In a painting I was able to emphasise the red alarm, upper left, red sign on the wall and red fire hydrant with its companion red sign. It makes the yellow awning (right) more poignant as the building deteriorates.
When I noticed old wooden grocery stores vanishing in the 1980s, often under vinyl siding, I began searching out originals. As people heard what I was drawing they told me about their own favourite – often with childhood memories of spending pocket money. My quests took me to previously undiscovered treasures as I learned more and more about Vancouver.
I had a similar experience researching original medieval church benches in East Anglia UK. When drawing them, people would stop to chat and suggest other churches I should visit. They offered information – or personal contacts – on accessing a site if it was locked. Local friends were happy later to be shown interesting ancient churches in villages, with a charming local pub selling quality ale and good food.
Reviewing a body of heritage images, it reflects my passion for characteristics of historic neighbourhoods in Vancouver BC. I began painting them in the1980s, when I would find myself searching again for something old and iconic only to find it had vanished. Asking friends how I could learn early about decisions which allowed buildings to vanish, I was advised to join the Heritage Committee of the Community Arts Council of Vancouver and was soon drawn into campaigns to save historic landmarks. This led to me using my work as a way to raise public awareness. It is not just a building to be preserved, it deserves a sympathetic setting. Old European cities provide a neighbourhood patina; Vancouver is a thriving New World city but even so the scale of new buildings can be designed to keep an icon.
(all images are copyrighted and cannot be used without artist’s express permission)
Strathcona is Vancouver’s oldest residential neighbourhood. Close to the port, it received waves of immigrants, many of whom later dispersed throughout the city. I was interested to discover the original topography was hilly. Streets were flattened later for easier traffic flow, but this resulted in some buildings losing their original street connections. Careful scrutiny shows these houses rising from right to left. There also exist houses with their second storey providing street access as the original front door is well below street level. Other houses are so high they are stranded above street level, held in place with a tall retaining wall. Many rear laneways still have original up and down rolling land. The turquoise blue paint on the taller house was a colour found all across the city when I was drawing. By the 1990s more era original palettes were encouraged for use in restorations. I have no wish to embalm old buildings nor to encase them in a glass bubble but there are ways to bring them forward into adaptable modern use and maintain the integrity.
This site is emerging from a break enforced by COVID. It feels good to be back after a period of re-focusing my work and preparing for a new heritage related project, no longer focused on older character buildings in Vancouver BC. This hint about my background is an old steam locomotive taking on water. Both my father and brother were mechanical engineers and Dad worked with the railways in Argentina and Peru, though this is an English photo. I’ll credit the photo – if you tell me who you are, thanks.