by Stevie Wilson | The good folks over at the Vancouver Heritage Foundation are continuing their popular walking tour series this summer, offering attendees a look at historical sites and themes throughout the city as well as a great excuse to get outside and enjoy the sun. I’m tagging along for a few of their walks this season to share some of the neat places they’re teaching us about.
Last week historian John Atkin took us on a zigzagging walk through parts of the Cedar Cottage neighbourhood west of Knight Street to explain the phenomenon he calls “The Wonky Grid”. We learned about the history of the area just north of King Edward Ave., formerly known as Lot 301 or “No Man’s Land” on account of its boggy, ravine-filled geography, and a little bit about how zoning bylaws continue to change the face of Vancouver real estate. For many years residents in this ‘hood were without a proper sewage system or water access; Lot 301 remained independent of any municipality until the City finally annexed it in 1911.
Those who have lived in the area south of King Ed – or have tried to drive through it – might have noticed that there are more than a few streets that stop short of a main intersection, don’t run all the way through, or only exist for a few blocks. Early speculation in the area led to fragmented land ownership, and specifically in the blocks south of King Edward you’ll find streets like Elgin, Ross, and Mohawk that boast a particularly strange off-the-grid design. Sidewalks, too, are sometimes uncommon—the municipality of South Vancouver was historically quite laissez-faire about these types of tax burdens.
John treated us to a detailed look at the architecture of some of the beautiful Craftsman, Bungalow, Vancouver Special, and Farmhouse style homes in the neighbourhood, and even shared his insights on why so many 50s-era homes feature the same color of stucco (there was but one prosperous merchant in the area). If you dig on architecture and love a good historical anecdote, you’re sure to enjoy these interactive tours. Check out the VHF website to see what else they’re up to this summer. Oh, and remember to wear sensible shoes!
Vancouver Heritage Foundation, a registered charity, encourages Vancouverites to reuse, restore and rehabilitate heritage buildings and sites. Walking tours is one way VHF invites Vancouverites to know more about the rich history of the city and aims to inspire action on heritage conservation.