There’s a new marketing ploy in Shaughnessy – realtors put up orange “snow” fencing to indicate imminent demolition for houses that have received a building permit in Shaughnessy – usually accompanied by a “for sale” sign for the proposed speculative house. The realtors’ pitch – “build your own dream home” is destroying Shaughney’s “English Picturesque Aesthetic” heritage character homes in favour of new, bloated suburban-style houses that are out of scale with their lots and their historic context.
What is the threat to the Shaughnessy?
At the time of the enactment of the First Shaughnessy Overall Development Plan in 1982, there were 369 heritage houses in First Shaughnessy (between Oak and East Boulevard, and 16th to King Edward Avenue) identified on the Shaughnessy Architectural and Landscape Inventory. Of these, 51 pre-1940 character houses have been torn down – the most recent being last year’s “poster child” – 3738 Hudson Street [update – demolished April 2013], and two more are threatened with immediate demolition.
From 1982 to 1994, only six identified houses were lost – mainly due to “demolition by neglect”. The flood gates opened in 1994 when the city’s legal department was pressed by developers as to whether or not demolition was an option for the neighbourhood’s heritage homes, and the city confirmed that yes, one could tear down an older home despite its architectural value.
Currently, a “high B” evaluated house at 3990 Marguerite Street which strongly references C. F. A. Voysey’s own home north of London, U.K., is under threat, with the architect for the applicant insisting that the house has no merit, in contrast with the city staff and Design Panel’s position that this picturesque Arts and Crafts house is very significant and should be retained.
Why is Shaughnessy significant?
Shaughnessy consists of three subdivisions; First Shaughnessy, developed in 1907 by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company’ to entice the city’s elite to move from the West End to the completely cleared – trees, stumps and all – area on the hill above 16th Avenue up to 25th (King Edward Avenue), with lots a minimum of 10,000 square feet. Curving streets were laid out on topographical lines, rather than the grid system used in most of Vancouver. Following WWI, Second Shaughnessy was developed with smaller lots between King Edward and 37th Avenue, and Third Shaughnessy followed in the late 1920s.
Nine different architectural styles prevail in historic Shaughnessy:
American influences include Craftsman, Colonial Revival, Dutch Colonial, and Mission Revival.
From Britain came the Arts and Crafts, the Tudor Revival, and the Queen Anne Revival styles. Added to this are the Georgian and Neo-Classical Revival styles.
These historic high-quality buildings, plus lush landscaping with 90 year old street trees define the predominant “English Picturesque Aesthetic” of this heritage neighbourhood.
Heritage Vancouver’s position
This ongoing demolition of the fine old homes of Shaughnessy is incrementally destroying the neighbourhood’s heritage character.
The City of Vancouver should:
- Update the First Shaughnessy Overall Development Plan adopted in 1982.
- Reinstate the Shaughnessy Architectural and Landscape Inventory dropped in 1994 due to Planning (for “housekeeping” reasons) and recognize the heritage value of all of the pre-1940 houses in First Shaughnessy.
- Remove the word “Character” from the First Shaughnessy overall Development Plan and legally designate the neighbourhood as a Heritage Area.
- Develop a concise summary of the First Shaughnessy Guidelines and neighbourhood success stories for the City’s website so that City policies are clearly explained and available to property homebuyers and real estate agents.
What can you do?
Write Mayor and Council expressing your concerns about the ongoing erosion of Shaughnessy’s heritage building stock, along with the Vancouver Heritage Commission, which is an advisory panel for Council, at:
May 2013: 3738 Hudson Street (1910) was fully demolished, April 2013