844 Dunlevy Avenue

This house is pictured in 1968, so very nearly 50 years ago. It was built in 1899 by Frederick William Sentell.  F W was elected as a City of Vancouver alderman for a single year, in 1890. Some of the family history can be extracted from interviews with Major Matthews, the City Archivist, but those records are somewhat confused, and not totally in line with contemporary records like the census.

The Sentell family arrived from New Brunswick in 1886. Piecing the various records we can pull together we think there were at least five Sentell brothers, all carpenters and house builders, Ephrahim, Alfred, Frederick, James and George, and there were at least six sisters, Margaret, May, Sophia, Charlotte, Ann and Florence, although we’re only sure that Florence and Charlotte lived in the city (and Florence might have been known as Ann). The 1891 census shows Edward, their father living in the city, listed as an 83-year-old farmer, his wife, Margaret (shown as Margrett), aged 66, with Ephraim, James and Florence as well as a granddaughter, Annie, with her father, Meelett Fowler, who was also a carpenter (and C M Fowler in the street directory). George Sentell lived with his wife, Clara, next door to Edward, E B and G J Sentell on East Hastings Street. Frederick (aged 31 in the 1891 census) lived with his wife Alice, who was from Quebec and aged 19, and their infant son, Fred. The street directory has some different ideas about who lived where, but in 1891 all the different families were either living at 409 or 417 E Hastings. Before arriving in Vancouver the Sentell brothers had worked on building the railway, both in Brandon and Winnipeg, and their last job was building a bridge across Granite Creek.

Frederick Sentell & Alice Slade married in Vancouver on 13 May 1889. Fred was 30, Alice just 17. Alice’s parents were shown as John and Margaret Slade; both from England, but Alice was born in Quebec. We might know what Fred and Alice looked like; there’s part of a picture said to be of an 1888 church outing: the Vancouver As It Was blog identifies them sitting behind each other. Fred has his younger sister Charlotte on his knee; Alice Slade is sitting behind him to the right.

In 1871 John Slade was an English-born house painter, living in Montreal with his Irish wife Mary and infant son, John. In 1881 he was still in Montreal, but he had shaved a few years off his age (or the 1871 census was inaccurate), and his wife was now Harriet, and son John was 11. They were the only family called Slade listed in the province of Quebec. In 1891 the family were listed in Vancouver: John Slade was listed as a house painter, living close to here on Prior at Gore. A second son, William, born in Montreal in 1883; older son John was at home, a clerk in a drug store. An Irish-born labourer, Patrick Fox and his wife Alice lived next door.

We haven’t found any birth records for Frederick Sentell’s wife, Alice Slade, in Montreal, but there was only one Slade family in the province, so although she seems to slip from the census, it seems likely that she was John’s daughter, born to his first wife, (Mary, or Margaret), and sister to his eldest son, John. The Archives have a family picture of Alice and John Edward Slade from 1878, when they were small children, photographed in Montreal. John Slade seems to have remarried and moved to Vancouver with a new wife, Harriet, and they had a son, William. (When William married in 1915 his mother’s name was recorded as Harriet Anne Morgan, born in England). John Slade’s death was recorded in summer 1895. In 1901 Harriet Slade was shown in the street directory as ‘widow of John’, living on Gore Avenue (at Prior). The census shows she shared the house with her son William, and Alice Fox, listed as her sister-in-law.

The Sentell brothers had built a number of the city’s earliest wooden structures, including the first City Hall on Powell Street soon after the fire. They started on September 1st on the $1,290 contract, and completed it in 30 days. When the City Council of the day couldn’t pay them for the work, they locked the building and refused to hand it over until they received their money, which took two weeks. There’s a hint in a Chilliwack newspaper that the brothers were not just builders. One brother (F W from the records that show where some of his children were born) lived for a while in Chilliwack in the mid to late 1890s (possibly farming, like his father Edward). Two other brothers visited in 1898 on their way to the Upper Country, “where they own some valuable mining property”. Ephraim Sentell in 1931 wrote to major Matthews in 1931 to tell him that he, F W, and A J arrived in the city in August 1886, from Granite Creek Mining Camp.

In 1901 the street directory says that Fred W Sentell was living on Westminster Avenue, in Mount Pleasant, while Edward B and G J Sentell were living on Grove Crescent, with Alfred Sentell, also a carpenter. The brothers had bought a large piece of land overlooking False Creek, and built their home here. To their shock the decision was made in the 1910s to fill the creek in, and much of their land, (five legal lots), was expropiated, for which they received $103,500. The census shows that Edward B was actually Ephraim Blair, who in 1901 was shown as aged 49, while Alfred James Sentell was 44 and George Jordon Sentell was 38. Their mother, Margaret Sentell was aged 76, and living with her daughter Lottie (presumably Charlotte) and her son-in-law, John Johnson, who was Norwegian, and worked as a drayman. (The Johnsons had been living on Grove Crescent with the three brothers in 1898).

In the 1901 Census Fred Sentell was aged 42, his wife Alice was aged 28, and they (perhaps inaccurately) they had two ten year old children, Alice born in April 1890 and Fred, born in July 1890. As only Fred had been shown in 1891, either Alice was adopted, not really a daughter, or it was an error by the Census Clerk. We can’t find any further records of an Alice Sentell born around 1890. There were three other children; Clifford, Otto and May, and there are birth records for William, born in 1892, who presumably had died as a child. In 1911 Clifford, Otto and May Sentell were still at home, and there were four younger siblings, John, William, Dorothy and Grace, the baby. Fred was 53, ‘Alisse’ was 39.

Ephraim and Alfred Sentell never married, and continued to live together as a household for many years. Alfred died in 1931, single, aged 71, Ephraim died in 1948, aged 96, also single and George the same year, aged 85, widowed.

844 Dunlevy is a good example of a pioneer Queen Anne Victorian style. It features bay windows on the front and side extending the full two storeys, gingerbread detailing and a decorative front porch. The house was first leased to Ontario-born grocery clerk William John Lamrick and his two daughters, Bessie and Sarah. From 1907 to 1920 Harriet Slade lived here. We’re reasonably certain she’s Alice Sentill’s step-mother. In 1911 she had her youngest child, William, still at home, and shared the house with her sister-in-law, Alice Fox, who had lived next door in 1891 with her labourer husband, Patrick.

The house was bought around 1920 by Mrs. Emma A. Winchcombe (widow of Isaac), and the family continued to own the house for many years. By the late 1960s it was in an area that was destined for demolition; a third of Strathcona was eventually demolished for ‘urban renewal’ and it was intended to clear all the houses, and build a freeway to Downtown on this spot. Fortunately those plans never came to fruition, and unusually, nothing was changed on the house, it had the original wooden windows, mouldings, even the wallpaper. In 2004 new owners took on the task of comprehensively restoring the house. In 2007 they won both a Vancouver City and Provincial Heritage Award of Merit for the saving and restoration of their house.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 808-18

Advertisements

Posted June 26, 2017 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

Tagged with

%d bloggers like this: