Sometimes an old house whispers... and some houses even seem to shout... and even though some old houses come across as quiet, even silent, they each have their story. I pay attention... I listen... These are the stories I've heard, and now I am passing them on to you...
The Dales House at 414 Alexander Street circa 1890 CVA Photo SGN 490
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
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.
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.
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.
1961 to 1964, Italian-Canadian construction worker Carmelo Greco and his wife
Carmelina rented the house.
Photo courtesy of Miljenko Rusinić
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.
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.