Monday, April 29, 2013

Major J.S. Matthews

In 1878, in the far-off land of Wales, a man who was to become very important to Vancouver and its history was born. James Skitt Matthews spent his youth in New Zealand before arriving in Vancouver in 1899.

In later years, Matthews would recall picking blackberries on wild land near Thurlow and Davie - and area built up today.

Matthews worked as a clerk, salesman and manager for Imperial Oil from 1899 to 1919. It was in 1907 that he came up with a way to provide fuel for the new form of transportation, the auto mobile. James adapted a kitchen water tank and attached a rubber hose to it. Yes, James Matthews created one of the first gas pumps in the country.

Matthews served in World War I - he was on the front lines at Ypres. He returned to Canada as a Major and he used that title from that time on.

In 1924, Matthews retired from a series of business ventures and started exploring another of his interests - Vancouver history. He was director of the Arts, Historical and Scientific Society and had a collection of archival material.

This collection was massive and overflowed from his home to a space in the attic of Market Hall then to the Holden Building, then the new City Hall and finally to its own building which bears Matthews name.

This collection had been collected by Matthews on his own. He wasn't being paid for it at the time. But the City of Vancouver recognized the value of these acquisitions. The city officially recognized Matthews' position with a 1932 bylaw and provided him with a $30 a month stipend. By doing this, the city also claimed ownership of the documents. A fact that did not sit well with Matthews.

Matthews took the valuable collection back to his house. This sparked a debate and Matthews was eventually appointed official archivist in 1933 - a position he held until his death in 1970. The archives were returned to City Hall.

In 1972, the Major J.S. Matthews Archives Building opened in Vanier Park. This was the first separate municipal archive building in Canada. A fitting tribute to a man who was wise enough to foresee the importance of preserving our history.

I am getting this information from the book Namely Vancouver, A Hidden History of Vancouver Place Names by Tom Snyder and Jennifer O'Rourke.

This is a very interesting book full of tidbits of information. Like how the street Adanac got its name. There is so much to that story and I will tell you about it another time. A hint on where the name came from? Spell it backwards and you'll figure it out.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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Friday, April 26, 2013

Grandview Centurians

This is a heritage reinterpretation by Allen Diamond Architects. The original home - built in 1909 - was used as a rooming house for decades and was altered almost beyond recognition.

On Wednesday, I told you about the 'Miracle Mile' ran in 1954. What I didn't tell you was the the event was the cover story of the premier issue of Sports Illustrated. The games were also broadcast by CBC's new local station, CBUT, becoming the first international sporting event ever broadcast across North America. This brought Vancouver its first taste of international exposure.

The triangular closed front gable, the curved-shingled indented sleeping porch on the second floor and cut-in front stoop are all main features that reflect the Edwardian style. Most homes of this style have shed dormers while this one has a gabled one.

Traditional Edwardian homes also have smaller windows than this modern adaptation. The triple set of double-hung windows is not a historic style and the vertical glazing bars on the top sashes are reminiscent of the 1920s not the 1910 era.

Vancouver had another reason to celebrate in 1954. That year, our first cocktail bar was licensed. It was located on the top floor of the Sylvia Hotel.

Two years later, Billy Haley and the Comets performed at the Kerrisdale Arena. The Vancouver Sun labelled it as the 'ultimate in musical depravity'. The fans paid no attention to this negativity. The powerful youth culture that made its mark on the sixties and seventies had begun.
This front gabled 'Vancouver Craftsman' home is more commonly seen in Kitsilano and rare to see in any other district. The home has exposed rafters and brackets and small bracketed shed roof over the sleeping porch, which are typical of this style.

The fifties may have seen happy and productive and consumer orientated but there was also a dark side. The cold war was going on in the background and we still lived under the shadow of the atomic bomb that had been cast by World War II.

The evil Soviet Union was a threat to war and fodder for those who could alarm the people. Employees were screened for Communist sympathies, private citizens built their own bomb shelter and air-raid sirens were tested.  And don't forget about Senator McCarthy.

The students at UBC - University of British Columbia - publicly denounced McCarthyism as a "witch hunt" (they weren't alone in that thought) and the senator as a 'facist' and urged Canada to bar the politician from entering our country.

The fifties was a decade of progress yet that progress came with growing pains. By the time the decade ended, Vancouver had to deal with big city problems such as traffic congestion and urban decay. It was in the following decades, even now, that the city would define itself by the way we deal with these challenges.

Once again, thanks are extended to Aynsley Vogel and Dana Wyse and their book, Vancouver, A History in Photographs as well as the Grandview Heritage Group for the information on the homes. I hope you find the beauty around you.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Fantastic Fifties

This is Professor Edward Odlum's house at 1710 Grant Street. The photo was taken in the early 1900s.
And here is the house today. Or what you can see of it through the vegetation outside.

Today I am looking at the book Vancouver, A History in Photographs by Aynsley Vogel and Dana Wyse. I am going to let you know about Vancouver in the 1950s.

We went through the Great Depression and suffered with the limitations and hardships of World War II. Now it was time to enjoy life again and the fifties the rewards of progress.

The Burrard Building was the first modern sky scraper in the city - the first high rise to be built in Vancouver since the late twenties -and it was followed a year later in 1957 by the BC Hydro Building at Nelson and Burrard.

Both of these buildings were soon joined by a wall of towers behind them. They multiplied! LOL

Our population was growing as well. Thirteen percent of the new residents to Greater Vancouver settled in the city whereas the suburbs saw an increase of 87 percent. The suburbs doubled in size by the end of the fifties.

Vancouver's couples settled comfortably into their suburban houses and continued the post-war baby boom. The family drove to the new invention, covered shopping malls. (Park Royal in West Vancouver was built in 1950 and is Canada's first covered shopping mall.) 
1867 East 6th. In the hundred years since this house has been built, the original Edwardian-style structure has been somewhat disguised with additional alterations.

Televisions replaced radios as cornerstones to the new 'family' or 'rec' rooms. Popular American culture now flooded into new homes in the lower mainland.

Vancouverites watched the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on Bellingham's KVOS since the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation - CBC - would not air locally until 1953.

Progress brought a renewed interest in the cultural live of Vancouver. New public projects such as the Maritime Museum, the Vancouver Public Aquarium, the main branch of the Vancouver Public Library and the Queen Elizabeth Theatre appeared in the city.
The triangular gable is typical of this style and there was probably a sleeping porch on the second floor. That appears to have now been filled in as was the full-width front porch, which would have been cut in below the second floor. It looks like the little pediment over the front stoop was added later.

The city hosted the British Empire Games in 1954. We constructed an Olympic-size pool and the 30,000-seat Empire Stadium. 

The highlight of the games was the 'Miracle Mile' in which two men ran a mile race in under four minutes. The first time in history that had ever been accomplished.

There is a statue of the two runners at Hastings Park and I wrote on the race and showed the statue in this 2010 entry.

A building permit was issued to C. Farmer - who built the house - April 14, 1910. C. Farmer also got permits for 2159, 2163 and 2169 on the same day.

Thanks to the Grandview Heritage Group for the information on the home. The organizers of the group put signs up every year to let residents know which houses are 100 years old this year.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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