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

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Some years back, the people of Vancouver were captivated by the story of a young Vancouver couple and their extended family who, through their own labour and family resources, restored a dilapidated East End house that looked to most to be a certain tear downer.
Courtesy of Graham Elvidge and Kathleen Stormont - May 2003
When I first went inside 844 Dunlevy, the house seemed to be a ruin. The roof had been leaking for years, causing a lot of water damage. The owner, George Winchcombe, had let a number of generations of his beloved companion dogs infuse the floors and baseboards with an odor that floored most of the prospective buyers the day of the open house... and this was after the floors had been power washed!

That 844 Dunlevy was eventually transformed from a noxious horror story to a homey showcase was little short of a miracle and is a tribute to the owners' vision, tenacity, and their ability to inspire and involve others in the restoration process. Restoring the 1899 F. W. Sentell-built Queen Anne to its former glory helped give life and colour to the southwest edge of Strathcona and, I hope, will inspire others to look at other run down pioneer era East End homes as something to value and rehabilite, not destroy.

Photo courtesy of Graham Elvidge and Kathleen Stormont
All through the process, The Province and a local TV station covered the restoration saga. People fell in love with the house and the intrepid extended family working on it and would drop by with period chandeliers, light fixtures and other antiques that they thought might go well with the house once it was finished.

Photo courtesy of Graham Elvidge and Kathleen Stormont
I jumped on the bandwagon and presented Graham and Kathleen with a history of the house. I had found out that 844 Dunlevy was built in 1899 by Frederick William Sentell, a New Brunswick-born house contractor and former Vancouver alderman, and the man who built Vancouver's first City Hall on Powell Street.

In the end, the house was awarded top honours for heritage preservation at both the civic and provincial level. Here are some articles on the house and its history:

So that's a rather long preamble to what this post is all about. Among some of the things that George Winchcombe left behind in his house were a number of photos, including this one taken in 1920. I am hoping readers might be able to help identify where the houses are.

Uncle Charlies Cement Crew - courtesy George Winchcombe
George's uncle, Charlie Winchcombe, was a cement contractor. The photo shows one of his crews working on a road or sidewalk somewhere in Vancouver. I have seen a number of houses which look like the one in the centre... There is one similar on Fraser Street, but i don't think it is the house. Do these two houses look familiar to you? If so, please let me know. The first person who can correctly identify these houses for me will get two free tickets for one of my neighbourhood history walks. : )  Remember, you can click on the photo to enlarge it.


  1. along 12 going west just before Commercial??
    s. rooney

  2. So you are saying that the houses are on the south side of 12th. Can you find the houses on Google maps? Do they both still exist?

  3. I looked at the house you are mentioning on West 12th, but I don't think that it is it... I will however, check the old fire insurance maps... Maybe they will support your theory.

  4. Nice house. They did a great job! To those who work there, they were very good.

    Deirdre G

  5. Thank you for re-storing this lovely old heritage home. Frederick Sentell is a great great uncle and I have spent years doing the family tree. I was very surprised to find this home and brought my Mother and Uncle down to see it. They remembered it and in fact lived up the street on Keefer in a home built by Frederick but now long gone. Thank you Thank you Thank you. You made some senior citizens laugh, smile and cry!

  6. Hello Kathryn Murray,

    I wish there was some way that ways of contacting comment posters was worked into this blog setup. Graham and Kathleen have read your post and would really be interested in talking to you, as would I. I am sure Graham and Kathleen would be happy to show you the inside as well as the outside of the old Sentell house.

  7. PS. You can always get a message to them via me. My e-mail is