The housing stock in the Dunbar area of Vancouver has undergone significant change in the past five years. Originally a working class neighbourhood with many quite modest homes surrounded by lovely gardens, it is now a neighbourhood that 99% of the people working in Vancouver cannot afford because the replacement homes are built to the maximum footprint and cost millions. Greenspace has been reduced. Included on this website are photos of many (not all) of the disappeared houses.
View Teardowns in the Dunbar area of Vancouver, BC in a larger map

Demolitions West of the Dunbar Community Centre

Friday, December 27, 2013

Torn Down in One Brief Morning

When I drove to my volunteer work on the morning of December 19, I saw an excavator in front of 3775 West 36th Avenue. When I returned home for lunch, the house was in smithereens. Here is what it looked like in June 2013 when it went up for sale. If you click to enlarge the photo, you will see special leaded glass windows in the second storey.

In November, it was obvious that the house was slated for demolition because the two special windows had been ripped out. Were they salvaged?

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Modern House, Demolished

Do you remember these creative sculptures? An artist must have lived here.

I couldn't get a good view of this secluded modern (1960's?) house, likely very nice in its time but not so well maintained in its later years.
The place was sold for over $2,500,000. As of December 15, there is a huge foundation underway on this 66x130 lot. A neighbour told me that the proposal was for 6 bedrooms and baths in the basement, but it is unclear if this was approved, although neighbours responded disapproving of aspects of the proposal. A landmark locust tree was to be saved in the front, but it was then ruined (sorry...) by an excavator. Probably torn down in November 2013.

PS from December 2015: Caroline Anderson has written a chapter about this house in her book, Vancouver Vanishes: Narratives of Demolition and Revival, published in November. The chapter includes intriguing photos of the interior, which she found intact with the 1960's furniture. The house was built in 1953 and belonged to G. Desmond Muirhead, a renown landscape designer. So, I was correct about an artist living there!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Historic Mayfair Avenue

Mayfair Avenue, squeezed in between 38th and 39th Avenues and probably there before they were created, lies between the heritage 1906 Morisette Farmhouse on Blenheim Street and Dunbar Street. It is only two blocks long. I always get on edge when there is the potential of a  house being demolished on Mayfair because it is a section of Dunbar with houses so old that they are not typical to the Dunbar area. This  house was not there  on December 6--I assume that it was torn down in November. The real estate ad said "needing a major renovation or build  your dream home". Well, it's going to be a dream...and if we want to remember how Mayfair Avenue used to be, we'll have to use our imagination. Vancouver Vanishes reports that this house at 3349 Mayfair was built in 1913.

I missed getting a photo of the wide Vancouver Special at 3421 that was replaced in 2011 by this  house:

What I would really want is a photo of what was there before the Vancouver Special was built!

What if...the north side of Mayfair Avenue had years ago been designated a "heritage block" and the old houses had been retained and maintained? It would be a charming and special street to celebrate. There are still two old originals near Dunbar Street--I've been inside one of them, and it retains its original charm. Here is a link to June Binkert's description of some of the older houses in the area. The Mount Pleasant area is ahead of the Dunbar area in appreciating its history; a heritage zone was inspired by the "painted ladies" on the 100 block of West 10th Avenue. Here's a link to more information on that endeavour.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Another One on West 33rd Avenue

I last posted information on two demolitions on West 33rd Avenue, and, sadly, here is yet another one. It was torn down during the last week of November or the first week of December. The large, beautiful homes along West 33rd Avenue are not going to be around for any heritage designations in the future. I realize they would never get  an "A" designation, but their concentrated grouping in a neighbourhood did provide a lovely historic character to the area that future generations will never see.
The house at 3357 West 33rd Avenue stood high on the hill, like many others  on that street. The above photo was taken in March 2013. On November 26, 2013, I spotted this swing. Will this tree be saved?

Yes, the tree was saved, along with the swing, but the  house is gone for good.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Beautiful Homes on West 33rd Avenue

Roughly speaking and with many exceptions, West 33rd Avenue marks a divide between smaller lots and houses to the north and larger lots and houses to the south in the Dunbar area. The Avenue has many gracious and varied homes. Here is one of them on a delightful April day:

It was for sale, but I did not pay much attention because I doubted that it would be demolished. In October I saw the plastic red fencing and hoped that it was there because a lane house was being built (and the main house would remain). However, the house was torn down in early November 2013.

A more elaborate house east of Dunbar at 3441 West 33rd Avenue, was sold twice or three times in recent years. Here is what it looked like in February 2012:

For sale again in March 2013 it looked very similar:

By November 7, 2013, the writing was on the wall or more literally, the plywood was on the windows, probably to facilitate asbestos removal.

When I stopped by at 9 am on November 26, this is what I saw, only a bit of the back wall.  Some 1936 history is lost forever.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Newspaper Article in The Voice (Langara College)

The Voice from Langara College in Vancouver had an article written by Garin Fahlman and Brian Horstead on November 7, 2013 about my blog and the Vancouver Vanishes Facebook site.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Near the Wild

The 3900 block of West 22nd is a quiet leafy one, on a hill sloping down to the Camosun Bog. This beautiful home was already undergoing asbestos removal for my first photo on October 20, 2013. Note the semicircular window upstairs and the sheltered front entry. The home appeared to be well kept.

When I walked by on November 12, a workman was knocking the chimney down. Doom seemed inevitable.

Driving by on the afternoon of November 14, I found that the house was completely gone. Will any new house have the same authentic exterior charm?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Three More Houses Have Disappeared

One real estate ad described this type of house as "California living", probably because one could comfortably live on one floor. However, that kind of convenience apparently has limited attraction, since most of these that come on the market in the Dunbar area are demolished in favor of a 3 or 3 1/2 storey shade-casting home with a 3-car garage. This one at 4070 West 38th Avenue looked like this in mid June and was torn down in September or October:

With character that indicates that it was probably built in the 1920's, this one was for sale in June 2013, but when I looked for it in October, it was no longer there. How quickly all that old wood can be sent to the landfill. It sat on a corner at 3896 West 21st Avenue.

Another corner house, 3505 West 36th at Collingwood, was torn down in October. I have three photos, so you can see both the front and side of this large house, which was built in 1924 and later had a substantial addition. The blue shutters give the house unusual character. P.S. on November 20: Vancouver Vanishes reported that the first owner was Robert M. Matheson, Architect, of the firm Townley and Matheson. They designed Vancouver's City Hall! Here's another example of good design being destroyed.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Real Loss--3906 West 36th

Dunbar has lost a little bit of its country heritage with the demolition of 3906 West 36th Avenue, on the corner of Wallace Street. The cottage was built in 1926, so it was probably one of the original houses in the area. Because it was on a large lot, 66x140.5 feet and on a corner, it was attractive for builders. For sale in November 2011 and demolished nearly two years later in September or October 2013. The property gave a unique country feeling to the area and is missed by the neighbourhood. Since I had a premonition that this house would be one of the "disappeared", I took photos over the past two years. The first two were taken on November 20, 2011 when the house was up for sale, and they feature an early snowfall!

The next two photos were taken in March 2012, when the large back garden was beginning to wake up to spring. There was no garage, but parking was available on the gravel. Not clearly seen are numerous fruit trees.

In June 2013, the foxgloves and roses bloomed, despite this bucolic site being doomed.
In August 2013, a Dunbar resident informed me that a bigleaf maple on the City's boulevard land along Wallace Street was cut down to make way for a garage entrance. Another environmental loss...

The Vancouver Vanishes site, featured this house on October 11, 2013. From there I learned that during the demolition, the author rescued some of the apples! Also on that site was information about the building permit:

Municipality of Point Grey
Building Permit #7470
Owner: Purdon, Mrs. N. B.
Architect: Sharp & Thompson
Builder: Gower, H. E. L.
Street: 3906 36th Ave. W
Legal address: DL 2027; Block 37; Lot 18
Value: $2,800
Issued: February 19, 1925

Yet another historical  note: the architects were important in their day; here is their plan for the UBC campus.

The  more we know, the sadder we become. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

While I Was Away

Upon my return after being away for five weeks, I began to look around my neighbourhood to check on demolitions. Here are three that I have found so far, quite discouraging...

Because this lovely house has unusual character, when it was for sale in April 2013, I did not think it would be demolished. However, by mid August (the next photo), I had second thoughts because it was beginning to look neglected, with weeds in the lawn.

A Dunbar resident sent me this photo as the siding of the house was being removed in late September. Talk was that it contained asbestos.
The house is situated across from the tennis courts that are in the park near the Dunbar Community Centre. The ironic thing is that a productive apple tree in the back was cut down while across street the City has planted fruit trees in the park near a grove of large cedars. Do fruit trees thrive when shaded by large cedars or in someone's sunny back yard? The house at 3759 West 31st Avenue was torn down in late September or early October.

This more modest house was located at 3989 West 33rd Avenue and was demolished in September.


Three blocks away at 3692 West 33rd stood a more elaborate and older house, built in 1928. It appeared to have been sold several times, beginning in July 2010. It was torn down in September 2013. The lot is 57 feet wide--perhaps developers wished to put up two houses, but in the end it appears that one house with a large footprint is under construction. In this photo taken in early February 2011, the icicles still hadn't melted.

There are more demolitions for more blogs!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Now There Are Two

This house must have been one of the first on its block. It was built in 1920 (but there was at least one house built nearby in 1918), and it ended up being situated on an ample 66 foot lot. The lot is now divided, with two houses under construction. The photos show 3524 West 21st Avenue in mid May 2013; it was torn down in early July.

Just to the east is one of the few "narrow" houses in the Dunbar area, this one built in 1988 on a 16.5 foot lot. They were not quite as controversial in their day as laneway houses are today, but people wondered at the time, why would anyone want to live in a small house?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Small Footprint

Note the leaded glass in the front windows of this house built in 1927 or 1928 on a nearly 50 foot lot. This photo is from December 2011; the house was torn down in June 2013. A larger house is sure to be built. Will there ever be incentives in our urban environment to retain or construct smaller more modest houses with more permeable green space such as this one?

Friday, September 6, 2013

A Noisy Day

It was a noisy day. Was it the construction at nearby 4070 (yes), was it thunder (yes), or was it something else? It was yet another nearby demolition, this one at 4077 West 32nd Avenue. I was away in the morning, and by the time I arrived with my camera in early afternoon, there wasn't much left. What did the house look like?
It was a modest house, built in 1940. Torn down September 5, 2013. the fourth one on this side of this block since I have been blogging the destruction.

A long-ago resident left lots of pails of paint, paint thinner, etc. in the garage, but it all got pushed over and will go to the landfill. We still have a long way to go to be "green" with disposal and recycling of waste.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

In an Historical Neighbourhood

This house was advertised as a "starter" on a 33 foot lot, a half block from St. George's Junior School, formerly the Convent of the Sacred Heart, built in 1912-1913. This fairly typical Dunbar dwelling was built in 1929 and torn down in July 2013, shortly after this photo was taken.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

London, England and Vancouver, BC, Canada

In the July 5, 2013 issue of The Guardian Weekly, Patrick Collinson has an article entitled: “Number of £1m homes rises by a third”.  Some cities in the UK promote people to buy derelict homes for £1, and there are areas in the nation where many homes sell for under £50,000. This is in contrast to what is happening in well-to-do London.  A quote: “Overseas buyers are behind much of the boom in what upmarket estate agents are now referring to as a new mini city-state, PCL – prime central London. In 2012, of 7,000 new-build homes, more than 5,000 went to overseas buyers, and the estate agency Knight Frank said buyers from just two countries, China and Singapore, bought 40% of them. But buyers rarely occupy the properties, leaving parts of prime central London empty of residents. The main beneficiary has been the Treasury, which in March last year imposed a 7% stamp duty on home sales above £2m.”

Is there a similar phenomenon in specific neighbourhoods of Vancouver with unoccupied houses and condos? People in the Dunbar area decry the deterioration in neighbourliness that is a result of houses left unoccupied. Other results:

  • the local economy is not supported (aside from landscape maintenance and security businesses)
  • children are not enrolled in schools
  • participation in community centres, places of worship, and other local organizations does not take place 
  • the pool of residents for civic engagement is reduced
  • the opposite of densification happens
  • public transit is not used
  • fewer people out and about taking walks and gardening can mean less safety

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

3996 West 31st Avenue, Revised

When I published the blog in May 2013 about the demolition of this house, one block away from me, I did not have a proper photo of the house. A Dunbar resident came to the rescue and supplied two photos, the first taken February 2012 and the second taken on April Fools Day in 2013. He also let me know that the house was built in 1941, not 1948. He had taken the photos because he thought it was a "cute house". There were a few houses of this style built in the Dunbar area. This one (3996 West 31st Avenue) was torn down on May 22, 2013. A half block away at 4064 West 31st Avenue stood a similar one but with red trim and a different roof line; it was torn down on July 18, 2011.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Three on West 34th Avenue

Vancouver Vanishes has already featured this Arts and Crafts house that was built between 1914 and 1917 at 3695 West 34th Avenue. There are only a few such houses scattered in the Dunbar area, and they deserve to be restored. The style is one that is emulated by much of the new construction (but in my view way over the top in scale and detail). Renovating this house would have been an exceedingly expensive proposition because of all the necessary upgrades along with the City's requirements, but instead of all the charm ending up in the landfill, wouldn't you rather see these few original houses with at least their fronts preserved and restored remain in the neighbourhood? Such houses can be seen in the Kits area.

This house was torn down in May or June 2013.

Also featured by Vancouver Vanishes is a second house that was on the other side of Dunbar Street, at 3553 West 34th. The ad, back in the fall of 2010, stated "good for holding or build". I like the extra wide south-facing dormer, possibly added some time after the late 20's when the house was built. In mid November 2011 the house looked like this:
This house was torn down in July 2013.

The third house stood across the street at 3556 West 34th Avenue. The real estate ad at the end of 2010 stated "prime building lot". In December 2010 it appeared fairly derelict, with even greener moss on the roof in April 2013 when the second photo was taken. But it was a great camellia! Torn down in May or June 2013.

Many houses stand empty and derelict for too many months. Reasons can be:
  • asbestos issues
  • a reselling
  • issues with the City or neighours regarding the plan
  • attempts to divide the lot into two
  • oil tank issues
  • estate issues
  • unwillingness to rent