Friday, July 20, 2012

Elementary My Dear Watson

This is the Ashnola Apartments, built in 1912.

As I mentioned previously, Mount Pleasant is an area formed before vehicles and quite attractive to pedestrians. There are a few lanes in Vancouver, which are also considered residential streets. Watson Street is one and another is John Street, east of Main at King Edward.

Originally named Howard Street, Watson Street consisted of homes with no front yards but with stairs along the sides that led into the lane. This gave pedestrians an alternative to walking along the noisy Main Street. Streetcar operators - railway motormen - and their families occupied these homes because the area was close to where the streetcars were kept. (The streetcars would have been at Main and 14th, Centre Point Mall now.)

The last original house on Watson Street apparently still stands on Watson's west side between 13th and 14th. (I'll have to check that out) The front of this house is home to the long standing Bert's Restaurant. 

The mid-1900s saw Watson Street become the jazz hangout. The legendary club Cellar at Watson and Broadway boasted a lineup of entertainers like Charles Mingus, Cannonball Adderley and Wes Montgomery. The last commercial buildings in this area border Watson. Due to a fire, they are currently unused.

In recent years, a development of town homes facing the lane have reclaimed the original residential feel of Watson Street. There has also been repaving and additional sidewalks added so that the experience of walking along Watson Street is more pleasant and perhaps we'll see more lanes like this in the city.

a proposed development at the corner of Kingsway and Broadway threatens the history of Watson Street. This development will not only impact the nearby bike lane on 10th Avenue but more importantly will turn Watson Street into a mere back lane used as access to residential parking and as a loading bay.

Many historic areas in Mount Pleasant are threatened. A mid-1900s 'slum clearance' movement and development push destroyed some of the history of this place.

The buildings that survived that movement are presently in danger. Despite the inhabitants' efforts to restore these old beauties to their former glory, the city has not designated the structure heritage. Blocks of condominiums and other such buildings may one day replace which means the old Victorian homes of Mount Pleasant. 

I am all for progress and advancement but when are we going to realize that our history is important too? One of the old churches on tenth was converted to condos. The same with the Jewish temple on East Pender. Vancouver is supposed to be such a green city yet I wonder how does it help the environment to tear down these existing structures and build blocks of glass and steel?

Thank you to Ramp Vancouver for the information shared here today. And to Bob_2006 Photostream at Flickr for the information on the Ashnola Apartments.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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1 comment:

  1. Wonderful article. And it is sad to see history erased, and most times with something considered vulgar (like shopping areas.) I agree with you that there needs to be a balance between progress and preservation. I think all areas struggle with this.