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

Friday, September 11, 2009

Calling all East Enders

Did you grow up in the Vancouver neighbourhoods now known as Strathcona and Grandview Woodland?

Did you come from a family that once lived in here?

Did you go to Lord Strathcona School, Lord Seymour School or Britannia?

Do you or does anyone you know have pictures of the old East End, particularly of its old houses and lost streetscapes?

Are you interested in preserving the history and heritage of Vancouver's oldest neighbourhood and the people who lived here?

Would you be interested in sharing a scan of these for the East End Neighbourhood History Mapping Project and Web Site?

Over the past ten years I have researched the history of over 750 houses in Vancouver and the stories of the people who lived in them. To date, just under half of these houses have been in the old East End. I have actually plotted them all out on an old fire insurance map and there are a fair number of lots that I have coloured in yellow to show the ones I researched so far that are now forming larger blocks of colour.

My long-term goal is connect all these dots through a sponsorship-funded neighbourhood-based project--one that would resurrect the old East End, not just what they call Strathcona these days, but one that would include all buildings from about Carrall Street to McLean Drive and from the Burrard Inlet to the old shoreline of False Creek south to Grant. This would cover all of District Lots 196, 181 and 182, possibly 183.

All data would go on an interactive web site and would resurrect, in virtual reality anyway, all the neighbourhood lost to industrial expansion north of Hastings Street, including old Japantown, as well as Hogan's Alley and other sections of what we now call Strathcona that were demolished in the 1960s and 1970s for highway development and project housing.

How It Would Work:
A website user would be able to click on a map of the East End to choose an area or block a user was interested in:

Then select a lot or address on that page, click that and up would pop the first available archival photo showing the house built on that lot.

The user would then be able to scroll through all the information available on the house, such as when and by whom it was built, how much it cost, etc., and find out who lived in the house over the years, where they came from, where they worked, etc. Basically everything that I would include in my house histories would be available online. Where available, links would be embedded throughout allowing users to see old photos of the interior of the house, pictures of the people who lived there, archival photos of their workplaces, and so on.

Who Would Benefit from the Web Site?
Through this project, current and past residents could connect or reconnect with the neighbourhood. High school students writing term papers, doctorate students writing their theses, researchers, genealogists, historic fiction and fiction writers would be able to find practically everything they would need for their projects. All the data locked away in increasingly fragile archival material would be immediately accessible to users working on their home computers. Hopefully the web site project would encourage people to look at the East End, and other historic neighbourhoods differently, and respect the unique architecture and environment and remaining historical architecture, encouraging investors to preserve, rehabilitate and restore old buildings, not tear them down.

Filling In The Gaps:
Another goal of the project is to fill in the gaps of data concerning certain historic communities living in the East End, in particular the Japanese and Chinese, and to a lesser extent Russians and Italians. If you look at the old city directories from the early 1900s right up to the 1950s very often you will find that people of Chinese or Japanese heritage were listed just as that, "Japanese" or "Chinese" or worse, "Orientals". Italians and Russians were often listed the same way, or listed as "Foreigners". Entire generations of East End residents have been wiped from the history books in this way.

I hope that by reaching out to the various historic communities that made up the East End in the past that not only important family photos can be saved and used but that important information about past residents who were not properly listed will be forthcoming.

What I Am Doing Now:
Right now I am working on a number of things for the project:
· Sourcing a web site host for the project. This will likely be a university, either SFU or UBC.
· Looking at funding options. As stated above, I am leaning strongly toward funding through sponsorship.
· Getting the word out.
· Soliciting copies of, and the permission to use, photos of the East End, the neighbourhood's old houses, churches, businesses, lost streetscapes, past residents, etcetera, for the website.

If you can help by supplying scanned copies of your old East End-related photos or would allow me to scan them, please e-mail me at

If you know of other former East Enders who might be able to help in the same way, please let them know about the project and encourage them to get involved. Thank you! Above are samples of photos to be used for the project that have been donated.

Thanks to Lucille Mars, Gary McDonald, Emidio de Julius, Graham Elvidge, and Bettina Shuen for the use of these photos.


  1. Your project sounds fascinating and I hope you are very successful with it.

    I hope your ideas will also be an inspiration to people in other places to take on similar projects.

  2. As one who has been doing Genealogy for many years, it is great to know the preservation of the stories of these people of Grandview, and their houses in the district, is taking place.

    I had spent my first thirty years a proud 'east-ender'. First living in a small house at 2192 East 13th Ave. that was likely built in the 1920's, and is still there. We had a clear view of Trout lake [now John Hendry Park], and just a five minute walk for an afternoon of swimming.

    By the early 1940's we lived at 1730 Semlin Drive where Arnot Sash & Door [built c 1910] was located, between first avenue and the old B.C.Electric tram tracks.

    My husband Ken was raised in the house at 1818 Grant Street across from Victoria Park, and many of the neighboring homes have remained much as they were c 1935 when they moved there.

    Great memories of 'the Drive', Templeton Junior High, Grandview School of Commerce, Britania, Teen Town, and all the good friends we had in the district.

    Promotion of "Calling all East Enders" is a great plan to expand the preservation of photos and the histories. I will be watching as it gets underway. Meanwhile, better start digging to see what I can find that may be of value to the collection.