the opening of the Via Tevere Restaurant.

G016-3We have received a substantial contribution of $2,000 from the Via Tevere Restaurant, for which we are very grateful.  In addition we have received $1,500 from a North Hastings Community Grant which allows us to celebrate the sign and its neighbouring area in a proper way.  Once again we are extraordinarily grateful for their assistance.  We have also applied for additional grants to complete the work but, in the meanwhile, we will top up the budget from our own funds.

Michael Kluckner has already put up temporary protection on the sign and now we just need a stretch of five or six days good weather to dry out the wood and for artist Victoria Oginski to work her magic.  We are hoping to get this completed within a month or so.

Later, early in the summer, we will be having a big celebratory party for the sign and its position within the neighbourhood.  You can expect food and music, a scavenger hunt, history tours and a lot of fun!  As we firm up dates and details, we will post them here.

And the good news just rolled on.  We have now put up all 25 of this year’s Centenary Birthday Signs on a wide range of wonderful houses in Grandview that are at least one hundred years old.  We have established a page on this site where you can find a map of all the houses along with architectural and historical details.  If you happen to have more information about any of these houses, please send it in and we’ll update the map.

For the 2012 Signs campaign, we had a lovely birthday party, and we decided to do another one for the 2013 campaign.  This year’s party will be at 1:30pm on Saturday 4th May on Grandview Park opposite 1636 Charles Street.  More details to follow, but everyone is welcome to join us in this celebration of Grandview’s glorious heritage houses.

Michael Kluckner gave a presentation on some lessons we have learned from this year’s campaign.  As we were preparing the final list of 2013 houses, we were approached by the owner of a house on Woodland and we were delighted to give a sign as we had documentation that the original house had been built in 1907.  However, on viewing the property, Michael and others became suspicious about its actual date.

The 1907 building permit said it was a $750 cottage, in the middle of three other $750 cottages; but, this house was clearly bigger than its neighbour, and far too big for a $750 cottage of that age.  The 1910 and 1912 maps we looked at showed four square little cottages equidistant apart.  However, by the 1927 Fire Insurance map, this house was shown to have grown and moved a lot closer to its southern neighbour.  And aerial photos revealed that the roof had been significantly altered.

So, although there is a 1907 buildng permit, and even though the same owners had the property from 1908 to 1952, it seems certain that between 1912 and 1927 they demolished the original cottage and replaced it with a much larger house.  This goes to show that documentation isn’t everything!

The meeting continued in great style with the third in Eric Phillip’s marvelous Heritage House Mechanics and Materials series. This presentation — with excellent visuals and a lot of hard-won personal knowledge — was about the difference between traditional timber framing, balloon framing, and Western Platform framing. It was fascinating.  We will work on Eric to prepare this series for web access as soon as possible because it deserves a wider audience.

It was agreed that next month our presentation will be Michael Kluckner on house types/styles in Grandview.  That promises to be another fascinating lesson.

More about "$300 a lot"

Jak’s post below shows an ad offering the block bounded by Garden, Parker, Nanaimo and Napier for sale. Six houses had been completed by 1912 when the Goad’s Atlas (mentioned in a previous post) was published. The great real-estate boom continued for another year or so before collapsing just before the beginning of the First World War. The three houses on Napier marked by red dots have since been demolished.

The interesting dwelling is the one third from the left facing Napier Street (at the bottom of the map), with a modern address of 2317 Napier. It was probably just a cottage/shack, built for a few hundred dollars and set near the back of the lot, maybe to give more south-facing garden space for growing vegetables. Regardless, the owners built a new house in 1929, which is still there.

You think about the economics of it: $300 for the lot and a couple of hundred more for the structure bought you a piece of security near the city boundary (Nanaimo Street before 1910). And it would have been really modest — a couple of rooms, a wood stove, perhaps not even electricity, but it would have had running water. A labourer made about $600 a year. The parallel a century later would be a labourer making, say, $40,000 a year being able to buy a modest house for about $40,000. Instead, out at the edge (now Langley or Maple Ridge or beyond) a modest house (albeit much more lavish than the cottages of a century ago) costs more like $450,000.