If you’re getting tired of walking around your own neighbourhood and seeing the same old houses day after day, you might consider admiring some of Vancouver’s most historic buildings for an interesting change of scenery.
It seems like ancient history, but it wasn’t that long ago that we didn’t think twice about joining a group activity, like tagging along on a walking tour of this city’s most interesting sites. Vancouver historian and heritage consultant John Atkin, for example, conducted regular walking tours of notable places and buildings around the city.
Adapting to the times, his latest tour of Strathcona, Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhood, will now be done by webinar. Join Atkin on June 4 for a pre-recorded stroll past converted school houses, a garlic warehouse, lost bakeries, and Vancouver’s oldest brick school. It might not count toward your daily steps, but you will be able to ask him questions live. The 45-minute webinar starts at 1 p.m. on Thursday, June 4 and costs $10.
If, instead of a virtual tour, you’d prefer to get outside for an actual walk, you can download a map from the Vancouver Heritage Foundation outlining self-guided explorations of various neighbourhoods and their points of interest.
There is one of Strathcona, and although the focus is on its historic markets such as Benny’s Italian Foods and the Union Market, their backgrounds provide insights into the neighbourhood’s character and evolution.
Residential houses more up your alley? Mole Hill, in the West End, is the oldest, most intact and fully restored full block of heritage houses in Vancouver. The earliest of the 30 or so houses was built in 1888 by carpenter William Mace at 1160 Comox. Its next-door neighbour, built in 1906, at one time had its front completely sawn off and an extension added.
The Mole Hill residence at 1139 Pendrell was constructed in 1889 by a plasterer who also worked on the first Hotel Vancouver. Described as a rare gem in Vancouver that resembles the famous “painted ladies” of San Francisco, one of its residents was the first French consul general to Vancouver.
Or you can plan your own itinerary. The Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s interactive Heritage Site Finder lets you check out more than 2,200 locations, with images and information for each one. All are on the city of Vancouver Heritage Register, meaning they have architectural or historical significance, the context of the building and its surroundings are still clear, and alterations to the exterior of the building are limited.
Pick a neighbourhood—say, the Crescent in Shaughnessy. Significant houses include the beaux arts–style Villa Russe, built in 1922 for Misak Yremavitch Aviazoff, a local “money man” and arts lover; the Hollies, a 1914 classical revival house, a style more typically found in the eastern U.S.; and the Nichol House, a 1913 Arts and Crafts mansion designed by architects Maclure & Fox.
Happy heritage house hunting!
Read more on architecture in our Design section.