Notes from the January Meeting

On Thursday evening we had a grand turnout for our monthly meeting.  It was, I believe, the largest gathering of its kind that we’ve had.  There were lively discussions about a wide range of topics.

  • We began by discussing the Heritage Workshop put on by the Community Planners that many of us had attended during the previous week. It was generally agreed that some useful debates took place there, and the availability of the City’s heritage planners was valuable — hopefully they listened to what was being said.  However, we noted that they seemed to be trying to steer us in certain directions (picking individual sites of value rather than recognising the holistic nature of the neighbourhood, for example).  The general consensus was that the summaries given at the end of the event did not include several of the major points mentioned at the tables.  We look forward with great interest to see how accurately this workshop will be reported out.  It was further noted that heritage plays an important role in the future workshops on Housing and Transportation.
  • Further to the Workshop, it was noted that the Planners’ survey seemed to indicate that the “value” of heritage was not high on respondents’ concerns.  It was agreed that the question was skewed and thus the result is meaningless.  Further, the value of Grandview’s heritage to the rest of Vancouver has so far been ignored in the process.
  • The role that GHG could take in the expansion of the Heritage Register was discussed.  It was noted that the recent “Waldorf crisis” seems to have awakened City Council to a possible expansion of the Register.  GHG could take a role in identifying properties not yet on the Register, and could assist City staff by our contacts with relevant owners.
  • The creation of a Visioning Report by the Commercial Drive BIA was noted.  We will try to get hold of a copy for study and comment.
  • Eric Philips presented a fascinating slide show on the use of concrete blocks in Grandview’s early days.  He also circulated a catalog of early 20th century block-making machines. At a later date Eric will give a further presentation on the local use of concrete foundations.
  • We discussed the wrap up to the 2012 Centenary House project.  Penny has drafted a letter to the 2012 recipients which mentions that she and others will be collecting the signs soon and cleaning them up ready for this year’s project.  At the November meeting we agreed to look into the creation of a more permanent sign that could be offered to participants.  Lance has begun this exploration and he is currently looking at printing moulds on a 3-D printer and casting them in pewter.  It was agreed that our permanent signs should look different than the City’s Heritage plaques.
  • We then moved on to the 2013 House Signs project.  We had a list of about 150 houses we believed were constructed in 1913; however on further research many of these turn out to be earlier or later.  Given this, and the future problem of finding any houses for 1914 through 1916, we agreed to explore a change to our signs that would indicate the houses are over 100 years old rather than a specific age.  A date for a walking review tour of the 30+ possibles on our list was agreed.
  • The City’s 2013 Heritage Awards programme was discussed and we hope to be nominated both for the House Signs project and advocacy/education through the website and walking tours.  Deadline for nominations is January 28th.
  • Planning for the House History Workshop on March 23rd was moved ahead. Penny will present the workshop at the Eastside Family Place at 3pm.  Further details will be posted in the next few weeks.
  • Ann noted that there is a Community Small Grants program for Hastings North ( an area that covers Victoria Drive to Boundary, docks to First Avenue.)  It was suggested that we could apply for a grant to refurbish the heritage advertising sign on the side of the Via Tevere Pizza building on Victoria.  Various options regarding the future of the sign were discussed.  Ann will look into the grant possibility.
  • Michael noted that the Vancouver Heritage Foundation is seeking new locations for its Open House tour in early June.  A number of suggestions were made which Michael will forward to VHF.

It was another busy and productive meeting.

Meeting Notes: November 2012

We had a marvelously lively meeting on Thursday evening, dealing with a wide range of topics.

  • We began by discussing the 10-point proposal that GHG has submitted to the Grandview Woodland Community Plan. This led to an animated debate about the role of public engagement allowed under the Plan’s Terms of Reference.
  • The 1913 version of the Centenary Birthday signs campaign was next up.  It was suggested that we look at a “transition” from the successful 2012 campaign whereby the 2012 householders be offered the chance to purchase a more permanent form of the birthday sign.  This was generally approved and some members volunteered to look into manufacturing options.  They will report back to the meeting in January. As for the 1913 campaign, a list of 106 local houses built in 1913 was circulated and members agreed to check out the ones in their immediate neighbourhood.  We hope to have a shortlist of possibles by the January meeting.
  • The successful completion of the “Highland Echo” project was enthusiastically noted.  Jak will be interviewed on CBC Radio about the project on Friday.
  • Lance made a proposal about creating a wiki for the GHG.  There was a long and interesting discussion about the pros and cons.  It was agreed that we will discus it further early next year.
  • The idea of having a heritage building resources list on the website was debated in some detail.  It was noted that there are potential legal liability issues with “recommending” contractors and suppliers.  We will give this further thought.
  • It was noted that some residents of Cedar Cottage seem keen on establishing their own Heritage Group, similar to GHG.  We encourage this and will be happy to assist them.
  • The idea was proposed that we publish a version of our Pictorial History of Grandview as a book, a fundraiser for the GHG.  We will research the costs and what else is required and report back to the February meeting.
  • We decided not to have a monthly meeting in December, the third Thursday being too close to Christmas.  However, our next event is the talk on December 8th about The Birth of Our Community.”
  • The first event for us in 2013 will be Penny Street’s talk on “How To Research The History of Your House” which is scheduled for Saturday 19th January at 3pm.  We will publish more details on this as soon as the venue is confirmed.
  • It was agreed that we will continue our practice of public meetings on the third Thursday of each month in 2013.

Widening Commercial Drive

In an earlier post, we described how the Brandon Block on Commercial Drive was pushed back by seven feet when the street was widened in 1913.  Further to that, I have now found the Local Improvement Schedule that includes the widening.

The Schedule was published on 18th October 1911 and called for the widening of Commercial to 80 feet from First Avenue to 16th Avenue.  This required the acquisition of seven feet of land on either side of the street.  The estimated cost for the widening was $215,137.00 – a very tidy sum in 1911. 

Moreover, this was handled through By-Laws 563 and 838, which meant that the entire cost was to be paid by the “owners of the real property immediately benefited thereby fronting or abutting thereon.”  The cost was added to their taxes over a number of years. Many such local improvements were halted by petitions against them; but in this case no such petitions were filed.  I can only assume therefore that the business owners in the southern half of the Drive thought the widening was a valuable addition to the neighbourhood.

[Source:  CVA, 134-A-2 file 1, page 57]

Moving A Major Building in 1913

In the summer of 1913, the part of Commercial Drive south of First Avenue was being widened. This took place after a number of major buildings had already been erected on that route since 1910, some of which were in the way. This inconvenient fact was not allowed to stand in the way of progress, and one of the buildings that had to be moved was the wonderful Brandon Block on the west side of the 1700 block.

The following is a report in the “Vancouver World” of August 15, 1913 at page 24 about the Brandon Block’s move:

“Complete success attended the moving back of the large two-storey brick building on Commercial Drive, between First and Second Avenues, which undertaking was carried out this morning in connection with the Commercial Drive widening scheme.

This was the first time that such a thing had been attempted locally and the task was watched by a large crowd of interested onlookers.  The structure contained three stores on the ground floor and seven suites of apartments on the upper floor.  Many of the latter were occupied during the time of the setting back of the building, but so gently was the work carried out that the movement  was all but imperceptible.

The building weighed, at a careful estimate, 550 tons, and the whole of it, from the very foundation, was set back seven feet.  During the operation, the water supply and the sewerage system was not interfered with for a moment, the occupants of the apartments being able to continue their domestic duties without let or hindrance.

“The structure known as the Halse building was built in 1910 and constituted the last of the 19 buildings which have had to be moved back through the decision of the City Council to widen Commercial Drive between First and Sixteenth Avenue.  The work has been carried out by Messrs. McCain Brothers under the personal supervision of Land Purchasing Agent J.B. Williams.”

It is hard for me to imagine a building being moved 7 feet without any disruption to services!