My first step in assessing a house's age and a starting point for my research in the old city and provincial directories is to do a water service application search. Most of the time, but not always, the date a house owner applied for water service to their property was the same or very close to the date they applied for a building permit. In the case of this house, a woman named Henrietta Burnett applied for water service on April 10, 1912. I searched the Point Grey building permit applications for April of 1912 and found Point Grey Building Permit Application #167, which listed a man named Frank Burnett as owner, architect and builder.
As with all of my house history projects, I attempt to provide a context by including the history of some of the neighbouring houses. Sometimes I find connections between the people who lived in the house I am researching and those in the neighbouring houses. Sometimes siblings or in-laws will build and live beside each other. In my neighbourhood, the old East End, I often find there is a job connection. Neighbours often worked at the same sawmill or the sugar factory. It ultimately creates a more interesting and valuable product for a client.
I searched for the water service records of the neighbouring houses and found that most of them were built much later than 4698 West 4th Avenue, with the earliest being built in 1924 while others were built in the late 1930s.
From what I could tell from the original legal description and the early fire insurance maps for the area, the lot that 4698 West 4th Avenue was built on was rather large, stretching a full half block east and as far south as what is nowWest 5th Avenue. Over the years, the original property was subdivided, gradually reducing in size to what it is today. So the house started out on a largish estate... but just who were Frank and Henrietta Burnett, and where did their apparent wealth come from?
I started to search through the city directories at the City of Vancouver Archives and what I found really didn't give me any clues as to the importance of Frank Burnett, his life and his legacy. For many years no profession is listed by his name. The years there is something, 1917 and 1918, he is listed as an insurance agent working out of an office at 447 West Pender--where MacLeod's Books is today.
4698 West 4th Avenue was built in 1912 by Scottish-born master mariner, one-time insurance salesman, farmer, grain dealer, private banker, police magistrate, real estate salesman, salmon canning entrepreneur, and later south-sea explorer, artifact collector, author, and amateur anthropologist Frank Burnett.
Frank Burnett was born in Petershead, Aberdeenshire, Scotland on February 14, 1852, the son of Peter Burnett and Henrietta Bond. He came from a seafaring family. His wife, Henrietta Cook was born in Quebec on December 15, 1852. Her father’s name was Val Cook.
According to the 1901 census, Frank Burnett came to Canada in 1890. He settled in Montreal where his maternal uncle, Bennett Bond, was Archbishop. It was in Montreal that he met and married his wife, Henrietta. Frank and Henrietta Burnett came to Vancouver from Winnipeg in 1895. In the five intervening years Frank Burnett worked as an insurance salesman, tried his hand at farming, became a grain dealer, private banker, the Reeve of Cypress municipality and became the first magistrate in that part of the country. It was apparently a turn in his personal health that prompted him to move to Vancouver.
Henrietta Clarinda Burnett, Frank’s wife, purchased the 2.4 acres property comprising of Lot 1 of Block 143 of District Lot 540 on August 25, 1911. The total cost for the property was $2637.50. Henrietta Burnett applied for Water Service April 10, 1912. Around the same time, Frank Burnett applied for a building permit application. Point Grey Building Permit Application #167 lists Frank Burnett as owner, architect and builder.
Frank Burnett not only collected artifacts, he collected trees and plants on his journeys. He landscaped the grounds of his estate at 4698 West 4th with these exotic specimens.
Frank Burnett Sr. died, as he lived, in rather dramatic circumstances. He collapsed in the midst of offering a toast at a Canadian Authors Association formal banquet at 700 West Georgia—the old Hotel Vancouver. He died of a heart attack at 8:30 pm on February 20, 1930 and was buried in Mountain View Cemetery.
From 1930 to 1940 the house was rented out to a number of people. In 1931, it was rented to William Wade Denbigh. Denbigh, who was an insurance salesman and financial broker, moved to 4698 West 4th from a house at 4311 West 3rd. William Wade Denbigh was born in Nottingham, England on May 25, 1882 the son of Joseph Denbigh and Jane Hemstock. His wife, Kathleen Power, was born in Ireland on May 26, 1882.
In 1932, the house was rented to retired confectionery merchant Alfred Edward Jones and his wife Mary. Alfred Edward Jones was born in Ontario on June 28, 1873 the son of Welsh-born Edward Jones and Ontario native Lavina Ashton. He came to British Columbia in 1927. By 1933 he was living at 4736 West 4th Avenue.
From 1932 onward, 4698 West 4th Avenue went through a variety of owners and iterations. For a while it was a frat house for UBC’s Sigma Epsilon branch of Zeta Psi fraternity,then returned to being a single family dwelling before being turned into a rooming house for a while. The current owners assumed full title to the property on August 28, 1978. The house has been divided over the years into a number of suites. One wonders if the renters upstairs have had any inklings that their suites one housed , among other things, human skulls and shrunken heads...
CVA LP 348 Commissioners and Pilots of Vancouver Pilotage District 1879 - 1916, [ca. 1916]
CVA Out P647 Dr. Frank Burnett surrounded by his South Sea' artifacts c1920s
CVA Out P648 Dr. Frank Burnett's schooner Tropic Bird [1910s]
CVA Out P 658 Part of Burnett's collection of South Seas' artifacts, [1920s]
CVA Out P650 Dr. Frank Burnett's collection of South Seas' artifacts, [1920s]
CVA Out P 659 Part of Dr. Burnett's collection of South Seas' artifacts, [1920s]
UBC 1.1/1255 May 9, 1929 Frank Burnett Collection in UBC Main Library, Leonard Frank photo
CVA Out P 660 Part of Dr. Frank Burnett's collection of South Seas' artifacts], [1920s]