More of Vancouver’s Buried Houses

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Last month, Michael Kluckner wrote a guest blog about the hidden houses of Vancouver. It was hugely popular and readers wrote in to let me know about more of these houses. Today’s blog is a compilation of those comments, photos and emails.

The buried houses on Denman near Beach Avenue are still highly visible. Here they are in 1928 with thanks to David Banks and Vancouver Archives. 

Homeowners started building shops in front of their houses in the 1920s. Businesses ranged from bakeries and meat markets to cigarette and barber shops, shoe repairs and book stores. As Bill Lee points out, often with some bet taking on the side. “Having a small shop was a common second occupation in a family up to the 1960s when women had more opportunities for work,” he says.

1812 West Fourth Avenue via Google Maps. What goes around comes around.

Gregory Melle says the store on Kitsilano’s 4th Avenue near Burrard was his late brother’s “head shop” in the early ’70s. Later it became an Indian restaurant. “I was amused to see last year that it had reverted to the same business for which it was infamous in my brother’s day,” he says.

2818 and 2820 Granville Street via Google maps

Murray Maisey tells me that  the house at Granville (near 12th) was originally owned by Maud Leslie. Maud and her daughter June added a book store called The Library in 1928 at #2820. City directories for that year show Beattie Realty at 2818, which later became the Antiseptic Barber Shop in 1935 (today it is the Black Goat cashmere shop). Daniel le Chocolat is the current tenant at 2820. Check out Murray’s story on his awesome blog Vancouver As it Was.

Vancouver Archives photo from 1928 of , 2818 and 2820 Granville.

Susan Anderson says her favourite buried house dates back to 1911 and hides behind BC Stamp Works at 583 Richards Street. “My great grandparents owned a house at 540 Howe Street and this building is the only remaining building like this north of Georgia Street,” says Susan. ‘The building has been covered up so completely I am not surprised people don’t know it’s there.”

583 Richards Street, courtesy Google Maps

Kim Richards says the stores on the east side of Mackenzie at 33rd including neighbourhood favourite Bigsby the Bakehouse, are a front for some hidden houses currently facing development pressure. Check out Mackenzie Heights Community page.

Buried houses at Mackenzie and 33rd courtesy Kim Richards, 2017

Ryan Dyer has his own hidden house at 820 East Pender, built in 1904 and moved to the back of the property in 1908.

“There were originally three lots with three houses. Two of the houses were moved to the back of the properties and apartment buildings built at the front,” says Ryan. “The third house was amalgamated with the east apartment building, but can be seen if you look at the roof line of the building to the east of mine (828 east Pender).”

820 East Pender Street

David Byrnes says he lived in a cottage/storefront at 2291 West 41st in Kerrisdale in the 1960s, and Penny Street notes that 1314 Commercial Drive–now Beckwoman’s Hippie Emporium appropriately fronts a hidden house—”Possibly a BC Mills pre-fab,” she says.

1314 Commercial Drive in 1978 Courtesy CVA 786-78.18

Dan Enjo says there is still a house in the rear of Numbers at 1042 Davie, and the older floor space is part of the club. “There’s a noticeable bump between the newer and older buildings on the inside floor in places,” he says.

1141 Davie, courtesy Dan Enjo

The house that is the Gurkha Himalayan Kitchen is quite visible, even though it’s now fronted by a market at 1141 Davie.

© All rights reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, all blog content copyright Eve Lazarus.




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  1. My first home-away-from-home was a communal house at 3136 West Broadway in the early 70s. It was one of these hidden houses, and still exists. A traditional Vancouver early 20s house with built-ins in the livingroom, and a front porch which had been altered into a front room with stairs down beside the two storefronts that had been built in front.

    Five people shared the house, and I seem to remember the rent for the five of us was something like $90 for the whole house. We shared food and utilities, and I believe we each paid something under $100 a month for a quirky, though pleasant, life. The house had a backyard with an odd little fishpond.

    Two businesses fronted the house, and though they are long-gone, there are still two storefronts in front. In those days, one was a fish-and-chip restaurant; memorable because my cat fell in the sump where the proprietor dumped his old chip fat–what a mess!

    The second storefront was a novelty and sundries shop run by a mysterious fellow called Tommy. He seemed to live in one room at the back of his shop, which somehow adjoined our basement, where one of the five of us lived. All a bit creepy.

    One of the first trendy Vancouver Greek restaurants, Orestes, was just down the block (perhaps where Nuba is now?) Several of our friends worked in varying capacities there. It was a casual enough restaurant that often staff and friends would congregate after-hours–and one of the pleasures of the period was breaking wine bottles into the backlane dumpster. Lots of noise late at night.

    We were just across from the Hollywood Theatre, and on the next corner was a firehall. I had one of the two bedrooms with windows facing Broadway, and I can remember at first waking up every time there was a fire call–then later not even noticing. Also I can remember the humming of the trolley lines as the buses went by.

    Interesting times indeed!

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