Our missing West End residential heritage: What were we thinking?

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Westend in the 50s Tom

I was trekking around the West End with the fabulous Tom Carter on Tuesday. I found some pictures of gorgeous old West End houses at the archives and I wanted to see what replaced them.

Tom had some aerial photos of the West End taken in the ‘50s that showed masses of houses, low rise apartment buildings and lots of trees, built in the late 1880s and early 20th century, before Shaughnessy opened up and the West End was still a desirable place to live.

Many of the old mansions became apartment buildings and rooming houses, and when the six-storey height limit was removed in the late 1950s, most of these old houses and their beautiful gardens disappeared in a frenzy of demolition.

1201 Pendrell

1201 Pendrell Street
The Pillars, CVA Bu P508.82

The house first shows up in the directories in 1906, built for Duncan Rowan who is listed simply as “cannery man.” Duncan died a few years later and the house sold to the Buttimer family where it stayed until1930. When this photo was taken in 1956 it was an apartment building called The Pillars.

Here’s what we’ve done with the lot:

1201 Pendrell, 2015
1201 Pendrell, 2015

1221 Burnaby

Wootton Manor, CVA Bu.P.508.64
Wootton Manor, CVA Bu.P.508.64

Built for George Coleman in 1901, directories show that at one time it was the Convent of the Sacred Heart and later a school called the Vancouver Academy. The house became an apartment building called Wootton Manor in the 1940s.

This is Wootton Manor’s replacement:

Wootton manor replacement

1185 Harwood

1185 Harwood Street, CVA Bu.508.27
1185 Harwood Street, CVA Bu.508.27

Well, at least the stone fence is still there. The house was once surrounded by other old mansions and built for Alex Morrison, a contractor. It stayed in the family until 1930 and became the Margaret Convalescent and Nursing home during the war years.

1185 Harwood
1185 Harwood, 2015

1025 Gilford


Thomas Fee house
1025 Gilford, VPL 16134, ca.1910

Architect Thomas Fee designed this house for his family in 1907 because Mrs. Fee wanted a house in the country. Fee was part of Parr and Fee a prolific architectural firm that designed numerous buildings such as Glen Brae in Shaughnessy, The Manhattan apartments on Robson, the Hotel Europe in Gastown and the Vancouver Block. The house became the Park Gilford Hotel in the late 1940s. It came down in 1961.

All that remains is a few holly trees.

fee today

For more about the West End:

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

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  1. Eve…Excellent post of lost heritage!
    A property long gone, you may want to check out, belonged to friends of my Maternal Grandparents……2050 Nelson st……built in 1907, bordering Stanley Park, It was the original Jonathan Rogers house……in fact Rogers widow, Elizabeth remained in the house until her death, 54 years after moving in, until her death in 1961!…. It was thought to be the last privately occupied mansion on ” Blue Blood Alley”…. . The heirs sold the house and it was demolished in 1962, making way for high rises………as it was a massive double lot, the current buildings are 2040 AND 2050 Nelson st……I have only heard about this property from my Late Grandfather, who visited the house, with his parents before WW1!…..I have never seen a picture, Have you?…..

    1. I’ve heard of the Rogers house, but I’ve never seen a picture at least that I can recall. I just did a quick search of the archives and VPL but nothing pops up under the address. It may be in a streetscape photo though, I’ll keep an eye out – and it’s probably in the aerial photo.
      Thanks for letting me know, it would be great to gather a record of these old places.

  2. As far as I can tell there wasn’t a senseless “frenzy of demolition” so much as those places became untenable. (Of course there are many old residences still standing all over the city and even on the West End there, like at Mole Hill. Shaughnessy — the other early neighbourhood built exclusively for the elite — is still full of homes built just after the turn of the century.) I see this as social justice, not a crime. Was this a “loss” in any meaningful sense? (Certainly demolishing them was much less of a loss than the forests these old homes levelled in order to be built in the first place.) The few places you note were single family Anglo-owned mansions that have since been replaced by apartments in which many families can live more modestly. Seems like a gain to me. And some of this “lost” heritage is stuff I’m so very glad we stamped out. For instance, you mentioned Glen Brae. You didn’t note that it was a notorious headquarters for the Ku Klux Klan. Some of our “heritage” is best demolished and paved over. Wouldn’t you agree?

    1. Hi Daral, thanks for your comments but no I don’t agree. Many of these old mansions were turned into apartment buildings or hospitals or a hotel (all of the ones in my post) and could have easily co-existed or been incorporated into towers and other modern buildings. I especially object to some of the soulless, boring, and cheaply made buildings that replaced them. And yes the KKK rented Glen Brae for less than a year in 1925 which is a fascinating piece of history. I don’t think we should obliterate history because it’s unpleasant, I believe we should learn from it. I wrote about Glen Brae and the KKK connection n my book At Home with History – even ran a photo. Cheers, Eve

    2. Daral……Just read your post, in reply to Eve’s article and my subsequent info. on the Jonathan Rogers house.
      I understand your point on Social Justice, insofar as more people are able to be accommodated, on smaller parcels of land.
      However the esthetic character should be preserved, in some measure.
      Daral……..What would Europe look like, if they took it upon them selves to demolish buildings after they turned 100 years old?……Unfortunately your attitude toward older character buildings, just because they were built for ” Anglos” or WASPS, seems to fall directly into the hands of Overseas Investors, looking to make a quick buck!…These people contribute NOTHING to this city, Daral.

  3. Great post Eve and I was very touched to see the Pillars mentioned. My Mother always told me it was torn down to make way for a highrise. I remember another old mansion on Thurlow (down from Davie toward the beach) that was also a convent in the early 1960s. Further down the street on Thurlow and Beach Ave was a magnificent mansion – my favourite – that was torn down sometime in the mid 70s I believe. I have a glass etching that I’m almost certain is a picture of that house. The Rogers “other” Mansion really has me interested. I have a picture of my great Aunt taken on the steps of the Rogers Mansion where she worked (1930s?). I thought it was the Davie street mansion but none of the stone staircases match what’s in the photo. Now I wonder if it was the Rogers home on Nelson that Rob Cardinal mentions!

    1. EI…I just read your post……Sounds like your great aunt worked for Jonathan Rogers, if your photo was taken in the ’30’s……B.T. Rogers on Davie street, had sold that property by 1920, and moved to South Granville already……

  4. I,m curious to find any photographic history of the convent that was on the South East corner of Davie at Broughton. I was in that building as a child and can remember the magnificent staircase. I can also remember a stable in the basement. Kitty corner across the street was a 4 room Catholic school. Guardian Angels . It had grades one to twelve in the 4 rooms. When I attended form 1961 to 1966 it finished at grade 6. I believe the school was on the lot until the 1980s. As for the convent the stone wall still exists.

    I was born and raised in the West End and I wish I had a complete history and many more photos.

  5. I was born at 845 Cardero Street and grew up there and at Bute and Nelson…the Bute and Nelson building is long gone but last year when I got a chance to visit Vancouver again the old building was still there on Cardero…mind you a lot of the outside has changed…no hanging balconies, no rough stones on the bottom floor…and I suspect it’s now a security building…would so have loved to go inside and check out the old hardwood floors and bannisters…amazingly some of the old wooden houses across the street are still there…the 40’s and 50’s were a time of fun in the West End….

    1. I’m so glad some of the buildings that you remember are still there. I’d love someone (maybe me) to photograph all the existing pre 1960s buildings in the West End whether they are considered heritage or not.

    2. Hi – I’m guessing you’re the same Peter Bosdet who graduated from KG high school in 63? I’m Bob Lawrie and I remember you well. I moved to England to follow a career in publishing in ’68. I work under the name of Robin Lawrie if you want to Google me. If my memory serves we used to go curling with Clive Mostyn and John Harrison. I’m still in touch with Clive. So what have you been up to?

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