Nov 5, 2013

Yes - Another West Vancouver Home Demolition - and Chestnut Tree History

There's a cute 1930s home at the end of our block. I always wondered how long it would be before it fell victim to a McMansion. Well, it's yellow-fenced now, so it won't be long. As I was taking photos of the outside, the demolition contractor came by, and we chatted. I asked why the home wasn't being offered up as a demolition sale before it was torn down (I could see furniture, doors and fixtures through the smashed-out windows - much reminisce to this home that I contacted the then West Vancouver Mayor about, but she wouldn't reply. I brought up the issue of sustainable demolition practices with her when we were at the same cocktail event two summers ago - tongue-tied and red-faced, she excused herself. However, it could've been the wine talking). I digress.

The contractor was nice enough. He said the owner felt it wasn't worth it (money-wise) to have a demolition sale. I said it shouldn't be about the money. I also asked him why it was okay for the neighbourhood to be disrespected by having garbage thrown all over the property and not in bins - he said the asbestos removers did it (I don't think they were actually there because the home was just fenced up last Wednesday and you need a work permit and none were posted). Why don't we offer rebates or something to contractors who adhere to sustainable demolition practices? I have no idea. The Corporation of the District of West Vancouver is into making money - albeit at the loss of heritage/culture. I remember the old mayor bragging about issuing a couple hundred demolition permits in one summer alone. After all, there's no financial gain in heritage preservation, correct? I hear the same thing repeatedly - 'It's not worth it [architectural/heritage preservation].'

That big chestnut tree is one of many planted up either side of the entire street. I was told by a neighbour that the trees actually have some protection (although this one isn't cordoned off as it should be). Even BC Hydro couldn't cut them down. Each chestnut tree is groomed straight down the middle of its canopy - the hydro wires pass between the canopy - you can see them in the photo above.

Here's a little history on the infamous trees I pulled from a website here:

The Horse Chestnut trees, lining 17th Street, were planted by the Boy Scouts on May 24, 1935 to raise funds for their organization. The trees were donated by the Provincial government, and local home owners were encouraged to sponsor a tree for 25 cents. Many people associate the planting with a visit by Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts. However, although the Baden-Powells toured Vancouver in 1935, they did not visit West Vancouver in an official capacity. The double rows of these ornamental shade trees frame shaded avenues up 17th Street past the Gertrude Lawson House and Municipal Hall, and up 14th Street past Hollyburn School. The species is native to Greece and Albania, and can grow as large as 30 meters tall. Over the years, the trees have succumbed to a number of diseases, compounded by heavy pruning resulting from their initial planting directly under electrical wires. As early as 1980, there were problems with falling branches and debris, and obstructions for bus routes. On April 19, 2004, Mayor Ron Wood, former Boy Scouts Jack Leyland and John Gibson, resident Katerine Dickinson and the 2nd West Vancouver Boy Scout Troop planted a new tree and unveiled a rock bearing two commemorative plaques to mark the beginning of a program to replace trees that had been lost over time.

all images by Stacy Reynaud

The contractor took me on a little tour of the house so I could take some quick photos with my phone.

Original 1930s dining room chandelier - headed to the dump.

Bedroom chandeliers. I mentioned he should take these for his sixteen year old daughter's bedroom.

Bathroom. The toilet and sink were dumped on the lawn.

I didn't want to go down there.

Original immaculate hand laid oak hardwood floors

Original hardwood flooring - headed for the dump.

The kitchen. Not sure why there's a big hole in the middle of the floor.

Front room. Original 1930s French doors with glass, iron and the original glass door knobs (with brass). Also, headed for the dump.

One of those ceramic fake log fireplaces. Look at the mantle piece. All original and headed for the dump. See how gorgeous the flooring is!

Another door headed for the dump.

Look at those oak floors. I want to cry. The contractor said it's too much work to pull them up so they'll be demolished with the house.

Original flooring. It must've been restored at some time because it was in immaculate condition.

There was probably carpet over this one. Pine perhaps? Headed for the dump.

Gorgeous corner lot with mature trees - okay it needs a little TLC but big deal. The contractor said the new house wasn't going to be 'too big'. I'll keep you posted on that!

There's a full bamboo hedge - that will be headed to the dump.

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