Vancouver then and now: photographer John Bentley takes shot at nourishing city’s heritage

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      When the weather is nice, John Bentley gets on his bike for a ride.

      The semi-retired architectural photographer goes around Vancouver and takes pictures of old buildings.

      Bentley would later overlay the images on historical photos for his site

      There’s a slider on the two photos, and viewers, by moving the tool right or left, can compare how the building looks then and now.

      “The idea is to get people an appreciation for the history of Vancouver,” Bentley told the Straight in a phone interview.

      Bentley has lived in the city for 50 years, and he has seen how much has changed.

      “Some of these buildings have survived the wrecking ball, which is a pretty major accomplishment these days when you consider how much construction are going on,” he said.

      With, Bentley hopes to contribute in preserving the legacy of the city’s old buildings.

      “They’ve been here for a long time, and hopefully, they can continue to be here for a long time,” he said.

      The project started in the spring of 2020 when he was looking online at old photos with the City of Vancouver Archives.

      He came upon a 1912 photo of the Nichol House, a heritage home in the ritzy neighbourhood of Shaughnessy.

      The image was taken from the same vantage point where Bentley took a picture of the 1402 McRae Avenue mansion for a realtor when it was listed for sale a number of years ago.

      “I found a picture of that house that was taken a hundred years ago from the same exact spot where I took mine,” Bentley related.

      And so, the two photos of the Nichol House became the first item on his site.

      On his site, Bentley relates that he started “wandering” through the online Vancouver City Archives and other sources last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

      He would hunt down old pictures of buildings that still survive today, and later take a shot from approximately the same spot as the original photographer.

      “Vancouver has a relatively short history: a few months after its incorporation in 1886 a fire destroyed the city in less than an hour,” Bentley writes on his site.

      “Very few buildings remain from the 1800s. Fortunately, today we benefit from a robust Heritage Registry, and developers are on a short leash when it comes to erasing our history,” Bentley adds.

      To view Bentley’s work, see here.