Monday, May 23, 2011

Community in Bloom

While I was walking along East Georgia in Strathcona I happened upon the mosaic for a community in bloom. So I decided to collect some photos I've taken of blooms I have taken so far this year and put a lot into one post.

Strathcona is an area of Vancouver that has been much maligned. It is the oldest residential area and grew from the workers in the nearby Hastings Mill. It has been an area of diverse cultures over the years, from Chinese to Russians to African Canadians. It is the only neighbourhood where English is not the most commonly spoken language. 61% report Chinese as being their mother tongue while English is registered at 24%.

The once working class of this area was looked down on for being poor and recently the neighbourhood has had to deal with an influx of drugs and prostitution. But this is a community of fighters. During the 1950s Strathcona was earmarked for demolition. The plan was to develop rows upon rows of identical apartment buildings and townhouses for social housing. Gone would be the historic homes that help give this city its uniqueness.

Some fifteen blocks of the neighbourhood was bulldozed before residents of the area managed to put a stop to it. Unfortunately Hogan's Alley - the only area with a high concentration of blacks - was gone. Mary Chan, who I have written about before, got other residents together to form the Strathcona Property Owners and Tenants Association (SPOTA).

From SPOTA emerged some important municipal figures such as Mayor Mike Harcourt and the TEAM - later COPE - party.

Today Strathcona is filled with history. The late 19th and early 20th century architecture is a rarity in Vancouver and the area is going through a gentrification process. The homes are being designated heritage are being restored to their former beauty. This is attracting a wealthier set of home owners.

That being said there are a lot of homes in the area that need everything from a little TLC to a major overhaul. But it is an interesting area to walk through and one that make feel good. However the main reason I have a lot of pictures of this area is that it is close and I walk through it to get to most places I walk.

If we walk a short distance to Alexander Street in Gastown we may see the Alexander Residence also known as the Ferry Rooms or The Dugout.

Architect William F. Gardiner designed this plain four storey hotel  which was built in 1911-1912. It has residential units above and commercial shops below. Sound familiar? Many of the buildings in this area that I have featured seem to have been originally designed like this.

In the winter many of the residents of these residential hotels were men from the logging camps. Out of work for the cold months they would lounge around the streets and hang out in the local bars. A restaurant and bar that was located in this building in 1913 would have catered to this clientele.

At first glance the architecture looks plain and unassuming, not unlike many similar buildings in the area. However on closer inspection we can see the English influences with the recessed storefront with an external basement stair and decorative metal railings. There is an asymmetrical entry off of Alexander with doors leading into the shops and another door leading upstairs - this is typical of the small hotels of this time period.

Originally constructed by Adkison and Dill, this building was renovated in 1992-93.

I hope you find the beauty around you.
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