Thank goodness some photographers in the past decided to document Vancouver as it was emerging. (The entire history of the city existed in the age of the captured image, after all.)
Now, of course, there is Google Streetview to keep track of even the most mundane urban landscape – but it still requires commentators to provide insight, to research the people behind the change, and to speculate on its meaning.
Thank goodness we have Andy Coupland and John Atkin ravaging the collections of the Vancouver Archives, BC Archives and Vancouver Public Library, to do the research and add their comments on their blog, Changing Vancouver. Like this recent post:
West Georgia Street was once pretty much developed with family homes and churches. This is St Andrew’s, the Presbyterian church on the corner with Richards street on the north-east corner in a photograph dated to 1900.
The church (just about) lasted until 1934 … The congregation had moved west to the new St Andrew’s – St Andrew’s Wesley – completed in 1933.
This corner saw a service station constructed after the church was demolished – the George and Richards Service Station, owned in 1945 by Betts and Carroll. In 1974 the building that’s there today was completed. Designed by Zoltan Kiss, it was known as the BC Turf Building and developed by Jack Diamond.
Should the church have been saved, designated heritage, and even kept as part of a 1900 streetscape on Georgia?
Scot B comments on the post below with respect to change in Vancouver:
The amount of heritage destruction in Vancouver in the past and present is unbelievable. Look at the West end, what was once a perfect mix of mansions turned rooming houses, row homes and old brick apartments has been bulldozed where hardly anything is left. …
I am worried about the old buildings in japantown, Powell & Cordova streets and around Oppenheimer park, they are falling into decay for a number of reasons and this will be an excuse by a developer to knock down entire blocks and rebuild losing the fine grain street elevation that adds so much character.
No doubt the West End would be a better neighbourhood if more of the old mansions had been kept. But today (partly because of the blandness and scale of the replacement highrises), it remains a lower-middle-income rental neighbourhood. Would it be so today if heritage had been a priority – and is that a worthy trade-off?
UPDATE: Coincidentally, I just came across this on westendvancouver – the anonymous repository of West End history:
Ted Thomas sent me a photograph of 1898 Robson Street from the early 1970s. The street address was 810 Gilford Street by the time Ted was living in the house from 1972 to 1975.
The rent for his one bedroom apartment was $115.00 per month. His front window looked out onto Robson Street, but the view was partially obscured by the monkey puzzle tree, which was as tall as the house. The ceilings in the house seemed incredibly high.
The garages for the property were originally stables. Someone had nailed an old horseshoe above the garage door.
I remember this house when I first moved to the West End in 1978 – and it was gone a few year’s later. Just the sort of house we should have tried to save, but tools like transfer of density and heritage bonusing weren’t available back then.
By the way, in inflation adjusted dollars, Ted would be paying $667 a month for his one-bedroom, assuming the house was in roughly the same condition. But of course, it wouldn’t have been.
If you enjoy these before-and-after shots, Andy Coupland also recommends: