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

Friday, May 16, 2014

703 HAWKS AVENUE - A Very Condensed History

One of seven units in a two-storey wood frame row house built in 1908 by English-born painter George Elliott, 703 Hawks Avenue was listed in the directories from 1909 to 1914 as a butcher shop and was called the Burrard Meat Market.

Photo courtesy of Lucille Mars
Vacant for a number of years during World War I, the next long term occupant was Italian immigrant Mrs. Giovannina Dinicola (seen above) and her four sons: Hugo, a mariner, John, a butcher, Mario a houseboy at the Hotel Vancouver, and a younger son named Guido.
After the Dinicola’s moved away in the early 1930s in 1935, 703 Hawks Avenue was home to Polish-born Amelia Marzoff and her family, then from 1936 to 1941 it was home to Nick and Mary Polowy, Polish Canadians born in Alberta. In 1942, it was home to Polish-born baker Frank Joseph Soltis and his wife Helen.
From 1944 to 1949, 703 Hawks was home to P. Burns & Co. sausage linker Mrs. Mary Lukasiewich and her son Stephen. From 1949 to 1947 Saskatchewan-born Ukrainian-Canadian grain elevator employee John Ostapovich and his wife Mary rented the house.
In the late 1950s a Russian couple, John and Edith Resnicki lived in the house. Then in 1960, Croatian-Canadian tree topper named Frank Velikajne and his wife Mary lived in the house.
From 1961 to 1964, Italian-Canadian construction worker Carmelo Greco and his wife Carmelina rented the house.

Photo courtesy of Miljenko Rusinić

After the Grecos, a number of Chinese-Canadian families lived in the house, including retiree Mah Yuk Woo in 1965, Skillet Restaurant cook Man Ting Hui and his wife Susan, from 1966 to 1971, then from 1972 to 1974, machine operator Wing Quei Cheung and his wife Choy Kwei rented the house. The last renter of the house, P. Fung only lived in the unit for a year when he and his neighbours in 701 and 705 had to move when these three units were temporarily condemned.
In 1983-1984 the rowhouse was bought from Croatian-born fisherman Delko Matkovich for a total sum of $180,000.00 by seven partners.  The purchase was organized by architect and home builder Clare McDuff-Oliver.  The seven partners divided this cost.  Each paid $60,000.00 on top of that to contribute to the construction.  Each partner contributed labour toward the demolition of the existing walls.  Clare worked with each partner to custom design each unit.  Denise Olsen (who also did the Tidal Flats Coop) was chosen as contractor and project manager.  Clare acted as on-site foreman.  When construction started there were no proper basement suites.  The houses had to be raised and a new concrete foundation poured.  Apparently many wine bottles were found underneath the house as the downstairs had been used as wine cellars by some of the previous inhabitants.
            The upstairs configuration of the house was significantly altered during the 1984 renovations. The original bathroom was where the master bedroom is now. The skylight in the bathroom is original to the house but served as the window and ventilation for a bedroom which disappeared in the renovations. The daughter of former residents of the house tells how the skylight was used by her father, a conscientious objector during WWII, to escape from the RCMP when they call searching for him.

These are just the barest of facts but they give a very good indication of the rich multicultural history of Vancouver's East End. For those of you interested in going deeper to learn more, there are a number of options. You can buy or borrow a copy of OPENING DOORS IN VANCOUVER'S EAST END - STRATHCONA by Daphne Marlatt and Carole Itter. This is a fascinating compilation of 50 oral histories collected from oldtimer East Enders in the 1970s. I had the  huge honour of being asked to write the introduction to the updated version of this book that was published to celebrate Vancouver's 125th birthday.

For a beautifully written evocative fictional account of East End History, I strongly recommend that you read Wayson Choy's award winning The Jade Peony

For a more hands on, interactive approach, you can always sign up for one of my East End Neighbourhood History Walks that I offer every other Saturday morning through the summer Season. Click the link above for more information and a schedule.


  1. Thank you! Wonderful pictures... My Grandma Thelma O'Neel, lived at 326 Hawks Ave in the early 1920's with her Mom Anna O'Neel. Thelma (abt 16) was employed by Phillippo and Theresa Branca who owned a store in Vancouver off Main St.

  2. My father and Grandfather lived here after immigrating from italy, I have a wardrobe that has the address inscribed in chalk on the door.

  3. Hello. I would love to know if you have any stories relating to your family living in the house... Would you mind sharing the cognome? I would be happy to share with you in more detail what I have on file (I am actually living in Italy now for a couple of years but come back to Vancouver every six months or so and can access the files then.) Cheers!

  4. My mistake, he lived across the street, on the corner across from the store ran by the di tomasso (canadianized di toms) family. I went to my parents yesterday and showed him the picture of the row houses, and he corrected me. He did say that it was a great area to live, and talked about the 2 bakeries that were there, the sawmill,and the sausage factory. I also showed him the picture of the gents from the boxing club, and he remembered Phil and joe De Palma,having come from the same town in Italy. He mentioned phil went on to run the Astoria hotel later on. I have some shots of Hawks ave on my instagram account - stripperdj - from way back.