When I started researching my book At Home with History: the secrets of Greater Vancouver’s heritage homes, I found that past residents were often the best source of information for the stories of a house. With my father’s home in Ballarat, I called first, explained who I was and asked them if I could drop by. It was a great visit and I was able to see the old family home and share a history of their house that the current owners knew nothing about. I did try to drop around to the house where I grew up in Melbourne. Found the current owner in her garden, told her I’d grown up there, and she thought I was a raving lunatic. Lesson learned. Always reverse check and call ahead or send a note. If you’re thinking of doing this try to find some old photos of your family.
John Davis and his West 10th Avenue Houses
When John Davis was renovating several Queen Anne and Edwardian houses on West 10th in Vancouver, he’d often have former owners drop by. He couldn’t work out why two of the houses touched each other until a descendant of one of the original families told him it was the result of a feud. Apparently one owner built the house right on the property line and the owner of the adjoining property was so angry that he built his house right up against their house in order to block their view from the bay window. It was 1907 before anyone was too fussed about building codes. Another owner dropped around a picture of the house (above) with her family around 1910.
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