Local History Advent Calendar 2019 – Day 13 – Watson Street

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.

Watson Street is a hidden oddity. Only 33 feet wide, or half the size of a regular city street, it is one of the few alleyways in Vancouver that is also a residential street. It serves as the lane for commercial buildings on the east side of Main Street and a regular street for residences and buildings on the opposite side. This duality is likely due to the fact that Watson served as the historical boundary between John Webster’s District Lot 302 and H.V. Edmonds’ District Lot 301. Originally named Howard Street ca. 1899, it was renamed Watson Street in 1950.

MAP 342b.22Watsoncrop
1912 Goad’s Fire Insurance Map showing Howard St. (Watson) between 16th & Broadway. Photo: CoV Archives Map 342c

Watson Street was once home to several houses and cottages. These were homes for the working class population – BCER employees, teamsters, teachers, carpenters, shopkeepers – that made up the community of Mount Pleasant for much of its history. Only three of those early residences still stand today – one of them being the 1895 Abray House.

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2913/15 Watson Street in 2011, when Bert’s Restaurant was still in operation. Photo: Screenshot Google Street view 2011.

A duplex cottage built before 1909 is found at 2913/15 Watson. A building permit was issued to “Patton & McLean” in 1909 to repair and move this duplex house from the front of the lot facing Westminster Ave. (Main Street) to the rear of the lot along Watson Street. This was ostensibly done to make room for a commercial building facing Main Street. The building that now stands at the front of the lot (2904 Main) was built sometime in the 1920s and was once home to, local working persons favourite family cafe, Bert’s Restaurant (1948-2012) and is now home to Colony Restaurant.

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2972/2974 Watson Street. Photo: C.Hagemoen

On the same block but across the street at 2972/2974 Watson Street stands a butter-cream colored duplex that was built ca. 1907. This house is particularly significant, as it has served as housing continuously for over 110 years. It is the last example left on Watson Street that still serves its singular original purpose.

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218 East 11th at Watson Street. Photo: C. Hagemoen

Early examples of multi-family apartment buildings can also be found along the Watson Street corridor. The oldest one is located at 218 East 11th at Watson Street. A building permit was issued to carpenter Henry G. Taylor for this two-story frame apartment building in 1912 (above). It replaced an original single-family dwelling that was built before 1903 by C. G Taylor.

Another early apartment building is found across Watson Street from Heritage Hall. Located at 210 E. 15th this two-story wood frame dwelling was built in 1919 by BC Fir & Cedar Lumber employee Alec Reid. Now sporting a coat of bottle-dash stucco, it was converted to a multi-family dwelling in the early 1950s.

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210 East 15th (rear) seen from Watson St. Photo: C.Hagemoen

I created this digital picture story on Watson Street in a one-day workshop at one of grunt gallery’s 2018 Mount Pleasant Community Art Screen Digital Storytelling workshops with Mount Pleasant residents. Consider it a historic stroll down Watson Street…

Source: Christine Hagemoen’s Watson Street – a history in 9 blocks – Digital Stories.ca

You can also view it on the Mount Pleasant Community Art Screen (MPCAS).
Location: Intersection of Broadway & Kingsway, Vancouver, on the east side of the Independent Building
Screen Hours: Sunday to Thursday: 9AM to 9:30PM / Friday & Saturday: 9AM to 10:30PM

Matilda and Deni: subject & photographer

Mrs. Matilda Boynton poses for the camera in February 1960 just prior to her 103rd birthday. Photo: Deni Eagland, CoV Archives, Port P1622

This striking photograph of Mrs. Matilda Boynton was found in the City of Vancouver Archives. This compelling portrait has a definite Karsh-like quality to it – something I wasn’t expecting to find in the holdings of the Vancouver Archives.

Immediately I was intrigued by the subject (the person in front of the camera) –  a 102-year-old black woman, smoking a cigar. As well as, I was curious about the person who created this portrait, the man behind the camera, Sun newspaper photographer, Deni Eagland. Continue reading “Matilda and Deni: subject & photographer”

Fun with sticks and stumps

1885 view of cleared forest in Granville, now Vancouver, BC. Copy of photograph titled “clearing for a new city (Vancouver) at Granville.’ . From "Wanderings with a Camera" by Erskine Beveridge. Photo: Erskine Beveridge, RCAHMS, DP050372.
This was Vancouver. 1885 view of cleared forest in Granville, now Vancouver, BC. From “Wanderings with a Camera” by Erskine Beveridge. Photo: Erskine Beveridge, RCAHMS, DP050372.

In the mid to late 1800s Vancouver was literally being carved out of the forest. As the city grew, the forested land around the town site of Granville (later Vancouver) was being cleared resulting in great piles of slash – branches and other residue left on a forest floor after the cutting of timber. This waste material was mainly disposed of by being burned in controlled fires (one of which, infamously got out of control in June 1886 and resulted in the Great Fire) but, not all of it.

Where most saw waste, a few saw opportunity. Along with the (sometimes giant) tree stumps left in the ground, this slash gave some creative/resourceful early Vancouverites lots of raw material to work with. Continue reading “Fun with sticks and stumps”

The Pro-Rec Program (1934-1953)

Group of women doing a Pro-Rec fitness display in Stanley PArk
Group of women doing a Pro-Rec fitness display in Stanley Park, 1940.   Photo City of Vancouver Archives – CVA 1184-2355
Pro-Rec dance demonstration. CVA 586-237
Pro-Rec dance demonstration in Stanley Park, 1940. Photo: City of Vancouver Archives – CVA 586-237

These intriguing photos are from a series of images that depict a ‘Pro-Rec’ mass demonstration held at Brockton Oval in Stanley Park in 1940. “Pro Rec”, short for Provincial Recreation, was a community sport and recreation initiative offered through the Physical Education Branch of the BC Department of Education. It was developed by Jan Eisenhardt (program administrator) with the support of BC Minister of Education, George Weir. Continue reading “The Pro-Rec Program (1934-1953)”

60th anniversary of CBUT, Part 4 – Drama from the left coast

On this 4th and final installment celebrating the 60th anniversary of CBUT, we take a dramatic turn and look at a few interesting stories in the “long and honourable” history of television drama on CBUT (CBC Vancouver).

The recent series of CBC cutbacks and layoffs announced by CBC-SRC’s dispassionate president, Hubert Lacroix, were essentially the fatal blow at the end of a long slow death for all original (non-news) programming on CBC TV. There was a time (long, long ago) however, when the CBC was at the forefront of original programming.

Many Canadians (especially those of a certain age) will be familiar with the history of CBC-TVs documentary and music programming, however many may be unfamiliar with the history of its dramatic programming.

Production still from the set of Spectrum's - Some Days You Have To Hit Somebody (1958).
Production still from the set of Spectrum’s – Some Days You Have To Hit Somebody (1958). Photo: Alvin Armstrong, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection.

Like much programming on the CBC, drama had its start on CBC’s radio service.  In it’s early years, CBC radio’s national and regional drama series featured the best of both domestic and international drama. This dramatic tradition continued on the small screen when CBC started its television service. Continue reading “60th anniversary of CBUT, Part 4 – Drama from the left coast”

Rose Marie the Riveter

Two images of women (1943 & 1945) on the back cover of Wallace Shipbuilder.
Two images of women (1943 & 1945) on the back cover of Wallace Shipbuilder.

I found these great photographic images of these women serendipitously while doing another task at the City of Vancouver Archives. [Isn’t that the best way to discover interesting new things?] Though both images essentially depict the same thing – an attractive woman – despite being taken only two years apart, I was intrigued by how differently these women were portrayed. Especially since these images appeared on back covers of the same publication, Wallace Shipbuilder. The side by side juxtaposition of the two images piqued my interest. Continue reading “Rose Marie the Riveter”

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.

Continue reading “Bottle-dash stucco”