Almost 40 years ago, Rosemary Eng and her husband Alan Merridew moved to Vancouver from Chicago to take up a job at the Province. They bought the 100-year-old North Vancouver house, raised their son Peter now 38, and as Rosemary prepares to pack up and leave, she has written the story of her house.
By Rosemary Eng
When we looked at the house at 323 East 24th Street in 1976 it felt like we were in a forest. The house was dwarfed by two big Douglas firs. Cedars and Douglas firs towered in the yards on either side. Ferns were everywhere.
We chose this house because the owner, Art Grice, a photographer had custom built a photo darkroom with sinks, counters for photochemical trays, drying racks and a ventilation system. We couldn’t believe we could own a professional photo darkroom in our own home.
Since then, the bigger of the Douglas firs was hit by lightning and had to be cut down, new neighbors did away with all their trees, and digital photography usurped photographic film.
While documenting heritage houses for the North Vancouver Archives, Suzanne Wilson, found a building permit for our house that was issued to D. B. Joy in 1913 for what looked like a small shack. A second permit was issued to the same Mr. Joy in 1920 for a house with one-and-a-half storeys and front veranda.
City directories show “Theo” Joy was a motion picture projectionist at the Royal Theatre at Columbia and Hastings and at various Vancouver theatres until he sold the house to George L. Watts, a branch manager of Maytag Co. in 1940.
George might have been the same man who came to the house some 15 or 20 years ago asking to have a look inside. He and his family lived here in the 40s, and he told us they hosted dances. He wondered what happened to the big Douglas fir where they hung a swing for their son, who would be about 70 now.
The war years were reflected by a number of occupants who worked at North Vancouver Ship Repairs and Burrard Dry Dock.
Thaddeus Halpert-Scanderbeg, a lecturer at University of British Columbia bought our house in 1949. He lived here with his wife Marie and two sons because he couldn’t return home during the war. After hunting high and low I found their grandson Richard living almost blocks away. He told us that his grandparents lived here with his father Tadeusz and his Uncle George. The family moved to another house in North Vancouver when Tadeusz married in 1953. Richard’s grandfather had been a diplomat in the Polish foreign service, and was forced to escape from Poland when the Communists took over after the war. Richard’s grandmother, Marie (Wielopolska), was a countess and the family’s home in Poland would have been impressive.
G.H. Littler, a carpenter, and his wife, Margaret, lived here during the ‘60s and sold to Art and Emily Grice’s in the ‘70s. We hope that the next family will love the house as much as we did.
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