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

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Ladle Solstice Light at Hawks and Georgia

The house directly across the street from where I live has become a tourist attraction of sorts. From commuters to dog walkers, people travelling through the old East End whether it is on the east-west bike path along Union or people crossing north-south, for the past couple of months people have been adjusting their regular route to take in a unique art installment celebrating the light of the Winter Solstice.

Here is a link to some photos taken Solstice Night 2009 by neighbour Lindsay Brown.

The house in question, is one of four built in 1905 on the East side ofthe 700-block of Hawks Avenue by Irish-born policeman Thomas Crawford, the jaunty gentleman seated at left.     Crawford was born in Dublin in 1847. His parents were George and Margaret Crawford. His wife, Jessie Cook Chambers, was born in Derbyshire, England on March 13, 1863. Her parents were Henry Chambers and Mary Barron. Thomas married Jessie on September 7, 1892 at Vancouver’s Christ Church (later Christ Church Cathedral). The wedding was presided over by the Rector, H.P. Hobson. Witnesses were J. Urquhart and George Milton Chase. George Milton Chase was a New Brunswick-born carpenter and lived at 843 Keefer. George Milton Chase built a number of homes in the East End including 817 Keefer Street.

Thomas and Jessie Crawford lived around the corner at 826 Harris (East Georgia) Street from 1892 until they moved to 708 Hawks in 1905. The 1901 census indicates that Thomas and Jessie Crawford had four children living with them in 1901: Thomas H. Crawford, Dorothy M. Crawford, aged seven, both twins born on October 8, 1893, May S. Crawford aged 6 born on January 15, 1895, and Marjorie G. Crawford aged four and born on March 15, 1897.

Policeman Thomas Crawford died of disease on January 25, 1907 at 708 Hawks Avenue. He is buried in the Old Section of Mountain View in plot 0-04-014-0004. Interestingly although his marriage license lists him as Anglican, his death certificate lists him as Presbyterian, which may explain why he was married at Christ Church instead of the nearer, but Anglo-Catholic St. James Church.

Jessie Crawford and her children continued to live at 708 Hawks Avenue until 1920 when the house was sold to Nicola and Marianna Di Tomaso. Prior to moving to 708 Hawks the Di Tomasos lived just across the street at 644 Hawks.

Nicola Di Tomaso was born in Italy on August 15, 1884. His wife Marianna Di Tomaso was born in Italy on June 28, 1889. Her death certificate lists her parents’ names as Giuseppe and Philomena Di Tomaso.

The art installation introduced earlier on in this piece is located in an addition to the house the Di Tomaso family built sometime around 1923. This addition was a corner store. From 1924 onward, the directories list Nicola Di Tomaso as a confectioner.

From 1926 onwards, 708 Hawk was listed as the Georgia Confectionery. The Di Tomaso family lived here until the 1970s. Marianna Di Tomaso died at 708 Hawks Avenue on October 7, 1975 at the age of 85 and was buried in Ocean View Cemetery. Nicola Di Tomaso moved to the home of his son, Mike Di Tomaso at 2486 Venables Street. Nicola Di Tomaso died at VGH on December 5, 1975 at the age of 90. He was buried in Ocean View Cemetery.

One wonders what the Di Tomaso family would have thought if they could imagine how their corner store was being used today. Every evening, from mid-december to December 21st, the night of the Winter Solstice, the current owner and resident has been hanging a metal soup ladle from the ceiling of the room that once housed the corner store. In each ladle is a small electric candle.

At present, close to 100 candle laden ladles are hanging from the ceiling. When they are lit each evening, this little corner of East End Vancouver turns magical.

This is by no means your usual Christmas light display. The reaction the installation evokes in people is very different. People stop to look, but usually they admire in silence. The ladles with their sparkling lights inspire reverence.

The lights will be up only for a few more nights. In the midst of all the crazy shopping, holiday preparation and party going an evening trip to the corner of Hawks and Hastings is, to my mind, time well spent.

Thanks to neighbour Lindsay Brown for the use of these wonderful photos taken December 21st, 2009. Thanks also to the Di Tomaso family for the picture of Nicola and Marianna Di Tomaso. Thank you Bill for adding another layer of magic to this already magical neighbourhood. Happy Solstice Everyone!


  1. Mr. Johnstone:

    Thank you so much for this blog. Marianna Di Tomaso was my cousin, Mary Carmina Di Tomaso's (Nee), sister-in-law. Mary Carmina was Pasquale Di Tomaso's wife and he was Marianna's brother. I was delighted to find this because I have unable to find either Nicola or Marianna's birth and death dates. Thank you, thank you for posting that information.

    I have other Di Tomaso's in my family tree and if the Di Tomaso family in Canada would like to glean any information they can, I would love to send them an invite.

    Finally, would it be ok if I attached this blog to Nicola and Marianna on my family tree (Giving you full credit of course)? And may I use their picture? I love to populate my tree with photos to make my ancestors come alive.

    Thank you again,
    Leonie Meaux

    1. Hello Leonie. Unfortunately the death certificate information for Nicola and Marianna Di Tomaso has not been scanned like a lot of others have. To see a microfilm copy of them, you need to go to the 6th floor of the Central Branch of the Vancouver Public Library and check things out there. You can easily get a photocopy of the microfilm informaiton off the machines ther. Please feel free to use any information you find here. It is always a great pleasure to make connection with the family members of people whose houses and lives I have researched. Cheers!