Do you remember the little house on Richards Street between Nelson and Helmcken? It was one of the last ones standing and for years had quite the garden and lots of funky birdhouses and wheelbarrows. I was reminded of it when Glen Mofford posted a photo that he took of owner Percy Linden outside his house in the summer of 2001. “The house appeared to be a hold out from another age when these Victorian era houses were all over the downtown core,” says Glen.
Percy was an interesting guy. A former truck driver, he bought the house in the ‘50s, rented it out, and moved in there in 1970. At one time the house was a violin studio.
“Percy Linden is familiar to east-of-Granville Street regulars, trundling his lawnmower along the sidewalks of the hookers’ strolls, an other-era figure in the shadow of the construction cranes above the old Yaletown warehouse district that flag the march uptown of condominium towers.” wrote Globe and Mail reporter Robert Williamson in 1993.
That year, Percy won an award for his garden from the BC Society of Landscape Architects.
“I never, ever thought of what I do in terms of landscaping,” Percy told Williamson. “I didn’t have the faintest intention of even growing a weed. I just set out to clean up the yard, and it evolved, inch by inch. People talk about hours of planning. I didn’t put one second’s planning into it; I just dug wherever I felt like it.”
The birdhouses—a collection of tiny farmhouses, barns, hotels and windmills, were inspired by Percy’s rural upbringing in Alberta. A little sign in the front yard read: “Take a little extra time today to stop and smell the roses long the way.”
Tour buses would stop outside his house, tourists snapped photographs, and others left fan mail in his mailbox. But every year, the house would seem to shrink a little more as a sea of high rises and condominiums grew up beside it.
Not long after Glen took his photo, Percy gave up his house and garden. And, then a few years later, a feisty little old lady named Linda Rupa, who owned a little cottage in the same block as Percy, gave in under the weight of a $36,000 annual property tax bill. The former Safeway cashier sold the one-time bootlegging joint that she’d owned since 1962 for $6 million.
“When I came in here, I had 17 phones, two private lines to the States and a big poker table upstairs,” she told Vancouver Sun reporter John Mackie in 2007. “It was a lovely neighbourhood, where people cared about each other.”
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