Archive for the ‘Spaceworks Architects’ Tag

Heatley and East Pender Street – se corner

The building known today as Alexander Court started life as the city’s first purpose-built synagogue. In 1907 a new Orthodox Jewish congregation appeared, named B’nai Yehudah (also known as Sons of Israel). Their first services were held in a small rented home, at 14 West Cordova, but in 1910 the ‘Sons of Israel’ purchased property at Pender and Heatley and by 1911 a Synagogue was built large enough to hold 200 worshipers. W T Whiteway was the architect, and the building was located in the centre of the plot, facing Heatley Avenue.

The congregation was renamed “Schara Tzedeck”, upon being legally incorporated on June 14th 1917, and continued raising funds to build a bigger building. In 1921 a new synagogue opened, designed by Gardiner & Mercer as a Romanesque building that resembles the mission revival style of design. The original building wasn’t replaced, rather it was moved to the back of the lot next to the lane and incorporated into the new structure which had a capacity of 600. The undated but early image (left) shows that part of the building. Our main image dates from the 1920s.

The congregation used the building until the end of 1947, when they moved to a new building in Oakridge, an area where many of the congregation had also moved to. The old building was reused – although the street directory company weren’t exactly sure by whom, as the directory entry for 1948 just says “occupied”. By 1949 it was acknowledged that it was the Vancouver Boys’ Club Association, and it became the Gibbs Boys Club, sponsored by Rufus Gibbs, owner of Gibbs Tool and Stamping Works. This sounds like a heavy industry concern, but actually its main product was fishing lures. Gibbs lived alone, occupying an entire floor of the Patricia Hotel for 42 years, although he never owned a car or a TV. Mr. Gibbs died in 1968, and by the time W A Graham shot this picture in 1977 the building was boarded up, having lost Provincial Government funding. By then the building had some significant structural issues, and it was sold in 1980, and then sat empty for six years. It was converted to condos, designed by Spaceworks, in one of the earliest examples of adaptive reuse of a heritage structure in the city. One additional historical connection is worth noting; the first meeting of SPOTA: (the Strathcona Property Owners and Tenants Association) took place here on December 14, 1968. SPOTA were responsible for limiting the ‘slum clearance’ of the Strathcona area and its subsequent renewal.

Image sources: Vancouver Public Library, Jewish Museum and Archives of BC L-00391, City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1135-20

Keefer Street, north side from Jackson

keefer-jackson

When W E Graham took this picture in 1966, Strathcona was an area of the city that was still threatened with obliteration. The ‘urban renewal’ of the neighbourhood and parts of Chinatown were still on the table – although it was becoming apparent that the local community weren’t going to roll over and allow their homes to be bulldozed, at least not without a fight. Several blocks of houses and businesses had been flattened, and new rental housing (at higher densities) had been built, ostensibly to rehouse the community. The McLean Park housing development between Union, Keefer, Gore and Jackson is immediately behind the photographer; construction was started in 1963, and completed in 1970 (although the design dates from the 1950s).

The homes in the picture had already been expropriated by the City of Vancouver some years before. We don’t know who built them, or exactly when, but they were already built when the 1901 Goad’s Insurance map was published. In 1967 it became apparent that even if the City of Vancouver still favoured ‘slum clearance’ of the entire area, other levels of government wouldn’t be funding the remainder of the program. We’re not sure exactly when the houses were demolished; there’s an Archives image that shows a few were still standing on the block in 1973. The dramatic change in levels that resulted from the redevelopment can be seen clearly – the houses were on a much higher level because, as with much of Strathcona, the streets were leveled after the houses had been built.

The City’s plans for this site intended it to be sold to a private developer for market housing, and it was sold for a third of the cost to assemble it. The purchaser blew the deal and didn’t develop the land as promised; lawsuits ensued and the city eventually regained the land. The City then proposed that a fire hall should be built on the site, but after local objections that was built on Prior Street and the land was reserved for family housing. Mau Dan Gardens was developed by the Strathcona Area Housing Society, (a spin-off from the Strathcona Property Owners and Tenants Association – SPOTA – the community group who successfully fought the comprehensive redevelopment of the area). It was designed by Joe Y Wai and Spaceworks Architects, and built by the Turnbull and Gale construction company. Some of the units were sold, and remain freehold properties.

The majority of the 128 unit project is a housing co-operative. The founding membership of the Co-operative were predominantly of Chinese ethnicity, but included families of Vietnamese, Cambodian, Japanese and Canadian origin. In the past couple of years the complex has been comprehensively updated for the first time since its 1981 completion. New energy efficient windows and roofs were provided, the wooden frame repaired where needed and a new rainscreen stucco finish applied to the outer walls over improved insulation and soundproofing.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1135-35 (reversed)

Posted November 21, 2016 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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