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

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

457 East Pender - Another Discovery

A while back, I was asked by one of the participants of one of my earlier East End History Walking Tours to give a tour for some members of the board of First United Church at Gore and Cordova. This tour happened just last Friday. It was a beautiful sunny cold day, perfect to show off theneighbourhood. The neighbourhoods trees, were leafless and on that day I saw quite a lot more than I had expected. My discoveries ranged from small things, like noticing the beautiful corbelled brick chimneys on some old houses on Union Street, to bigger and more exciting things, like discovering that a house I thought was long demolished, the one pictured above left at 457 East Pender, was actually still standing.

I have walked the 400 block of East Pender many times, but it has never been part of my tour. I have never actually researched any of the houses there. But on my way to my 1pm appointment to meet my group on the steps to the church off Gore Avenue as I flipped through my binder, reading my notes for the tour, all of  sudden I realized that the house captured in a circa 1900 City of Vancouver Archives photo 371-891 of a house at 427 Princess Street was standing there right in front of me. It stopped me in my tracks. It had never occurred to me that the house in the photo I had purchased recently at The Archives still existed. I took a moment to take in the diamond shaped shingles in the gable, and the half round gable window, the porch and the first storey bay. They were all there. "We'll I'll be..." I thought, and hurried off to my appointment.

There were to be about seven people on the tour. A couple of them ended up cancelling, but the group included two of the ministers of First United and some of their board. I don't usually start my tours on Gore Avenue but fortunately I had lots to say about this unique East End byway that angles through the neighbourhood. Running from Burrard Inlet to what was the original shoreline of False Creek, Gore Avenue follows the course of an old skid road used by men and teams of oxen to skid logs to the Hastings Sawmill. It is ironic that what started as a skid road was later lined with magnificent carpenter gothic churches and beautiful Italianate homes did indeed end up bisecting Vancouver's Skid Road.

I began the tour by showing everyone the archival picture of First Presbyterian Church above. I had assumed that everyone would have been aware of their church building's earlier iteration, but I was surprised to find the contrary. I directed them to have a look at both the City of Vancouver Archives and Vancouver Public Library's online resources. One of the highlights of the tour ended up being the reveal of the turn of the last century handmade carpenter tools that Ontario-born contracter Harvie Robertson used to build his house on the 800-block of Keefer. It turned out that the head Minister for First United now lives in the old house. Yes, an East End History walking tour can be full of pleasant surprises!

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