The July 17th meeting

About 20 people packed into the surprisingly cool boardroom at Britannia for the monthly meeting of the Grandview Heritage Group. A surprise visitor was a Vancouver Sun photographer/reporter, attracted by the Burnaby Lake tram presentation.

Michael Kluckner began the meeting with a brief update on the city’s Heritage Action Plan. The city’s heritage commission, at its last meeting, heard a presentation on “best practices” and heritage tools used elsewhere in North America and in Australia for urban heritage conservation. Vancouver’s toolkit is just about as comprehensive as anywhere else, using zoning, density bonuses, bylaw relaxations and a density bank to try to support building conservation; unlike a few Canadian cities (Victoria being one), Vancouver doesn’t use municipal tax relief to a very great extent; and, unlike in American cities, Vancouver commercial building owners can’t receive personal or corporate income tax relief for conservation activities – in the USA, building owners get accelerated capital-cost writeoffs for heritage work, a program that goes back more than 30 years. Vancouver also uses Heritage Conservation Areas, which in the USA are usually called HCDs or Heritage Conservation Districts, to achieve some of its aims, but these are zoning districts to control the rate of evolution and the design of neighbourhoods rather than real “conservation districts,” where you would presume (if you have a fairly linear understanding of the English language) that few if any buildings could be demolished. There are four Heritage Conservation Areas in Vancouver: Gastown and Chinatown (both designated provincially in 1971), Yaletown and First Shaughnessy. The city considers its RT areas – the duplex zones which include much of Grandview east of The Drive – to be de facto Heritage Conservation Areas, and to a certain degree they are working in that way with design control and a fairly slow rate of change.

There was also a brief discussion of pending changes to building bylaws to make older residential buildings more energy efficient. 19% of the city’s GHGs (greenhouse gases, not Grandview Heritage Groups) come from the RS and RT areas – the single-family and duplex zones.

Michael Kluckner then gave a Powerpoint presentation on the old Burnaby Lake interurban line.

gviewtram

The highlight was some vintage film that can be seen in its entirety on YouTube, showing interurbans leaving the Carrall Street depot (sw corner of Hastings and Carrall across the street from Pigeon Park), heading along Hastings to Clark, Venables and Commercial Drive at 5th…

tram

… where the motorman switched onto a branch line that followed a loop northeast across what is now the edge of McSpadden Park and made its way to 1st Avenue at Nanaimo, where it ran down the median of 1st to the gully where the freeway now heads east into Burnaby. Like its modern counterpart, the Millenium Line, it wasn’t as heavily used as the Central Park Line (the Skytrain’s Expo Line) and there was never the population density to justify its existence. When the consumer economy finally got going in the late 1940s, consumers wanted automobiles. B.C. Electric shut down its interurban system in the early 1950s; both the Burnaby Lake and Central Park lines closed on the same day in October, 1953.

Eric Phillips then gave a presentation on the history of linoleum, showing many images of patterns from the 1900s through the 1950s and explaining the differences between it and other types of flooring and the various types of linoleum that were manufactured. Durable, made of natural materials, naturally sanitary, linoleum continues to be a favorite in hospital settings and high-traffic commercial applications.

Finally, Bruce MacDonald gave a brief presentation, thwarted somewhat by the lack of good audio speakers, on the project to interview Grandview seniors and record their memories of the city and neighbourhood in the 1930s–1950s era. He personally is trying to record 20 interviews; the larger, city-wide project will gather about 100 oral histories. At a later meeting, Bruce will do it again.

The next meeting, with agenda to be announced, will take place August 21st (the third Thursday) in the boardroom at Britannia.

Next meeting Thursday July 17th, 7 pm

We’re having our regular monthly meeting, time and date above, location same as always (the Britannia boardroom) for all who are in town.

The four items we have as an agenda so far are:

• a brief update from Michael Kluckner on some of the work the city is doing to look at heritage conservation tools elsewhere in North America, Britain and Australia in search of innovative strategies.

• an interview Bruce Macdonald recorded with legendary planner/politician Bob Williams, a Britannia grad and Dave Barrett’s right-hand man during the NDP government of 1972–5.

• a presentation by Eric Phillips on linoleum, part of his series on the materials and workings of early Vancouver houses; and

• a presentation by Michael Kluckner on the old Burnaby Lake tramline, which until the early 1950s branched off Commercial Drive at 6th Avenue (the post office site) and looped down onto 1st Avenue before heading east into Burnaby along the corridor now used by Highway 1; it includes some glorious Kodachrome film from the late 1940s of interurbans running on the line and on Venables and Clark.

Please join us! There are no formal memberships or other folderol. We’re just a casual group of local historians and other heritage enthusiasts exchanging information about our historic community.