I have been writing about Nita (Pat) Davis and her son John Davis junior, who after the death of John Davis Senior continued to work on the remarkable landscape of houses in the 100 block of West 10th Avenue. John Senior and Pat bought a worn out Edwardian or Victorian to fix up in 1973 on what was then a run down street with discontinuous sidewalk.
That first house, 166 West 10th , became the first structure in Vancouver to obtain heritage status. As Rafferty Baker wrote in an article for the CBC“the plaque next to the front door has a small number one marked in the corner”.
John Senior died in the early 1980’s and Pat and her son John Junior continued his vision of learning about and renovating these houses, researching paint colours, and bringing the houses back to an active life with several rental units in each one. It was the rental units and John’s custodial services at other apartment buildings that allowed the family to continue rehabilitating these houses, at a time when the RM-4 land use zoning in place easily allowed for the construction of three storey walk up apartments. They were the outliers of the 1980’s and 1990’s, and it was not until this century that they were perceived as early adapters to the reuse and revitalization of existing buildings. Over four decades the Davis Family restored eight houses, all heritage designated to ensure that they would continue existing as a lifetime legacy in this city.
Pat Davis and her son John are quiet people, and surprisingly their legacy has never been acknowledged at the City of Vancouver, despite the fact that nationally Heritage Canada has given the Davis Family an award for the preservation of the historic streetscape. They were innovators as well, with the first coach house which became a model for the coach houses now allowed in the neighbourhood, and their work became the foundation of the RT-6 zoning in place in the area. This zoning allows for the main house with heritage merit to be maintained and developed into apartments, with a coach house on the back of the laneway. John Davis Junior was also involved in the public process of the heritage style lighting that went on Tenth Avenue, the maintenance of the road surfacing, and public realm. Their involvement with the first Mount Pleasant Traffic Plan resulted in the City turfing out the engineer prepared scheme and going with that suggested by the community. That has been successfully implemented for over 15 years with only minor adjustments.
The way the Davis Family maintained the public realm around their block became the basis for the Mount Pleasant Linear Walkway, a streetscape plan to install sidewalk that was missing throughout Mount Pleasant, along with corner street bulges, landscaping, lighting and interpretation. In the 1990’s the area was extremely rundown with absentee landlords that would not approve streetscape improvements through the normal Local Improvements Program. Working with City Engineer Susan Clift, we devised a plan to provide continuous walking surfaces throughout the area, with landscaped areas and shortened crossing distances. By assessing the entire neighbourhood for the improvements, costs for the average lot were $15.00 a year added onto the tax bill. The plan was approved by the community, and an area that had poor walkability was finally completely connected with sidewalks and street crossings.
With the passing of Pat Davis, it seems fitting for the City of Vancouver to recognize the work of the Davis Family in maintaining this heritage block of rental housing with the lush streetscape and public realm they carefully curated for the neighbourhood.
Their contribution is more than a street, they provided the pattern language for the development of this entire area, and tirelessly gave of their time to ensure that the Mount Pleasant Community Plan was followed through.
The Mount Pleasant Business Improvement Association, the Vancouver Heritage Foundation, well known artists, authors, historians, residents, and community members are all in favour of their work now being recognized and recorded at the City. Even the City’s own Heritage Commission provided language for the proclamation.
It seemed a small and logical thing to request a proclamation, especially given that the City’s own website states that “someone who’s made a major community contribution” can be considered.
It appears that the proclamation although the right thing to do is a political decision within the Mayors’ staff, and the legacy of John and Pat Davis is not worthy. When asked to see the criteria for how decisions are made about proclamations, I was told there was none, but if they had been billionaire philanthropists, then it would be considered a “major community contribution”.
You can’t make this stuff up.
But you can research proclamations.
You will be surprised at what I found.
Images: CBC & Sandy James