Local History Advent Calendar 2019 – Day 5 – Sidewalks
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.
Anyone who has regularly followed this blog or my column at Scout Magazine will know I am a bit obsessed with sidewalks – specifically sidewalk prisms, and sidewalk date stamps. In my sidewalk date stamp article I stated that the city started installing cement sidewalks in 1906. Well, apparently that is incorrect. It was as early as 1903 when the city first started to install cement sidewalks. However, it wasn’t until 1904 that a systematic program of installing cement sidewalks began; replacing the existing 3-plank wooden sidewalks or, in some cases, no sidewalk at all.
So imagine how early residents of Mount Pleasant felt when they learned in early 1904 that they were on the list to receive these permanent sidewalks:
These “modern” cement sidewalks were first installed in the West End and downtown neighbourhoods. That is where we find the oldest surviving examples of these early sidewalks in the city: two ‘1906’ sidewalk date stamps in the West End – the oldest sidewalk date stamps in existence.
The oldest surviving sidewalk date stamp in Mount Pleasant is from ‘1907’ and is located on W7th Avenue at Alberta. The house at 303 W 7th was built in 1905 and first occupied by Charles J. (an engineer) and Elizabeth Ellis and their two children. I can imagine the Ellis children excitedly watching out the front window of their house as workers installed the new sidewalks and stamped ‘1907’ into the wet cement.
Other early examples of sidewalk name and date stamps found in Mount Pleasant are found on 10th Avenue at Columbia Street and 10th and Manitoba – the same block that is home to the famous Davis Houses. At 10th and Columbia, a ‘1908’ stamp and a ‘1909’ stamp can be found. At the other end of the block there is another ‘1908’ stamp.
On his Sidewalk Contractor Stamp website, Lincoln Cushing states that “much can be learned from these artifacts, including construction dates and patterns of urban development” and sidewalk stamps aficionado Andrew Alden refers to sidewalk name and date stamps as “fossils in the city’s hardscape”.
Oh, and for those of you who like sidewalk prisms, there’s an example of those in Mount Pleasant too! They are found along the E. 10th side of Belvedere Court (formerly the Harris Block), which dates from 1911-12. They are special because this is the only location of sidewalk prisms found outside of the downtown core. They are a visual example of what commonly happened to sidewalk prism lights, once they become damaged and a hazard – they were covered with asphalt and only an impression of them remains.