Local History Advent Calendar 2019 – Day 24 – Mount Pleasant Heritage Group

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.

This past May my three colleagues in the Mount Pleasant Heritage Group and I were collectively awarded a City of Vancouver Heritage Award of Merit for our “efforts in raising and promoting public appreciation of both the neighbourhood’s history and the resources within the community, as it contributes to education and awareness”.

The Mount Pleasant Heritage Group (MPHG) is a grassroots collection of Mount Pleasant residents, local historians and other interested people working to identify, preserve and celebrate the built, natural, cultural & industrial heritage of Mount Pleasant. The MPHG grew out of community connections formed during the City’s community planning workshops (resulting in the 2010 Mount Pleasant Community Plan) and the subsequent Implementation Committee (resulting in the 2013 Implementation Package). Since MPHG’s formation in 2013, we have compiled an information base and embarked on projects aimed at presenting Mount Pleasant’s rich heritage to the public.

Mount Pleasant has been known in the past and is currently known for its vibrant mix of locally owned small businesses, some of which have been in the neighbourhood for decades. Many of these businesses reside in heritage buildings like The Federal Store, Laura’s Coffee Shop, The Whip Restaurant & Gallery, and Pulp Fiction Books.

Mount Pleasant is a vibrant urban community. It has always evolved with the changing world…. it adapted and yet was able to maintain its “village” feel. But that is threatened with development. Recent zoning changes in Lower Mount Pleasant and the new Broadway Plan which includes a subway transit station at E. Broadway and Main are threatening to destroy what makes Mount Pleasant so pleasant and appealing in the first place. Imagine getting  off of the subway in Mount Pleasant and exiting the station, and not knowing where you are because all you see are the same ubiquitous chain stores and homogenous architecture. You should be able to exit the station and know that you are in  Mount Pleasant… not Anywhere, North America.

Kerry Gold wrote a great piece in the Globe and Mail August 2018 titled ‘Mount Pleasant Transforms as SkyTrain Grows’ … in it she outlines how increasing development is threatening the neighbourhood’s “village atmosphere…affordable rental apartments, historic architecture and independent businesses.”

Other good reads on the subject of the threat to Mount Pleasant’s heritage are:

With SkyTrain on track, Mount Pleasant businesses worry about train lines and bottom lines– Liam Britten, CBC Vancouver – November 23, 2018. Mount Pleasant is getting better transit. But will ‘character’ be a casualty?

“We really want to see the vibrancy and street life and all those wonderful little small businesses continue to exist.” “It’s going to take some real out-of-the-box thinking … and, quite honestly, guts at city hall to find ways that things can be maintained.” – Alyssa Myshok

Mount Pleasant’s on the rise, but for whom? – Sean MacPherson, Megaphone – July 20, 2015. As Vancouver’s oldest suburb changes, let’s consider what we’ve lost.

As urban “improvement” strategies begin to transform the neighborhood, it seems a fit time to think about the cycle of change throughout the history of this place. It is important to consider these changes and their ramifications for the people who live here. – Sean MacPherson

Vancouver’s industrial heritage faces uncertain future – Mike Kissinger, Vancouver Courier – December 23, 2019. In this article, Javier Campos, president of Heritage Vancouver Society, discusses the difficulty in preserving the city’s industrial past. Something that is very relevant to Mount Pleasant’s own industrial heritage.

“Heritage is about that. For me personally, it’s to understand a shared history that we have. But it also needs to allow things to evolve and develop. Industrial heritage is part of our history. It’s part of why Vancouver is here. It’s about how it developed. It’s about how we became Vancouver. So it’s very important to preserve some of that and to help people remember and understand where we came from.” – Javier Campos

We don’t want to hold our communities in aspic, (think suspended fruit in jello) but we also don’t want to obliterate them in the name of progress, or in the name of density. So no matter what happens… there will be changes, the plan is to work together to mitigate those changes so that we can preserve what we already have, while still getting what we need.

It is the desire of the MPHG to open up a conversation with the City about ways to protect the neighbourhood’s treasured heritage assets – both tangible and intangible – which contribute so deeply to its liveability. We want to find ways to manage change so that the neighbourhood is able to hold onto its valued characteristics. We would also like the City to recognize all the work that has already been done with the creation of the Mount Pleasant Community Plan and 2013 Implementation Plan.

The MPHG believe an important first step would be to set up a neighbourhood advisory committee and follow the suggestion of the Mount Pleasant Community Plan to make Mount Pleasant (and in particular its ‘Heritage Heart’) a heritage area with a management plan. Such a plan would follow best practices in heritage and city planning. One of the goals would be the creation of a Main Street Heritage Precinct in the Old Mount Pleasant Village or Heritage Heart of Mount Pleasant. This unique area, with some of the most historically cohesive blocks left, has continuously been the hub of the neighbourhood. It is a vibrant and well-loved shopping and gathering space with an active streetscape that draws people from all over the city, and it is worthy and in desperate need of protection and preservation.

MPHG is going to need your help. The new year will bring a call to action for those interested in preserving and protecting Mount Pleasant’s heritage. So please follow the Mount Pleasant Heritage Group on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and on our MPHG website  – for updates on how you can help and for news on what’s happening.

This post was written with files from the Mount Pleasant Heritage Group. All photography – Christine Hagemoen

Local History Advent Calendar 2019 – Day 23 – Japanese community in Lower Mount Pleasant

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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Predominately residential Lower Mount Pleasant ca. 1913. Source: CoV Archives, PAN N161B

If you study the few remaining houses in Lower Mount Pleasant (the area north of Broadway) you will notice that they were all built prior to 1914. The pre-WW1 period was one of great growth in Mount Pleasant – its “Golden Age”. After the war, things began to shift. In the 20s and 30s, industrial uses crept southward from False Creek and original settler families (predominately British) moved out and were replaced by immigrant families (like my own Italian immigrant family). Over time, the area declined – buildings aged and were not maintained, and in the 1950s, property-owners successfully petitioned City Council to re-zone the neighbourhood for light industrial development.

Since then, most of the early houses have been replaced by commercial/industrial buildings, but fascinating pockets of the old neighbourhood hang on. This semi-industrial area is often ignored when people discuss the history and historic merit of Mount Pleasant. Few buildings in this area have made it onto the Heritage Register, and even fewer are designated. So, this area is still not on the radar for heritage retention and/or planning.

With the pressure of development of False Creek South, new density zoning, along with plans for a new Broadway subway, there is a lot of pressure for redevelopment and it is increasing at breakneck speed. It is just a matter of time until we see further erosion of heritage resources in the area. But it’s not just about built heritage, the area’s social and cultural history is also surprisingly very rich.

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Fire Insurance Plan, 1940. The arrows point to Japanese residences, cultural buildings, and businesses.

This area (see above) was at the centre of the Japanese-Canadian community in Mount Pleasant. The 1941 census revealed that the largest non-British ethnic group in Mount Pleasant and Fairview was Japanese at 1,400 people. In fact, Mount Pleasant/Fairview on the south shore of False Creek was the second-largest Japanese Canadian community outside of Japantown centered on Powell St.

Many Issei and Nisei came to work in the industries along the south shore of False Creek. During the housing shortage after WW1 cheap tenements and cabins were set up there to house the Japanese workers. (There were also many Indo-Canadians who lived and worked in this industrial part of lower Mount Pleasant.)

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The old Japanese Church at W6th & Columbia ca. 1970s. Source: CoV Archives, CVA 1135-32

Just down the street on 6th at Columbia (PHOTO) was the Japanese Canadian United Church aka Columbia United Church or Fairview United Church. The Japanese Kindergarten (starting in 1912) was also there. On the same block between Alberta and Columbia on 5th was the Japanese Language School and The Mikado Club was at 154 W 5th.

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233 West 6th in 2017. Photo: C. Hagemoen

This hold-out house at 233 West 6th Avenue was built ca. 1907 according to the water service records.  In 1910, a building application was placed for the house to be raised, at a cost of $500. Architecturally, it is unique in that it is constructed with hollow-cast concrete blocks; the blocks would be made on the site by the builder with a special block moulding machine.

From around 1937 to 1941, the Asano family lived there: Masao Asano who worked at Peace Cleaners on Fraser St. , his wife Umeko, mother Sugi (widow), and daughter Jean. Jean was a talented young artist as evidenced by the drawings she submitted to the Sun Newspaper’s “Sun Ray Club”(children’s section).

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Vancouver Sun, October 13, 1938. Drawing by Jean Asano age 13.

As a member of the Sun Ray club, you get your name mentioned in the newspaper for your birthday along with all the other Sun Rays who share the same birthday. This must have been an automatic yearly event because, curiously, Jean Asano’s name under her birthdate is included on this celebratory list until 1945. (I suppose the Sun Ray’s Uncle Ben didn’t realize he had an enemy alien on his list!)

In 1942 the Asano’s were either interned along with all the other Japanese Canadians living on the west coast or were forced to leave British Columbia. More research is needed to find out exactly what happened to the Asano family of Mount Pleasant.

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The last Asahi baseball team in 1941. Back (L-R): Yuki Uno, Eddie Nakamura, Naggie Nishihara, Koei Mitsui, Kaz Suga. Front (L-R): Mike Maruno, Ken Kutsukake, George Shishido, Roy Yamamura, Tom Sawayama, Frank Shiraishi. Centre: Kiyoshi Suga Nikkei National Museum, 2010-26-19

Many of the famous Asahi baseball team players also lived in Fairview/Mount Pleasant.

Asahi baseball player, Naggie Nishihara (see above) lived at 2109 Alberta St. and in 1938 he is listed as a helper at BC Fir. Another Asahi player, Mike Maruno (see above) also worked at BC Fir and he lived at 161 W 6th. Many other Asahi players lived in Fairview west of Cambie.

My Grandfather, Pete Mauro (53 E. 6th) was also a baseball player; he played on several Commercial League and Terminal League teams that took on the Asahi team. Apparently, he was a bit of a hothead, and he was called “pugnacious Pete Mauro” once or twice in the press. There is one newspaper report of him getting into fisticuffs once with Asahi star player, Kaz Suga.

TheNikkei Museum has produced a great booklet on the subject: FE-A-BYU: Japanese Canadian History in Fairview and Mount Pleasant. It’s a great resource to check out.

Local History Advent Calendar 2019 – Day 22 – Mount Pleasant Bowladrome

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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The Province, May 5, 1955

Not only did Mount Pleasant once have its own movie theatre, but it also had its own bowling alley! The Mount Pleasant Bowladrome opened 71 years ago during the peak of popularity for league bowling in Vancouver. The grand opening was held on Wednesday, December 15, 1948…

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Vancouver Sun – December 15, 1948

“Its glittering facade fronting on Broadway between Main and Quebec Streets, at 116 East Broadway, the Mount Pleasant Bowladrome represents a large financial investment in the district’s business section and adds to the solidity of that centre.”

President Frank Welters boasted that the Bowladrome had 12 lanes on a “double deck of six smooth alleys on each of the two floors, in addition to the latest equipment for five and tenpin bowling”.

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The Vancouver Sun, January 14, 1953.

The Mount Pleasant Bowladrome was host to top tournaments and regular league play. It was also one of 30(!) bowling centres in the lower mainland that participated in a British Empire Games (Commonwealth Games) mass bowling tourney in September 1953.  The bowling spree was the single biggest bowling event in BC history – a fundraiser for the British Empire Games’ Special Events Committee. In addition to the top prize of a 17″ Admiral TV, prizes for this event included: 10-pin bowling ball and bag donated by National Manufacturing, a Gadabout ladies bowling dress donated by Bernard Casuals, and 12 North Star hams awarded by Jack Diamond.

Sadly, bowling “on the hill” lasted less than 10 years. In the early morning hours of March 22, 1957, a carelessly tossed cigarette started a two-alarm fire that was the final gutter-ball for the Mount Pleasant Bowladrome. Causing between $50,000 to $75,000 damage, the fire left the second floor a charred ruin and water damage was extensive on the main floor.

Local History Advent Calendar 2019 – Day 21 – George A. Barrowclough

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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Mt. Pleasant, 1907 – Barrowclough Cards. Photo: G. A. Barrowclough, Source: Uno Langmann Family Collection of British Columbia Photographs Barrowclough, George Alfred

Two of my favourite photos of historic Mount Pleasant (because they clearly show Abray House) were taken by a photographer named George Alfred Barrowclough (1872-1950). English-born Barrowclough came to Burnaby, B.C. via Winnipeg in 1906. By the end of that year, Barrowclough had settled in Mount Pleasant and opened a restaurant at 2440 Westminster Avenue (Main Street).  On January 17th, 1907, Barrowclough was involved in an accident at his restaurant. Frozen water pipes caused his boiler to explode when he lit his stove, resulting in the rear wall of his restaurant being blasted out.  So, I suppose it is not surprising then that by 1908, Barrowclough is no longer running a restaurant and decides to work full-time as a photographer (again).

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Barrowclough’s photograph of the newly constructed Frontenac Block, ca. 1910. Source: Uno Langmann Family Collection of British Columbia Photographs Barrowclough, George Alfred 

But, what about his photographs? In their book, Breaking News: The postcard images of George Alfred Barrowclough, Fred Thirkell and Bob Scullion chronicle Barrowclough’s career as a picture-postcard photographer in Vancouver from 1906 to 1920. In it, they describe how he headed to San Francisco immediately after the great earthquake that shook that city on April 18, 1906, to take photos of the destruction. Documenting disasters or accidents would become a signature of Barrowclough’s photographic work. Barrowclough would photograph a subject, and if it was a timely news event, he’d process and print the photographs so that they would be available to go on sale by the following day.

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All cars stop at Ferguson Drug Store, Corner of Granville and Davie, Vancouver, B.C. Source: Uno Langmann Family Collection of British Columbia Photographs Barrowclough, George Alfred  — 1920

But it wasn’t all doom and gloom for Barrowclough, some of his work reveals that he had a sense of humour:

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On Strike for a Wider Road in Stanley Park, B.C. Photo: Uno Langmann Family Collection of British Columbia Photographs Barrowclough, George Alfred  — 1910

In 1910 he married twice-widowed Elizabeth Davie and moved back to Mount Pleasant settling into the newly constructed Algonquin Apartments at 10th Ave and Ontario. Shortly thereafter, Barrowclough starts working as a caretaker at Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church at 10th and Quebec. He is still taking photographs and producing postcards, just not full time. Interestingly, there is no evidence to suggest that Barrowclough ever did portrait photography – which was quite common for most professional photographers at that time.  Another interesting thing about Barrowclough is that every couple of years he seems to switch from photography full time to another job and then back again – at least that is what a survey of the City Directories of the time suggests.  For example, in the city directory for 1915 he is listed as a photographer,  in the 1916 directory, he is listed as a helper at BC Sugar Refining Co., and in 1917 he’s listed as a photographer in active service. During WW1 he served with the 231st Battalion.

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Hindu [Im]migrants, B.C. Source: Uno Langmann Family Collection of British Columbia Photographs Barrowclough, George Alfred  — 1920
After the war, George and his family ( in addition to two step-daughters, he and his wife have a daughter named Grace) move to 168 West 22nd, but he still has ties to Mount Pleasant through his work at the church. And in a surprise move in 1928, he takes over the proprietorship of Coville Bakery (later Federal Store) for about a year.

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George Barrowclough with Grace in front of 168 West 22nd Avenue, 1924. Photo: CoV Archives, CVA 1376-303

Sadly, his young daughter Grace died at age 13 on Sept. 15, 1925. The circumstances surrounding her death are unknown. In 1926, Barrowclough and his wife leave the family home and move into a suite in the Lee Building at 175 E Broadway. They live the remainder of their lives in Mount Pleasant within a couple of blocks of their church at 10th and Quebec Streets

Barrowclough seems to have stopped taking photos by 1930; the last time he is listed in the city directory as a photographer is in 1928. In fact, when authors Thurkell and Scullion contacted the step-granddaughter of Barrowclough in an attempt to find out more about the subject of their book, she was surprised to find out that he was a photographer at all! Her family had never seen any of his photographs before.

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A giant of Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC. Photo: Uno Langmann Family Collection of British Columbia Photographs Barrowclough, George Alfred 

Through a donation by Uno Langman, UBC has a collection of about 125 Barrowclough picture postcards, you can check them out here.

Local History Advent Calendar 2019 – Day 15 – Streetcar scars

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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Street car on Quebec St. (between 14th & 13th) on its way from the Mount Pleasant Car Barns. Photo: CoV Archives

Day 1 of the LHAC 2019 featured the Mount Pleasant Streetcar Barns and its resident janitor cat ‘Toots‘. The car barns were bounded by Main Street on the east and Quebec Street on the west,  between 13th and 14th Avenues . The building was two-tiered to compensate for the grade of the property at the Main St side vs the Quebec Street side. Cars could enter and exit at grade from both sides. For 46 years, from 1906 to 1952, street cars would start and end their routes from that location.

For 10 years starting in 1945, the entire transit system was converted from streetcars to trolley buses – the campaign was called “Rails to Rubber“. In 1952, the ‘Fairview Beltline’ was transferred from streetcar to bus and the Mount Pleasant car barns were closed. The land was eventually sold and a series of supermarkets, starting with the Dominion Store, have occupied the site ever since.

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Old street car tracks still visible on Quebec Street between 12th and 13th. Photo: C. Hagemoen

But you can still see evidence of this part of Mount Pleasant’s history on Quebec Street between 13th and 12th Avenues (just south of the Fire Hall).  A portion of streetcar rails, like a scar on the landscape, can be seen on Quebec street near the former site of the Mount Pleasant carbarns.

In his novel, All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy wrote, “Scars have the strange power to remind us that our past is real.” We should similarly appreciate urban landscape scars like those of the Mount Pleasant streetcar line. These historic “scars” on our city’s landscape form part of the history of Vancouver; as such they should be shown and celebrated rather than hidden.

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.

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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

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.

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The oldest sidewalk in Mount Pleasant. 1907 Sidewalk date stamp at 7th and Alberta.

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:

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Sidewalk editorial by publisher Rena Whitney in the March 26th, 1904 edition of the Mount Pleasant Advocate.
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Mount Pleasant Advocate, July 9, 1904.

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.

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303 West 7th at Alberta.

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.

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1908 on the corner of 10th at Columbia.

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”.

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Covered, but there… the only example of sidewalk prisms on this side of False Creek at 2545 Main (10th Avenue side)

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.