Local History Advent Calendar 2022 – Day 17 – Heritage Hall

It’s back! I has been 3 years since I published my last Local History Advent Calendar! So much has happened since that last time—including the publication of my first book, Mount Pleasant Stories—that I figured it was about time to dust off the Local History Advent Calendar once again. Similar to a regular advent calendar but instead of chocolate treats, each day you “open” a new historical treat. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder– 24 facts or stories about local history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

1917 view of Postal Station C, aka Heritage Hall. Photo: Stuart Thomson, COV Archives, CVA 99-356

Heritage Hall is a grand landmark building, standing nobly on the rise from Broadway.  The federal government purchased the land as the location for the future Postal Station  ‘C’ in 1912. At that time local boosters believed that Mount Pleasant would become a bustling commercial centre. But it never happened.

Postal Station ‘C’, designed by A. Campbell  Hope, with David Ewart as chief architect, was completed in 1916. The ornate Edwardian style building was built using local stone from Haddington and Denman Islands. The impressive bell in the clock tower was built by the J. B. Joyce & Company Ltd of Whitchurch, England (makers of London’s Big Ben). 

Heritage Hall in 2022 after extensive renovations. Photo: C. Hagemoen

For seven decades the building contained various federal government offices. It served as a postal station from 1916 to 1922. From 1922 to 1962, it was known as the Dominion Agriculture Building. After that, the building housed the RCMP Forensic Lab and Criminal Records Section from 1965 to 1976.  

The building stood vacant for 7 years and was allowed to fall into disuse before an alliance of community groups stepped in to save the  structure. In March 1982, a non-profit organization named the Main Source Management Society was formed to restore the building and re-open it as a community and cultural centre. Today, under City ownership, the designated heritage structure continues to serve as a gathering place, office space for community organizations (like the Mount Pleasant BIA & Vancouver Heritage Foundation), and historic landmark for the community. 

Extensive exterior renovation of Heritage Hall was funded by the City of Vancouver in 2020/21, the clock-tower was seismically upgraded, the clock refurbished and an automatic winder was installed (from 9am to 9pm you can hear the clock bell chime on the hour). In addition, a new tile roof with grey slate from Quebec was installed and the decorative copper was entirely replaced with stunning new copper forged in Chicago.

The COV Heritage Plaque on the exterior. Photo: C.Hagemoen

You can find more Mount Pleasant stories in my walking tour book, Mount Pleasant Stories. Copies are available for purchase in Mount Pleasant at Pulpfiction Books – 2422 Main Street and in Chinatown at Massy Books – 229 E Georgia St. It makes a great gift or stocking stuffer for your favourite local history buff!

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.

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.

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.

The Clayburn bricks of Belevdere Court -2545 Main Street. Photo: C.Hagemoen

Portion of St. Patrick’s school at E. 11th & Quebec. Photo: C.Hagemoen

IMG_3978 (1)
Algonquin Apartments at 10th and Ontario. Photo: C. Hagemoen

Canada Services Building (1964) on East 10th. Photo: C. Hagemoen

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”

For the love of old buildings

I no longer live at the corner of 1912 and 1925.  I recently moved into a 103 year old brick apartment building. This was a big change coming from the mid-century (ca. 1960) time-warp apartment I left – wood paneling, pink bathroom suite, Formica countertops – all very Mad Men-esque.

I love old buildings; they often have special architectural details that you just don’t find in newer construction – high ceilings, claw footed tubs, odd little closets, built in furniture etc. This is the third time in my life that I have been fortunate to reside in a heritage building.

The first was an apartment building at 15th and Granville. Originally built in 1912, Shaughnessy Mansions (as it was then known) was designed by the architectural firm of Townsend & Townsend. They were known (infamously perhaps) for a “zig-zag” pattern in the brick work of many of their buildings. A fine example of one of their buildings (still standing) is Quebec Manor at East 7th Ave and Quebec Street.

Photograph shows Shaughnessy Mansions under construction at 15th and Granville, 1912. Photo: Cov Archives - Trans P89.
Photograph shows Shaughnessy Mansions under construction at 15th and Granville, 1912. Photo: Cov Archives – Trans P89.

Despite the noticeably sloping floors and other ‘wabi-sabi’ details that came with age, it was a sturdy old gal. Proving as such when a van smashed into the ground floor early one Sunday AM (at first I thought it was an earthquake).

When the building was sold several years ago it was torn down (save for the front façade) in yet another example of architectural taxidermy that has become popular in Vancouver lately. For those who don’t know, architectural taxidermy is the situation where developers literally “skin” the exterior of an old building and re-apply it to a new structure (stuffed inside). In my opinion, this practice of architectural taxidermy is a pathetic attempt by developers to fulfill their heritage preservation requirements. What is supposed to be seen as a nod to the history of the building is really only lip-service. It should not be confused with actual preservation.

Continue reading “For the love of old buildings”