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

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

THE LESLIE LANE HOUSE - A Hidden Jewell in the West End Vancouver's MOLE HILL

The Leslie Lane House at its new location at 1117 Pendrell, courtesy of Vancouver Heritage Foundation

When I first started out on my current path as a House History Researcher a.k.a. House Genealogist, one of my very first paying gigs back in 2002 was to research the history of a small lane house behind Umberto's Restaurant at 1380 Hornby. Umberto Menghi, the owner, was thinking of building a boutique hotel or B&B behind his popular Yaletown establishment and wanted to demolish the lane house to make way for the new building.

Instead of destroying what was the last lane house in Yaletown, Mr. Menghi donated the house to the Vancouver Heritage Foundation which in turn found the means and the funds to save the house by lifting the house off its foundations and moving it a number of blocks west to a lane in the recently restored West End heritage block at Mole Hill.

I was hired to find out what I could about the lane house, its origins, and its relationship to 1380 Hornby. Of course, this was eleven years ago. How I do a house history project now is way different from how I approached and did things back then. I know more about the resources that are available and the different lines of research that are possible... and just how deep I can go. There is always something new to learn, a new angle of approach... 

Key Plan to the July 1897 Fire Insurance Map of Vancouver updated to 1901

I found from my research that the house behind which the lane house was built is most likely the oldest standing single family dwelling still standing in Yaletown, the area along the north side of False Creek settled by railworkers from the once wild and wooly Fraser Canyon town of Yale.

Though the water service application for the house made by the owner George Washington Leslie only dates to May 5 of 1896, the house is much older, dating from the late 1880s. 

Photo of George Washington Leslie courtesy of Richard Roy, Seattle, Washington

According to what can be cobbled together from the 1901 census and Leslie family death certificates, George Washington Leslie was born on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia on June 11th 1850. His wife, Susan Bethune, was also born on Cape Breton Island on September 10th 1850.

Though they may have had more children, at the time of the 1901 census they had seven children living with them at the house at 1380 Hornby, three daughters and four sons: Isabel, Harold Gordon, Milford Fredrick, Edith Laura E., Georgia Abigail "Abbie" shown as "Addie" in the census, Ernest Joseph, and Arthur Purves Leslie. 

Purves Leslie standing in from of  the door just starting for school at noon sometime in 1906 - Courtesy Richard Roy.
Ernest and Purves were born in Vancouver. The rest of the children were born in Sidney, Cape Breton Island. The 1901 Census lists the Leslie family as Baptists and George Washington Leslie as a carpenter.

The first time that George Washington Leslie is listed in the city directory is in 1889. In fact he is listed twice, at two locations with two different occupations: plasterer and carpenter. 

In fact through the years that George Washington Leslie is listed as living at the house at 1380 Hornby his job listing alternates back and forth from plasterer to carpenter and sometimes, like in this 1891 Williams Directory listing where he is listed as both.

From what we can see on the 1897-1901 Fire Insurance Map, by 1901 the 714 West Hastings address on the south side of Hastings between Howe and Granville seems to have become a business address. The Haro address for Leslie is likely the family residence and the West Hastings address his carpentry shop. Charles may have been living in a room at the shop.

A closer look at the address shows that, in 1901 anyway, it was a plumber and carpenter shop in a one storey building. However, since the address appears on a pasted piece of paper which was added some time after the original 1897 drawing of the map, and the fact that the 1889 directory lists George's son Charles William Leslie as residing at that address, it might have been a residence at one time. You can see a small corner of the earlier building under the white pasted addition.

Note that by 1901, the numbering of address has been changed to 716 West Hastings.

The 1890 listing for the Leslie family in the Street Section of the directory does not give a number for the house. Neither does the 1891 Williams directory which just lists him as living on the corner of Pacific and Hornby.

George W. Leslie, his wife Susan and a number of their children lived in the house at 1380 Hornby up until the late 1940s. The last of the Leslie children to live in the house was Pacific Drydock shipwright Ernest Joseph Leslie and his wife Clare who sold the house to Wilhelmine Meilike in 1947. The last year that Ernest and Clare Leslie lived in the main house, Ernest's bachelor brother Arthur Purvis Leslie was living in the lane house. 

So, what about the lane house? When, why and how was it built?

If we look at the 1897 Fire Insurance map of Vancouver corrected up to 1901, we see that behind the Leslie house there is already a one storey structure built along the laneway. ? 

1897 Fire Insurance Map of Vancouver corrected to 1901. The Leslie House is at 1380 Hornby.

Given the difference in colour coding for this structure and the fact that similar structures line the laneway behind other houses, we can assume that this early structure was some sort of shed/stable combination. George Washington Leslie, throughout the time he is listed in the directories, appears as a plasterer and a carpenter. It makes sense that he would have a large storage shed and perhaps a stable behind his house.

The first indication that an actual dwelling was to be built on the laneway comes from a September 9, 1903 building permit application made by G. W. Leslie for a "frame dwelling addition" with an estimated cost of $200. 

$200? The cost seems awfully low, but remember monthly wages and our dollar's value back then were both different... Having said that, George Washington Leslie, as a self employed carpenter building on the back of his own property on the foundations of what were likely quite sturdy outbuildings that Leslie built himself, perhaps even with an eye to improve upon later, was probably able to save a lot of money doing the work himself instead of contracting out to someone else. 

Despite the 1903 building permit application, the first time that the lane house appears in the Henderson City of Vancouver Directory is two years later in 1905. The first listed occupant was Mrs. Greaves. 

The Street section of the directory includes a typo in the address.

Which is corrected in the Alphabetical Listing section of the directory. 

In both sections, however, the surname is misspelled. It should have been written Grieve, as Mrs. Grieve is none other than George Washington Leslie's daughter Agnes Willard Leslie...

Agens Willard Leslie Grieve courtesy of Richard Roy
 ...wife of New Brunswick-born C.P.R. brakesman Stirling Willford Grieve.

Sterling Willford Grieve about 1932 courtesy of Karen Grieve-Tomblin...

As is made evident in their wedding certificate above, the couple were married at 1380 Hornby Street on September 2, 1902 by Rev. Truman Bishop. Stirling Grieve is not listed in the Vancouver directory that year, nor for a number of years after the wedding. 

For some reason Stirling and Agnes Grieve live in the lane house for only one year, although Agnes, and their daughter Amy will return to that address off and on over the following years.  In 1906 the Grieves move to 761 Seymour.  In 1907 they move to 913 Homer.  On August 26 1907, their four week-old son, Stirling W. Grieve Junior, dies at of infantile weakness.  From 1908 to 1913 the Grieves live at 419 Smithe Street.  For most of the time Stirling works as a yard foreman and later as a fireman for the CPR.  By 1916 they live at 235 Smithe Street, then in 1917 at 947 Homer. Note that these are all Yaletown addresses, a few blocks from the CPR roundhouse and the Leslie residence at 1380 Hornby.

The 1906 directory lists Agnes' brother, carpenter Harold Gordon Leslie, living in the lane house. The year before on June 7th 1905 Harold  Gordon Leslie married Mary Isabel Girvan at the home of his bride's family on 4th Avenue.

In January of 1906 Mary gave birth to a son, George Gordon Leslie. Harold and Mary only live in the house for a year. By the time of the 1911 census, they are living at 2145 West 12th. 

The 1907 directory, and the alphabetical section of the 1908 directory lists a Mrs. Jordan, a widow, as living in the lane house, but she is only there for a year or so as well.

From 1908 to 1910 the lane house is home to English-born Hudson's Bay Company liquor store clerk Thomas Henry Brett and his Copenhagen, Denmark-born wife Anna Laurene Hanson. The Bretts have three children, sons Thomas, Norman Edward Charles, and a daughter named Amelie. By 1911, the Brett family has moved to a house at 1810 East 10th Avenue.

From 1911 to 1914, the lane house is not listed in the directories as a separate address. From 1915 to 1916, the lane house is rented out to Harold Pearson and his wife Beatrice. Previous to their moving to the lane house at 1380 Hornby, Harold Pearson was listed in the directories as being a prop man for the Orpheum Theatre and lived up the street in a house at 1370 Hornby. As you can see by the information printed on his death certificate below, Harold was born in Manchester, England, and worked as a stage employee for the Orpheum Theatre for 50 years.

From 1917 to 1929, George W. and Susan Leslie's son Fred Leslie and his wife Josephine lived in the lane house. Fred and Josephine got married on March 16, 1908 in a house in the East End at 778 Keefer Street.

For the years that Fred and his family are listed as living in the lane house, Fred appears in the directories first as a carpenter, then as an employee of BC Marine Engineers & Shipbuilders Ltd., then as a carpenter for Burrard Shipyard & Engineering. 

CVA 586-1138 showing a hull being built at Burrard Shipbuilding in 1943. Is one of these men Fred Leslie?
During this time that Fred and Josephine were living in the lane house, Fred's father George passed away on December 7, 1924 at the age of 74. George and Susan's daughter, Agnes Grieve, her CPR brakesman husband Stirling and their daughter, BC Tel operator Amy Grieve move into the main house for one year. Then her brother Ernest and his wife Clara moved in and lived there until 1947.

Back to the lane house... In 1930 and 1931, the first two years of the Great Depression, Agnes Grieve and her daughter Amy came back to live in the lane house. For whatever reason Agnes' husband Stirling is not listed as living with them. Prior to returning to the lane house at 1380 Hornby, Agnes Grieve is listed as living for some years on the North Shore.  In 1927 she and Amy are listed as "camping" on Argyle Avenue in West Vancouver.  The following year Agnes is listed as living at 47 Argyle Avenue.  There is no listing for Amy that year.  It was probably in late 1927 or 1928 that she married a man named Svendsen.  The last address for Agnes Grieve was 1033 East 14th Avenue in Vancouver.  She died on September 8th, 1951 of ovarian cancer.

Despite the fact that Agnes is listed separately from her husband for a number of years, her death certificate at least seems to indicate that she was still married... perhaps only separated from time to time.

In 1932, a Mrs. Elizabeth Abel, her son Walter C. Abel and daughter Marion Abel, a stenographer, move into the lane house and live there for a year. Elizabeth Abel was born Elizabeth Reihl in Portland, Oregon. 
Walter Abel worked at Restmore Manufacturing Ltd. a company that produced steel beds, springs, mattresses and furniture at Parker Street and Glen Drive. People who participate in the annual East Side Culture Crawl will be familiar with the old rambling Restmore Manufacturing Company building filled with artist studios at 1000 Parker Street. 

CVA 1184-1699 showing British American Oil Co. building with Restmore Manufactuing factory behind at right. 1940-1948
In 1933 another family moved into the lane house. The directory for that year lists two brothers Joseph Boardman and William Boardman. Joseph Boardman is listed as being involved in real estate. 

Along with them are Joseph's niece and William's daughter, Olive, and her husband Lawrence J. Findlay, who is a Liverpool, England-born metalworker. By 1934, the Boardmans have moved one block away to 1336 Howe.

The 1934 directory lists Canadian Electrical Trades Union secretary Robert Sidney Milne and his wife Lillian at the lane house. By 1935, the Milnes have moved to 1235 Beach Avenue.

From 1935 onward, the Leslie Lane House is listed as 1380½ Hornby. In 1935, the lane house becomes home to a cook named David Oscar Trail and his wife Florence. 

David Oscar Trail and his wife Florence May Ottley were both born in England. As is evidenced by their wedding certificate, David had been previously married. David and Florence were married at Christ Church in Vancouver. 

David and Florence lived in the lane house for only one year or so. By 1936 they had moved away from Vancouver. They would move back to Vancouver in 1957.

The decade from 1936 to 1946 was a period of stability for the lane house. During this time, one family, that of lather Arthur Frank Fontaine and his wife Beatrice Fay Anderson lived here.

Arthur was born in Vancouver of French Canadian and Belgian Roman Catholic parents. Beatrice was born in the US and was Presbyterian when they got married. The Fontaines were the last renters to live in the lane house when the Leslie family still owned it. By 1947, Arthur and Beatrice had split up with Arthur moving to 2035 West 15th and Beatrice moving to #5, 736 East Broadway where she worked as a building caretaker.

In 1947, the last year the Leslie family owned the two houses, Arthur Purvis Leslie moved into the lane house. At the time, he was working as a shipwright at Dawe Marine.

After the Leslie family sold the two houses, Arthur moved to 2992 East 1st Avenue where he lived for the rest of his life.

In late 1947, the Leslies sold the main house and the lane house to the Meilike family who converted the main house into an interior design store  that also sold house furnishings. The Meilike's named their new business Leslie House Interior Decorators.  On October 2, 1947, the Meilikes apply to build an addition to the rear of the main house to enlarge the building and convert the space into a workshop and warehouse. The estimated cost for construction was $3,000.  Wilhelmina Meilicke, the President of Leslie House lived with her parents and sister at 3738 Selkirk.
From 1948 to 1955, the lane house is home to Leslie House upholsteror Sid R. Toren and his wife Geneve, then in 1956, the lane house stays vacant, and isn't even mentioned in the 1957 directory as a separate address.

In 1958, the house is rented by teletype operator Judy Clegg, but the 1959 and 1960 directories do not mention the address.  In 1961, the lane house reappears as the home of Leslie House upholsteror Kaziemierz Rosinski and his wife Rita, but for the following two years the lane house is listed as vacant.

From 1964 to 1966, the lane house is home to UBC student E. Justine B. Atkinson and his wife Joyce. Then in 1967, Canada's centennial year, both the main house and the lane house are listed as Vacant. By late 1967, new owners have taken over the property, Hungarian born Mano Herendy and his wife Olive. Mano and Olive move into the lane house from their previous residence at 2588 Cornwall and open a new dress design business in the main house called Mano Designs. According to a blog post on Hungarians in Vancouver: "Mano came to Vancouver in 1956, where he worked as a couturier, acquiring the Leslie Lane House (now at Mole Hill) and the house that served as Umberto Menghi's first restaurant, the Yellow House on Hornby Street. With his wife Olive (Puddifoot), Mano produced thousands of confirmation, bat mitzfah, graduation and wedding dresses, some of which continue to be worn by the daughters and granddaughters of the women who stood for them."
CVA 780-12 -  1380 Hornby in July 1975

During the 1970s, the directory records for 1380 Hornby and the lane house become a bit confusing. From 1974 to 1976 the directories show 1380 Hornby as being shared by Mano Designs and Umberto Menghi's Italian Restaurant. We know from Umberto's website that the restaurant at 1380 Hornby started in 1973. There may have been a transition period during which the house was shared. Either way, from 1976 onward, the main house is listed only as Umbertos. According to the directories, the Herendy family continue to live in the lane house up until 1981, although this data seems to be contradicted by the information on Mano Richard Herendy's death certificate.

Mano Richard Herendy dies at age 55 on September 6, 1978.  A Belmont Avenue address is given for Olive Herendy. From 1982 onwards, the lane house ceases to appear in the city directories.

By the early 2000s Umberto Menghi began to look at the lane house site as a potential redevelopment site for a boutique hotel behind his restaurant. It looked like the last Yaletown lane house was about to see its final day, but a marvelous thing happened.

Instead of demolishing the historic old lane house Mr. Menghi donated the lane house to the Vancouver Heritage Foundation which arranged for the house to be moved to its present site on Mole Hill in July 2002. The Leslie Lane House was raised from its foundations and moved down Pacific Street and up Burrard to its new site where the house was beautifully restored and subsequently sold.

VHF 2003 Newsletter
Today, the Leslie Lane House sits at the back of a beautifully landscaped quiet lot nestled among the lovingly restored Victorian houses of Mole Hill. It is one of the few privately owned houses in the Mole Hill heritage block redevelopment and sits beside an even larger house that was moved to 1125 Pendrell Street from 909 Thurlow... two wonderful examples of just what sometimes can be done to save our old heritage houses.

Post Script: One of the greatest joys and satisfactions I get out of writing these posts is that every so often someone connected to the house I am writing about sends me a message. I am very grateful to Richard Roy of Seattle Washington, the great grandson of George Washington and Susan Leslie, for sending and allowing me to use his photo of George Washington Leslie. Thanks to Richard, I was also able to make a correction. His grandmother Abbie's name was incorrectly written in the 1901 Canadian Census. For some reason her name was written down as Addie. You can see her name in the seventh line below.

Her real name was Abigail "Abbie" Leslie. Richard wrote, 

Abbie Leslie, courtesy of Richard Roy

"Abbie and my grandfather Dudley Scott (m. 1912) first moved to Port Angeles around 1915 then to Seattle in 1918. This is the best picture I have of George. No year is noted on the back of it unfortunately... "

I just found Dudley and Abbie's wedding license. 

1020 Howe Street, the address given as the place where the wedding ceremony was performed, was the home of Rev. William Ross, the Pastor of the South Arm Presbyterian Church. 

So the story just keeps on growing... Thank you so much Richard! 


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