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.

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.

August 21st meeting recap

There was a full house again for the GHG’s monthly meeting, held (as always) in the boardroom at Britannia at 7 pm on the third Thursday.

Cynthia Low, the executive director of Britannia, gave a Powerpoint presentation and listened to questions and comments about the ongoing planning process to replace the current Britannia Community Centre buildings. She focused on the desire to increase the visibility of the east and west facades of century-old Britannia school, which are largely hidden by the jumble of buildings, and mentioned the possibility of giving the new centre a presence on Commercial Drive, probably at Napier Street. She urged GHGers to become involved in the planning process and directed us to their website for further details on the Capital Plan and the various consultative stages that lie ahead.

Bruce Macdonald presented two of the interviews he has been filming with senior citizens – specifically those involved in the workforce in the 1940s and 1950s – who have a connection with Grandview and East Vancouver. Marjorie McKeown Agnew, aged 98, spoke of her youth growing up in the blocks around St. Francis of Assisi Church when that property was home to Australian real-estate speculator William Miller, her friendships with the children of the Odlum family of Grant Avenue, and her connection to the recently restored Hawkins-Agnew house on Victoria Drive between Napier and Parker. Several months ago, a few members of the GHG met with Marjorie’s daughters Susan and Barbara and received a lot of information and photographs of the family’s years living in Grandview.

Bruce then presented a brief excerpt of his hours of recordings of Bob Williams, the legendary planner and politician who became Premier Dave Barrett’s right-hand man in the NDP government of 1972–5. Mr. Williams told a fascinating story of his early years, from his birth in the Sally Ann unwed mothers’ home, his childhood rag- and bottle-picking on an old dump site where the Italian Cultural Centre now stands and his summers spent with his grandmother, who lived “a short walk” away in Capitol Hill in Burnaby and who had a cabin/shack on the Dollarton mudflats in North Vancouver near the sometime home of novelist and legendary alcoholic Malcolm Lowry.

Bruce intends to sort out the technology so this set of interviews (25 of which he’s done so far) can be streamed from our website.

Finally, Eric Phillips took a second look at floorcoverings in vintage houses, focusing on linoleum and its numerous imitators and adding new images of linoleum and wood carpets to what he presented last month. He brought a number of samples, including a strip of battleship linoleum and several handmade hooked rugs dating back to his own family’s homesteading and farming days.

Eric also drew everyone’s attention to the large number of upcoming lectures and events pertaining to heritage and history:

•the 5th annual Autumn Shift in Mount Pleasant, taking place on September 14th from 12–6.

autumnshift

•lectures on Heritage and Gentrification (September 30th), architect Samuel Maclure (October 21st) and Vaudeville (November 4th) offered by the Vancouver Heritage Foundation at Hycroft.

•walking tours and other programs offered on August 23rd, September 7th and 27th by Heritage Vancouver.

The next meeting will be held on Thursday September 18th at 7 pm!

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.

Meeting Notes: November 2013

Last Thursday evening, the GHG met for its November meeting. It was another conversation full of interest, with a good turn our and new people attending. In brief, we discussed:

  • 1872 Parker Street.  Craig Ollenberger gave a history of the last few years of Brookhouse, leading to the current situation where we will almost certainly lose this magnificent Queen Anne building in the next few weeks.  The debate widened into HRAs and other mechanisms that might save such houses.  It was agreed that we need to research the additional value of heritage houses for buyers. It was also agreed that we should invite Heather Deal to a GHG meeting to discuss an updated Heritage Register.
  • Penny got us up-to-date on her discussions with UBC Professors about using students to assist us with our projects this winter/spring. It seems that basic research on our Centenary Celebration houses might be the best bet. It was noted the students will need hand-holding.  It was agreed will determine our needs in December for a January start.
  • Britannia is currently managing the Astorinio’s space at Commercial & Venables.  It is part of the proposed Boffo properties development.  It was noted that the EWaldorf and the Hollywood received demolition delays, and we agree that Astorino’s shoild get at least that.  We will be pushing for a Statement of Significance to be completed.  Penny will see if we can get a tour of the property.
  • Eric Phillips gave a presentation that was an update to several of his wonderful Mechanicals & Materials series.  He covered new forms of roofing materials, dealing with tin roofs, textured concrete blocks, and drywall mud.
  • Penny and Maria and others have begun the process of walking the neighbourhood looking for candidates for our 2014 Centenary Signs project.  They have already covered two of ten areas, and other walking tours start each Wednesday at 1pm from the 1700 block Napier.  It was noted that some of the 2013 signs may be missing and may need to be replaced.
  • Jak agreed to call Lance about the Permanent Signs project.
  • Britannia is having an Open House on Thursday 28th November in the greenway.  GHG is sharing a table with GWAC.  Volunteers are needed.
  • Bruce Macdonald reported on the first formal meeting of the Mount Pleasant Heritage Group — the first in what we hope will eventually be a city-wide collections of groups.  A local brewery has agreed to sponsor space for their meetings.
  • Penny reported on our finances, which are in good shape.
  • It was noted that Jak King and Bruce will be making a history/heritage presentation at the COPE meeting on Sunday 24th November.
  • Michael Kluckner is curating a series of historic Vancouver films at the Van City Cinema on Sunday 24th.
  • Michael is also curating a series of Vancouver panorama photographs at the Space Centre on December 4th at 7pm.
  • Finally, Carolyn Lair introduced us to the ASPECT program that mentors organizations on fundraising, and organizational strengths.

Another very full and worthwhile evening.

Meeting Notes: July 2013

A good turnout of enthusiasts spent one of the hottest summer evenings last night in the cool of the Britannia Boardroom, discussing a wide range of heritage and historical topics:

  • We began by patting ourselves on the back for the organization and success of the Shelly’s Sign Party in June.  Especial thanks were given to Ann Daskal who was the principal organizer of the event. We had perhaps 200 people there and a good time was had by all.
  • On a more serious note, the issue of the recent purchase of 2040 Pandora Street and its neighbour was raised. 2040 Pandora is a particularly fine house and perhaps the earliest (1906) in its area. It had been converted in 1939 to a triplex.  The house and its neighbour sit in 2 50′ lots in an area zoned for small apartment buildings, and there is a danger that the old house may be lost in any new development.  Michael Kluckner noted that nothing has come to the Heritage Commission yet and he hoped that, at the least, the developer could be persuaded, probably through a densisty bonus, to restore the house and build units around the back and one side — not disimilar to the Jeffs House development.  This is a watch and wait situation.
  • As an offshoot of the previous discussion, Bruce Macdonald noted his current research into the Burrard South shipyard which operated during the war at the north end of McLean Drive and which employed hundreds of Grandview residents.
  • Jak noted that at the Shelly’s Party he had been approached by a large number of local residents who complained about the new “The Drive” street signs that had appeared without warning throughout much of the neighbourhood. Jak reported that after a discussion with the Commercial Drive BIA, the business group — who had had the signs put up — had written to the City asking for them to be removed except on Commercial Drive itself.
  • A newspaper article regarding the failure of New Westminster’s attempt to institute heritage areas in their city had been circulated before the meeting, and this was discussed.  As Michael noted, the Royal City had tried to use sticks rather than carrots and that has not worked out too well.  It was also noted that New West, unlike Vancouver, operates under the Municipal Act of BC which has caused concerns regarding liability.
  • We then had a long discussion about the current state of the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan.  Clr. Andriane Carr’s Motion for 23rd July was noted, as were the next two Open Houses on 29th and 31st July.
  • We then discussed future Walks & Talks.  Maurice Guibord has offered to reprise his popular Commercial Drive to Clark Drive Walk at a date in the fall to be determined. We also agreed to make the Researching Your House’s History seminar into an annual event.  Eric also is working on a few more of his Historic House Mechanical and Materials series and we look forward to those.
  • Jak and Lance reported on the progress with the Grandview wiki project.  Jak is hoping to make this available publicly befofe the next meeting.  At the next meeting he will also give a presentation on how to enter material into the wiki.
  • It was noted that an extended version of the July 1st piece on our blog regarding the construction of the First Avenue Viaduct will be included in the fall edition of BC History Magazine.
  • There was an interesting discussion about collecting and videotaping interviews with senior residents of Grandview to capture their stories before they are lost.  We will pursue this further.
  • Bruce reported on his continuing work to try to get the super-size bowling pin moved from the now-closed Ridge Bowling Lanes to the Grandview Lanes. We await further developments.
  • The next meeting will be on Thursday 15th August.

 

Notes From The February Meeting

We had a busy, lively and highly productive meeting on Thursday last.

  • The Centenary Birthday House project: We are still exploring options for permanent signs for the Centenary House campaign.  These will be offered to those houses that were celebrated in 2012. We followed up on our walk for the 2013 campaign, and will finish off the second half of our potentials list on Sunday.  We will be meeting at Continental Coffee at 10am if anyone cares to join us.
  • There was a fascinating discussion about the plans for preserving the Shelly’s 6X sign on Via Tevere’s wall. We discussed the pros and cons (and possible availabilities) of various funding sources for the estimated $3,000 cost, including neighbourhood grants, foundations, paint companies, and other.  We will be exploring these options over the next few weeks.  Michael Kluckner will also supervise a small test patch to confirm the methods we hope to use to preserve the sign.  We also discussed the potential for various tie-ins to the project, including the Rose/Lily annual block party, St. Francis Church, and a historical tour.
  • We looked at a number of relevant events that are upcoming:
    • Michael Kluckner is organizing an Art Mob to help save the Mac-Blo building at Van Dusen Gardens.  This starts at noon on Saturday 23rd.
    • The Grandview Woodland Community Plan is holding a workshop on housing on Wednesday 27th from 6pm at the WISE Hall.  This is a workshop that has obvious implications for heritage in the neighbourhood.
    • Eric is attending the Heritage Foundation’s Old School workshop on plastering on Saturday 2nd March.
    • Also on 2nd March, the Rio Theatre is showing the excellent documentary called “The Hollow Tree” about the efforts to save an iconic relic in Stanley Park.  It features our own Bruce Macdonald.
    • On Monday 4th March at 7pm, the monthly GWAC Meeting will include a presentation by the Commercial Drive BIA on their Vision Report for the Drive.  This again has strong relevance to heritage.
    • Finally, on Saturday 23rd March, Penny Street will be presenting her workshop on researching the history of a house.  We will write a detailed post about this at the beginning of March, but we suggest you pencil in that afternoon in your date book.
  • It was noted that Spank on the Drive is looking for vintage photographs.  This led to a discussion about venues where we could display some of the heritage images of Grandview.
  • Eric has offered to present at our March meeting a talk on heritage electrical systems.  His offer was enthusiatically approved.  We’ll have more information on this in a later posting.
  • Bruce Macdonald presented the first draft of a booklet he is preparing on the early history of the Cedar Cove district of Grandview.
  • Jak noted that he is now formally at work on the second volume of his history of Commercial Drive and he is looking to schedule interviews with those who lived or worked on the Drive (and neighbourhood) between 1955 and 2000.

Many thanks to those who came along on Thursday night and helped the conversation.

 

 

History & Heritage Walk: Bruce Macdonald

Eminent Vancouver historian Bruce Macdonald (“Visual Vancouver“) will be giving a walk and talk this month:

Saturday, September 15th at 2pm: “The Top of Commercial Drive — Where Grandview Began”:  Meet on the front stairs of the home of Vancouver historian Bruce Macdonald for a walking tour of the area where Grandview began in the 1890s – Grant and Commercial Drive. Bruce lives at 1730 William Street, just off the Drive by Havana Restaurant and Joe’s Cafe.

We will be seeking voluntary donations to support the work and projects of the Grandview Heritage Group.  $10 is suggested, but pay as you can.

The Hollow Tree

Our member historian Bruce Macdonald is featured in a documentary about the famous hollow tree in Stanley Park and the efforts made to save it against the Park Board’s decision to chop it down.

The documentary is being shown on Knowledge Network tonight at 10pm and is repeated on Thursday at 11pm.  Well worth watching!