Master Chef and the 1978 Vancouver Heritage Advisory Committee photos

Master Chef Cafe at 2400 E. Hastings Street  – 1978. What can I say about the shirtless guy in micro jean cut-offs?! (CoV Archives , CVA 786-83.19)

Oh man, how fantastic is this photograph?!  If you ever had the privilege of dining at Master Chef you would realize how special this image is. I had no idea that the restaurant I knew as a simple “old school” diner at one time sported a cool neon sign. This space is now home to “What’s Up? Hot Dog!”, but prior to that it was home to the best turkey club sandwich and home-cut fries that I’ve ever known.

Master Chef Turkey Club and “May’s world famous freshly cut fries”. (photo: C. Hagemoen)

In operation since 1953, and run by various owners over the years, the final version of Master Chef was owned and operated by Tony and May Fung ( Tony was out front and May did all the cooking) from 1993 to 2014. I first learned about Master Chef from a friend of mine around 2003. Ever since then, in my mind, it was the best place in the city for cheap & good old school diner food – and I miss it dearly.

My only wish with the 1978 image (top) is that the photographer had tilted their camera ever so slightly sky wards in order to capture the entirety of the billboards within the frame. Alas, it wasn’t one of those “Herzogian type” photographs, but part of a group of over 2000 recently described and digitized photographs from the City of Vancouver Archives. This inventory of heritage photos was part of a 1978 summer project by the Heritage Advisory Committee that was funded by B.C. Heritage Trust (acting as the project supervisor) and Young Canada Works (for students who carried out the work).

239 E. Hastings Street and 251 E. Hastings Street, Afton Hotel – 1978 (CoV Archives, CVA 786-49.31 & CVA 786-49.32)

Born out of the tremendous public outcry over the decision to demolish Vancouver’s iconic Birks Building, the Vancouver Heritage Advisory Committee was established initially as the Vancouver Heritage Advisory Board in October 1973. Despite the efforts of many concerned citizens, architectural professionals, and a committee of SOB’s (Save Our Birks Building), the Birks Building was demolished in May of 1974. The loss of the beloved heritage building mobilized the architectural preservation community in Vancouver.  By September 1974, the newly named Vancouver Heritage Advisory Committee (now Vancouver Heritage Commission) was working to advise council on a variety of heritage matters.

635-637 E. Hastings Street. The best part of this image is the sign beside the Shamrock Hotel that advertises horse meat roasts and steaks! (CoV Archives – CVA 786-45.11)

The photographs in this 1978 Heritage Advisory Committee survey were broader in scope and breadth than previous heritage surveys. The Committee wanted to include “buildings which had previously been considered of less social (and architectural) interest” and increase the survey breadth by attempting a more “thorough documentation of all areas of the city”.

House at 1843 E. 2nd Avenue – eventually replaced by a Vancouver Special (CoV Archives, CVA 786-73.10)

The Elcho was at  845 Davie Street, 1978. I love the garden space above the entrance. (CoV Archives, CVA 786-7.16)

The availability of these images is a boon to heritage professionals and amateurs alike. Not only as documentation of specific structures, but they are also valuable as evidence of how built Vancouver has changed over the years. Look at these images depicting the foot of West Georgia Street near Denman Street:

1729 W. Georgia Street, 1978. (CoV Archives, CVA 786-8.04)

1781 W. Georgia Street, 1978. (CoV Archives, CVA 786-8.03)

Without the inclusion of the trees of Stanley Park visible in the background of the image above, the area is virtually unrecognizable today.

Many images include aspects of social history (like advertising and fashions) which make them, in my opinion, doubly valuable. It’s hard to pick one’s favourites out of over 2000 photographs, but here are a few of mine:

2417 Main Street, 1978. (CoV Archives, CVA 786-61.18)

802 E. Hastings Street. Look closely and you’ll see a woman wearing the greatest pair of wide leg white jeans ever! (CoV Archives, CVA 786-45.07 )

628-630 Davie Street, 1978. (CoV Archives, CVA 786-7.12 )

1060 W. 6th Avenue, 1978. Now lost, this building if preserved would have been a most interesting warehouse conversion. (CoV Archives, CVA 786-8.11 )

1350 Nanaimo Street, moving east from Strathcona many Italian Canadians settled in Hastings-Sunrise. Look closely and you’ll see a banana seat bike leaning outside the store. (CoV Archives, CVA 786-76.06)

However, my favourite photo of the series doesn’t even depict a heritage building.

Clearly not a heritage building, but certainly worth documenting. Pontiac Firebird window display. (CoV Archives, CVA 786-62.19)

This photograph of a cool Pontiac Firebird window display was probably taken out of admiration by one of the student photographers working on the 1978 summer project. Clearly not part of the scope of the heritage building survey, I love that this image was included in the series.

Check out these great images on the City of Vancouver Archives website here.

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Sidewalk prisms of Vancouver

I was a shy child. Consequently, I spent a lot of time avoiding eye contact by looking down at the ground. All this time looking down at my feet allowed me to regard the ground upon which I was walking. Thus it was as a child that I first noticed the purple squares embedded in sidewalks.

Have you ever been walking in an older part of the city and noticed a checker board grid of purple squares under your feet?

Sidewalk prism light mosaic. Photos: C. Hagemoen

Sidewalk prism lights mosaic. Photos: C. Hagemoen

No, they are not simply sidewalk decoration [wouldn’t that be nice?] but rather a system to illuminate spaces under sidewalks called areaways. Sidewalk prisms, also known as vault lights (or pavement lights in the UK), are glass prisms set into sidewalks in order to reflect the natural light from above, safely illuminating these subterranean spaces. [Why are they purple? The answer to that is at the end of the post].

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“Please wait a minute Mr. Postman”

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of her move to this Province, a friend of mine recently mailed out postcards from her extensive personal collection to all her friends. Each of the thoughtfully selected postcards contained a brief narrative about one of her many experiences over the past 25 years. It was a delight to receive such a personal memento in the mail.

Postcard from my friend along with a flyer (what I usually receive in the mail) arrived in my mailbox recently. Photo: C. Hagemoen

Postcard from my friend along with a flyer (what I usually receive in the mail) arrived in my mailbox recently. Photo: C. Hagemoen

Analogue experiences like this are far and few between these days thanks to the internet. There is no doubt that everyone loves to receive a handwritten card, however very few people actually take the time to write one these days. Since the advent of email, texting, twitter, Facebook and other digital technology there really isn’t a need, nor desire, to write and send letters (or cards) via snail mail. Even etiquette traditionalists, bowing to the new technology, agree that email is an acceptable way to deliver an invitation, thank-you note or business letter.

What does this all mean? It means the end of the conventional post office and mail delivery as we know it. I’m afraid that door-to-door mail delivery is going the way of the rotary dial landline telephone (remember those?) and I think that is a real shame.

Illuminated letter drop at the main Vancouver Postal station. Photo: C. Hagemoen

Illuminated letter drop at the main Vancouver Postal station. Photo: C. Hagemoen

It’s a shame because it’s not just about the lost art of letter writing and receiving hand written items in the mail. It’s a shame because it’s also about losing the tradition of having your mail delivered personally to your door by another human being.

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Bottle-dash stucco

There are several architectural features that quite distinctly define Metro Vancouver: the Vancouver Special, forests of glass condominium towers, west coast modernism and the oddest one of them all – bottle-dash stucco. Predominately found in Vancouver, bottle-dash stucco appears throughout the Lower Mainland  and occasionally in the rest of the province.

Bottle-dash stucco exterior

Bottle-dash stucco exterior on house in East Vancouver. Photo: C. Hagemoen

Also known as ‘beer bottle’ stucco, ‘broken bottle’ stucco or ‘crushed bottle’ stucco, ‘bottle-dash’ stucco is something of an enigma.*** If you are not familiar with what it is, houses with bottle-dash (unlike pebble-dash) have bits of glass (most often brown beer and green pop bottles), instead of the more commonly used rock bits, embedded in the exterior stucco finish. I have been curious about bottle-dash stucco since I was a child and first saw it on my great aunt’s house in East Vancouver.  Back in the 1970s and into the 1980s, it was quite common to see it on Vancouver houses of a certain era. When I decided to research bottle-dash stucco, I found that there was very little historical information about it.

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