Developing Story: Lost heritage captured in Vancouver Vanishes

Caroline Adderson is frustrated, but she's found an online outlet.

The West Side resident, who lives on the Kerrisale/Mackenzie Heights border, launched a Facebook page in early January called Vancouver Vanishes to lament and celebrate the city's vanishing character homes. As of early this week, it's recorded 1,095 likes. Ultimately, the goal is to encourage Vancouverites to press city council to curtail demolitions and promote the green option renovation and retention.

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One person writing letters doesn't do much, but hundreds of people will have an effect. Failing that, the page will stand as a record of what weve lost, she told the Courier.

Adderson, an author, had been concerned about older homes being knocked down to make way for new houses in her neighbourhood for years, but she was particularly aggravated when a 96-year-old neighbour died and the house shed lived in since she was a child was torn down.

"That was three years ago. No one has ever lived in [the new] house. It's never been sold," she said. "And, the people who looked after her lived next door in a beautifully restored 1926 house. They moved after she died and that house was torn down. It's really so close to home."

Adderson began taking photographs to send to city council to make a point about what was being lost, then decided in January to create the Facebook page.

She's taken 120 photos a random sample of houses she sees or are pointed out to her and spends four to five hours a week on the project, noting there were 1,082 demolitions last year according to city statistics.

Many of her posts attract multiple comments and she's been surprised to hear from people who grew up in the houses she features or from those who have connections to them.

She shoots the photos when she walks her dog or during bike rides around the neighbourhood.

"And then people will tell me about a house and I'll go over and take a picture," she said, adding often she'll go out for one photo and winds up with seven.

For years, Adderson said she couldn't stomach looking at realty pages, but now she goes through them, cuts out ads of homes that have been sold and goes out and takes a photo of them.

Because, really, very few of these old houses that are sold will stand, she said.

Adderson maintains property owners should consider the environmental footprint of knocking down old homes and building new ones. She also thinks city council should make it much easier for people to renovate the homes and force them to justify tearing down character homes.

Adderson cites Winnipeg as a city thats maintained many of its older homes.

"It's too late for us, but if you go to Winnipeg, you look down the street and every single house is original. Whole neighbourhoods are intact," she said. "They have the oldest intact housing stock in North America."

Adderson isn't sure how much influence, if any, her Facebook page will have in Vancouver, although she's met with Green Party Coun. Adriane Carr, the first councillor to like the page, who's promised to prepare a motion on the issue.

"What it's done for me is I don't feel so angry," Adderson said. "At least I'm making a point. I'ts on [council's] conscience now. I think I have a point and I'm making it and that's all I can do."

Addersons Vancouver Vanishes site is at facebook.com/VancouverVanishes

noconnor@vancourier.com

twitter.com/naoibh

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