Notes From The March Meeting

Another full house attendance last night — the Boardroom was bursting — including several new attendees, with a lively level of conversations and questions.  As usual, we covered a lot of ground:

  • We began with a presentation by Tania Willard about a piece of public art she is organizing.  The art work will be two 5.5m diameter limestone rings on which will be imprinted an image of a Douglas fir’s complex root systems surrounding an image tree rings from a 1400-year old fir from the Island.  The work is to symbolize the interlocking roots of First Nations’ history and languages.  She is negotiating with Translink to have the work placed on the SkyTrain’s new platform in 2016 and its placement will also represent the First Nations’ presence in our district for scores of generations.
  • This was followed by another of Eric’s popular Happenings in the Hood series. It was noted that there are a lot of renos going on right now (2036 and 2038 Graveley, and the Cultch’s Green house [see below] for example), along with a high number of house sales.  We discussed the recent sale of 918 Salsbury, 2084 Commercial, 2154 E. 1st, and 2111 Kitchener [see below].  We noted the “sale pending” on the former Salvation Army Building at 1648 First Avenue, and the almost $1 million dollar price for each half of the new duplex built at Napier near Commercial. The lack of apparent progress on renovating 1731 Commercial was also mentioned.  This agenda item always evokes a great deal of lively discussion.
  • Michael discussed the current status of the Green House at 1985 Venables.  The Cultch had planned to demolish the heritage building and replace it with a modernist structure. GHG had opposed this and had met with Heather Deal and Libby Davies to discuss our concerns.  We also wrote a letter to Council.  The Cultch had $1m in its coffers that was going toward the $2m of the new building; however, that money will now be spent, after Council’s decision, on renovating the Green House.  A marvelous building has been saved.
  • 2111 Kitchener has been sold for $2.05.  It is on a double lot. It seems there are some issues with simply bringing the old house up to speed, which left offers only from developers.  We understand the purchaser may try to move the house closer to the Lakewood side of the property and then build a coach house behind. However, there may also be issues with an easement on the lane. We await developments.
  • Bruce showed us another of his video interviews with Grandview seniors.  This time it was with Doreen Herman who recently died at the age of 90, just a few months after the video was completed.  In the video, Doreen talked about going to school at Grandview School of Commerce, going dancing, working in the lumber industry for 30 years. She used to live on William Street in a Guinet-built house that was demolished to make way for the Britannia School expansion in the 1970s. She said she missed the house a lot.
  • We discussed the project to create heritage stories for houses being listed by local realtors.  Dorothy and Penny are leading this effort. They have met with a couple of realtors who are interested in the concept for special properties. Lance suggested that we try to get information from realtors, especially interior photographs, that we can place in the wiki.
  • We had our first brief discussion of the 2015 Heritage Signs Project. We noted that we have to soon collect and clean the signs that have been gracing houses since 2014. Maria suggested breaking down the map and having volunteers make the first cut of potentials for this year. A volunteer sign-up sheet was circulated.  We will discuss the 2015 campaign further at next month’s meeting.
  • The Community Plan and its effect on heritage was discussed.  It was noted that at the Commercial Drive workshop, there was some push to raise the height limit to 6 storeys. This was countered witgh a suggestion to downzone it to two storeys. However, we have to understand that downzoning or creating a form of heritage designation may well cost us additional density elsewhere in the neighbourhood. There was a discussion about the value of RT8 zoning such as is availabke in Kits.
  • Bonnie Beckwoman joined us for the meeting. She discussed the fire that has closed Beckwoman’s and her preparations for re-opening soon. She also discussed the issues facing small businesses in the current climate.

Lots to talk about indeed!

The First Through Tram

My book, “The Drive: A … History of Commercial Drive to 1956” is a study of the period from 1935 to 1956. In an introduction, I attempted in a few paragraphs to sketch the history of Grandview prior to 1935. One of the anecdotes I used for this purpose went as follows:

“[I]n the fall of 1891, the first tramcar to make a through trip from Vancouver to New Westminster carried Vancouver Mayor David Oppenheimer, the CPR’s William Van Horne, and Lords Mount Stephen and Elphinstone.”

Though I took this from previously published work, I am now convinced this is inaccurate.

George Stephen, who just months before had become the first Canadian to be elevated to the British peerage as Baron Mount Stephen, and who had been almost single-handedly responsible for the management and financing of the CPR construction, was indeed in Vancouver in the fall of 1891. He accompanied Cornelius Van Horne (to whom he had passed on the CPR presidency) and Lord Elphinstone, a Scottish peer with extensive investments in both the CPR and BC property, on a cross-country tour of the CPR line from Montreal, arriving in Vancouver in the second week of September [see “Vancouver Daily World“, 11 September 1891, p.5].

The group spent “a few days” in Vancouver and they did in fact travel by train to New Westminster on their way to visit Mission. However, this trip was on the CPR main line via Coquitlam, not the Electric Tramway via Grandview, which was not completed until early the following month.

I am glad to have that corrected.  However, the date of the first through tram on the New Westminster & Vancouver Electric Tramway is still something of a mystery.

Heather Conn’s execellent history of transportation called “Vancouver’s Glory Years” suggests that the line was complete by October 8th, 1891 [see page 33].  However, the News-Advertizer of 10th October, 1891, says that the tram was still only running from New West to the Vancouver City boundary at 16th Avenue by that date [p.5], and its edition of October 16th suggests that the through service was only then finally in operation to some part of the city [p.6]. On October 22nd the same paper reported on a trip by Mayor Oppenheimer and an invited party of guests: “The car came for them to Westminster Avenue [Main Street], the furthest any car has yet gone” [p.8]

Not important, perhaps in the scheme of things.  By the end of October 1891 at least, the full service was already full of eager passengers and extra trips had to be laid on.

March Meeting

It’s that time again!  On Thursday 19th we will meet for the March meeting of GHG. We will, as usual, meet at 7:00pm sharp in the Boardroom at Britannia Info Centre.

We have a full agenda that includes:

  • Current heritage happenings in the neighbourhood
  • Michael Kluckner will talk about the restotration of the Green House on Venables
  • We will discuss the sale of 2111 Kitchener, a heritage dream house
  • Ms. Tania Willard will discuss her proposed public art piece regarding the Grandview Cut
  • Bruce will present another of his pioneer videos — this time an interview with Doreen Harman about life in Grandview in the 40s and 50s
  • Penny and Dorothy will discuss the realtors’ history proposal
  • If there is still time, we will begin preparations for this year’s Heritage Signs project

Everyone is welcome and we look forward to seeing you!

Jack Burch at Age 92 Recalls Grandview’s 1920, 30s, 40s…


Jack Burch worked at Grandview’s local newspaper, the Highland Echo, from 1949 until he retired in 1994 as the owner and publisher.
This video interview starts with Jack’s experiences in Grandview in the 1920s and 1930s, and covers his experiences overseas in World War II. After the War, Jack describes his work at the Highland Echo and his experiences with the Italian immigrants – who made great soccer coaches.
The interview ends with various images and articles from the Highland Echo over its long history since 1917.
This film was part of a New Horizons grant to encourage people to use their smart phones to record interesting people for the benefit of everyone, and then to encourage the use of free computer software to make the footage into interesting short films. Anyone can do it!

The Sensational Develoment of Grandview

One hundred and ten years ago today, Grandview was essentially empty of residents with, perhaps, two score of enterprising families staking their claim in what was still mostly scrub and tree stumps. But then Dow & Co became agents for the newly opened sub-division, and they became our first boosters.  This Vancouver Daily World ad was published on 6th March 1905.

Dow ad_Vancouver_Daily_World_Mon__Mar_6__1905_Grandview, read the ad, “has attracted more attention than any section of our city the past few months. It is not speculation but rather bona fide investment that is marking its progress. Homesites are chosen with care by residents for building on.

“Corners are  being bought by merchants with a view to establishing business in this growihng healthy neighbourhood …

“We will be pleased to show you over the ground or have a talk on Grand View and its many advantages; no bridges to cross; no steamer travel, just the ordinary every day up-to-date streetcar transportation.”

Green House report going to Council

Council is set to approve a report from the city manager that will see the funds that were to go to the demolition and replacement of the Green House (the former rectory next to The Cultch at 1885 Venables) used instead for the repair and upgrading of this historic structure.

Grandview Heritage Group is specifically mentioned as an advocate for the retention – our plea to the city was heard! We congratulate the City on this example of stewardship and the statement it makes about reusing and adapting existing buildings rather than the tear-down/build-new paradigm that is wrecking some of the city’s old neighbourhoods.

There will be an article coming out in the Straight this week on it.

Update from Heather Deal on March 4th: “Done – passed on consent!”

GWAC Founded 51 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. On 25th October 1967, 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.”