|Our front garden with the Linden Tree|
Our rowhouse originally had back yards or what passed for a back yard, but it was subdivided from our lot in the early 1980s when the owner of the rowhouse decided to sell the row and build a new house on what was our back yard. We have a narrow walk behind the house accessible from the basement, but only small balconies off the kitchen and upstairs back bedroom.
|Our row as it looked in the 1960s|
|Henri Martin - Moss Rose|
These four and the aforementioned Variegata di Bologna and Tuscany Superb we all supported on metal rose pillar supports made by our metal and stone sculptor/artist neighbour Sandra Bilawich.
We also bought three gorgeous tree peonies from a nursery called Garden City Greenhouses on Cambie Road in Richmond just east of Garden City.
|The fabulous tree peony|
Soon after this first patio was started we got wind of a demolition happening on Richards Street near Robson. The old Montgomery Block was being torn down. This four-storey brick building is visible in this May 30, 1928 shot of BlackBurn's Garage at Seymour and Robson. It is the tall white building in the background.
|CVA Photo Bu N274.1 by W. J. Moore|
The bricks from the Montgomery block were in great shape and quite beautiful because of their size and colour. I dug up all the old bricks, bought some sand to spread under them and laid out the larger patio. I tried to lay everything out as flat as possible but of course it was not perfect and got even less perfect as the sand settled and tree roots grew under the Styrax. I edged the patio with other bricks and stones I had collected, including a "Clayburn" fire brick which a house history research client had saved from one of her childhood homes on Fleming Street.
|Richard pitching in|
|A firm, but irregular foundation!|
|The finished raised bed with Alex's tomatoes (Juliet) freshly planted|
|Bounty from the raised bed - 2010|
It was a good thing we waited, because while this was going on something unhappy was happening in our basement. The water pipe leading into the house somehow sprung a leak and in the late fall we discovered water dribbling down the East wall of our basement. We called Milani, and one a very cold and wet day two of their staff dug a trench through our patio and under our foundation to replace the leaking pipe. The patio was a mess. We were heading into winter though and had planned to relay the patio next year anyway, so we left the craterized patio the way it was through the Winter months and into the Spring.
|Dominion Brick - all the way from Saskatchewan!|
Another source of great bricks was my Dad. Over the course of a number of decades Dad had collected a good number of bricks from various demolition sites across Greater Vancouver. Every time I went out to help in the garden or mow the lawn I would mooch a brick or two, sometimes more. Dad's bricks particulary fascinated me as many of them had the imprint of the factory that made them pressed into the indentation. By the way, this indentation is called a "frog", the same as the frog of a horse's hoof.
|Baker Brick from Victoria, BC|
BBB stands for Bazan Bay Brick & Tile Company Ltd. which was in Saanichton on Vancouver Island which operated from 1907 through to the 1950s.
Another brick my dad had lots of were from Clayburn in Abbotsford. I knew about Clayburn, not from the bricks, but from the famous candy store and tea shop located in the old Clayburn General Store. We took my daughter Jayka out there a number of times. Clayburn was British Columbia's first "company town". The brickworks were established in 1905 and just ceased operations this year. By the way, note the half brick with the letters GARTC just above the Bazan Bay Brick. I am very curious to know where that brick came from, but have not been successful in an online search. The other thing I am curious about is the brick with the striations to the right. I have come across a number or examples... Pure decoration, perhaps? You tell me.
|Clayburn Village circa 1925|
|Red Clayburn wall brick in the patio|
|Walkway to the patio with a number of Clayburn and other named bricks|
I had heard about an IXL Laundry that used to be in operation in Vancouver and wondered if there was any connection. It turns out that IXL bricks were produced in Medicine Hat Alberta by the I·XL Brick Company. Originally founded as the Medicine Hat Brick Company [1886-1912] the I·XL Brick Company was established in 1912 and is still operating. And duh! IXL is of course a play on words, "I Excell!" I didn't figure that out until recently.
Another set of bricks I was happy to find came from closer to home from Anvil Island in Howe Sound. There were a number of brickworks on the island. The two I have have very different stamps in their frogs and may come from two different brick works.
|Anvil Island brick in the raised bed|
|Anvil Island Brick in the patio|
In Maple Ridge in the Fraser Valley, the Port Haney Brick Company Ltd. operated from 1907 to the 1970s. I only have one brick from that company and was glad I was sorting my bricks on a sunny day because I almost missed this brick. Haney Brick is pressed in very small letters on the side of the brick, notthe frog, like the others I have. In order for the name to be visible, I had to dig deeper and lay this brick on its side.
|A Haney Brick and Bazan Bay Brick in the patio|
|Somenos Brick in patio|
Around the edges of the patio that are not delineated by the raised bed or the front of our house are two lines of old cobbles. Between the house and the raised bed is a line of brick cobbles. These are the same brick cobbles used to pave the linear park in our neighbourhood.
|Denny-Renton brick cobbles|
These cobbles were produced by the Denny Renton Clay and Coal Company [1905-1927] in Renton, Washington. In 1901, two California entrepreneurs, James Doyle and J. R. Miller, discovered that the shale overlaying the coal seams at the coal Renton mine produced a high-quality clay. Tests indicated the material would make excellent brick, and with Seattle investor E. J. Mathews, Doyles and Miller organized the Renton Clay Works. They developed a plant on the south bank of the Cedar River. The Renton plant specialized in fire brick, brick cobbles, terra-cotta, and decorative terra-cotta. In 1905 the plant was purchased by Denny Fire Brick Company and the entire company was renamed the Denny-Renton Clay & Coal Company. By 1910, the Denny-Renton Clay and Coal Company was one of Renton's most important businesses. By 1917, the Denny-Renton Clay Company was reportedly the world's largest producer of street paving brick!
The second line of cobbles are not made from clay at all, but were sawn from first growth timber and originally formed the road surface of the 200 block of Union Street near Hogan's Alley. I wrote about these in another blog posting. Large sections ofthe road bed had been disturbed during the recent construction of the V6A Condo complex. I salvaged a number of these not knowing what I would do with them other than that I didn't want them used as land fill. They now rim the East End of our patio. Another little piece of history saved.
|100 year-old Wooden Cobbles from Hogan's Alley|
|A historic "East End" edge for the patio|
I will still keep my eyes out for stamped bricks from other brickworks around the country. If you like this blog and my idea of a brick history shrine and have a stamped brick from locales I have not included in the patio, I would love to have any samples you could spare. For people interested in old bricks and brick collecting there are a number of interesting sites online: Brick Collecting, International Brick Collectors Association, California Bricks. There is even a Brick Collector Blog. Oh! And here is a link to historic bricks from England. You find a lot of these imported bricks, especially from Darwen in Lancashire in old Shaughnessy houses.
I wonder what they are planning to do with the bricks from the demolition of the Pantages Theatre? It seems a shame that they will all be so anonymously recycled, especially after the long and difficult fight to save that landmark historic building. If it were possible, I would love just one. Perhaps the City could sell the bricks at $10 a piece to raise funds for heritage preservation. I would buy one... even without a stamp.
|CVA Photo LGN 999 The Pantages Theatre when that block|
was filled with life and light