*We would like to thank Mount Pleasant Heritage Group for their assistance in putting this paper together.
The Old Mount Pleasant Village at Main Street between 6th and 12th Avenues, which includes the Triangle Block formed by Main, Broadway and Kingsway, has been the hub of the neighbourhood since the area began to develop in the late 1880s. The Mount Pleasant Community Plan of 2010 refers to the Triangle Block as the “historic heart of this community” and during the creation of the Plan the Triangle Block and surrounding area came to be referred to as the ‘Heritage Heart’.
In addition to being historically important and architecturally rich with a range of building styles, it is also beloved as the start of a wonderful walking street known city-wide for its gathering spaces, unique, locally owned businesses and long-standing arts venues.
The Plan also states that “this neighbourhood warrants ongoing promotion as a heritage area of the city.”
The Mount Pleasant neighbourhood has been under development pressure for the past decade given its close proximity to the rapidly densifying downtown core.
The future Broadway Skytrain will have a stop at Main Street and Broadway, and there is a strong probability that the definitive features of this significant section of Mount Pleasant—the neighbourhood’s ‘Heritage Heart’—are at risk.
Highlight elements not only include significant historic buildings, but also the composition of diverse demographics and small businesses that these lot patterns and older, low-rent buildings allow. In addition to the aesthetic character, there is a demographic character, a commercial character and a commons-like quality to this high street that is welcoming, interesting and vibrant. The area is clearly distinct from the rest of the city.
Over the past few years, four known developers have focussed on buying up the buildings within the ‘Heritage Heart’, buildings which previously were under long-time individual ownership. Potential land assemblage allowing one large building over multiple smaller lots would drastically alter the significant characteristics (not simply aesthetic as discussed above) of these blocks.
Mount Pleasant’s ‘Heritage Heart’ has a distinct historic identity within Vancouver.
This area was the commercial zone of Vancouver’s first suburb and developed around the streetcar. Many of the original buildings from the streetcar days exist alongside others from subsequent decades of the early and mid-twentieth century.
Significant architectural details and styles of the buildings in the ‘Heritage Heart’ include:
- Some of Vancouver’s oldest homes, such as the Depencier and James Black Residences, were built in 1889 in this streetcar-era village, where one worked, shopped and lived in close proximity.
- The 1904 bank building (2442 Main Street) with original decorative tin ceiling and rarely found wall panels.
- The 1947, streamlined, art moderne triangle building (Main Street & Kingsway fork) covered with vitrolite glass tiles beneath a current stucco skin.
- The J. F. Clarke Building (2313 Main Street), an 1892 wood building with a boom-town front.
- The Mason Block (166-170-190 E 10th Avenue), a 1905 walk-up apartment believed to be Vancouver’s earliest concrete building.
- The 1910 Williams Block (154-156 E 7th Avenue), which is B-listed on the Vancouver Heritage Register
Thirteen of the buildings are on the Heritage Register, but only four have an official legal designation (listing under Resources below).
Extending beyond these picturesque qualities are the qualities that allow for affordable housing, artists studios and commercial spaces for cherished local businesses and community groups, whether they be architecturally remarkable or not. This part of Main Street is not a mere line that one takes to connect from point A to point B, but rather, has a distinct culture made possible by the varying people in the neighbourhood and their relationships with each other and with the buildings around them and how they are able to make use of them. The heritage of this ‘Heritage Heart’ is not just historic and of a commemorative nature, it is very much living and a part of the social and cultural fabric of the daily lives of those living in and visiting the area.
Mount Pleasant Heritage Group has assessed the tangible and intangible qualities of this area and compiled this list:
- Rich source of resources for indigenous peoples for 1000s of years and The Native Education College (1985) is a prominent manifestation of their continuous presence on the land
- Unique location at an historic intersection that was once an ancient indigenous and animal trail
- Only Vancouver community that developed around a creek – Brewery Creek
- Older human scale buildings that often offer more affordable rent
- Village atmosphere
- Concentrated blocks of intact heritage and character buildings both residential and commercial, many with recessed, welcoming entries
- Small commercial lots resulting in numerous small businesses in one block
- Street vitality and gathering spaces
- Distinct commercial identity and diverse and vibrant mix of local businesses serving the neighbourhood’s diverse population and income mix
- Arts and performance hub with unique facilities, spaces and long established and celebrated arts groups
- History of being home to many community based organizations, social groups and workers associations
This area of Mount Pleasant needs to be viewed and treated as a core part of a cultural landscape. The values are not only aesthetic and historic. Affordable rentals and artist spaces, the variety of neighbourhood-serving businesses at price points reasonable for the area (many of them mom and pop) that contribute to a complete neighbourhood, the public places and commons-like quality of the street, all fulfill present needs and form a beloved contemporary culture in Mount Pleasant. This is an asset to Vancouver.
The City of Vancouver in the 2010 Mount Pleasant Community Plan and Implementation Package notes: “Mount Pleasant is one of Vancouver’s most historic and heritage-rich neighbourhoods” and “warrants ongoing promotion as a heritage area of the city.” We encourage the City of Vancouver to fully implement what has been acknowledged in these planning documents.
The Broadway Corridor Planning process is underway and the City will be embarking on the City-wide Plan. We also encourage the City of Vancouver to:
- Use development as a means of enhancing Mount Pleasant’s existing qualities that provide for the social, cultural, aesthetic and leisure needs of its residents.
- Supplement the heritage assessment work done in 2008 to understand the current needs and usages of those living in and visiting Mount Pleasant.
- Formulate an area management plan for Mount Pleasant in accordance with heritage planning best practices.
- Incorporate First Nations’ themes into the planning of Mount Pleasant during the Broadway Corridor Planning process.
- Stay up to date on the City of Vancouver Broadway Planning process and provide your input.
- Contact the Mount Pleasant Heritage Group about what you can do and let them know how much you value the heart of Mount Pleasant.
- Let the City of Vancouver know that you care about the ‘Heritage Heart’ of Mount Pleasant and that any development should enhance its positive qualities, not harm them
Broadway Plan (COV)
Mount Pleasant Community Plan
Buildings on the Vancouver Heritage Register:
- Ashnola Apartments, 2152 Main Street
- *Royal Bank (former)/Goh Ballet, 2345 Main Street
- Lee Building, 151-189 East Broadway at Main Street
- Bank of Montreal, 2490 Main Street
- Belvedere Court, 2539 Main Street
- Wenonah Apartments, 2703 Main Street
- *Vernon Block, 225-245 E Broadway; designed by Townley & Matheson
- Williams Block, 154 East 7th Avenue
- Western Front, 303 East 8th AVenue
- Quebec Manor, 101 East 7th Avenue
- 2 brewery buildings at Scotia Street & 280 E 6th Avenue, 255 E 7th Avenue
* Legally Heritage Designated/Protected