News / Vancouver

Proposed demolition of Vancouver house built in 1922 strikes chord

The proposed demolition of an architecturally significant Vancouver house built in 1922 has struck a chord with heritage advocates who lament the looming loss.

The house at 1550 W. 29 Ave. was built in 1922 as a model home to showcase how electricity could be used throughout a home.

Courtesy Heritage Vancouver

The house at 1550 W. 29 Ave. was built in 1922 as a model home to showcase how electricity could be used throughout a home.

Vancouverites are used to seeing old houses demolished to make way for cookie-cutter mansions on multi-million-dollar properties, but the proposed destruction of a 94-year-old house has sparked a new round of exasperation over the loss of heritage in a development-crazed city.

The Heritage Vancouver Society learned last week the owner of the house at 1550 West 29th Ave. (it’s for sale for $7.4 million) applied for a demolition permit when the society tried to notify the city of the house’s heritage value.

Social media lit up over the long weekend with people lamenting the looming loss. Heritage Vancouver’s Patrick Gunn believes the house’s unique past, which the society recently discovered in an old newspaper ad, makes it stand out among the rows of demolitions in neighbourhoods with exorbitant property values.

Built in 1922, the house was designed by Townley and Matheson, the architects that designed City Hall. It was used as a model to showcase how electricity could be used throughout a modern home.

“It was a model of how the future was going to be with electricity,” Gunn said.

It had 170 electrical sockets compared to an average of 25 at the time, he added, and open houses were held to show off its electric washing machine and outdoor lighting.

An old advertisement showcasing the home at 1550 W. 29th Ave.

Courtesy Heritage Vancouver

An old advertisement showcasing the home at 1550 W. 29th Ave.

The society flagged the house with the city in an attempt to get heritage status – such a designation makes it more difficult to tear down a home – but without the classification the tear down will likely proceed. Telltale orange fencing is already up at the property.

The house is in excellent condition and its features were manufactured and sourced locally, from the electrical parts to the hemlock woodwork, Gunn said.

“It’s about as local as you can get,” he said. “Aside from the green issue, you’re just erasing the architectural history of Vancouver.”

There aren’t enough financial incentives for people to save heritage homes when land values are so high, Gunn said, so this house will almost certainly head to the dump unless a person with a passion for history and an extra few million dollars steps in.

Gunn believes residents – even those who can’t afford a condo, let alone a single-family home – should value preserving the heritage that makes Vancouver unique.

“You build something that’s new that’s completely soulless that no one will live in that in 15 years and will just be demolished again,” he said. “In ten years we’re going to be left with photographs.”