UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

House and home in Vancouver: the emergence of west coast urban landscape, 1886-1929 Holdsworth, Deryck


This thesis explores the making of the Vancouver residential landscape during the first fifty years after the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway. A city of uncommon attractiveness set next to sea and mountain, Vancouver offered unusual residential opportunities within a rapidly expanding commercial and industrial city. High wages and cheap land made accessible by the streetcar enabled even very ordinary people to buy or build houses on lots up to eight miles from their place of work. Vancouverites admired the resulting suburban landscape, set away from industry and commerce and providing open space, gardens, and rural flavour. Land and home ownership, amid thereby control over the domestic environment, were important to them; Suburban Vancouver reflected imported values and local opportunities, and both were orchestrated by a property market that was dominated by speculation. These relationships are considered in the first three chapters of the thesis. The next three chapters deal with house styles in Vancouver, as influenced by builders, pattern books, and architects. Three broad styles are recognized. The first, in the period from 1886 to 1910, were late Victorian designs used for a range of cabins, cottages, frame two-storey houses and mansions. Gingerbread trim, turrets or elaborate porches, mostly acquired from factory or mill along with other building elements, suggest the industrial and American pedigree of houses on the downtown peninsula and proximate suburbs. A second style, strongly influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement in California, apparently rejected earlier standardized industrial products. The California Bungalow, popular from about 1910 to the mid-1920s, was a simple and open house that emphasized the texture of shingle, rafter, brick and stone. These bungalows were available in one- and two-storey versions and were associated with innovative marketing strategies in California. Mimicking both California styles and real estate practices, Vancouver building contractors added a strongly West Coast element to the city's streetscapes after 1910. A third style, an explicity English pre-industria1 revival, was a variant of Arts and Crafts influence inspired by English Tudor Cottages and thatched farmhouses. For the city's largely anglo-saxon elite, Tudor mansions were popular; their expansive form and historical detail had been interpreted in North American taste-making centres such as Philadelphia. The same Tudor and thatched cottage motifs, along with other revivalist styles, served smaller houses in the largely middle class suburbs of Point Grey and thereby hinted at estate living, albeit on a small lot. The significance of these landscape elements is discussed from the perspective of technological change, social values, class relations, and regional distinctiveness. While Vancouver houses were the product of an industrial system, the high level of home-ownership and the successful separation of home and work mark an important stage in the evolution of urban form beyond that of the typical industrial city. The city-as-suburban-landscape, generically available elsewhere on the continent, came to Vancouver with a unique mix of elements that reflect the region's migration patterns, social aspirations and economy. As an exercise in urban historical geography, the thesis also offers a concrete perspective on issues of identity and meaning that are of concern in contemporary human geography.

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