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

Monday, April 11, 2011

Three More Old Strathcona Houses on the Chopping Block?

Last Friday I was honoured to have a piece I wrote featured in the At Home Section of the Vancouver Sun. The story was called Mill Town Memories and talked about three 1880s houses: 385 East Cordova, 414 Alexander and 417 Heatley in Strathcona, (the old East End) Vancouver's oldest neighbourhood. 385 East Cordova may in fact be Vancouver's oldest house still standing. It was shown in this 1887 picture taken by J. A. Brock.

CVA Str P223 J. A. Brock 1887
Here is a close up.

In the same article I mentioned a row of houses on the 600 block of East Cordova. There are a number of 1880s houses in that block which includes two houses built by Italian-born hotelier Angelo Calori, the builder of Vancouver's landmark flatiron Europe Hotel at Carrall and Powell.

357 East Cordova, built by Angelo Calori in 1907
Just around the corner from these old houses is a wonderful intact row of three circa 1905 houses built by A. McRae.

313, 311, and 305 Heatley
The first time the houses are listed is in the 1906 directory, but they are vacant. The first time they are shown as being occupied is in 1907.

305 Heatley was home to English-born lumberyard foreman Stanilaus Brereton, hi wife Ada and their family.

305 Heatley
311 Heatley was home to Ontario-born journalist Victor W. Odlum, and...

311 Heatley
313 (then 319) Heatley was home to carpenter James Reid.

313 Heatley
Of particular interest to me is the name Odlum. My current career path, if you can call it that, as a house history researcher and neighbourhood history walk guide began when I moved from the West End in 1995 to a house on the 1000-block of Odlum Drive in the East End. Odlum Drive is named after Professor Edward Odlum. Professor Edward Odlum (1850-1935) has an amazing history. His mansion on Grant Avenue near Commercial Drive still stands (see below). Here is a link to the Wikipedia Article on him.

CVA 447-314 Professor Edward Odlum's house on Dec 26, 1935 by Walter Edwin Frost
Victor Wentworth Odlum (21 October 1880 – 4 April 1971) is Professor Edward Odlum's son. He has an even bigger write-up in Wikipedia than his father. As the Wikipedia article points out, Victor W. Odlum was a journalist who went on to become a rather controversial newspaper publisher, a temperance activist, a soldier who went on to attain the rank of Brigadier General, and later a diplomat. There are a number of pictures of Brigadier General Odlum at the City of Vancouver Archives. I have included two: one showing him in full military regalia in the ocmpany of US President Harding during the presidential visit to Vancouver in 1923, and another showing him laying a wreath on the grave of Capatin George Vancouver in England on May 10, 1941.

CVA Photo Port P941.3 President Harding with V. W. Odlum at right - July 26, 1923

CVA Photo Mon P54 - Maj.General Odlum at George Vancouver's Grave
Read over the article in Wikipedia. Victor W. Odlum was certainly an interesting and controversial figure--a fascinating combination of brave war hero, financier and business leader, stubborn anti-unionist and at times unscrupulous journalist. Odlum's paper, The Star, seems to have been largely responsible for whipping up the anti-Chinese sentiment during the Janet Smith murder case in the 1920s by insisting that Janet Smith was murdered by Wong Foon Sing.

Odlum only lived at 311 Heatley for a year, but it is interesting to see just how much history can be locked into these old houses north of Hastings.

Currently, there is an application for demolition for the three houses on Heatley but I understand that the owner would as likely sell the houses is he/she could get $500,000 for each of them. Any takers?


  1. Fascinating site! Keep up the good work. We have bought a 1912 house in Port Alberni & I would like to know if you have any pictures of a craftsman-style interior that woul be of use...BTW, what was this:

  2. Hello,

    Thanks for the comment. Yes, sad to hearabout the old house on Bute Street. So convenient for the new development plan there...

    There are lots of great pictures of house interiors of the City of Vancouver Archives and Vancouver Public Library Special Collections websites.

  3. Dear James, my name is Lucia Frangione, playwright and actor. I came across your blog while researching homes in Strathcona, looking for an average date when many Italian families built their you think it's feasible that a family could have done so in 1914? I am writing a play called Fresco going up in March at the Shadbolt and VECC - and its all centred around a fictional house on Union Street and the ghosts that rise up to try and save it from being bulldozed. We seem to share a similar love! Cheers, Lucia Frangione

  4. Ciao Lucia!

    I should check my blog for comments more often. In 1914 is a good year for Italian immigrants to be building houses on Union... You are right on the money. I hope to be able to see the play. I was at the book launch at the Italian Culture Centre and saw the preview. Brava! Fantastico! You should come on one of my walking tours of the East End sometime.

  5. That is the house of Professor Edward Odlum, not "Edward Faraday Odlum". Victor Wentworth and Edward Faraday Odlum (EFO) were the sons of Professor Odlum. EFO's house was at 1880 Grant Street. The wiki entry on the professor cites him with the Faraday middle name, so that's possibly where you got it from. Anyway, I'm trying to correct the confusion between the professor (my great grandfather) and EFO (my grandfather).

    1. Hello Ruthita,

      Thanks for the correction. Yes, of course, my source for the middle initial was Wikipedia and I notice that Wikipedia still contains that mistake... Have you contacted them or tried to edit the article? I checked on VanMap to see if the house at 1880 Grant Street still stood but it looks like the current occupant of the 4th lot west of Victoria was built in the 1980s. Darn. I would have loved to have seen a picture. There does not seem to be any in the CVA or VPL collections. Thanks again for bringing this error to my attention.