Vancouver celebrates its 100-year-old houses
Eight years ago, the old house at 1862 Charles Street in East Vancouver didn’t look so good. In fact, it almost looked as though it should be boarded up: it hadn’t been painted for a long time, the floors were in disrepair, and the bathtubs were rusted.
At that time, Rob Wynen and his family were looking for a new home. They were living in the West End, where he had founded a residents’ association.
Because he knew a bit about buildings, Wynen didn’t mind putting in some work. With three suites in it, the house had potential. He bought it in 2004.
“I wanted something that I could work on,” Wynen recalled in an interview at the Georgia Straight office.
His efforts paid off. The structure, located about two blocks east of Commercial Drive, is now a nice-looking home with a lot of greenery around it. Wynen, in his first term as a Vancouver school-board trustee, rents out the upper and lower suites, while his family lives on the middle floor.
Last month, Wynen received another reward for his toils. His house and 24 others got centenary signs celebrating homes built in the Grandview-Woodland neighbourhood in 1912 or earlier. The signs were given out, for the first time, by the Grandview Heritage Group.
It turns out that Wynen’s place is 104 years old. According to the group’s description of 1862 Charles, it’s a good example of the foursquare, or neoclassical, style from that era. “Symmetrical plan, classical columns, hipped roof and single front dormer are all typical of the style,” the description says.
The association also notes that the house was first occupied in June 1908 by a contractor named Arnott S. Hewton. Wynen didn’t know about the original resident of the house.
A home at 2040 Pandora Street is the oldest in the neighbourhood. According to the Grandview Heritage Group, it’s “an example of the Queen Anne style, a type of house once common in the West End”. It notes that a water permit was issued to a W. J. Beam on August 3, 1906.
Wynen noted that he recently attended a conference about what makes a healthy city. One quality is a good balance between new and old structures. “We need to have ties to the past generations, especially kids,” he observed.
In a phone interview, Grandview Heritage Group member Penny Street told the Straight the signs will be moved every year to newly eligible 100-year-old homes to “make people aware of the fabulous heritage houses in the community”.
For an online tour of the houses recognized this year, go to grandviewheritagegroup.org/.
Two bare-breasted nymphs greet visitors to a former luxury apartment building that’s now a Vancouver housing co-op.
The decorative ladies, made of pressed tin, are perched above the entrance to the Quebec Manor Housing Co-op at 101 East 7th Avenue, at the corner of Quebec Street. They’re still a conversation piece a century after the original Mount Stephen Apartments opened in 1912.
Resident Laura Lamb gamely pointed to these women at the end of the tour she gave the Straight on September 8. “You can’t find anything like this in the city,” she said with amusement.
Quebec Manor residents are celebrating the 100th year of their handsome brick building. The co-op has a proud history: tenants bought the building in 1981 after battling the landlord, who wanted to increase their rent by more than 60 percent.
In 1983, it was designated a heritage structure by the City of Vancouver.
Today, the beautiful four-storey, 32-unit building continues to provide affordable housing.
“Co-ops can be a way of preserving heritage buildings,” Lamb said. “For instance, this building was deteriorating when it became a co-op. It’s been preserved, without a lot of changes. We haven’t tried to fancy it up, like if we were a landlord, so we could get a higher rent.”