History & Heritage
August 23, 2019

Kits Pool in the 1950s

Vancouver historian Michael Kluckner is putting together a presentation on historic railway hotels to be held at the Hotel Vancouver. So appropriately he came across this image from the 1950s:

That’s Kitsilano Pool in the foreground, with a remarkable shot of the old beach pavilion behind it.  Long gone, of course.  But we still got the Hotel Van.

Here’s the closest comparison I could find:

 

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John Davis Jr. with Pat Davis

It seems only fitting on this civic holiday which is called “British Columbia Day” in this province that we celebrate the remarkable Davis family and Pat Davis who passed away last week.  Over a period of five decades the Davis Family stewarded a group of Edwardian and Victorian  houses on Mount Pleasant’s  100 block of West Tenth Avenue just east of city hall, restoring them. At the time in the late 70’s and early 80’s renovating old houses and fitting them with rental units was not the thing to do. The Davis family fought pressure to turn their houses into a cash crop of three-story walk-ups  on their street, and proudly display a plaque indicating that their restoration work was done with no governmental assistance of any kind.

But more than maintaining a group of heritage houses that described the rhythm and feel of an earlier Vancouver,  the Davis family extended their interest and stewardship to the street. In the summer a painted bicycle leans on a tree near the sidewalk with the bicycle basket full of flowers~in season there is a wheelbarrow to delight passersby full of  blooming plants. An adirondack chair perches near the sidewalk. And every morning, one of the Davis family was out sweeping the sidewalk and ensuring that no garbage was on the boulevards or the street.

As author and artist Michael Kluckner notes the Davis Family’s stewardship profoundly altered the way city planning was managed in Mount Pleasant. As one of the oldest areas of the city with existing Victorian houses, zoning was developed to maintain the exterior form and add rental units within the form. The first laneway houses in the city, called “carriage houses” were designed for laneway access and to increase density on the lots. And when it came time for a transportation management plan, residents threw out the City engineer’s recommendations and designed their own. That plan is still being used today.

John Davis Senior passed away in the 1980’s but his wife Pat and his sons John and Geoff maintained the houses and managed the rentals. Michael Kluckner in an earlier Price Tags post described the Davis Family as being strongly in the tradition of social and community common sense.

They championed street lighting for Tenth Avenue, with the street’s residents  choosing (and partially paying for) a heritage type of lighting standard. The City’s engineer at the time thought that the residents of Tenth Avenue would never pick a light standard that they would have to pay for . The City’s engineer was wrong.

Pat Davis also single handedly changed the way that street trees were trimmed by B.C. Hydro. When I was working in the planning department I received a call from B.C. Hydro indicating that trimming work on the Tenth Avenue large street trees had to be halted due an intervention from Mrs. Pat Davis. Pat was horrified that hydro crews were cutting back street trees down to their joins (called “crotch dropping”) to ensure that hydro wiring was not compromised. A spritely senior, Pat Davis had taken the car keys away from  B.C. Hydro personnel  and refused to give them back until the hydro crew agreed to leave.

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Number One on Heritage Vancouver’s Top 10 Watch List site for 2019 is Mount Pleasant, one of Vancouver’s original neighbourhoods – an area under threat of losing its valuable heritage qualities.

Intersected by the commercial high streets of Broadway, Main and Kingsway, the old Mount Pleasant village (the “Heritage Heart”) has been the hub of the neighbourhood ever since it first developed in the 1880s. Pedestrian-friendly and human-scale streetscapes are lined with independent stores and restaurants that lend this commercial area of Mount Pleasant a welcoming, interesting and vibrant village atmosphere.

Many of the heritage buildings from the neighbourhood’s streetcar era still exist, alongside others from the early and mid-twentieth century.  They continue to provide affordable housing, artist studios and commercial spaces for a wide variety of community groups and local businesses.

The area is a complete neighbourhood and is clearly distinct from the rest of the city. However, the forthcoming subway, new transit station at Main and Broadway and accompanying development may put this in jeopardy.

 

Sunday, August 18

10:30 am – 12:30 pm

Cost: $10 for Heritage Vancouver members, $15 for non-members.  Tickets here.

Meet at the NE corner of 13th and Quebec Street.

Tour Lead is Christine Hagemoen

 

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The Shipyards has been launched.   It’s just east of Lonsdale at the North Vancouver waterfront – a mixed-use commercial development at the centre of the City of North Vancouver’s Central Waterfront  

The commercial offerings (the restaurants, the boutiques, the Cap U extension) are still to come.  Nearly complete, however, is a great new public space that will serve not just Lower Lonsdale (LoLo) but the whole North Shore.

The Shipyards replaces the bloodlessly named Lot 5 in the plan below.  The green-coloured Commons’ fulfils almost exactly the vision that informed the project from the beginning.  The Commons is a covered year-round public space big enough, at 12,000 square feet, to accommodate major events while still providing a flexible intimacy needed to give sparkle to what mayor Linda Buchanan calls ‘the jewel in the crown.’

The design is by Dialog, among whose principals, Norm Hotson and Joost Bakker, were the architects of Granville Island.  This space is not just what’s on the floor and at first level.  There is also the spectacle of the walls and ceiling: a cathedral-like industrial legacy above, a retractable roof extension over the water park alongside, with galleries surrounding the space to the east and south.  There’s constant animation around, over and above, with people looking down, up and across.  Irresistibly moving around to capture views and Instagrammable moments both front and back.  It’s dynamism in three dimensions.

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Imagine if the West End had never been zoned for highrises.  Imagine, instead, if through the 1940s and ’50s, we rebuilt the square mile west of Burrard with apartment buildings like this:

So from the 1940s on, it would continue to look like this:

And eventually, with replacement of the original houses by three- to five-storey apartment blocks on small lots, look like this:

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One of the key things to keep in mind when travelling:

You never get a second chance for a first impression.

A cliche of course – but also the reason why it’s so exciting to visit a city for the first time.  So many impressions to absorb, to replay and construct into an original mental map.  When the pieces come together in your head – crudely to begin with, more detailed every day – then the city is yours.

The major roads, the landmarks, the transit line you need, the safest bike and scooter routes.  The closest grocery store, a gym, a docking station.  How to get downtown, to the best beach, to the restaurant with the reservation on Thursday, to the shop on that hip street you read about.  Every trip adds more names and reasons to remember them.

By the end of two weeks, here was my mental map of the TLV I saw:

We’ll unpack it in the coming week.

 

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Hopefully, PT readers are following my exploration of Tel Aviv’s White City on Instagram. As mentioned in the leading post above, this historic neighbourhood shares a lot of characteristics with others of its ilk:

Mid-century modernist beachfront neighbourhoods have an eclectic combo of dense housing, a mix of uses, unique businesses all kinds of restaurants, stirred together with social tolerance.  There’s often a gay village embedded within.

They were often the first suburbs of rapidly expanding cities or linear developments strung along beaches, a few blocks deep, served initially by streetcars and transit with limited parking.   Like Ipanema in Rio, like Miami Beach in Florida, like Venice in California.

They’ll have their beachfront attractions, of course, but usually a block in or leading perpendicularly from the waterfront will be a commercial street cluttered with restaurants and shops, still served by the transit that shaped them   Think Denman and Davie.

They’ve had their up and downs, starting off as attractive middle- and upper-class developments, sometimes as beachfront escapes, sometimes as single-family speculative real estate, sometimes as apartment districts and then gone into decline in the early 20th century until after World War II.   Like the West End, some were largely bulldozed and replaced with higher density rental apartments, some were simply passed by – until rediscovered in the late 20th century and then increasingly gentrified in the 21st.

What shall we call these districts?

Despite their variations, they share enough in common to have a generic name.   MiCe,Hi-Di-on-the-beach.   Okay, not that one.  But help us out.

Scot and I have been developing a list.  Here’s what we have so far:

  • White City – Tel Aviv
  • West End and Kitsilano – Vancouver 
  • Santa Monica and Venice Beach – Los Angeles
    Ipanema and Cocacabana – Rio
    Miami Beach – Florida
    Sea Point – Cape Town
    St. Kilda – Melbourne
    Potts Point and Bondi – Sydney
  • Oriental Bay – Wellington
  • Surfers Paradise – near Brisbane
    Waikiki – Hawaii

Add your own below!

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For most of June, the Price in Price Tags will be far away.  Mostly in Tel Aviv.  More specifically, in the part known as the White City.

I kept hearing good things about Tel Aviv – the people, the food, the beaches, the night life.  Even its Gay Pride and Parade – the antithesis to Jerusalem, I was told.

What really intrigued this urbanist, though, was its planning history.  How its first mayor, Dizengoff – knowing the city would expand far beyond Jaffa, the historic Arab port, after World War I – needed a plan.  And how he went to, of all people, a Scottish botantist in Edinburgh active in the Garden City movement.  And how that planner, Patick Geddes, started on a master plan in the mid-1920s that was accepted in 1929 – and how, amazingly, Tel Aviv built it.  At least the streets, blocks and, to a great extent, the public spaces.  This is very unusual.

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