20,000 Maps Made Available

The New York Public Library has just made available a collection of 20,000 maps in high definition downloadable format.

I am certain there will not be a single map of Grandview there, nor even of Vancouver, but I believe it is important to celebrate and praise the opening up of such material that previously was available only to scholars and those able to visit the NYPL. It encourages others to do the same!

Walking Tour: West Grandview

Next Saturday, 29th March at 10am, historian and GHG’s own Maurice Guibord will be conducting a walking tour concerning the history and heritage of the area between Commercial Drive and Clark Drive.

This is a walk arranged by the Vancouver Heritage Foundation who describe it in the following way:

“This fascinating sub-area has been little explored, straddling industrial, commercial and residential precincts and displaying the transitions that continue to transform its built heritage. You will see how artists have played an important part in making the area more livable, how demographic pressures have transformed the residential landscape, and how some individuals chose this area to make their statement, be it cultural, patrimonial or other.”

Registration can be done online: http://www.vancouverheritagefoundation.org/take-a-tour/walking-tours/ or by calling their office: 604 264 9642.  There is a cost of $15 for VHF tours.

Maurice is an erudite and entertaining tour leader and this is thoroughly recommended.

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.

Next Meeting: Thursday 3/20

The next meeting of the Grandview Heritage Group is this coming Thursday, 20th March, at 7:00pm at the Britannia Board Room.  The agenda at this point includes:

  • Report on our student intern’s work on Woodland Park area history
  • Michael Kluckner presentation:  “H is for Heritage”
  • Sunday’s walk (see below)
  • Update on 1872 Parker Street
  • Visit with the Agnew Family
  • Teaser for Eric on Glass

Michael’s presentation is a lead up to our 2014 Centenary Signs walk on Sunday.  We will be meeting outside the Britannia Library at 9:30am and we will be exploring the area west of Britannia to Clark and north to Venables.  Please join us on Sunday even if you can’t make Thursday’s meeting!

The Value of Family Papers

This morning a number of us met with two sisters who had contacted us because their family had lived in Grandview from the early days. Their grandfather was Dr. Thomas Agnew who practised at First and Commercial Drive from 1916 to his death in 1948, and their uncle was Dr. Glen Agnew who joined his father’s practice in 1945.  He moved his office to the then-new Toban Building at Commercial & Broadway in 1950. They had several other relatives who were prominent in Grandview over the years.

In the course of our conversations we managed to link their family to many other families in the neighbourhood. Bruce Macdonald has called Grandview an Edwardian Village and the linking of families and friends that we heard about this morning was certainly like putting together the social archaeology of a village.

We had a wonderful time as they regaled us with stories and showed us dozens of old photographs and albums and magazines. As time permits, and with their permission, we will be publishing some of the photos and telling their tales. They have, they said, boxes of personal material, letters and photographs stored in their attics and were pleasantly surprised about how excited we were with the material we saw.

For social historians of any period, the personal books, diaries, letters and photographs are foundational to our understanding.  We can read newspapers and City reports, but they only tell a small part of the story.  The real understanding comes from seeing what the people themselves thought and saw.  It is a true joy to realize that this kind of material is still available.  That made this morning very special.

Centenary House Signs Campaign 2014

After some preliminary work, we are now ready to put together the list of buildings that we will celebrate with centenary signs this year.

We have picked out some spots that we really want to include this time out, but we need to find more possibilities.  The rule is that the building must be at least 100 years old and not changed too much from its original design.  As usual, we will begin the process with a walk (or walks) that often turns into a vibrant educational tour for those who join us.

The first walk this year will begin at 9:30am on Sunday 23rd March and we will gather in the square outside the Britannia Library entrance.  We will be walking through the area west to Clark and probably north to Venables, in an area where many of our earliest builders plied their trade. The walk will be completed by noon and is open to anyone who cares to join us.

Our house styles expert, Michael Kluckner, will be with us to point out interesting architectural details, and no doubt one or more of our historians will be able to supply more details on the history of the area and the builders.

In advance of the walk, at our regular monthly meeting on Thursday 20th March, Michael will give a presentation of a primer he calls “H is for Heritage”.  More details on the meeting will be available next week.

Fifty Years Ago Today

In the early 1960s there was great concern about the health, welfare and education of children in Grandview, and the apparent slumming down of the neighbourhood in general.  In that period, much of the health and welfare delivery system was in the hands of United Community Services (UCS, which eventually morphed into United Way). On March 1st 1964, specifically to deal with these concerns, UCS created the Woodland Park Area Resources Council (WPARC), the first local area council in Vancouver.

In the beginning, the WPARC was composed of health, welfare and education professionals, and they produced a number of useful reports.  It was the vanguard of a new style of welfare planning.  In the spring of 1965, UCS issued a press release that noted: “A program called the Local Area Approach will combine health, social welfare, education and recreation services in a concerted attack on social problems in selected geographical areas of Vancouver … Local community planning and self –help will be stressed.”  Much of this was designed from the work that WPARC had already completed.

You might notice the name features “Woodland Park” rather than “Grandview”.  That was because most of the “difficult areas” in the neighbourhood were in the north and west.  In fact, WPARC worked very closely with Strathcona, our north-western neighbour.  The relationship was so close, in fact, that the first organization map from December 1966 showed them linked:

UCS map December 1966In August 1966, it was “anticipated that there will be a combining of the two local area planning operations in these adjoining areas with the formation of one Local Area Council.”  However, by December 1966, it could be said that “while the amalgamation of the Woodland Park and Strathcona Area Councils was seriously considered, it was mutually agreed separate but related local planning operations should be maintained.”

While it began life controlled by health and welfare professionals, the WPARC always had a mandate to gradually include more and more community representatives, and it fulfilled this mandate with enthusiasm. In 1966, the chairman W.C. McLaren reported that the “Woodland Park Area Resources Council includes representatives from as great a cross section of the community as possible.”   In fact, by the summer of 1967, virtually all the Executive Council members were locals.

About 30 people attended the WPARC AGM on 25th October 1967.  E.M. Greyall was in the chair.  A motion passed changing the name to Grandview Woodland Area Council (GWAC). The name was changed so that “citizens of Grandview could identify more closely with the community service work the Council is attempting to do.” Another motion passed making the Area boundaries Clark, Broadway, Nanaimo and the inlet. K. Frank Neale (principal at Seymour K-7) was elected chairman, with Bill Dey (Grandview Ratepayers) as vice-chairman. Other directors included G. Negrin, M. Pratt, Johnny Grippo. V. Coombs and Mrs. Buchan.  In addition there were were the chairs of sub-committees:  Miss M. Dick (Headstart), Jack Burch (Library), and Mrs. G. Gentleman (Housing and Redevelopment).

And thus, GWAC can trace its history back to 1st March 1964, fifty years ago today.