The Dales House at 414 Alexander Street circa 1890 CVA Photo SGN 490

Monday, June 30, 2014

HANDSOME RESIDENCES OF THE EAST END - SOME STILL STAND



I love it when I get surprises in my e-mail inbox, especially when they are from history researchers who come across something that relates to houses that I am researching or have researched, and especially when they related with Vancouver's East End's history. 

Some years back I received this amazing scan of  page from the October 28, 1905 Vancouver Province from a man named Nelson who over the years has been kind enough to forward me a number of great articles and photos he has come across through the course of his research.


From top to bottom, left to right these houses are are identified as the R. M. Barclay house at 345 Hawks Avenue, the T. A. Smith house on Vernon Drive, the G. F. B. Adams house at 790 East Hastings, the W. J. Miller house at 303 Barnard Street, the A. McNair house at 616 Carl Avenue, D. McCrimmon house at 804 East Cordova, the W. Ells house at the corner of Barnard Street and Carl Avenue, the G. H. Tom house at the corner of Keefer Street and Carl Avenue, and the T. Crawford House at 745 Princess Street.


The original addresses may be a bit confusing to those unfamiliar with the history of East End Vancouver's street names. Barnard Street is now Union Street and was renamed to avoid confusion with Burrard Street in the West End. Carl Avenue is now Princess Avenue, although for a very short time it was also named Oppenheimer Avenue when Oppenheimer Street was renamed East Cordova, and Princess Street, originally Dupont Street is now East Pender. 

Any of you who have come on my East End/Strathcona History Walks know that Dupont Street was the very first street in Vancouver history to be renamed, in 1888, because the people living east of Main didn't want to be associated with the drugs, gambling and prostitution going on in the unit and 100 block of Dupont, which was both Vancouver's first Red Light District and also part of Vancouver's Chinatown. By the way, Union Street, which had already been renamed from Barnard, was renamed Adanac, Canada spelled backwards, between Vernon Drive and Boundary Road in 1930 for almost the very same reason.

Now that I have you cross-eyed and confused, lets return to the houses in the image. Sadly, the Robert M. Barclay house at 345 Hawks Avenue no longer stands. 


Its location would have been on a lot where the Sole Food urban garden is now located on the west side of Hawks just to the east of the Astoria Hotel. The 1905 city directory lists Robert M. Barclay as a shingle saw filer. We know from his April 16th 1903 wedding certificate that Robert McKenzie Barclay was born in New Brunswick, the son of William Barclay and Margaret Ernie. His wife, Elizabeth Ellen Simpson was born in Miramichi, New Brunswick and that her parents were Henry Simpson and Jane Stewart. We also know that the Barclays were Presbyterians and were married at 400 East Cordova Stgreet, which was the Presbyterian Church Manse, by Rev. R. J. MacBeth.

  
T. A. Smith's house on the northeast corner of Vernon Drive and East Georgia, today numbered 1201 East Georgia, still exists.


It is one of the most impressive houses still standing in the eastern part of Strathcona which for the past 40 years or so has become known as Kiwassa.


This neighbourhood within a neighbourhood takes its name from the Kiwassa Girls Club which operated out of the old Firehall No. 5 building visible here in this 1909 picture taken of Admiral Seymour School students in the school grounds. From the 1930s to the late 1940s, the same building was known as the Vernon Drive Junior G-Men's Club where neighbourhood boxing legend Phil Palmer taught neighbourhood kids how to box. T. A. Smith's house is visible on the top right corner of the picture just down the street from the old firehall. Ontario-born Thomas A. Smith was the superintendent of the Small & Buckland Lumber Company.


Carpenter George F. B. Adams house at 790 East Hastings no longer stands... Its location is today the site of Buckshon's Pharmacy. As we can see on his marriage certificate, George Francis Bethel Adams was born in London, England, the son of George Adams and Letitia Mary Lewis. 




His wife Wilhelmina Critch was born in Brigus, Newfoundland, the daughter of Henry Critch and Ellen Mann. George was a Congregationalist and Wilhelmina was a Methodist. The marriage took place on the January 1st, 1900, the first day of the 20th century, and took place in a house at 930 Princess, which would have been on the block of East Pender east of Campbell Avenue were the Stamps Place Housing Project is today.

W. J. Miller's house at 303 Barnard no longer stands as well. Its location would have been on the northeast corner of Union and Gore Avenue. I point out its location on all my East End/Strathcona History Walks.

 
William J. Miller was an Ontario-born carpenter. It would have distressed the Baptist Miller family to know that a number of decades later that their house would be known as the "biggest whore house in the East End". You can read more about how I found out about this house's reputation in a chapter I wrote for John Belshaw's upcoming anthology VANCOUVER CONFIDENTIAL by Anvil Press. Needless to say, when Nelson sent me this image from the Vancouver Province, I was thrilled to find included a picture of this house. As far as I know there are no other photos of it in existance, but if you read this and have once, I hope you will contact me. I would love to know what colour it was and know a little more about the house.


 Agnes McNair's house at 616 Carl Avenue, now Princess Avenue, still stands... and at the time of this writing it is for sale for $948,000. This house was one of 9 historic houses on the 600 block of Princess Avenue that I did an in-depth research project for early on in my house history research career. The house was built in 1902 for Quebec-born widow of Archibald McNair Agnes. Agnes and her shipper son Austin and schoolteacher daughter Muriel lived in the house for a number of years. 616 Princess Street's major claim to fame is that for a number of decades it was the home of the family of Gung Haggis Fat Choy creator, the kilt wearing, accordion playing, dragon boat racing Vancouver celebrity, Todd Wong, and his alter ego Toddish McWong. I think Todd would be tickled to know that his house had a Mc connection from the very beginning.


The original single family home nature of East Cordova, originally Oppenheimer Street has been largely obliterated. There are some houses on the north side of the 300 block, four more on the 500 block, and then an almost intact enclave of late 1800s and early 1900s houses on the 600 block of East Cordova. Ontario-born Kelly Douglas & Company clerk Donald McCrimmon's house at 804 East Cordova has been replaced by warehouses. At the time of the 1911 census the house was still home to Donald, his wife Jane, daughters May and Maud, and Jane's parents Xavier and Flora Arseneau.


W. Ells house at 750 Princess Avenue still stands and has been beautifully restored. This house was built in 1905 by St. John, New Brunswick-born grocer William Ward Ells. Ells married his English-born bride Rose Lily Sheppard on January 1, 1906 in his newly built house. 


The Ells family moved to 700 Jackson Avenue on the SE corner of Jackson and Harris (East Georgia). William Ward Ells later became the manager of the Woodward’s Grocery Department. 


There seems to be some bootlegging history associated with this address...I came across this newsclipping on the Vancouver Police Museum website... unfortunately, there is no date and no information about which newspaper it came from... Detective Donald A. Sinclair lived for a time at my old house at 1036 Odlum Drive in Vancouver's Grandiew neighbourhood where my interest in house history research began.

Strathcona Elementary School's principal Gregory Tom's house at 602 Keefer (also found in the directory as 602 Princess) still stands. 


The house is oriented so that Principal Tom could easily observe the goings on at Strathcona School from both his front porch and his upstairs window. 

Principal G. H. Tom with students in front of Strathcona School June 10, 1903 CVA Sch P51

This beautiful Queen Anne revival house, mentioned in Wayson Choy's novels as the Chomyzack house, is a popular attraction on my East End History Walks.

The last of the nine houses included in the Province Article not only stands, but has been recently renovated and is part of a new strata project called Crawford Row that includes a new rowhouse facing Hawks Avenue that replaces a historic house that once stood there. 

This house, now numbered 799 East Pender, was for most of its history known as 795 East Pender. On October 30, 1902 a man named Thomas Crawford applied for water service for a house he was building on Lots 21 and 22 of Block 67 of District Lot 181. Six days earlier, on October 24, 1902 builder D. McDonald applied for a building permit for the frame dwelling with an estimated building cost of $1,400.00 on behalf of Thomas Crawford. Thomas Crawford is listed on the application as owner and architect. The building permit application also indicates that the originally planned orientation of the house may have been towards Hawks Avenue as Hawks Avenue, and not Princess (East Pender) Street was mentioned in the application. The house was built in 1902 and completed for occupation in 1903, the first year the house at 795 Princess (renamed East Pender in 1907) is mentioned in the city directories. For the years 1903 and 1904, a sawmill employee Thomas Crawford is listed, but from 1905 and 1906 two separate Thomas Crawfords are listed by the directories: the mill hand, and a delivery clerk for the CPR Sheds. 

This second Thomas Crawford, born in Ireland on October 21, 1868, is mentioned in the BC Archives Vital Events records, although sadly much of his past remains a blank. This Thomas Crawford came to Vancouver from Ireland in 1897 where he worked as a clerk and later a checker for the Canadian Pacific Railway. The names of his parents are not listed on his death certificate, although one can assume that the mill hand listed in the directories was probably his father.

The D. Mcdonald mentioned on the building permit application was a prolific builder. A search of the building permit records shows that he built quite a few homes in Strathcona, Mount Pleasant, Grandview/Woodlands and even Kitsilano and the West End in the early 1900s. Although he worked as a building contractor for others, several of the permit applications were for properties McDonald owned himself.

Mill hand Thomas Crawford drops from the Vancouver City Directories in 1907. In October of that same year, Thomas Crawford (then listed as a CPR Shed delivery clerk) built a smaller one-and-a-half storey house on the north half of lots 21 and 22 of Block 67 or District Lot 181—421 Hawks Avenue. In 1908, the year this rental property was completed and first occupied, Crawford moved out of 795 East Pender but lived off and on at 421 Hawks Avenue during World War I.

Thomas Crawford moved around a lot in the 1910s and 1920s. He is listed at 615 East Hastings in 1918, then 768 Hamilton, followed by 613 Hamilton and once again 768 Hamilton in the 1920s. The year the Great Depression hit, Thomas Crawford moved into the Lotus Hotel at Abbott and Pender, just west of Chinatown, then moved to the Abbotsford Hotel at 921 West Pender in 1933 then to the Benge Rooming house at 914 West Pender in 1936. He lived at the Benge until 1949 after which it becomes impossible to trace him with any certainty.

795 East Pender was rental property for most of its existence, and most of its occupants were working class. The last owner to live in the house was Grosvenor Hotel cook Tsan Quen Mah and his wife Wei Lan. They moved out in 1971.

After 1986 the house at 421 Hawks Avenue became vacant and shortly after 1990 it was demolished. At about the same time the house at 795 East Pender was divided into separate suites.
Nelson sent me similar articles relating to handsome homes in Mount Pleasant, Kitsilano, and other Vancouver neighbourhoods. Sometime in the future, I hopeto be able to write articles about the houses shown in those articles.
Thank you Nelson, and all of you who continue to send me articles and links to photos related to my research work. They are all very deeply appreciated.

____________________________________________

My regular Vancouver Neighbourhood History Walks schedule of walking tours in Vancouver's East End/Strathcona, West End, Mount Pleasant, and Grandview neighbourhoods continues until early September 2014 when I will be taking a sabbatical and moving to Italy for a year or so where I hope to write my first novel and perhaps a tourists guide of the Sabina. 

Some of the houses mentioned in this post are featured in my East End/Strathcona History Walks.

Dates are July 12 and 26, August 9 and 23 for a History Walk of Strathcona South of Hastings, and there will be a History Walk of Vancouver's Milltown, Strathcona North of Hastings, on August 30th.  

If you have been thinking of taking one of my tours, these next two months will be your last chance for a while. So while you can, come time travel with me through Vancouver's historic neighbourhoods and find out why my History Walks in Vancouver are rated 12 of 137 things to do in Vancouver on TripAdvisor.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

REVELSTOKE: A KISS IN THE WIND - AN UPDATE

Angelo Conte, image courtesy of Nicola Moruzzi

Most of you by now will have read my most recent post about the house at 423 Prior Street and its connection to the documentary being made on the journey of Italian immigrant Angelo Conte. Angelo's epic journey started from Valstagna in Veneto Italy across the ocean and a continent to Vancouver's East End (Strathcona), then to Kamloops, and ultimately to Glacier, BC where he died in a tragic post blasting accident working on the Connaught Tunnel.

Revelstoke News Herald October 20, 1915 with article on the death of Angelo Conte

The tragic irony is that this accident took place just a week before Angelo was supposed to return to Italy to pick up his wife Anna and his daughter Gigetta and bring them back to live a new life in Canada. 

Anna and Gigetta Conte, image courtesy of Nicola Moruzzi

The fifty letters Angelo had sent to Anna over the 30 month period he had lived in Canada were passed down three generations of the family, unopened and unread by other family members for 100 years.  

Irene Vecchio and Nicola Moruzzi in Valstagna, Italy - Screen Capture from Teaser Video of Revelstoke: A Kiss In The Wind

My friends Nicola Moruzzi and Irene Vecchio are working on a documentary called Revelstoke: A Kiss In The Wind that follows the footsteps of Angelo from Italy to Vancouver's East End (Strathcona), to Kamloops and ultimately to Revelstoke where Angelo lays buried. It is a heart-wrenchingly beautiful story.

Today Nicola and his team launched their Crowd Funding page on IndieGoGo. Crowd funding allows people with interesting projects like these to appeal for funds to a broad spectrum of people and allows people of various financial means to support the project in sums as small as $10 all the way up into the thousands.

I am a passionate supporter of this project. It links so many of my interests: Canadian and neighbourhood history, my neighbourhood Strathcona, my former hometown, Kamloops, and my love of Italy. 

Please click this LINK to the IndieGogo page, watch the teaser video and Nicola's heartfelt appeal for support that will help fuel their time machine.

If you can, please make a donation to this very worthwhile project... If you cannot support the project financially, but know people who you think might be interested, please forward them the link. Who knows? Your generous support may help make history of another kind... You may be instrumental not only in making this documentary possible, you might be part of making Angelo and Anna's story a winner at Cannes and elsewhere...    


Listen to director Nicola Moruzzi interviewed on CBC West about Revelstoke: A Kiss In The Wind

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

BUT MY HOUSE HAS NO HISTORY - 423 Prior Street and REVELSTOKE: A KISS IN THE WIND

423 Prior Street

One of the biggest disappointments I come across during my work as a house history researcher is to find that an original house at an address I have been researching has been demolished and replaced with something new. I can remember early on in my career as a house history researcher looking for the house on the 600 block of East Cordova where Nova Scotian-born contractor John L. McKenzie, the builder of my old house on the 1000-block of Odlum Drive, had once lived. I was trying to see if McKenzie's house at 662 looked anything like my house. Sadly, the house was gone, and up until a few years ago it has been an empty lot.

When I talk to people about my work as a house history researcher one of the responses I get from people who live in younger houses, like Vancouver Specials, is that their house was built in the 50s or 60s and therefore it really doesn't have any history...

In my experience though, a house's level of historical interest doesn't necessarily take a nose dive once I start researching the people who lived there during the latter half of the 20th century. I just have to think about houses in my immediate neighbourhood where such well-known people like photographer and installation artist Stan Douglas, artist, author and neighbourhood historian Carole Itter,    arts teacher, painter, poet, photographer, multi-media artist and Nikkei activist Roy Kiyooka, character actor John Qualen, world-renowned crooner k.d. lang, broadcaster, musician, filmmaker, and actress Sook Yin Lee, two-time welterweight world champion boxer and Boxing Hall of Fame inductee Jimmy McLarnin, poet, author and neighborhood historian Daphne Marlatt, author and CBC radio personality Bill Richardson, and historian, writer, and award-winning childrens author Paul Yee have lived.

Though the houses where Roy Kiyooka, k.d. lang, and Daphne Marlatt lived and live are relatively modern houses, they stand on lots where once stood much older houses. So for me, the response "But my house has no history" is frustrating to say the least. 

The house at 423 Prior Street, a "Vancouver Special" if there ever was one, is a case in point.

I pass by this house every time I escort a History Walk of Strathcona. (See schedule...) It is in a stretch of alleyway between Dunlevy and Jackson Avenues that I guide my guests down as we head away from the main part of Hogan's Alley back toward what was the largely Italian section of the old East End. I never gave this house or address much thought until I met these two visitors from Italy: Irene Vecchio and Nicola Moruzzi.

Image courtesy of Nicola Moruzzi

Nicola and Irene came into my life last autumn by chance through Dr. Angela Clarke who curates the museum and archives at Vancouver's Italian Cultural Centre and my friend and neighbour Karen Knights who at the time volunteered for the Centre. Nicola and Irene were here in Vancouver doing research for a documentary called Revelstoke: A Kiss In The Wind


Image courtesy of Nicola Moruzzi

The documentary deals with the thirty months that Nicola's maternal great grandfather Angelo Conte spent here in British Columbia from 1913 to 1915.


Angelo Conte

From 1913, up until his tragic death on October 15, 1915, Angelo wrote fifty letters to his beloved wife Anna whom he had left behind pregnant in their home town of Valstagna in the Province of Vicenza in Veneto in northern Italy. Angelo had been working as part of a crew clearing out dynamite-blasted rubble from a side tunnel during the  construction of the Connaught Tunnel near Glacier, BC.


The plan had always been for Angelo to return to Valstagna for Anna and his baby daughter Gigetta and to bring them back with him to start a new life in Canada... 

October 20, 1915 Revelstoke News Herald article concerning the death of Angelo Conte

Angelo was killed just a week or so before he had planned to leave his job at Glacier and return to Italy. He was 28 years old when he died. Angelo's body was buried in Revelstoke.

Image of Anna and Gigetta courtesy of Nicola Moruzzi

Angelo's letters were passed down through the generations of Nicola's family, unopened until recently. After discovering his great grandfather story, Nicola decided to follow Angelo's steps, back in time and space, in order to bring him and his story back to life. 

The day I met Nicola and Irene we had arranged to get together so I could take them on a walking tour of Strathcona, Vancouver's old East End. 

We met at 696 East Hastings in front of the Heatley Block, a combination commercial and residential building built in 1931 by another Italian, hotelier Samuel Plastino. I took them on my regular route but focussed mostly on the places that had a connection with Italian immigrant history. 

It was an amazing experience for me for a number of reasons... first of all, as many of you know from my Sabina: Stunning Land - My Secret Italy blog, I am head over heals in love with Italy, the ancient Sabine region to the northeast of Rome in particular. So it was wonderful having two Italians on one of my East End walking tours. Nicola and Irene were delightful, and I did my best to speak as much Italian with them as possible...

But more than anything, hearing Nicola's bittersweet story of his great grandfather Angelo Conte's journey to Canada, so filled with hope and determination to make a better life here for Anna and little Gigetta, his willingness to work long and hard hours in very difficult and even dangerous situations to achieve that goal, the circumstance of Angelo's tragic death just weeks before his planned return trip to Italy, his burial in Revelstoke thousands of miles away from his remaining family in Italy... the story of the fifty love letters kept secret and unopened in the family for generations, and their impact on Angelo's descendants when their secrets were finally revealed fired my imagination and made me want to help in any way I could. 

Angelo always signed his letters, Tuo per sempre, "yours forever" Angelo

I learned from Nicola that Angelo had lived as a boarder at two addresses in Strathcona in 1913 before moving on to Kamloops and then Glacier. One of the addresses was 922 Main Street and another was at 423 Prior Street.  I set about to investigate these addresses and find out whatever I could.



In 1913, 922 Main Street was a two-storey wood framed building with a grocery store on the first floor, and rooms above. The 1913 directory shows this grocery's proprietor as Filippo "Philip" Branca. Philip, his wife Teresa, their 11 year-old daughter Annie, 10 year-old son Angelo, 7 year-old son Johnny and 1 year-old son Joseph lived above the store, probably sharing the space from time to time with a number of boarders. 

Angelo Branca

Angelo Branca, Filippo and Teresa's eldest son, would go on to become not only the Canadian amateur middleweight boxing champion but also one of Vancouver's most celebrated lawyers and eventually sit as a provincial supreme court judge. Think of it... Angelo must have known Angelo...

Sadly no trace of their two story building exists any more. A small section of it can be seen here to the left of the Clarendon Hotel in this 1908 Philip Timms photo. 

VPL Photo 7440

The original 423 Prior Street, seen below in this 1913 fire insurance map of Vancouver, did not survive either.

423 Prior in 1912

The original house was enlarged or replaced sometime before the next fire insurance map was published in 1930. You can see that the 1912 era house was set back farther from the road than both of its neighbours while the house that stood on the lot by 1930 stood much closer to the street.

423 Prior in January 1930

In the case of 423 Prior, the current house may be the third to stand on that lot. The 1913 Vancouver directory lists laborer Antonio Barasola as living at the house.


I did a search of the BC Archives Vital Events webpage but no listing for anyone with that surname turns up. I wasn't completely surprised. In my years working as a house history researcher I have found many instances in which the city directories misspelled non-British names. There was something about the name though that sounded familiar... Then it hit me... It might be that the real name was Barazzuol, a surname that I came to know reading Ray Culos' books on Vancouver's early Italian community. I knew that a Toby Barazzuol served as president of the Strathcona Business Improvement Association...

So I did a search for an Antonio Barazzuol on the BC Archives Vital Events page and Bingo! I found a May 10, 1920 death record for an Antonio Barazzuol who died in Vancouver at the age of 45.

Transcribing errors in the 1911 census made it challenging to find Antonio and his wife Antonia, but when I finally was able to track them down, they were indeed at 423 Prior Street living with nine boarders in their small house. All of the men worked as labourers digging ditches for the city sewer system. Did Angelo try his hand at this when he first came to Vancouver?

  

Curious, I contacted Toby Barazzuol via Facebook and asked him about his family's history in Vancouver... if he had a great grandfather named Antonio who had lived at 423 Prior. 

Photo courtesy of Toby Barazzuol

The interesting thing is that Antonio was indeed Toby's great grandfather and that the family, like Angelo's, came from the Veneto, but that the Barazzuols did not have a memory of the family living in the 400 block of Prior.

So here in one fell swoop I was able to not only shed some light on Toby's family history but arrange for the two great grandsons of Angelo and Antonio to meet each other 100 years after they shared a roof together on the 400 block of Prior Street!

A short while after Nicola and Irene met with Toby Barazzuol, Toby's father Frank Barazzuol and his uncle Bill Barazzuol, and their friend Vancouver Italian-Canadian historian and author Ray Culos for Dim Sum at the Pink Pearl on Hastings Street.


Toby Barazzuol and Nicola Moruzzi chat while Irene Vecchio documents the conversation at the table
Bill Barazzuol, Nicola Moruzzi, Irene Vecchio, Ray Culos, and Frank Barazzuol

There is so much more to this ongoing story... Nicola came back to Vancouver this May with his producer Leonardo Baraldi to do more research and work on Crowdfunding for the documentary. 

This September Nicola and Irene will return to Vancouver with a film crew to complete the filming of the documentary here in Vancouver, as well as in Kamloops and in Revelstoke where Angelo's grave is. If all goes well, Revelstoke: A Kiss In The Wind should be ready for release at a film festival near you sometime around the 100th anniversary of Angelo's death. 

I can't wait to see the film when it is completed... In the meantime, click here on the words SHORT TEASER to see the video that Nicola put together to promote the documentary... And if you ever think that your house has no history... think again!


 

There is a Facebook Page for this documentary. If you are a Facebook user and "Like" the page, you can keep abreast of all the news relating to this documentary project. 

The documentary's director Nicola Moruzzi was recently interviewed by CBC West. Click here to listen to the interview. 

Most importantly, you can help fuel a time machine by donating to this documentary. Click on this link to reach the crowdfunding page for REVELSTOKE: A KISS IN THE WIND.



GRAZIE

Friday, May 16, 2014

703 HAWKS AVENUE - A Very Condensed History




One of seven units in a two-storey wood frame row house built in 1908 by English-born painter George Elliott, 703 Hawks Avenue was listed in the directories from 1909 to 1914 as a butcher shop and was called the Burrard Meat Market.

Photo courtesy of Lucille Mars
Vacant for a number of years during World War I, the next long term occupant was Italian immigrant Mrs. Giovannina Dinicola (seen above) and her four sons: Hugo, a mariner, John, a butcher, Mario a houseboy at the Hotel Vancouver, and a younger son named Guido.
After the Dinicola’s moved away in the early 1930s in 1935, 703 Hawks Avenue was home to Polish-born Amelia Marzoff and her family, then from 1936 to 1941 it was home to Nick and Mary Polowy, Polish Canadians born in Alberta. In 1942, it was home to Polish-born baker Frank Joseph Soltis and his wife Helen.
From 1944 to 1949, 703 Hawks was home to P. Burns & Co. sausage linker Mrs. Mary Lukasiewich and her son Stephen. From 1949 to 1947 Saskatchewan-born Ukrainian-Canadian grain elevator employee John Ostapovich and his wife Mary rented the house.
In the late 1950s a Russian couple, John and Edith Resnicki lived in the house. Then in 1960, Croatian-Canadian tree topper named Frank Velikajne and his wife Mary lived in the house.
From 1961 to 1964, Italian-Canadian construction worker Carmelo Greco and his wife Carmelina rented the house.

Photo courtesy of Miljenko Rusinić


After the Grecos, a number of Chinese-Canadian families lived in the house, including retiree Mah Yuk Woo in 1965, Skillet Restaurant cook Man Ting Hui and his wife Susan, from 1966 to 1971, then from 1972 to 1974, machine operator Wing Quei Cheung and his wife Choy Kwei rented the house. The last renter of the house, P. Fung only lived in the unit for a year when he and his neighbours in 701 and 705 had to move when these three units were temporarily condemned.
In 1983-1984 the rowhouse was bought from Croatian-born fisherman Delko Matkovich for a total sum of $180,000.00 by seven partners.  The purchase was organized by architect and home builder Clare McDuff-Oliver.  The seven partners divided this cost.  Each paid $60,000.00 on top of that to contribute to the construction.  Each partner contributed labour toward the demolition of the existing walls.  Clare worked with each partner to custom design each unit.  Denise Olsen (who also did the Tidal Flats Coop) was chosen as contractor and project manager.  Clare acted as on-site foreman.  When construction started there were no proper basement suites.  The houses had to be raised and a new concrete foundation poured.  Apparently many wine bottles were found underneath the house as the downstairs had been used as wine cellars by some of the previous inhabitants.
            The upstairs configuration of the house was significantly altered during the 1984 renovations. The original bathroom was where the master bedroom is now. The skylight in the bathroom is original to the house but served as the window and ventilation for a bedroom which disappeared in the renovations. The daughter of former residents of the house tells how the skylight was used by her father, a conscientious objector during WWII, to escape from the RCMP when they call searching for him.



These are just the barest of facts but they give a very good indication of the rich multicultural history of Vancouver's East End. For those of you interested in going deeper to learn more, there are a number of options. You can buy or borrow a copy of OPENING DOORS IN VANCOUVER'S EAST END - STRATHCONA by Daphne Marlatt and Carole Itter. This is a fascinating compilation of 50 oral histories collected from oldtimer East Enders in the 1970s. I had the  huge honour of being asked to write the introduction to the updated version of this book that was published to celebrate Vancouver's 125th birthday.

For a beautifully written evocative fictional account of East End History, I strongly recommend that you read Wayson Choy's award winning The Jade Peony

 
For a more hands on, interactive approach, you can always sign up for one of my East End Neighbourhood History Walks that I offer every other Saturday morning through the summer Season. Click the link above for more information and a schedule.

Monday, April 28, 2014

1150 Haro Street & 502 Alexander - The Things I Learn From The People On My History Walks


Image of 1150 Haro courtesy of Easy Rent Website

As many of you already know, I do a number of things to keep a roof over my head besides researching the history of houses for people. I work part time in sales and customer service at the Gourmet Warehouse at 1340 East Hastings and on Saturday mornings during the summer I give two hour History Walks in four of Vancouver's historic neighbourhoods: The East End (Strathcona), Grandview, The West End, and Mount Pleasant

I didn't get into the walking tour business on my own. I was prodded. Some years back, while I was on the board of Heritage Vancouver Society, the board asked me to do a walking tour of my East End neighbourhood as a fundraiser for them. Though I had lots of information and many fascinating stories on the houses and the people who lived in the neighbourhood through my house history research work, I hesitated at first. Neighbourhood walking tours were already being offered by my neighbour, renowned Vancouver historian and writer John Atkin, and also by the Architectural Institute of BC. Other parts of my neighbourhood were being covered by the people at the Vancouver Police Museum through their Sins of the City tours, while the Jewish Museum and Archives of BC also was offering fascinating tours that covered the rich Jewish history of my East End neighbourhood. I didn't want to step on any toes... 

However, after some thought I decided that the content used in my tours would be information gleaned from my research, and that I would be speaking about the history of the East End from my perspective, using what I knew, focussing on the things that I found interesting. I concluded that my tours would be different than those offered by others and... what the heck. 

Though I had files and files of information on close to 200 houses in the neighbourhood and the people who lived in them, it took hours of agonizing to come up with a route that I thought was interesting and that took the best advantage of the houses I had researched.

Talking about S.P.O.T.A. and Mary Lee Chan's House at 758 Keefer. Photo courtesy of Patrick Gunn, H.V.S.

Long story short, the tour was very successful, and I was left feeling that if a walking tour of the East End could make money for the Heritage Vancouver Society, why shouldn't I be doing tours to help look after me? So I started to do East End tours on summer saturdays. As time went on I developed routes for tours through my old neighbourhoods, the West End and Grandview, as well as one for Mount Pleasant.

No matter how much research and planning you do for a tour, there is always another interesting house, or two, or three that got left out of your original research that demands an explanation. It's okay not to know everything, but of course, seeing these yet unresearched buildings time and time again piques my curiosity and eventually goads me to do the extra research. 

The other day I did a special West End History Walk for members of Brock House Society. In preparation for this group I did some extra research on some houses in the 1300 block of Barclay, the 900 block of Nicola, and some addresses on the 1000 block of Davie Street. It was great to be able to fill in these blanks. But the highlight of that particular tour was to find out some important information on a house in the 1100 block of Haro that I had only done some basic research on before. It always blows me away how amazing some of the information shared by my tour guests is, and how this information enriches my tours.

We were walking from Bute along Haro Street toward Thurlow. This block is today dominated by high and mid-rise apartment blocks, but here and there nestled in the shadows you will find four historic houses. Two of them, 1131 and 1143 Haro, both built in 1906, appear in this circa 1912 City of Vancouver Archives photo. Haro Street is on the extreme right. The brick Victoria Court apartments at the NW corner of Thurlow and Haro still stands. 

Birds eye view of the West End and Downtown Vancouver with Haro Street Houses in foreground ca 1912 M-11-22


Counting carefully down and left from the apartment building, the two 1131 and 1143 Haro are the sixth and seventh houses with the lighter coloured paint. 1143 Haro, has been severly altered, possibly as the result of a fire. Gone are its peaked roof and its second storey bay window. 1131 Haro though still has its unique gable and curved bargeboards.

Photo of 1150 Haro courtesy of VancouverPriceDrop

Across the street from these two remnants stands a true gem, a beautifully restored Victorian, 1150 Haro Street. When I was doing my initial research for my West End tour, the City of Vancouver's VanMap service indicated that this house was built in 1901. 

Interior of 1150 Haro courtesy of Easy Rent website


Taking this information at face value, I did some hasty research as to who lived in the house from 1901 onward. The City directories indicated that a retired dry good merchant named John Roland Stitt lived there. 

John Rowland Stitt's Wedding Certificate from 13 February 1873
 
A quick check of the 1901 census brought up John, his wife Isabelle, and his four daughters, Winnifred, Isabel, Claire Edguarda and Nora. 


The little I researched of John indicated that he was a retired dry goods store manager born in Ontario, and that is what I shared with my group from Brock House. Among that group was a couple who had been on one of my East End tours, Doug and Lisa Smith. Lisa is about to launch an amazing book on the story of Vancouver's Great Fire of June 13, 1886 called Vancouver Is Ashes


I had the great priviledge to be able to see the manuscript before it was sent to the publisher. I can tell you this, that Vancouver Is Ashes is the Vancouver history book that I, and I believe you, have all been waiting for. 

City of Vancouver Archives picture AM1562- 75-54 - Sketch by City Archivist Major James Skitt Matthews


It is an absolutely rivetting account of what happened on that fateful summer Sunday when Vancouver was wiped off the face of the map by a freak stump fire. The first hand accounts of the Great Fire's survivors are so skillfully woven together that you feel you are there. The heat and smoke of the fire seems about to jump from the pages... panic and terror too... almost to the point that you'll feel the urgent need to drop the burning book and run for your life.


BC Archives Image PDP00815 Vancouver's Great Fire by Robert John Banks


Anyway, John R. Stitt, the man who lived at 1150 Haro turned up in Lisa's research for her book. At one point he was manager of the Hastings Mill Store. 


The Hastings Mill Store was the only building that now stands in Vancouver to survive the blaze. Relocated to the north foot of Alma in the 1930s after Vancouver's first industry was finally closed, this amazing pre-Fire relic now operates as the Hastings Mill Museum, and will be the venue for Lisa's book launch on Sunday May 25 at 1pm.

VPL #3644 Hastings Sawmill Store prior to move to Alma in 1929 by Leonard Frank

I was very grateful for this new piece of information. I decided to do a little more in-depth research to see what more I could add in terms of story to my West End walk.

According to some real estate sites I found online it looked like the 1901 date shown on VanMap might be almost a decade late. One of the sites indicated that 1150 Haro might have been built circa 1892. 

I checked the 1897 Fire Insurance map for Vancouver looking for a house built on Lot 6 of Block 20 of District Lot 185 in the West End. Sure enough, there was already a house there, but the original numbering was 1120, not 1150 like it is today.

     
I was able to trace 1120 Haro back all the way to the 1892 directory which shows it to have been the home of Mrs. L. Francis, her two children, and a relative or perhaps maid named Maud Purvis, the the information on the real estate website was true. I wonder if the VanMap data is based on when water service went in because there were lots of houses in early Vancouver that were built before water was hooked up.



To get details on the other Francis family members listed at the house I went to the names section of the directory.


It showed that Mrs. L. Francis was Mrs. Lizzie Francis, a music teacher. William Francis is listed as a professor of music. The Francis family had moved to the house at 1120 Haro from a house at 1106 Robson.

For some reason there is not 1893 directory so we can only guess who lived in the house that year. By the time the 1894 directory was published Campbell Johnson's family was living there.


Campbell C. R. Johnson was a jack of all trades. The alphabetical section of the directory lists him as a metallurgist, surgeon, assayer and a mining engineer. The only Campbell Johnson listed in the BC Archives Vital Events listings was a miner from Nova Scotia named Charles Campbell Johnson. He seems to have not lived for long in BC as there is no death record for him at the BC Archives.


The 1895 Williams BC Directory lists 1120 Haro as vacant. The 1896 directory lists David Sterling and Samuel Prenter as sharing the house. The directory shows Samuel Prenter as chief timekeeper for the CPR. David Sterling is listed as a clerk for the CPR. David Sterling was Samuel's father-in-law, the father of Samuel's wife, Annie Powell Sterling.


CVA Photo Port P496.1 - Samuel Law Prenter March 5, 1925

Apparently being chief timekeeper of the CPR meant that you were pretty high society in Vancouver because Samuel L. Prenter appears in this group portrait of leading Vancouver citizens at the Vancouver Club  taken in 1920.

CVA Photo Port P1187 - A banquet for leading citizens at the Vancouver Club circa 1920

The group portrait shows Sir Charles Tupper, Frederick Buscombe, E.J. McFeely, Dr. A.S. Monro, Samuel Law Prenter, R. F. Marpole, E.R. Ricketts, J.B. Johnson, R.G. Macpherson, William Ferriman Salsbury, G.C. Tunstall, General J.W. Stewart, Richard Marpole, Robert Kelly, D.E. Brown, C. Gardner Johnson, H.B. Walkem, W.A. Turquand, George E. Macdonald, A. Whealler, J. Elliott, C.E. Meek, Henry Reifel, W.F. Brougham and Colonel E.G. Prior.

The Prenter family only lived at 1120 Haro for a year. The 1897 directory (which sadly lacks a proper street section) finally shows John Rowland Stitt and his family at 1120 Haro.


When John Rowland Stitt and his family moved to 1120 Haro, John had just finished his stint as manager for the Hastings Mill Store. Prior to moving to 1120 Haro, he and his family had been living at a small house on Alexander Street... 502 Alexander Street to be exact.


502 Alexander Street, if you remember, was in the news a lot this past year or so. 

502 Alexander photos courtesy Flickr member SqueakyMarmot via Heritage Vancouver Society

Known as the J. B. Henderson House, it was built sometime in 1888 and was deemed to be the second oldest house still standing in Vancouver. 

1888 Directory listing for J. B. Henderson

1889 Directory listing for J. B. Henderson

The J. B. Henderson House had been bought by Atira Housing Society, and supposedly was to have been restored or at least renovated and integrated into an innovative housing complex that combined the 1913 Dolly Darlington brothel/British Sailors Home at 500 Alexander, and a modern building made of recycled shipping containers. This unfortunately never happened. Incompetant mishandling of the removal of the rear portion of the house  to make way for the containers left the already vulnerable house unstable. Several attempts by people in the neighbourhood to relocate the house were ultimately thwarted by red tape and the city's refusal to help fund the move. 



In the end, despite passionate and well reasoned pleas on the part of Heritage Vancouver Society and other heritage advocates, this historic old East End house, which for a number of years had been the home of Hastings Mill Store manager John Rowland Stitt and his family before he moved to 1120 Haro Street, and which for a while was a brothel run by a madam named Ruth Richards....

1913 directory listing the brothels on the 500 and 600 blocks of Alexander
...and which by 1919 was the home of Japanese-born rice mill proprietor K. A. Tsuchida...


...and which by the late 1930s and early 40s was the home of another James Johnstone, Superintendent of the Vancouver Sailors Home at 500 Alexander, was erased from the map. 


So there you have it... you just never know... I have found that every house has a story to tell. In fact they have many stories to tell, and often these stories have links to the stories of other houses... 

When I take people out on one of my neighbourhood history walks I end up learning just as much from my customers as they do from me. It is a wonderful thing being around and connecting with people who have a passion for Vancouver's history. My scheduled history walks take place every Saturday morning at 10am. Every second Saturday I take tours through Vancouver's oldest and most fascinating neighbourhood, Strathcona, Vancouver's old East End

1890s era Bird's Eye View of Vancouver's East End with the Hastings Sawmill visible near the bottom left hand of the map

Then on the remaining Saturdays I alternate between the West End, Grandview and Mount Pleasant. Click this link for information on my 2014 History Walk Schedule. I also offer private Neighbourhood History Walks for groups of five and over. These walks are now being rated on Trip Advisor, and have been the subject of a fun mini video documentary by Janelle Huopalainen called Time Traveler

And while I am at it, be sure to be on the look out for Lisa Anne Smith's scorching hot new history book, Vancouver Is Ashes which launches on Sunday, May 25th. You won't regret it.


PS: If you are a descendent of John Rowland Stitt and have a scan of a picture of him and other members of his family that you would be willing to share, please contact me using the comments section. 

Cheers!