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.


Online Resources for Researching the History of Your House

You can begin your research in your slippers and with a cup of tea, because there are good resources online. You might even find all you feel you need online. But once you start finding tantalizing tidbits of information, you will likely want to delve deeper; this will involve actually visiting the Archives or the VPL Special Collections on the 7th floor of the main branch.

To get you started, however, here is a list of the key resources you will find online — with links. When you click on a link, it should open in a new window. When you’re done with that site, you can return to this page and move on to the next one.

First, you probably already know if it is or not, but check to see if your house is on the Vancouver Heritage Register! Few houses are, so don’t be disappointed if your house isn’t on the list, which is a downloadable pdf file.

Another downloadable and searchable pdf, the next resource we recommend is a very useful short book called Street Names of Vancouver, by Elizabeth Walker. You can find out if the name of your street has changed over the years, and also what the origin of its name is.

Next, visit the City of Vancouver’s VanMap. You type your address number and street name in the search boxes and then when the map appears with your lot highlighted, double click on the lot to see details. (This will give you your property’s legal description — the District Lot (DL), Block, and Lot. The year VanMap gives for when the house was built is often wrong, but it does give you a ballpark.)

The British Columbia City Directories are online at the Vancouver Public Library Special Collections. Check years forward and backward until you find the year before anyone lived at your address and then work your way up…. You can check all your neighbours’ houses too and see which houses were built before yours and which came later. Note that street names and/or addresses may have changed. My address was 1764 Napier and later became 1760. Once you have the residents’ names, you can look them up in the alphabetical section and probably find their occupations and employers.

Heritage Vancouver has begun the painstaking process of putting all existing building permit records online in a searchable database. There are now almost 25,000 records, so you may be lucky and find your house there. If you cannot locate a record by entering your address and street name, try it with your legal description. Or even just the District Lot and Block. You may get the name of the owner, architect, and builder and a reliable date. Just because a building permit was issued doesn’t necessarily mean that a house was built, but it’s a good indication. Note also that the official records for the years 1905 through 1908 are missing, but HV researchers are apparently confident they’ve filled most of the gaps in that period using the Building Record, a trade paper of the time.

You will want to check the Census of Canada, 1911 (on the Library and Archives Canada website) to see if anyone was living in a house at your address in 1911. It’s an intimidating site, but Jak King has provided a very useful Census Finding Aid for Grandview and it’s on our website; if you do use the Census, Jak’s aid will save you countless hours. As he says, it’s relatively easy to find people in the Census, but difficult to find addresses. If the address you are researching is in Grandview, search for District 12 and one of the sub-districts suggested by Jak for your street. It’s all handwritten and, as you will find out, some pages are devilishly hard to read.

At the Vancouver Public Library Special Collections there is also a searchable collection of Historical Photographs. At the City of Vancouver Archives you can also search for whatever they might have online— news clippings, photos, etc. This is where you need to get creative in your search. There may be a photo of your house, but it may not be listed under your address. Try just the street. Try the owner’s or builder’s surname. Try the cross streets. Experiment!

One of the best maps, Goad’s atlas of the City of Vancouver, December 1912, is available online at Collections Canada. It was created to show existing structures (number of storeys, building materials, location on property) for fire insurance purposes. Jak King says he uses this resource just about every day, but it can be very difficult to use. Here’s a link to Plate 83 of Goad’s Map. If your house shows up on Goad’s Map, you can be sure it existed by the end of 1912.

— Happy Hunting!

(This was also a handout at the workshop given by Penny Street on March 23.)

Notes From The March Meeting

Nineteen people jammed the Britannia boardroom for our latest meeting, including first-timers, some of whom had been contacted about hosting a centenary sign on their front lawn. The highlight was Eric Phillips’s excellent talk on the esoterica of knob and tube wiring, early electrical codes and how Grandview houses fitted seamlessly into the modern age a century ago. At the next meeting, April 18th, Eric will continue his series of “house mechanic” talks with one on framing methods for vintage houses.

The group discussed possible upcoming walking tours: Cedar Cove (foot of Victoria Drive) and Venables/Prior would take us away from the familiar “heritage” area around The Drive/Victoria. There was also discussion of the possibility of night-time walks – the best time to observe the leaded glass in a lot of old houses and apartment buildings.

The group heard updates from Michael Kluckner on the progress (slow) toward raising funds to restore the Shelly’s 4X Bakery sign on the sidewall of the Via Tevere restaurant at Victoria and William; Penny Street told the group that 22 homeowners had committed to hosting the 2013 centenary signs on their front lawns. The signs will be distributed within the next few weeks and we anticipate a launch/community celebration, perhaps in May.

Don’t forget!: this Saturday (the 23rd) at 3 pm, at the Eastside Family Place, 1661 Napier Street, just north of Grandview Park, by the playground, Penny Street will be conducting a seminar on how to research the history of your house. All are welcome – we will be asking for a $10 donation to the Grandview Heritage Group at the door.

A Lively Week In Grandview Heritage

This is an interesting week for heritage in Grandview.

Next Saturday afternoon, we have our hands-on seminar on tracking down the history of your houseSee here for full details.  This will be a fascinating event and we look forward to seeing many of you there!

Before then, we have our regular monthly meeting that is also open to everyyone to come along.  This is on Thursday 21st at 7:00pm and is held at the Britannia Board Room on Napier Street.

One of the highlights this month will be the second in Eric Philip’s illustrated series on the Mechanics and Materials of Heritage Houses.  This edition is about the mysterious knob and tube electrical system.  In addition, I am sure we will update plans for our 2013 House Celebration campaign, and there will be an update on plans to revitalize the Shelly’s flour sign at the Via Tevere Restaurant.  With luck, we will also start to plan some walks and tours for this summer.

Come along and join the conversation!


Hunting The History of Your House

Here’s one for your calendar!

Penny Street, long-time history buff, heritage advocate, and one of the founders of the Grandview Heritage Group, will be leading a workshop on how to research the history of your house.   She will be covering the use of building permits, water permits, City directories, Census entries and who knows what else. If WiFi access is available (not entirely under our control), she will also walk participants through a live search using an address proposed by the audience.

The workshop will be at 3:00pm on Saturday 23rd March and will take place upstairs at the Eastside Family Place, 1661 Napier Street, just north of Grandview Park, by the playground,  We will be asking for a $10 donation to the Grandview Heritage Group.

This will be both fun and informative, so mark your diary and come along!

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.