Save the trees, and the vintage neon

Vancouver, B.C.'s 10 'most endangered' heritage properties include historic neighborhoods, schools, a theater, flashing signs, and a modernist dome.
Crosscut archive image.

The interior of Vancouver's Pantages Theatre, with balconies precariously supported.

Vancouver, B.C.'s 10 'most endangered' heritage properties include historic neighborhoods, schools, a theater, flashing signs, and a modernist dome.

Spring is the time when many preservation groups release their "most endangered" lists. The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation will release its list for 2010 the week of May 24. These lists highlight historic properties that are in jeopardy.

Already out with theirs is Heritage Vancouver in British Columbia. The threats are the usual suspects: development, neglect, arson, school district demolition plans, misguided or conflicting public policies, and, of course, time.

There are some intriguing, and alarming, listings. Some are single buildings or structures, others include more general components of the urban landscape. A few highlights:

Neighborhoods: Heritage Vancouver names downtown's Granville Street, citing numerous threats to smaller buildings and a push to "clean up" the neighborhood. The city is spending millions to spruce up the street, but urging redevelopment which threatens the historic, character-rich building stock.

"As Granville Street continues to redevelop, without any formal heritage recognition it is just a matter of time until these buildings are demolished, and we will lose the visual richness of the street'ꀙs historical legacy," Heritage Vancouver argues on its website. Other endangered nabes include Old East End's Strathcona, North of Hastings Street (neglect) and Lower Mount Pleasant (development).

Historic Buildings: The saga of The Pantages Theater continues (see my story here), as the theater is tragically being allowed to fall to pieces. Vandalism, decay and potential demolition are all taking a toll. The Bloedel Conservatory, the spectacular modernist dome, is a local and national landmark, but the city's parks board says it can no longer subsidize its operation and is looking for new uses and alternatives, which throws the conservatory's future into doubt (see story here). Many of Vancouver's historic school buildings also are under threat, as replacing them seems to be the favored choice, over retrofitting. "Many of these beloved community landmarks are now threatened with demolition, for reasons that defy common sense," Heritage Vancouver writes.

Other endangered properties include Vancouver's vintage neon signs and the city's historic street trees. The full list with background and details of current threats is available here.


Please support independent local news for all.

We rely on donations from readers like you to sustain Crosscut's in-depth reporting on issues critical to the PNW.


About the Authors & Contributors

Knute Berger

Knute Berger

Knute “Mossback” Berger is Crosscut's Editor-at-Large.