Meeting about the Green House (1885 Venables)

A few of us met today with Heather Redfern, director of The Cultch, who had commented recently to the Georgia Straight about her long-term plans to demolish the Green House – the old rectory, built in 1912, for the Methodist Church that is the ‘historic theatre’ of The Cultch’s precinct.


The building has been abandoned and boarded up, with water leaking into it due to the long-term deterioration of both its roof and the blue tarp put there several years ago by the city as a stopgap. Heather repeatedly described it as “dangerous,” “rotten” and a “tear down” and said that the city (which is responsible for its major maintenance) has spent little or no money it for about a decade, since plans began to advance for a new building on the site as part of The Cultch’s master plan. Nevertheless, the building’s tenants, which apparently included rent-paying theatre and arts start-ups as well as administrative offices, occupied it until June, 2013. She also believed that the house, rehabilitated, would be “false heritage,” also her feeling about other old places in the city that have been maintained and adapted.

This is clearly a case of “demolition by neglect,” a state of affairs that the city would not tolerate if it were a privately owned rental apartment or office building. But as the city is the landlord it has been able to go its own way.

Our discussion revolved around whether a rehabilitated Green House, fixed up as many of Grandview’s old buildings have been, would be a viable rehearsal and office space for The Cultch, to which Heather’s answer was, tentatively, yes, although the space is said to be too small and there would have to be additional construction for a commercial kitchen and other unspecified uses. As the house sits at the front of its lot with a large area behind, it could probably quite easily be added to, with an elevator tower and accessible washrooms at the rear together with additional space for, indeed, food preparation or whatever. We pointed out the reworking of the old Hawkins-Agnew mansion a block away on Victoria Drive, recently redone for Britannia Lodge, as a successful example of the adaptive re-use of a deteriorated old house for an institutional use.

At the moment the issue is moot (other than the fact that the building desperately needs protection from water leakage) as The Cultch has no funds to build or repair anything, we were told – an application for capital funds to the Department of Canadian Heritage, which would have been matched by City of Vancouver funds, failed.

Our plan is to proceed with enquiries through the city heritage department, and political channels, to try to build support for the rehabilitation of the Green House. In our view, it is an essential part of the trio of buildings that made up the Grandview Methodist Church a lifetime ago: the church, the rectory and the church hall, now the WISE Hall across the lane on Adanac and operated by a different society. It would be inexcusable to wipe it out rather than adapt and re-use it.

We’ll keep readers posted at our regular meetings and here on the blog.

January Meeting Notes

My apologies for the delay in posting these notes;  it has been a very busy week!

Last Thursday we had a really productive meeting, covering a wide range of current and ongoing issues:

  • We were joined by Vancouver City Clr. Heather Deal for the first hour.  She took us through the City’s new Heritage Action Plan‘s 14 points in good detail. The Plan appears to cover everything from tightening up demolition permits to reducing the complexity of HRAs, updating the Heritage Register and changing the building code to ease heritage renovation.
  • The conversation after the presentation was equally useful: some speakers noted that highly inflated property values in Vancouver were damaging heritage retention; that cultural mapping in the Heritage Register should be separate from architectural mapping; that just a few thousand dollars in grants could return many of the Edwardian ornamentation that flourished on the Drive; that groups like ours should be able to nominate for the Register; that fees collected for HRAs etc should be maintained for heritage uses rather than disappear into general revenue.
  • Three specific issues were raised with Clr. Deal:  (a) 1872 Parker, the Brockhouse, needs to be saved from imminent demolition.  James Evans, who developed the Jeffs Residences and who was in attendance, confirmed that he was in discussions with the current owners.  However, there were still issues to be solved before he can move in to save the property.  This was greeted with excitement by the group.
  • (b) The Green House next to the Cultch on Venables which Heather Redfern has stated is to be demolished.  Clr. Deal stated that the City wants to save the building and they would be working to that end.
  • (c) Astorino’s.  The Group stressed the cultural importance of the building which is slated to be lost in the Boffo redevelopment.  It was also noted that this is now an active performance space. Clr. Deal promised to review the situation.
  • Clr. Deal had to leave the meeting after an hour, but it was generally agreed this had been a very useful conversation.
  • We discussed the work that our intern, Stephanie Chang, a Geog 429 student, is working on.  She is working with us to create a social and cultural portrait of the area around Woodland Park.  She has to complete the project for presentation in April.
  • Kristen Moran gave a short presentation on her extended video about heritage in Grandview.  She was looking for more heritage homeowners to be a part of the video, and she received a great many names from those attending the meeting.
  • Penny gave an update on the Centenary Signs Project.  All the 2013 signs have now been collected and are being cleaned.  We will continue the survey for 2014 targets in March when the weather improves.
  • Finally, we had another episode in Eric Phillips’ magnificent Mechanicals and Materials series.  This part was on heritage home heating systems.  Eric took us on an illustrated trip through various fuel types — wood, coal, coke, sawdust, oil and gas.  Fascinating stuff.  Next month we will continue this part, looking at fireplaces, boilers and other systems.

January Meeting Notice

After our break for Christmas, the Grandview Heritage Group is back with regular monthly meetings.  The next one is on Thursday 16th January at 7:00pm in the Boardroom of the Britannia Info Centre.  We have a fascinating agenda planned that includes:

  • We will be privilileged to have with us Vancouver City Councilor Heather Deal who will discuss with us the recently approved Heritage Action Plan, and with whom we will discuss a number of heritage buildings under threat in Grandview.
  • We will also have the latest episode in Eric Phillip’s valuable series on the Mechanics and Materials of Heritage Houses.  This month, Eric will give a presentation on heritage heating systems.
  • We will introduce Stephanie Chang, a student at UBC Geography 429, who will be working with us on a mapping and social project over the next couple of months.
  • We will also be joined by Kristen Moran who plans to expand her short-form video on heritage issues in Grandview.
  • Finally, we will be moving ahead on planning for the 2014 version of our Centenary Houses project.

We look forward to seeing many of you on Thursday!