Friday, October 7, 2011

1086 Bute Street

Today I'm focusing on one address and I am also going to fill you in on some of the history of Mole Hill.

In 1911 Jacob Valdone Lightheart and G.E. Lightheart built one of the early great apartment buildings in Vancouver. It was built on the site of Albert Edward Beck's 1891  house and was named the Royal Alexandra.

On July 8, 1927 the Royal Alexandra caught fire. A painter's varnish and thinners caught fire and turned the building into an inferno. Eight people died in the blaze and it likely destroyed the house at 1180 Comox Street. It was one of the worst fires in Vancouver history.
The building was badly damaged but it was repaired - with much alteration to the exterior and interior - and renamed the Strathmore Lodge.

I was asked by one of my readers how Mole Hill got its name and I realized I didn't know. So I started investigating.

To understand where the name comes from I am going to tell you about how it came to be.

In the 1940s the population in the West End was exploding. Homeowners began renovating their homes to allow for tenanting or rental suites and apartment buildings sprang up everywhere. The Parks Board realized that the green spaces in the area were rapidly disappearing so the city began buying up homes in the 1950s to hopefully create more green space.

The official name of the area was “Block 23, District lot 185″ and the desire to create more green space began in earnest. Over the next twenty years houses one block north were razed to the ground and Nelson Park was created. Block 23 was next on the list to go. But then something unforeseen happened.

Residents of the area realized that destroying these old homes was also destroying the diversity of the area. The reason most people wanted to live here was its unique streetscape and that was rapidly disappearing. And Block 23 not only provided the old homes that were becoming rare in our city but were also provided housing.  But the Parks Board was still intent on expanding Nelson Park and those houses were going to have to go.

So a group of people got together to take on city hall. Through educating the public about the history of the homes in this block, gaining signatures and numerous other activities they managed to save the homes which tenants were being certain to keep up from the wrecking ball.
So how did Mole Hill get its name? When organizers got together to save the block from destruction they wanted to call it something besides  Block 23 or Nelson Parksite. The first residences of this area that sits on the highest point of the West End were believed to be Henry and Elizabeth Mole. So hill for the location and Mole for history.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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1 comment:

  1. I was very pleased to read about how the Royal Alexandria became the Strathmore Lodge. My daughter just moved in and I know she is going to love it. There is so much character.