A new development may be the only hope for the survival of a historic Vancouver home.
Years of neglect and vandalism, as well as purported inaction by city hall, have taken a toll on the Morrisette Farmhouse.
Now a new owner has proposed to fully rehabilitate the 5503 Blenheim Street property to its former glory.
The home dates back to 1912, when the Morrisette family moved over from Montreal to farm in Vancouver.
The farmhouse is listed in the City of Vancouver’s heritage register, and included in the tally of properties with the highest rating for historic value.
A previous owner entered into a heritage revitalization agreement (HRA) with the city.
For many years, Heritage Vancouver Society kept an eye on the Morrisette Farmhouse.
In 2014, the heritage group included the Dunbar property in its Top 10 watch list for that year.
In its 2014 report, Heritage Vancouver Society raised concerns about the condition of the home.
According to the organization, the historic house is “now standing empty and deteriorating”.
Heritage Vancouver Society continued to update its report.
It reported in December 2015 that the Morrisette Farmhouse “continues to sit, boarded up and vacant”.
Also, “recently the upper windows have been left open in this unoccupied house, letting in the wind, rain, and who knows what else”.
“Demolition by neglect underway?” Heritage Vancouver asked.
It noted in January 2019 that the City of Vancouver “issued a stop-work order for unauthorised work”.
These include “original wood windows were being removed, replaced with vinyl, and apparently much of the interiors have been stripped down to the studs, removing period woodwork, stained glass, etc…”.
Meanwhile, B.C. Assessment records show that the Morrisette Farmhouse was sold on January 22, 2019.
A buyer picked up the heritage home for $1,805,952.
Now the city has a received a development application from J & R Katz Design + Architecture Inc. on behalf of the current owner.
The proposed development asks permission to convert the one-family dwelling into three residential units.
The application includes a written statement about the Edwardian era house.
“The house and property are currently vacant and in poor condition for a number of reasons including years of neglect, vandalism, work without City permits, interior gutting and poor insensitive additions and alterations,” the statement reads.
It promised that the “existing house will be fully rehabilitated and restored to its original glory”.
Heritage Vancouver Society is supporting the proposed development.
In a letter to the city, the group expressed hope to see the Morrisette Farmhouse “once again being a strong historic link” to the early days of Vancouver.
“If the application is not approved, we cannot see a future for the Morrisette Farmhouse, due to its current compromised state, and the complexity and challenges of the formerly negotiated HRA,” the group wrote.
Heritage Vancouver Society also urged city hall to “address a related issue of acting upon reports and enforcing a minimum maintenance standard for legally-protected buildings”.
It noted that the Morrisette Farmhouse “suffered from vandalism, interior gutting to the studs, unsympathetic window replacements, broken/open windows, etc.” even though it is a legally protected heritage property.
“Calls to the City to report such issues have mostly resulted in inaction, causing further deterioration to the structure,” Heritage Vancouver Society wrote.
“In addition,” the organization noted, “when various individuals have called in to report, many front-line staff appear to be unaware of how to address reported issues for a legally-protected heritage property.”