Tour of St. Francis Church and Rectory

On Thursday evening last, Fr. Eugenio, pastor of the St. Francis of Assisi parish in Grandview, very kindly invited a group of GHG members and friends to the Church on Napier Street where he took us on a tour of both the church and the rectory where he lives.

In the early 1920s, Franciscan monks took over the mansion called Wilga on the corner of Napier and Semlin that William Miller had had built for himself in 1909.  It became a monastery and at one point, there were sixteen friars living in the house.  In 1939, the Catholic diocese decided to move the parish church from it’s original location at Broadway and Victoria and they built the church that now stands next to the monastery.  The monks left the house in 1990 and it became the rectory for the parish priest of St. Francis.

The church is a modest Romanesque building that fits rather well into the streetscape.  Being of a comparatively young age, there is little of historic value to the building itself but it has an inestimable value as the community centre for Catholic and especially Italian life in the neighbourhood.  The stained glass windows were installed in the 1990s as were the new pews.  It has to be noted that the pews are Gothic (rather than Romanesque) and their light coloured wood jars somewhat with the rest of the interior.  That being said, the “feel” of the church is neighbourly and warm.  It is no surprise to learn that the parish is seeing a revival of young families.

One piece of church furniture that has an historical connection is the baptismal font which began life as a flowerpot owned by the Tsar of Russia.

Fr. Eugenio noted that when he took over three years ago, the fabric of the church was in sorry disrepair and he had spent much of his time simply fixing what needed to be be repaired.  He has done a marvelous job.

Next door to the church stands the former Wilga, a classic Grandview mansion from 1909, built for the Australian immigrant William Miller who, with his brother, John J. Miller, made a fortune in the BC Interior land market at the beginning of the twentieth century

The exterior of the building is still of classic proportions and the gardens that take up the balance of the lots between Napier and Parker give it a scale and grandeur that is missing from most of our local mansions.  The interior is still full of original woodwork and fascinating touches, though the upstairs has been remodeled over the years — primarily to create bedrooms for the 16 monks, I would think.

The building is set at almost the peak of Grandview Hill and from the bedroom on the third floor and the sitting room on the second, there is still a magnificent and unobstructed view across the Inlet to North Vancouver and Grouse Mountain.   I suspect that originally, before the development of the neighbourhood, William Miller would have had an equally fine view of the city from the front porch.

These old mansions are a precious part of our neighbourhood and it is a joy to see the interiors. This is Fr. Eugenio’s home, of course, and he was most gracious in allowing us to amble over the whole place.  We also want to thank several ladies of the parish who prepared a groaning table of seasonal goodies for us. We are grateful indeed.



Important Heritage Meetings

The Heritage & Character Workshop for the Grandview Woodland Community Plan will take place at 5:30pm on Thursday 17th January, 2013.  This will be a premier opportunity to press the value of heritage in our neighburhood, to discuss possible methods of protecting what we love about the Drive and its community, and making sure the City understands how important this is to our sense of place.

We strongly encourage all lovers of Grandview’s heritage to register for this workshop to ensure that our voice and our ideas are heard. (Register today!)

We would usually have our regular monthly meeting on that date.  But the Community Plan Workshop has to take precedence and so our January Monthly Meeting (to which all are invited) will take place in the Britannia Boardroom on Thursdsay, 24th January 2013.


1500-Block Grant Street

In an earlier post, I had discussed James Guinet who began work in our neighbourhood by building himself a family home at 1556 Grant Street.  Now, through the generosity of James Guinet’s grand-daughter, we have a photograph of that house taken just after it was built in 1909.

Those of you who know the neighbourhood well will know that today 1556 Grant sits high above the street with a trail of stairs leading up (image on left).  However in 1909, the house was more or less at street grade (image on right):

I would be fascinated to learn when and why the street was so significantly regraded.

Thanks For Attending

We had a good crowd out to listen to and watch the lecture yesterday afternoon and to ask some lively questions.  We want to thank everyone who came along.  Hopefully folks learned a few things they might not have known before, and at the same time the Heritage Group gained a few dollars to continue our work of preserving and protecting Grandview’s heritage.

We also want to thank the staff/volunteers at Britannia who made it possible for us to use the really excellent space at the Eastside Family Place.

Thanks to everyone!