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

Monday, June 24, 2013


Photo courtesy of Adrian Zator
More than two and a half years ago I wrote a post about a letter I wrote to Mayor and Council with a cc. to the Library Board in which I thanked them for their plans to go ahead with the long awaited East End Library Branch on the 700 block of East Hastings. The people in Strathcona have been lobbying and working for a new East End Branch for over 15 years. This full service neighbourhood branch is long overdue.

In that letter I suggested that the name of this new East End Branch should be called the Mary Lee Chan Branch Library in honour of the founder of the Strathcona Property Owners & Tenants Association (SPOTA). It is a result of the leadership, community building skills and tenacity of Mary Lee Chan and the people of all backgrounds living in the East End who worked with her that we even have our old historic East End neighbourhood today--not to mention large swaths of Chinatown. See Chuck Davis' overview of the story.

A while back I attended an Open House put on by the Library at the Strathcona Community Centre. The architectural plans for the new library and much heralded housing component for single moms and their kids in the upper floors was being introduced for feed back. I talked to the architect Bruce Haden who is a Strathcona neighbour about the layout. It is a bright, modern looking building with a white brick and glass fa├žade


Though it does not necessarily give a nod to its heritage neighbourhood context (a cornice would have been nice) I can live with that. It looks like everyone has come up with a plan that will provide a long awaited and much needed amenity to my East End neighbourhood, both in the library and housing component. The Library's white bricks and glass, its books, programmes, and bright lights, and the healthy traffic they will generate, will be a welcome change on a section of East Hastings that has been missing its former glory days.

In these coming months while the plans for the library are being finalized I would like to again urge everyone to support the naming of our new East End library the Mary Lee Chan Branch in honour of the woman who spearheaded the movement to save Strathcona in the 60s.

Please, please, please take a moment from your time and use this link to support naming the new East End Library Branch to be built on the 700-block of East Hastings the Mary Lee Chan Branch Library. 

Recognition of Mary Lee Chan and SPOTA's roll in saving and preserving Vancouver's oldest neighbourhood is long overdue

Thank you!


As many of you know, my house history research work digs up a lot of interesting stories. I have researched the history of close to 900 houses here in Vancouver and the majority of those are in the historic neighbourhoods of the East End (Strathcona), the West End, Mount Pleasant, Grandview, and Ceder Cottage.

On the 800 block of Dunlevy in Strathcona - Photo courtesy of Patrick Gunn and Heritage Vancouver Society
A number of years back, Heritage Vancouver Society asked me to do a History Walk of my Strathcona neighbourhood as a fund raiser for them. Though it took some time to work out a route, it wasn't a difficult thing for me to do as I had by them researched houses on almost all the streets, avenues and drives in the East End and had a lot of interesting material to choose from. I just had to prioritise what stories to include and figure out how to string them all together...

The fundraiser tour was a great success, and since then I have done a number of fundraisers for Heritage Vancouver in Strathcona both on the mostly residential south side of Hastings and in the mostly industrialized north side of Hastings.  

Exploring Hogan's Alley in Strathcona - Courtesy of Patrick Gun & HVS

Ultimately I put the material I gathered for these fundraisers to use for myself. For the past few years I have offered History Walks in the East End, West End and Mount Pleasant. 

I am currently working on an itinerary for a private tour of Grandview and a route for the Cedar Cottage area.

A few weeks ago, the evening before I was to do a saturday History Walk in the West End, I received an e-mail from a young documentarian named Janelle Huopalainen. She asked if she could tag along with my tour the following morning and film it. She wanted to create a video documentary under four minutes long for an international competition called the 24 Hour Film Race

Each participant had to create a video in less than 24 hours with these three elements. The theme had to be time travel. They had to include the Action of crumpling a piece of paper, and they had to use an egg as a Prop.

I didn't know about the egg and the paper part but as a history nut, time travel has always fascinated me. I thought, What the heck, and said yes.

By the time Janelle finally hooked up with me the following morning, not only was my tour already well on its way, but also the clock was ticking on her countdown... She had way less than 24 hours to pull everything together. 

Janelle and her cameria were actually quite unobtrusive. She followed me and my group, filming us as we walked through the drizzle-soaked streets and alleys of the West End. Every now and then she would go off on her own to get additional footage. 

Finally when the tour was over, Janelle interviewed me on the steps of Roedde House Museum in the West End's Barclay Heritage Square. Though they were all very good questions, I hadn't seen any of them before. There was no time to reflect or rehearse. All the answers were off the top of my head... 

I was actually quite nervous that I was going to come across in a way that was not good for Janelle's video or for me...

Well, I guess I should not have worried... Janelle has sent me the result of her work and I am more than pleased. I am actually totally blown away.

I have no way of knowing what her competition is, but I think that her idea has a lot of originality and that she did an amazing job in the time she had. Who knows, she may even win! Wouldn't that be something?

Anyway, for those of you who were interested, here is a link to her film TIME TRAVELER.

My Time Travel Portal to the old East End...