YOU SHOULD KNOW | About The History Of The City’s Modernist Oasis Of Tropical Cool

February 24, 2014 

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by Stevie Wilson | Looking over a city recognized for its abundance of greenery and glass, the Bloedel Conservatory in Queen Elizabeth Park is a unique, historic example of Vancouver’s propensity for design. Full of exotic flowers and more than a few awesome-looking tropical birds, it’s a family-friendly city escape with a brilliant view to match.

Construction began in 1967 with funds donated from Prentice Bloedel, a wealthy timber industrialist known for his devotion to the protection of natural resources, reforestation, and recycling. His patronage of 1.4 million dollars (the largest gift to the city thus far) exemplified the post-war trend of large industries wishing to associate themselves with civic development, and complemented smaller financial contributions from the Provincial and Federal governments. Architect McKinley Underwood designed the triodetic dome, surrounding plaza, and fountain to coincide with the Vancouver Park Board’s vision for celebrating Canada’s centennial that same year. Henry Moore’s imposing Knife Edge – Two Piece sculpture also offers guests of the plaza a look into mid-century artistic flair.

The main structure’s design borrows from Buckminster Fuller’s larger Biosphere built for Expo ’67 in Montreal, and features materials manufactured in Ottawa that were then shipped to Vancouver. While the aluminum framework was constructed in 10 days, it took over a year for the entire design, complete with walkways and fountain, to be completed. The design purpose of the Modernist, geodesic styling is two-fold: to capture the optimistic and future-facing mid-century sensibilities of locals and tourists, and offer a new take on the pioneering 18th and 19th-century glass and metal solarium design.

The site also boasts the honour of being the first large triodetic dome conservatory in the country and was intended, as it remains today, to be an educational and scenic display of exotic plants. In its first year, the conservatory hosted over 500,000 guests. Attendance at the conservatory waned over the following decades, and in November of 2009 the Park Board voted in favour of closing the attraction due to growing repair and maintenance costs and the need for a complete replacement of the roof. The conservatory was set to close just after the 2010 Winter Olympics in March, though in January it was noted that attendance had increased dramatically now that pre-Olympic construction in other areas of Little Mountain and Cambie Street has been completed (go figure!). In February, public interest groups and financing, including $50,000 from the Friends of the Bloedel Association, inspired the Board to revise their decision.

The Parks Board ultimately accepted a proposal for the conservatory to be run under the jurisdiction of the VanDusen Botanical Garden, and it remains a gorgeous city escape, especially during the chilly months. The roof is currently undergoing a massive renovation, but inside the spot remains as peaceful as ever. We’re lucky to still have this lush piece of history, so pay a visit next time you need a little escape from winter. It makes a great date spot, too.

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Stevie Wilson is a historian masquerading as a writer. After serving as an editor for the UBC History Journal, she’s decided to branch out with a cryptic agenda: encouraging the people of Vancouver to take notice of their local history and heritage with You Should Know, a Scout column that aims to reveal to readers the many historical things that they walk past every day without noticing.

DIG IT | Looking In/Up At Mount Pleasant’s Iconic 1912 “Skyscraper”, The Lee Building

February 7, 2014 

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by Stevie Wilson | Just over two years ago in 2012, the Lee Building celebrated its centennial to much fanfare and fond recollection as one of Mount Pleasant’s most iconic landmarks. One hundred (and two) years on, it operates nearly just the same as ever, with an assortment of small businesses and residents occupying the 7-story building heralded as the first skyscraper in the city. Designed by English architect Arthur Julius Bird, the building features a prototypical brick and stone masonry design, a look that was fairly new on the West Coast when it was completed 1912. Bird is also remembered as a pioneering force in city zoning and planning, with a particular focus on residential construction on sloped areas – a convenient match for Mount Pleasant’s hilly landscape.

The Lee, which sits on land that once was home to a large church, is named for Herbert O. Lee, a local businessman who originally opened H.O. Lee Grocery at 2425 Main Street (now home to F As In Frank. In addition to being president of the Westminster Lacrosse Club, Lee was well known as a successful, politically-minded man with plenty to offer the growing Mount Pleasant community.

Inside, the 7-storey building still retains many of the historic features, including an original elevator (now out-of-service) complete with antique chandelier and copper walls, mahogany railings on the stairway, and elegant marble walls and flooring on the main level. It’s a happy wonder that over the last century – including a period of dilapidation in the 1960s and ‘70s – that much of the original façade and interior remain intact.

Even the sidewalk outside The Lee boasts a story: in 1952, coinciding with the widening of Broadway as a major thoroughfare, the arcade-style sidewalk was constructed offering a unique covered passage for local shoppers and residents. This meant the removal of the front section of shops (rather than tearing down the entire building) and maintaining the original pillars for support. The building still towers as one of the few (for now) visible high-rises at the Main and Broadway intersection, so enjoy a look inside and out next time you find yourself in the ‘hood.

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Stevie Wilson is a historian masquerading as a writer. After serving as an editor for the UBC History Journal, she branched out with a cryptic agenda: to encourage the people of Vancouver to take notice of their local history and heritage with Scout columns that aim to reveal to readers the many fascinating things that they might walk past every day without ever noticing.

DIG IT | Peeling Back The Layers Of Boozy Bootlegger History At Gastown’s Peckinpah

January 23, 2014 

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by Stevie Wilson | Every once in a while Vancouverites are treated to excellent historical restorations. During the process, it is through the old bones of architecture – even though only temporarily exposed –  that we’re given glimpses of our city’s past. One great example is the Byrnes Block, which sits on the southwest corner of Maple Tree Square where Water Street meets Carrall Street in Gastown. The main building (and the later addition next door) was originally known as The Alhambra Hotel (in the photo series above, you can see how the rows of chimneys recall the days when each suite in the hotel offered private fireplaces). It was built in 1886 out of the ashes of the Great Fire as one of the city’s first fire-proof buildings. The original architect was Elmer Fisher, who was commissioned by George Byrnes, a wealthy Australian industrialist.

The site is perhaps the famous for housing the location of “Gassy Jack” Deighton’s first saloon, but the Victorian Italianate address was also home to The New Frisco Hotel, clothing store Jelly Beans for Jeans (1970), and Bootlegger Jeans (yes, that Bootlegger). There are even rumours of a Baskin-Robbins’ residency, though the truth of that I could not discern with any authority.

The location had already fallen into desperate disrepair by the 1950′s, so the latter half of the 20th century did not see its best years, which explains the Bootlegger Jeans tenancy. It wasn’t until 2009 that a massive renovation (overseen by the Heatherbrae Group) saw the structure, façade, and fenestrations restored to their former (and current) glory.

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As Scout editor Andrew Morrison pointed out when Peckinpah was moving into the corner space in 2010 (see gallery above), plenty of historic gems could still be found inside the walls, including wallpapered Georgia Straight pages and antique bottles. Owners Ryan Murfitt and Tyson Reimer decided to keep most of it, so the next time find yourself in the restaurant munching on BBQ and sipping on bourbon, take a peek downstairs and dig one of Gastown’s most delicious historical time capsules.

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Stevie Wilson is a historian masquerading as a writer. After serving as an editor for the UBC History Journal, she branched out with a cryptic agenda: to encourage the people of Vancouver to take notice of their local history and heritage with Scout columns that aim to reveal to readers the many fascinating things that they might walk past every day without noticing.

YOU SHOULD KNOW | About The Ping Pong Punk Rock History Of 828 East Hastings St.

January 6, 2014 

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by Stevie Wilson | The Hastings Dance Studio at 828 East Hastings sits like a bright orange beacon just east of Hawks Avenue in Strathcona. Unless you’re an avid flamenco dancer or table tennis star you might not know much about what goes on inside. For decades, this building has been a community center and hotspot for swing dances, readings, boxing matches, punk rock shows, weddings, and even political rallies. It was constructed with funds collected by the local Veneta society, debuting in 1928 as the Silver Slipper. It was the first Italian Hall in the area, catering to this growing cultural demographic in the area.

Soon after launching, the building’s purpose broadened in scope, blooming brighter as a general community hub. By the 1930s, The Celestial Gents (Canada’s first modern Chinese swing band) were playing here to much fanfare, as were The Pony Pals, an early version of the 1940s BC country band The Rhythm Pals. Various dances and sock-hops geared towards Vancouver’s growing teen population were also a fixture.

Following the Second World War and the forced interment of Japanese-Canadians, the Vancouver Buddist Temple utilized this address as their interim space before moving to their current location a few blocks to the southwest on Jackson Avenue in 1954. By the 1960s, the building had been renamed the Hastings Auditorium and featured a unique neon sign depicting a couple in the midst of a ballroom-dancing. In the 1970s, it continued to operate as a meeting place for a variety of community groups and gatherings, including the Vancouver chapter of the notorious Fair Play for Cuba Committee (made famous by the membership of Lee Harvey Oswald prior to his assassination of JFK).

With the 1980s came another transformation: the venue became well known for alternative music shows. It became a mainstay in the growing Vancouver punk scene alongside other spots such as the Smilin’ Buddha Cabaret and the Vancouver East Cultural Centre. The name changed, too: fans of local bands, including the Pointed Sticks, D.O.A., and Young Canadians (formerly The K-Tels) will remember it as Viking Hall.

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The hall was also the site of Charles Bukowski’s last poetry reading outside of the United States. It was in 1979, and entrance cost $6. The evening featured Bukowski’s typical boisterous banter with the 650-person crowd in-between a 17-poem set. Video footage of the reading, thought lost for several years, was eventually organized by fan Dennis Del Torre into a documentary film nearly 25 years later, entitled There’s Gonna Be a God Damn Riot in Here. Those in the know might also recognize the venue from Dennis Hopper’s 1980 cult classic Out of the Blue, which features a (half) live scene of the Pointed Sticks playing two of their songs for the crowd.

These days the address still serves as a community space. Known as the Hastings Dance Hall, it’s home to Al Mozaico Flamenco Dance Academy and the Vancouver Table Tennis Club. Much has changed inside, but the exterior – aside from a few coats of bold paint and missing original signage – remains much the same. Enjoy a peek next time you’re in the area, and maybe try out a few moves!

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Stevie Wilson is a historian masquerading as a writer. After serving as an editor for the UBC History Journal, she’s decided to branch out with a cryptic agenda: encouraging the people of Vancouver to take notice of their local history and heritage with You Should Know, a Scout column that aims to reveal to readers the many historical things that they walk past every day without noticing.

YOU SHOULD KNOW | More About The Old And Storied Pub 340 On Cambie In Gastown

December 13, 2013 

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by Stevie Wilson | It wasn’t too long ago that Pub 340 was a haven for punk and rock ‘n roll fans. If you ever got the chance to see any of the myriad bands that graced its dilapidated stage, you may have suspected that the place had a long history in the Vancouver scene. And you’d be right. The building enjoyed a long and dynamic life as a turn-of-the-century hotel and parlour, long before its walls had even heard of Mr. Chi Pig and SNFU.

Built circa 1898, the building began as the Commercial Hotel. It served as a temporary home to tourists, travellers, and workers drawn to the area’s booming resource economy. The hotel stood in great company with similar buildings in the area, some of which still stand today as testaments to the growing wealth and subsequent real estate spike ushered in by necessity and local investment (in 1886, the Great Fire had ravaged Vancouver, leaving only a handful of buildings standing and a void of commercial and residential spaces). In 1889, the Flack Block was constructed right next door (home to Meat & Bread today), rounding out the area and contributing to the revitalization of Gastown.

The architecture signals a departure from the intricate Victorian designs of old and into the more subdued Richardsonian Romanesque-inspired style complete with molded brickwork, recessed entry (later removed), stonework by David Gibbs and Company, and diagonal-patterned spandrels that were typical of the period. Separate entries for Ladies and Gents added a sophisticated edge to the downstairs parlour, which featured a sub-ground level. In Pub 340’s heyday as a venue one often heard tales of an old basement bar. They’re absolutely true, and it’s still down there, gathering dust in dormancy. Next door, the Rose Brothers barbershop kept clients looking their best.

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During the 1960s, the hotel – still boasting the same curled marquee it had for the last several decades - was a point of inspiration for famed photographer Fred Herzog, but tragically, in 1973, it was the site of a massive fire. Five men died inside, including one of the beer parlour’s waiters, and it was believed to be an act of arson. At this point, Vancouver bylaws had no provisions for smoke detectors or sprinklers for single room occupancy buildings, with an estimated 40 individuals dying each year – mostly on the Downtown Eastside. The mass media attention following this incident finally led to the passing of the Fire Sprinkler Bylaw later that year, largely thanks to locals like the legendary Bruce Eriksen and the Downtown Eastside Residents Association (DERA).

In 1976, the Commercial Hotel was revamped with a Spanish-inspired theme, becoming the El Cid. It ran for 11 years – with rumours of brothel activity – until 1987, when it was transformed again into the Stadium Inn. It was at some point during these transitions after the fire that the large ornamental rooftop façade was removed, and with it some of the notable charm of the structure.

Today, the former hotel remains an SRO site, with a revamped version of Pub 340 still housing fledgling local bands and comedy acts within. It doesn’t look (or smell) like it has been particularly well taken care of, but take a second glance (inside and out) the next time you stroll by, and imagine its better days.

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Stevie Wilson is a historian masquerading as a writer. After serving as an editor for the UBC History Journal, she’s decided to branch out with a cryptic agenda: encouraging the people of Vancouver to take notice of their local history and heritage with You Should Know, a Scout column that aims to reveal to readers the many historial things that they already see but might not understand.

YOU SHOULD KNOW | About The 100 Year Old “Heritage Hall” At Main & 15th Avenue

November 11, 2013 

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by Stevie Wilson | If you live or work in Mount Pleasant – or simply enjoy visits to its plethora of shops and coffee joints – you’ve likely strolled past the towering Heritage Hall on the on the corner of Main and 15th Avenue (either that or you recognize it as a classic X-Files filming location). It’s the neighbourhood’s go-to wedding reception spot in summer, and for the rest of the year it’s home to a number of community events, art collectives, and meetings of all sorts. But enriching all of the Hall’s modern uses is its century-long history, the outline of which we’ll trace today.

The land upon which it sits once belonged to the Federal Government. It was purchased in 1912 to the cool tune of $40,000. The building got its start in 1914 as a civic Post Office. Postal Station “C”, to be exact. It was designed by Englishman Archibald Campbell Hope and lead architect David Ewart. Hope was also responsible for several historic apartments, halls, stores, and other buildings across the Lower Mainland, including Britannia High School and Fort Langley’s imposing Community Hall.

It’s unusual to find such a large, expensive (original cost was $92,000), and elaborate building like this in an area that was, despite being a major thoroughfare, not prime real estate or a commercial hotspot at the time of its construction. In fact, it was among the very few contemporary buildings in the neighbourhood – such as the 1912 Lee Building – that were poised to spur economic growth south into Mount Pleasant from the Gastown area. The commercial tide, however, would take several more decades before it reached the top of the hill.

By 1950, the Beaux-Arts-inspired pile was no longer being used as a Post Office and was operating as the Dominion Agricultural Building. In 1963, a special investigations branch of the RCMP moved in, taking advantage of the office spaces until 1976, when the building fell into disrepair, a mere two years after its “heritage” status had been cemented by the City (the hall was among the first buildings in Vancouver to be officially imbued with historical importance). Both the interior and exterior were in need of significant overhaul.

Heritage Hall was left dormant until 1982, when Main Source – a community group made up of passionate volunteers – rallied to initiate its reconstruction and the development of the site into the multipurpose resource space that it is today. Among its many Edwardian features are a sandstone portrait of King George V on its Main Street facade and a working bell inside a clock tower, which was built by the same company responsible for Big Ben in London. Late Vancouver historian Chuck Davis noted how animal and plant fossils in the interior marble were evident to the naked eye. The interior boasts a 3,300 square foot, French-inspired ballroom that features many re-conceived details, including a large mural, a tile floor, and stained glass chandeliers.

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Stevie Wilson is a historian masquerading as a writer. After serving as an editor for the UBC History Journal, she’s decided to branch out with a cryptic agenda: encouraging the people of Vancouver to take notice of their local history and heritage with You Should Know, a Scout column that aims to reveal to readers the many historial things that they already see but might not undertstand.

YOU SHOULD KNOW | About Vancouver’s Once Iconic “Aristocratic” Chain Of Diners

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by Stevie Wilson | Vancouver has always been a city with a great love for food, particularly of diner fare. The first Aristocratic Restaurant, a family-oriented cafe that would become locally famous for its “courteous service, quality food, all over town”, popped up at Kingsway and Fraser in 1932. It featured a popular drive-in service catering to a growing car culture across the city. This drive-in, and those which would follow, underscored the early-to-mid-century cultural emphasis on convenience, great gimmicks, and fast food (particularly the 15-cent hamburger). When founder Frank Hunter sold the chain in 1947, he had established nine successful locations all across Vancouver. These include addresses at 13th & Cambie, 10th & Alma, Main & King Edward (now Helen’s Grill) and – perhaps the most iconic of them all – at Granville & Smithe.

The company evolved into Aristocratic Restaurants Ltd and expanded to include the development of several other restaurants across the city: Risty’s, the Silk Hat, Henri’s Grill & Smorgasbord, and the Flame Super Club. Additional locations of the original Aristocratic were established at the Lee Building on Main & Broadway and on Marine Drive in North Vancouver. Hunter’s company did exceptionally well, and eventually a dozen locations of the Aristocratic dotted the Vancouver and Burnaby landscape. Not bad for a former baker who took a chance on the industry he used to cater to!

The 1950s were a decade of change for the Aristocratic restaurants. Hank Oliver became chain manager in 1953,  when the rising number of restaurants, growing competition, and commercial missteps led to a degradation of quality and popularity. The business employed 95 staff and featured its own butcher shop at the Cambie location (sold to White Spot in 1975). Despite being a successful manager and consultant, Oliver was let go from the business, only to be called back to work in 1956 in an attempt to revitalize operations. Oliver took things a step further by buying into the company and taking ownership of five locations.

The Aristocratic empire was eventually reduced to one location – Broadway and Granville – which served up diner-style food until its closure in 1997. It’s worth noting that however nostalgic and charming the familiar “Risty” sign decorating the entrance to the Chapters at Broadway and Granville might be, it’s not authentic.  The original – from the 1960′s – can be found in the Vancouver Museum (thanks to curator Joan Sidel). It’s a 10’x11’ installation that is a little too heavy for the bookstore’s window. The replica was designed after the location closed to make way for redevelopment.

Some heritage fans have noted, quite aptly, that the small scale of the reproduction encourages visitors to forget the impressive size (literally) and history of the landmark restaurant, but what is nostalgia if not an edited, customized version of history? Whether you’re on your way to a five-star meal or a quick stop at a greasy spoon, be sure take note of the miniature reminder next time you pass by.

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Stevie Wilson is a historian masquerading as a writer. After serving as an editor for the UBC History Journal, she’s decided to branch out with a cryptic agenda: encouraging the people of Vancouver to take notice of their local history and heritage with You Should Know, a Scout column that aims to reveal to readers the many historial things that they already see but might not undertstand.

YOU SHOULD KNOW: More About The Mid-Century Marvel That Is The Electra Building

September 17, 2013 

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by Stevie Wilson | Vancouver is a young city, one that features a remarkable development trajectory that sometimes muddies our concept of what is historic, what is modern, and what falls somewhere in-between. The city has grown exponentially since its incorporation 127 years ago, and while there still exists plenty of awe-inspiring heritage in every neighbourhood, it’s clear that development – namely real estate – has taken precedence over the establishment of heritage sites. Fortunately, the Electra Building at Burrard and Nelson is one of the unique examples where history has been accommodated to complement Vancouver’s ever-transforming identity as a modern city.

Built between 1955-1957, the 21-storey skyscraper was known then as the BC Electric Company Building, and features many of the recognizable traits found in mid-century postwar design. Noted Canadian architect Ronald Thom and lead architect Ned Pratt, of Thompson, Berwick & Pratt were the principal design team behind the iconic landmark, whose thin, lozenge shape reflected the Modernist trend towards geometric-inspired design. However, the building’s unique shape also served a practical purpose:

From Exploring Vancouver:

“It was B.C. Electric chairman Dal Grauer who (despite being in the business of selling electricity) insisted that every desk be within 15 feet of a window. . . Safir’s (Otto, engineer) solution was to have all systems distributed via the central shaft off which floors branch out, cantilevered, column free with daylight and a view for each worker.”

Hydroelectric power had been a prime focus of the postwar provincial economy, which relied heavily on grand infrastructure as a symbol of growth and development. In addition to numerous eye-catching structural attributes, the building features typical mid-century elements: west coast-inspired mosaic wall tiles and facade (the work of celebrated Canadian artist B.C. Binning), terrazzo paving, geometrical detailing, and re-enforced concrete finishing, among many others. Adjacent to the building lies the Dal Grauer Substation, completed in 1954; it currently sits on the Vancouver Heritage Society’s 2010 list of Endangered Sites.

The former BC Electric building was known for its iconic presence in the mid-century landscape of Downtown Vancouver, particularly because its lights were left on all hours of the day for several years (you know, to illustrate how cool hydroelectricity was). It literally stood as a beacon of industry, modernity, and prosperity, and for many years was one of the tallest buildings in the city. The spot featured an audio presence, too. Musical horns on the roof played the opening notes of “Oh Canada” each day at noon – a distinction now passed to the Pan Pacific at Canada Place.

Upon Grauer’s death in 1961, the operations of BC Electric were transferred to the province to be continued under the BC Hydro moniker, and the offices were eventually moved to Burnaby in the late 1990s. Years later, the redevelopment of the building into condominiums signaled the first major transition of its kind in Vancouver. In order to give this project the go-ahead, the city required heritage designation to be issued, with facsimile (operational) windows, porcelain, and other features installed to match the original aesthetics. The Electra, as it now stands, was the first post-1940s building in Vancouver to be granted heritage status.

For more information on the mind behind the design of the Electra Building, visit the new exhibit Ron Thom and the Allied Arts on now at the West Vancouver Museum.

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Stevie Wilson is a historian masquerading as a writer. After serving as an editor for the UBC History Journal, she’s decided to branch out with a cryptic agenda: encouraging the people of Vancouver to take notice of their local history and heritage with You Should Know, a Scout column that aims to reveal to readers the many historial things that they already see but might not undertstand.

YOU SHOULD KNOW | About Vancouver’s Early Affection For The Art Of Photography

August 21, 2013 

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by Stevie Wilson | Anyone with a camera (or a smartphone) knows that Vancouver is a fantastic place to snap incredible photographs. Long before the days of digital sharing, there were many Vancouverites with an eye and a passion for the art of photography, and their organizations tell us quite a bit about our city’s leisurely relationship with the capture of scenery.

Back in the late 1800s, photography was a passion for many well-to-do individuals with enough time and money to spend their days reflecting on the craft. The first independent club in Canada was the Quebec Amateur Photographer’s Association, which operated from 1884-1886 in Quebec City. Other creatives set out to celebrate the science and art of photography by launching numerous clubs across the country. This resulted in myriad partnerships and affiliations, with British Columbia spawning many clubs, including the Powell River Camera Club (1939), the Victoria Camera Club (1944), and the granddaddy of them all, the Vancouver Camera Club (1897). The VCC is not to be confused with the Camera Club, a 40-member co-ed Vancouver organization established two years earlier previously in 1895, though the 1897 group was purported to be the first of its kind in the province.

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The Vancouver Camera Club featured many high-ranking individuals from across the city, including the young F.T. Salsbury, whose father, William Salsbury (of Salsbury Street fame), was involved in the finance sector of the Canadian Pacific Railway and had been an alderman for Ward 1 (among many other distinctions). Salsbury Jr. was an active Vancouverite, known for being a sports fan (cricket and rowing, natch), and the first secretary of the VCC. Other members included Board of Trade member C.M. Beecher (one-time Vice President), alderman and businessman George Buscombe, and accountant Maurice Gintzburger. Most members appear to have been involved in the various resource industries that were creating a name for Vancouver back then. The club had 56 members when it launched, but it only lasted three years, disbanding in 1890.

Members would likely have been quite thrilled with the development of the Kodak camera, which launched as their club reached its nadir. Previously, other cumbersome box cameras had relied on the manual use of plates, but Kodak’s new technology introduced rolled film to the masses. The first meeting of the club was held at the Edwards Brothers Studios on Cordova Street, which was known in later years as a hub for amateur photography in Vancouver following the Kodak revolution. In 1903, the Vancouver Photographic Society was established, paving the way for a new generation of enthusiastic photographers to get together and share in their documentation of Vancouver’s adolescence. One can only wonder what sort of Instagram filters they might have preferred!

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Stevie Wilson is a historian masquerading as a writer. After serving as an editor for the UBC History Journal, she’s decided to branch out with a cryptic agenda: encouraging the people of Vancouver to take notice of their local history and heritage with You Should Know, a Scout column that aims to reveal to readers the many historial things that they already see but might not undertstand.

YOU SHOULD KNOW | About The Once Heavily Armed Section Of Point Grey Beach

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by Stevie Wilson | Built in 1939 in response to the perceived military threats along the coast, the Point Grey Battery stood among four other Vancouver artillery forts intended to protect the inner harbours. At its peak, Point Grey Fort was the most heavily armed, and featured 250 soldiers and personnel in addition to a sophisticated system of defenses to both react to and initiate an attack. The Point Grey peninsula has always played a strategic role in reserve planning, with military designation dating back to the 1860s; however, before WWI the area had not yet been required for this purpose. Though they were never used, a small numbers of guns were set up along strategic points in 1914 to ward-off an offensive from the German navy. At the peak of WWII in 1942, several defenses had been set up across the Lower Mainland, including gun stations at Point Atkinson, Stanley Park, and Steveston, with Point Grey acting as a pivotal access point for domestic security.

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During WWII three six-inch caliber anti-ship guns were stationed out at Point Grey, with the concrete remnants of their underground storage facilities and tunnels still visible adjacent to what is now UBC’s Museum of Anthropology. The men stationed at Point Grey Fort belonged to the 58th Heavy Battery Coast Brigade (Royal Canadian Artillery); service began on August 26th 1939. The site boasted its own power supply, hospital, canteen, and a wide assortment of anti-aircraft machinery. The three massive anti-ship guns featured canopies to provide shelter, while camouflage netting kept the crews hidden from airborne enemies. Underneath the guns, their respective underground magazines protected 500 shells and propellants that were accessed by a mechanical hoist.

A three-storey observation deck was the central command station for soldiers, who kept watch on the waterfront through a system of binoculars coordinated with the movement of searchlights on the beachfront. These searchlights (which still stand at Tower Beach) were designed to operate with high tide, as to increase visibility at any hour of the day. Built in 1941 to replace existing smaller lights, the towers were able to project light three to five miles into the night to guide the anti-ship guns. In all, there were 10 electric lights positioned across the Burrard Inlet, each with 80 million candle-power efficiency.

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Point Grey Fort was vacated at the end of the war and eventually closed in 1948 without ever having fired a shot – other than the occasional warning shots over ships entering the Inlet. The artillery was removed and shipped to NATO allies, while the University acquired the base for student housing. Decades later, during the development of the Museum of Anthropology, architects took care to preserve much of battery infrastructure; the centerpiece of the museum, Bill Reid’s The Raven and the First Men, is centered on the base of a former gun turret. Today, the adjacent sites outside the museum are maintained by the 15th Field Artillery Regiment Museum, with much of the original concrete structure still intact. Take a peek next time you’re headed out to Wreck to enjoy the…scenery.

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Stevie Wilson is a historian masquerading as a writer. After serving as an editor for the UBC History Journal, she’s decided to branch out with a cryptic agenda: encouraging the people of Vancouver to take notice of their local history and heritage with You Should Know, a Scout column that aims to reveal to readers the many historial things that they already see but might not undertstand.

YOU SHOULD KNOW: A Few Cool Things About The Old Salt Building On False Creek

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by Stevie Wilson | It can be a beautiful thing when modern architectural visions and history combine, and the Vancouver Salt Company’s old building on False Creek (Olympic Village) is a case in point. Thanks to its crisp, polished finishes and bold color scheme, the Salt Building could easily be mistaken for a brand new structure leaning on our city’s penchant for industrial design. The truth, however, is that this spot is the real deal featuring a long history that reflects much on our city’s changing industrial landscape and operations.

Built circa 1930, the original 13,000 square-foot space served in partnership with the Bay Area salt trade in San Francisco, whereby unrefined salt was shipped to Vancouver for secondary processing and extraction. The Vancouver Salt Company was at this time owned by Leslie Salt Refining Co. of Newark, California. Later, in 1970, it would come under the control of Arden Vancouver Salt Co. Ltd. and subsequently Domtar Ltd before it fell into disrepair prior to the 2010 Olympics. The structure features a complex roof truss system bearing weight onto numerous columns, with a large clerestory of windows brightening the long stretch of working space. In 1954, the demand for salt became so great that a northern expansion was completed by Wright Engineers Ltd to accommodate new equipment.

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The building is one of the only remnants of the strong industrial history of False Creek, which featured sawmills, steel fabrication plants, logging sites, foundries, shipbuilders and various other businesses dependent on a close proximity to rail and water shipping avenues. The salt processed here was a key component of the fishing trade in Vancouver; many food industries relied on this product to help preserve their own.

The structure has been subject to numerous architectural changes to accommodate the evolving nature of industries along the waterfront. Loading docks, new conveyors, and other modern changes coincided with new methods of shipping, improvements in technology, and increases in product demand. In the late 1980s the building served as a recycling and paper-shredding plant under Belkin Paper Stock Ltd. Decades later, it now operates as a center for the False Creek community, and is apparently the future spot of a new 350-seat “mega” craft beer pub (because of course).

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It’s one of the only buildings in the city with LEED Gold certification (that’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for us laypeople), and the architects of its most recent transformation (Acton Ostry) stayed true to the buildings’ roots in an effort to preserve its cultural and historical aesthetics. It boasts Heritage B designation by the City, meaning that it’s a legally protected structure, and has been the recipient of many awards, particularly in Planning Excellence and Green Design. Back in 2002, the building was shortlisted among the Vancouver Heritage Society’s Top Ten Endangered Sites, so it’s a relief to see it reborn – even if it was for the purpose of an “athletes’ living room”. Check it out the next time you’re on a walk or a ride by. Soon you just might be able to enjoy a nice pint inside, too.

[carousel image courtesy of Acton Ostry Architects]

YOU SHOULD KNOW EVEN MORE

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Stevie Wilson is an historian masquerading as a writer. After serving as an editor for the UBC History Journal, she’s decided to branch out with a cryptic agenda: encouraging the people of Vancouver to take notice of their local history and heritage with You Should Know, a Scout column that aims to reveal to readers the many historial things that they already see but might not undertstand.

YOU SHOULD KNOW: The History Of The City’s Grandview-Woodland Neighbourhood

1340---1348-Woodland--1colour photos by: Martin Knowles

by Stevie Wilson | When we hear the term “Grandview” we typically think of The Drive, cheap pizza joints, and the transit circus known as the Commercial-Broadway Station. With a geographical reach stretching all the way down to Burrard Inlet, however, the Grandview-Woodland area has plenty more to offer those who want to look a little further. One fun way to explore the neighbourhood is to try the Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s 11th Annual Heritage House Tour on June 2nd. They’re kicking off the sunny season with a fantastic walking tour featuring some of the city’s most stunning historic homes, five of which are conveniently located within walking distance of each other in Grandview. Before you head out to examine the sites, here’s a little more info about this expansive and culturally diverse region…

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Prior to the 1890s, the Squamish communities in the area referred to the stretch of Inlet shore bordering Clark Drive to Nanaimo as Khupkhahpay’ay, which translates to “cedar tree”. As evidenced by the number of dedicated centers and cultural representations, this area still features a strong First Nations presence (one in ten Grandview-Woodland area residents identifies as Aboriginal or Métis).

This area first saw significant development during the mid to late 1800s, when the original Hastings Mill was operating at the foot of Dunlevy. During the 1890s, this section of the Inlet was booming with industry, and with the completion of the interurban rail line from Vancouver to New Westminster in 1891 the region experienced a wave of residential and commercial settlements. By 1982, the Cedar Cove area – near the intersection of present-day Powell and Wall Street – featured the Columbia Brewery, several mills, a slaughterhouse, and other important resource facilities that attracted labourers. Naturally, this development boosted the demand for local residences and businesses, and soon thereafter several wealthy families began purchasing lots in the area of present-day Broadway. In 1891, Park Drive was completed as a skid road for logging and served as a thoroughfare accompanying the busy streetcar line. It was named after its terminus at Buffalo Park on 15th Avenue, which was situated on land donated to the city by E.J. Clark. By 1911, however, the City had renamed Buffalo Park as Clark Park. Park Drive at 14th also featured a Buffalo Grocery (circa 1908), so there were clearly some bovine fans in the neighbourhood!

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As for Park Drive, area merchants rallied in 1911 to change its name to Commercial Drive in an attempt to drive business interests to the area (go figure). It’s said that the name “Grand View” originated from a hand-painted sign located at the interurban stop on First Avenue in 1892, though city officials didn’t officially designate the modern scope of the area until 1969. Noted city archivist Major J.S. Matthews and other contemporary accounts suggest that it was indeed Edward Odlum who coined the term after noting how “grand” the westward views were. Early in the twentieth-century, local investors took advantage of the scenic landscape of the area and built large Queen Anne, Georgian Revival, and other grandiose-style homes.

Today, it’s one of Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhoods, featuring some remarkable architectural statistics: 57 percent of the homes in Grandview were built before 1946, with 44 percent of these built between 1911 and 1921. Landmark sites include the Brookhouse Residence on Parker (built in 1909), the famed Odlum Residence on Grant, the McTaggart’s home on Victoria Drive, and many more. As an area that has own grown enormously in density and popularity over the last decade, the story of Grandview’s rise as a residential and industrial center is weaved through the story of these estate homes as well as their more compact counterparts.

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This year’s Heritage House Tour offers attendees the experience to learn about local history, observe the distinct character of this unique neighbourhood, and a special opportunity to hear from the Grandview Heritage Group. In an area boasting 52% of the city’s renter population, it’s an interesting place to see what home owners have done to celebrate their houses’ distinct legacies. The tour is likely to sell out quickly, so don’t miss your chance to sneak a peek at some of the finest homes that East Van has to offer. For more information on the VHF Heritage House Tour and other events, visit http://www.vancouverheritagefoundation.org.

YOU SHOULD KNOW EVEN MORE

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Stevie Wilson is an historian masquerading as a writer. After serving as an editor for the UBC History Journal, she’s decided to branch out with a cryptic agenda: encouraging the people of Vancouver to take notice of their local history and heritage with You Should Know, a Scout column that aims to reveal to readers the many historial things that they already see but might not undertstand.

YOU SHOULD KNOW: More About Local First Nations Leader & Icon, Joe Capilano

by Stevie Wilson | Just a few minutes from the bustling Park Royal Shopping Centre sits a quiet, isolated patch of hill that serves as the Squamish Nation Burial Ground. Tucked away amongst the residential milieu of private homes and apartments, this sacred site is the final resting place of many who have belonged to this indigenous community. The Squamish Nation Traditional Territory, comprised of 6,732 square kilometers, includes a significant portion of the Lower Mainland, including the North Shore. This unique burial setting features a small number of private graves. Among the burial markers and totem poles sits a large house-like structure made of stone: the Joe Capilano Mausoleum. It stands as a monument not only to a prominent community leader, but also to his activism and the fascinating historical narrative that envelops it.

Originally known as Sa7plek (Sahp-luk), Joe Capilano was born in 1854 (or 1840, depending who you ask) outside Squamish. While not much is known of his early life, he is said to have grown up in a reserve near the Capilano River and trained as a sawmill labourer and carver in North Vancouver (known back then as Moodyville). Prior to the influx of Roman Catholic missionaries to the Lower Mainland in the 1860s, Sa7plek had been raised in traditional Squamish teachings. By the time he married Mary Agnes Líxwelut in May 1872, however, his Catholic beliefs were steadfast and he chose to be baptized. His wife was a celebrated genealogist in her own right, and her grandfather is said to have welcomed George Vancouver to the Burrard Inlet in 1792. Sa7plek was championed by Roman Catholic officials in the area who saw him as a prime candidate for leadership due to his unique mix of Catholic and indigenous education. He was poised, they believed, to influence the spread of Catholicism across other Native communities. In 1895, he succeeded Chief Láwa as leader of the Squamish.

In 1906, after many ineffective attempts to negotiate with the Provincial government, the driven Sa7plek travelled to Ottawa to meet with Sir Wilfred Laurier, and then on to London to petition King Edward VII. Along with him were elders Chief Charley Isipaymilt (Cowichan) and Chief Basil David (Shuswap); all three seeking improved Native-White relations in BC. Specifically, they sought a lift on the potlatch ban, hunting and fishing restrictions, and various imposed regulations that limited self-sufficiency and inhibited their cultural and socio-economic traditions. Land claims were also a major issue. The leaders felt that their autonomy and titles had been severely challenged by white settlers. It was in preparation for this trip that Sa7plek was given his new name, Kiyapalanexw (Capilano) – a hereditary title meant to emphasize his high status to the Crown. In London, the men were awarded 15 minutes of the King’s time, though their petition was not formally presented to the monarch. An excerpt of their letter reads:

To His Most Gracious Majesty King Edward VII,

Perhaps we are amongst the most remote of your majesty’s subjects, yet we give place to none in our loyalty and devotion to your majesty’s person, and to the British crown.

Our home is beyond the great Atlantic ocean, beyond the great inland seas of Canada, beyond the vast wheat-growing prairies of Manitoba, beyond the majestic Rocky mountains, away on shores of the Pacific ocean.

[...] Sir James Douglas told us that large numbers of white people would come to our country, and in order to prevent trouble he designated large tracts of land for our use, and told us that if any white people encroached upon those lands he would remove them, which he did [. . .] But when Sir James Douglas was no longer governor other white people settled upon our lands and titles were issued to them by the British Columbian government. We have appealed to the Dominion government which is made up of men elected by the white people who are living on our lands [...]

We have our families to keep the same as the white man, and we know how to work as well as the white man; then why should we not have the same privileges as the white man?

In the end, no discernable changes were implemented (though they did send him away with some autographed portraits). Chief Capilano subsequently severed ties with the Catholic Church and banned them from his settlement, feeling that they did not support his mission for equality and land rights. In turn, Catholic officials felt Capilano was becoming too radical – he did no longer impress the sort of influence they had originally planned for him. The government’s inaction ultimately led to the creation of province-wide political organizations including the Indian Tribes of the Province of British Columbia, the Nisga’a Land Committee, and the Allied Tribes of British Columbia, among others. Chief Capilano’s initiative, though immediately unsuccessful, inspired new generations of Native people to take charge of their political agency.

Despite being pegged as a “troublemaker” by some non-Native critics for his repeated attempts to organize tribes, upon his death in 1910, Native leaders and communities celebrated Chief Capilano as a powerful leader and icon. Today, the North Shore features many landmarks bearing his name, including Capilano Lake, River, Road, and University.

YOU SHOULD KNOW EVEN MORE

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Stevie Wilson is an historian masquerading as a writer. After serving as an editor for the UBC History Journal, she’s decided to branch out with a cryptic agenda: encouraging the people of Vancouver to take notice of their local history and heritage with You Should Know, a Scout column that aims to reveal to readers the many historial things that they already see but might not undertstand.

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