Sidewalk prisms of Vancouver

[This post has been updated since it was first published in 2016]

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 Vancouver kid of the 1970s that I first noticed the glassy purple squares embedded in sidewalks.

Have you ever been walking in an older part of the city and noticed a checkerboard 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].

Continue reading “Sidewalk prisms of Vancouver”

Local History Advent Calendar 2019 – Day 12 – Clayburn Bricks

Last year I took on the challenge of the first-ever Local History Advent Calendar! For 24 days in a row, I presented random historical tidbits I’d collected over the previous year and presented them in the form of “treats” for my 2018 Local History Advent Calendar. This year, the “Heart of Mount Pleasant” was number 1 on Heritage Vancouver’s Top 10 Watch List for 2019.  So I decided to choose Mount Pleasant as the theme for the Vanalogue Local History Advent Calendar for 2019.  Each day you can “open” a new historical treat. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder – 24 facts about Mount Pleasant history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

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E. 10th at Quebec. Two examples of Clayburn Bricks that are seen throughout Mt. Pleasant. Photo: C.Hagemoen

Next time you are walking by one of the many historic brick buildings in Mount Pleasant, I want you to take note of the colour of the brick.  You will find that many of the  buildings are made from a yellowy-beigey-browny brick. These distinctly Mount Pleasant bricks come from the Clayburn Brick Plant near Abbotsford, B.C.. They are quite a refreshing contrast to the more familiar and traditional red brick. In the first half of the 20th Century, the Clayburn Company dominated the brick industry in BC.

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Portion of the old Clayburn Brick factory in Clayburn BC, ca. 1917. Photo: CoV Archives, PAN N67

Charles MacClure founded the Vancouver Fireclay Company Ltd. and established a brickworks in the newly created village of Clayburn, in 1905. Clayburn, located in Abbotsford, was founded as a company town.  By 1909, the firm’s name was changed to that of the town – Clayburn.  (Clayburn was also the brand name of one of the firm’s major lines of brick). The brick plant in Clayburn closed in 1931. There were several other locations for the brick manufacturing plant until 1949 when they moved to a state-of-the-art plant on Pine Street in Abbotsford. In 2011, Clayburn Industries Ltd. permanently closed its Abbotsford manufacturing plant on Pine Street, thus ending over 100 years of brick manufacturing in the Fraser Valley. Clayburn village is now a historic site.

Here are some of the Clayburn brick buildings that are located in Mount Pleasant. You will notice there are several colours of bricks ranging from brown, to buff, to yellow. So, next time you are out walking in Mount Pleasant see how many Clayburn Brick buildings you can spot.

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The Clayburn bricks of Belevdere Court -2545 Main Street. Photo: C.Hagemoen
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Portion of St. Patrick’s school at E. 11th & Quebec. Photo: C.Hagemoen
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Algonquin Apartments at 10th and Ontario. Photo: C. Hagemoen
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Canada Services Building (1964) on East 10th. Photo: C. Hagemoen
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Quebec Manor, 101 E 7th. Photo: C. Hagemoen

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. Continue reading “Master Chef and the 1978 Vancouver Heritage Advisory Committee photos”

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 Vancouver kid of the 1970s that I first noticed the glassy purple squares embedded in sidewalks.

Have you ever been walking in an older part of the city and noticed a checkerboard 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].

Continue reading “Sidewalk prisms of Vancouver”

“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. Continue reading ““Please wait a minute Mr. Postman””

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.

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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.

Continue reading “Bottle-dash stucco”