When they renovated their house at 658 Keefer St., Suelina Quan and partner Larry Chan wanted its exterior to be pink rather than a heritage colour scheme that matched the era in which it was built — 1906.
An unusual choice, but it was meant to pay homage to the previous owners — Chan’s parents, Walter and Mary Lee Chan.
“Our rationale was we just want to go back to a similar colour that Mary and Walter had chosen years ago,” Quan explained.
The city approved.
Walter, a Chinatown business owner, and Mary bought the home in 1958. Mary then became known for her involvement in the successful battle to stop plans for a freeway through Strathcona and in the formation of the Strathcona Property Owners and Tenants Association.
Due to its architectural merit and association with the Chan family, the Edwardian house is listed as one of Canada’s Historic Places, while the Vancouver Heritage Foundation awarded it a “Places that Matter” plaque.
This year, another honour was bestowed — an award of merit in the 2017 Vancouver Hertiage Awards. It was given to Larry Chan, Suelina Quan, Reinhardt Residential Construction Ltd. and Chiu Hippman Engineering, Practice Design + Research Inc. "for the rehabilitation of this culturally significant site in Strathcona.”
This weekend, on June 4, the house will be one of nine heritage homes featured in Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s 15th annual self-guided Heritage House Tour — the organization’s biggest fundraiser of the year.
Kathryn Morrow, a foundation spokesperson, said the home is being highlighted on the tour for its connection to Vancouver’s history.
“[That] makes it a really significant house and it’s important to share those kinds of cultural stories as well as great architecture,” she said.
The renovation and restoration has taken several years. It honours historical details, while meeting modern building codes, and includes modern conveniences.
Quan said the house was lifted and the foundation was re-formed. The house was rain screened, the original windows were replaced with vintage replica windows and a new roof was put on.
The interior was gutted and brought down to the studs in order to replace plumbing and electrical systems. The frame was reinforced to make it more earthquake safe. Inside, window mouldings and baseboards were installed to match the style of the house. The wooden stairway was retained, which Quan describes as a showpiece when you enter the house. Designwise, she said she tried to keep it “cheery.”
Quan calls the restoration “a work of love.” The Chans were more than just her inlaws — she was 14 when she met Mary who became a mother figure.
“I had an emotional investment in making sure that the house wasn’t torn down,” she said.
The Heritage House Tour is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., June 4. For more details about the tour, including tickets, see vancouverheritagefoundation.org