Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

News stories from the Renfrew-Collingwood community in East Vancouver

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Collingwood Corner: The Birds’ Paradise

Albert Jones playing violin at 5207 Hoy Street. Photo from the Vancouver Archives CVA371-1215


Thanks to Allen Doolan, a subscriber and moderator on one of the Nostalgic Vancouver Facebook groups I’m in, I recently discovered that a bird aviary was once in the Collingwood area at 5207 Hoy Street.

The bird aviary was quite well known and was even mentioned in a letter to the editors in the February 24, 1941 edition of Life magazine. The owner was Charles E. Jones, who was also briefly the 26th mayor of Vancouver until passing away September 1, 1948.

Charles E. Jones was Vancouver’s 26th mayor. From the Vancouver Archives CVA371-1191

I can’t find out much about Charles Jones, but he certainly loved birds. If you visit the Vancouver Archives online, you will be able to see many postcards of the birds. Some of them will make you smile! I’ve included my favourites here.

Dog resting at the aviary with feathered friends. Photo from the Vancouver Archives CVA371-1193

The old house on Hoy Street that once contained these delightful creatures is still standing. It was built in 1910, and still has its original charm with a lovely garden. I’ve often been drawn to this house while walking in the neighbourhood, and now I know why. What a fascinating history it has.

According to the B.C. Directories online, “Birds Paradise” was listed along with Charles Jones’s name in the 1939 edition. I think it may have been a lucrative or at least a most interesting pastime for him. He was listed as retired in 1932, but in later editions of the B.C. Directories, he is listed as alderman, and then he is mayor in 1947.

Postcard. From the Vancouver Archives CVA371-1199

The letter to the editor of the Life magazine in 1941 from Clyde Ragsdale states that Charles Jones “revived a childhood dream when he created this sanctuary, where thousands of birds, wild and domestic, representing some 35 species, from Chinese nightingales and Indian bulbuls to South American finches, have found haven.”

Copyright 2019 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News



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Carleton School House: Green Thumb to the rescue

Theatre company campaigns to rebuild historic Collingwood school

Carleton School House

Patrick McDonald, artistic director of Green Thumb Theatre, unveiled drawings of how the Carleton School House could look as soon as the fall of 2012. Photos by Paul Reid


To commemorate the 20-year anniversary of the Renfrew-Collingwood Community News, we’re revisiting past stories that have particularly inspired us. This article was first published in October 2011.
My favourite story from the RCC News is about the Green Thumb Theatre. I like stories about local buildings being revitalized.
− Adena Lee

It looks as though the 115-year-old Carleton School House, which has been vacant and deteriorating since being gutted by fire in April 2008, will indeed be saved from the wrecking ball. The Green Thumb Theatre has come to a deal with the Vancouver school board to lease the building from the school board for 20 years as their new headquarters.

Green Thumb Theatre will need to raise approximately 1.2 million dollars to transform the currently burnt-out building into a restored version of its original self with two rehearsal halls, washrooms and a green room. The theatre company also plans to refurbish an adjacent building, “the barn”―built in 1908, to house its offices.

The theatre company creates and performs theatre works aimed at children, teens and young adults, to allow students to learn more about educational theatre programs. Green Thumb has had shows on Broadway and the Sydney Opera House, its works translated into 14 languages and plays performed by over 200 theatre companies throughout the world.

The Green Thumb solution came after much work by heritage advocates.

The capital campaign was launched at the Carleton site on September 13. Lead by Patrick McDonald, artistic director, speakers that day included Pat Munton, principal of Sir Guy Carleton Elementary School; Patti Bacchus, board chair of the Vancouver school board; Kerry Jang, City of Vancouver councillor; Donald Luxton, Heritage Vancouver; and Adrian Dix, leader of the BC New Democratic Party and our local MLA.

Bobbi Senft and Jackie McHugh

Also present were Bobbi Senft and Jackie McHugh. Longtime activists of local heritage protection, their family members have attended Carleton Elementary for five generations, since 1905.

All of the speakers were thrilled about the win-win partnership. “We’ll have a restored building, the community will have its heart back and we’ll have this fantastic theatre program,” said Patti Bacchus.

“We’re delighted because Green Thumb Theatre will be restoring our much-cherished heritage schoolhouse to its original splendour and beyond,” said Pat Munton, the school’s principal. “It’s just amazing, it brings tears to my eyes.”

Adrian Dix declared it a “wonderful day” and kicked off the campaign by donating $1,000.

Initially, Green Thumb hopes to receive $150,000 as part of a cultural infrastructure grant from the city. This would allow for the replacement of the roof, whose current tarps are covering a big hole. Green Thumb will also apply for $450,000 from the Department of Canadian Heritage.

This would leave $400,000 still to raise, an amount that Green Thumb is positive they can. If all goes to plan, the theatre company would be moving into the renovated school building by fall 2012.

Learn more about Green Thumb Theatre at You can also find Green Thumb on Facebook.

Copyright 2018 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

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Renfrew-Collingwood’s humble historic landmark

Collingwood Library

An extraordinary photo of Vancouver Public Library’s Collingwood branch as it appeared before its opening in early July 1951. The glass expanse at the front of the building has since been covered up in a subsequent renovation. Source: Vancouver Public Library, Special Collections, VPL 8856


This story by John Mendoza reflects his passion for architecture. He brings to life a little-known gem in our neighbourhood with meticulous research and tremendous detail.
I love getting stories like these in my inbox.
John Mendoza tells us that this news story from October 2010 was used by Heritage Vancouver to help defend the library’s inclusion on the 2011 Top Ten Endangered Places list. The Vancouver Heritage Foundation lists Collingwood Library as one of its Places That Matter.
− Julie Cheng, editor

Located at the northwest corner of Kingsway and Rupert Street, the Collingwood branch of the Vancouver Public Library is a colourful hub of activity. However, this humble library branch holds a secret pedigree that elevates it above the 22 other branch libraries in Vancouver.

Unknown to most citizens of Vancouver, the architectural design of the Collingwood branch was designed by two celebrated British Columbian architects and could be the most important example of Modernist architecture found in East Vancouver.

Opened in July 1951, Collingwood Library’s design influenced its community in profound ways. Designed by local architects Harold Semmens and Douglas Simpson, the new building presented a friendly face to the neighbourhood.

In contrast to the imposing, old world bulk of the Carnegie branch at Hastings and Main, the design of Collingwood branch was firmly contemporary. The design reflects the spirit and work of famous Modernist architects: the glass expanse at the front alluded to Mies van der Rohe, the use of stone a reference to Marcel Breuer, the low ceiling entrance an influence of Frank Lloyd Wright. (According to Douglas Simpson’s son, Gregg Simpson, the architect studied under Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin West in Arizona.)

Yet due to its “effective scaling and proportioning,” the building presented a welcoming and accessible face to the local community.

According to one source, shortly after its grand opening, Collingwood branch recorded the highest circulation of materials for kids of any branch library in the Vancouver library system. If the architects wanted to create an open and approachable civic building, they succeeded.

The impact of Semmens and Simpson’s branch library design was far-reaching; it influenced the local and even regional architectural scene. The new design quickly attracted the curious, and it soon turned into the most visited Modernist building in Vancouver.

Its influence can even be felt in successive library projects such as M. E. Uttley’s Okanagan Regional Library (1955) and Kenneth Sandbrook’s New Westminster Library (1958).

Because of their work on the Collingwood branch library, Semmens and Simpson were commissioned to design the new central branch of Vancouver Public Library in 1954. Debuting in 1957, their new Modernist library building at Robson and Burrard Street earned praise for its design, winning the 1958 Massey Medal for excellence in Canadian architecture.

Despite this illustrious history, there are no guarantees for this Modernist landmark in East Vancouver. Due to budgetary constraints, the library itself almost closed during the 1990s. Moreover, the history of preserving heritage buildings and Modernist architecture in Vancouver has not been positive. (Ironically, Semmens and Simpson’s award-winning 1957 central library design has lost much of its Modernist features due to a renovation in the last decade.)

In a recent conversation, Gregg Simpson complained about the lurid blue paint that has been slapped on the exterior of Collingwood branch library. Ideally, the original colour of the building should be retained. As Gregg emphatically states, “To restore it to the original colour would be a great service to his legacy.”

Early photos of the building contrasted with the current condition of the building suggest that successive renovations have not been respectful of its architectural status.

The Collingwood branch therefore deserves consideration for its significance in the architectural  design history of Vancouver. It exists as an east side example of local Modernist architecture designed by two acclaimed architects.

If it meets the criteria, the building should immediately be added to the Vancouver Heritage Registry as a rare example of Modernist architecture in East Vancouver.

As the library approaches its 60th anniversary in 2011, recognition is overdue. It would be nice if the library’s building design, layout and interior furnishings could be spruced up in the Modernist spirit, sensitive of course to the library staff and patron Renfrew-Collingwood’s humble historic landmark needs and to budgetary constraints.

Certainly the original colour should be restored and the signage could echo that of 1950s typography. At the very least, proper maintenance should be enforced.

For example, during Vancouver’s general civic strike of 2007, a vehicle crashed into the building, causing damage to the brick work. As of late August 2010, the brick-work damage remains and can still be seen just right of the main entrance.

The library and city should set an example for celebrating the city’s heritage architecture and design, especially in a humble  neighbourhood like Renfrew-Collingwood. Refurbishing this building and many other heritage landmarks in our area is an important step in the preservation of our shared history  and the first step of cultivating an identity for Renfrew-Collingwood. However, it will only occur if the whole community shares this aspiration and does its best to discuss this with others who can help in this goal.

John Mendoza has lived in Collingwood for almost 30 years. He is a teacher and aspiring writer. His interests include travel, reading, art and architecture. First published in the October 2010 issue of the Renfrew-Collingwood Community News.

Copyright 2018 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News


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Collingwood Corner: Joyce Station before and after

1950 Collingwood West Station Rupert And Vanness

Collingwood West Station, 1950, at Rupert and Vanness. Photo by Ted Clark, Richmond Archives


Many things have changed since the long-ago days when British Columbia Electric Railway (BCER) first ran a track through the Collingwood neighbourhood in 1891, travelling from New Westminster through to downtown Vancouver. Collingwood was built up along the track for homeowners who worked downtown, but because of the new streetcar system, could commute quickly while living in a lower-priced and quiet area.

There were originally two stations in Collingwood: Collingwood West at the corner of Rupert
Street and Vanness, high up near the bridge which crossed Rupert, and Collingwood East, located near the Joyce Station at Vanness and Joyce, on the west side of Joyce.

Today, the Skytrain runs through the East station, and it recently has been drastically renovated.

Collingwood East Station By Phillip Timms

Collingwood East Station. Photo by Philip Timms, Vancouver Archives, CVA 677-386

Translink has been working on enlarging the East Joyce Station since January 2016, and I noticed one gate on the south side, facing Vanness, was opened the first week in October 2017. The north gate is still closed as the work isn’t quite finished.

The newly renovated station has a set of escalators, an elevator, a place to safely store bikes and a building for commercial use. It’s very modern looking with beautiful artwork that resembles stained glass in the window near the escalators. It’s quite a remarkable improvement from 100 years ago!

To read more about the BCER and interurban history, please visit this Translink post online:

Joyce Station by Loretta Houben

New Collingwood East Station. Photo by Loretta Houben, Oct. 2017

Loretta Houben is a long-time resident of Collingwood and is completely enthralled with the new Joyce station on the east side.

Copyright (c) 2017 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News


Collingwood Corner: Joyce Street in 1914



If you live in the Joyce-Collingwood area you will have noticed the recent upgrades to the Skytrain station, and will be aware that big changes are coming over the next 20 years. I recently filled out a survey from the city asking what sort of shops and amenities I’d like to see along Joyce Street in the near future. I put down my suggestions and then I wondered what used to be here way back in 1914, when Joyce Street was first mentioned in Henderson’s Directory.

henderson-directoryJoyce Street was named after Abraham Joyce, a school trustee for Carleton Elementary from 1897 to 1898. I discovered a 1914 map of the Collingwood area in the Vancouver Archive website. By comparing the map with the 1914 directory of street names it’s interesting to note the changes and additions to the area.

For instance, the address for Collingwood Baptist Church is 617 Joyce near Price Road. But anyone familiar with this area knows it is located near Monmouth Avenue and the current address is 4847 Joyce, but in 1914 Monmouth Avenue didn’t exist.

By studying the BC Directories online (1860-1955) sponsored by the Vancouver Public Library, you will become something of a sleuth! The website is easy to navigate. Here is the link:

The 1914 directory lists residents and businesses with names of cross streets. There are names of the early settlers, along with many shops. A few are vacant, but there is a dry goods store near Archimedes, plus a Collingwood Electric Co., a grocer, and a Watson and Wood shoemakers.

Near Euclid there is a physician, three vacant stores, a shoemaker, a meat store, a barber and pool place, a dentist, a druggist and a dry goods store. Near Vanness there is an associated brokerage company, Fraser Brothers grocers, a postmaster, a Collingwood E. post office, a real estate agent, a bank of Vancouver Collingwood East branch, a restaurant, William H. and Son second hand dealer, a tailor, and even a Collingwood Theatre near Wellington Avenue.

Past Wellington there are homes plus Collingwood Baptist Church. I was amazed at the variety of businesses. Joyce Street had it all!

Near the west side of the Skytrain there was the Collingwood East station for the BCER tram that travelled from downtown Vancouver to New Westminster. Near Rupert Street the Collingwood West station was located, and near Boundary and Vanness the Park Street station was located.

These are shown on the 1914 map. There were also quite a few stations near Central Park, along the same track route that we now take on Skytrain to Metrotown Station in Burnaby.

Do you think the residents of Collingwood were better off in 1914? Or do you think that the future of Collingwood will compare to the variety of lifestyle once available here?

Loretta Houben is a long-time resident of Collingwood and coordinates the Seniors Connection section of the RCC News.

Copyright (c) 2017 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

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Harvey’s on Kingsway closing after 88 years


Harvey's on Kingsway

For decades, Harvey’s was the social hub of the community, especially on Saturdays. You could say Harvey’s was the Facebook of its time, at least here in Collingwood. Photos courtesy of Harvey’s


Well folks, we’re at the end of an era with Harvey’s closing their doors after 88 years in business. I could be wrong, but I believe that would make them our community’s oldest surviving business. To everyone at Harvey’s – Way to go you guys. That is an amazing accomplishment!

Florence and Albert Harvey first opened Harvey’s on Kingsway in 1927 and started out selling wool and sewing notions. The store soon expanded and by 1936 they were selling their first appliances in the form of wooden coal and oil stoves.

Harvey’s grew over the years and added more and more stock: house wares, hardware, plumbing supplies, wood stoves, rifles, outboard motors. Later they would carry toys, bikes and the electric appliances and furniture that made them famous. Today, Harvey’s boasts over 38,000 square feet of showroom that is stocked with some of the most desired home décor and appliances available on the market today.

Richard Harvey

Richard Harvey (left) took over the business from his parents in the early 1960s.

Over the years, the business passed within the family from Albert to his son Richard. Richard took the helm in the 1960s up until his passing eight years ago. Now it is Richard’s son, Eric Harvey, who, after been born into the business some 60-odd years ago, has been working hard ever since. “It’s our work ethic that has kept us going,” says Eric. “That and a personal touch.”

It was also a place to meet up with your neighbours. Eric recalls how there was also a barber shop, a shoe store and a skate shop (for hockey) on the property. So it really was like Andy Griffith’s Mayberry with everyone meeting there to catch up and share the latest news and gossip. I guess, in a way, Harvey’s was the Facebook of its time, at least here in Collingwood.

Another employee who virtually grew up at Harvey’s was Wayne Elliot. Now in his 54th year of duty with Harvey’s, Wayne, Eric’s buddy, has worked there nearly all his life. They spent their youth working till closing at Harvey’s and then going next door to hang out at Wally’s Drive-In. Yup, those were the days. He did have one job prior to Harvey’s. It was across the street.

Walking by the store one day, Eric’s uncle, who was washing the front windows, asked Wayne if he wanted a job. He said no, he had a job across the street at Docksteader Drugs. How much you making there, asked the uncle. Fifty cents an hour, said Wayne. I’ll give you 55. And with that, Wayne took over washing the window and never looked back.

Working at Harvey’s even longer than Wayne is Jimmy Geekiy. Jimmy has been a plumber with Harvey’s now for 58 years. Jimmy remembers when there used to be line-ups down Earles Street to get in on. “In this area, we were it and it was busy.”

Eric’s wife Donna, who has 25 years working in Harvey’s offices, sees it as a natural progression. But the old customers have been coming back in droves to have maybe one last shop before closing day. For the first four days of the sale, again there were line-ups to get in.

“The response of our customers has been really heart warming. People who have heard about the closing have been coming by just to say hello or reminisce. People sometimes bring their children in to show them the place; others are phoning. For many, it’s kind of like if your family home was about to be torn down,” says Donna.

“These days shopping is seen as a chore, but back then shopping was an event,” says Donna. “People would come in and buy a new appliance or dining room set and it was a big deal for them. Some who come in remember the exact month and year that they bought something here. There is a woman who still comes in; she is 98 years old and she still has a hanky that she bought from Eric’s grandmother. That’s amazing!”

“Back then, nobody had credit, but Harvey’s, especially maybe around Christmas, when someone just didn’t quite have enough money, would trust them. And in this way, they built a rapport with the community and this is why Harvey’s lasted as long as it did. There are still many who patronize us because we were and still are a small family business. And all this time we have tried our best to keep that heart. People were loyal to Harvey’s. You just don’t get that kind of loyalty now with stores.”

How is Eric taking the closing out? “I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet,” he says. Eric is now just focused on what he needs to do to sell off approximately $3.5 million worth of stock. It’s been a lot of work closing the store. Lucky for us consumers out there, that means a great sale.

Have a look at the back page for more about Harvey’s big sale and then go check out Harvey’s, even if for old time’s sake.

The Collingwood Neighbourhood House and Renfrew-Collingwood Community News give a BIG thank you to Harvey’s for all of their support and service over the years.

Copyright (c) 2016 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News


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Eating Out in RC: Romer’s Burger Bar, “great food, awesome waterfront location, cool atmosphere, excellent service”


The view from the atrium is spectacular at Romer's Burger Bar

The view from the atrium is gorgeous at Romer’s Burger Bar. Photos by Paul Reid

Romer’s Burger Bar
8683 Kerr Street, Vancouver, BC

Greetings food fans. How goes it? I had a fantastic day today. Today was the day that we (Canada’s men’s hockey squad) mopped the ice with our poor American friends to the South – a joyous occasion that never gets old. (Thanks, too, of course, to Canada’s dear women’s hockey unit who also socked it to the Yanks the day previous). Go Canada!

So that was in the morning, if you recall. What better way to celebrate such a magnificent victory than to have a brewski or two and lunch on some sun-drenched patio, say, overlooking a scenic river scene. “In Renfrew-Collingwood?” you query. Well, technically no, but if we were to dial back the hands of time to the days of historic Collingwood, then we could say yes. For in those days, reader, before there was a South Vancouver, everything between Collingwood and the Fraser river was considered Collingwood. And it’s there, overlooking that lovely river at the foot of Kerr, that we now have Romer’s Burger Bar.

My accomplice on this particular outing was not my sweetie, although he is a very nice man – our very own Robert F. Edwards, who as we all know, has been a contributing writer for the RCCNews on and off for nearly a decade. He also has the fine distinction of being my friend, of which I am proud.

So it’s now about 12:30 as we enter Romer’s and the place is packed – a good sign. Still, there is some room out in the atrium, which is the portion of the patio surrounded by glass to keep it nice and cozy year round. Apparently in the warmer months, the atrium opens up to join the rest of the patio which is a big hit all summer with the bevy-swilling, burger-munching, sitting-by-the-river-in-the-sun crowd. Until then, on a cold, windy, yet sunny day as this day was, the atrium was the perfect place to enjoy the river’s serenity in action.

The burgers at Romer's look like a work of art.

The burgers at Romer’s look like a work of art.

But let’s not forget the food. And people, I’m telling you – you will not be disappointed with your burger at Romer’s. We are talking gourmet burgers here.

Robert’s reaction upon his first bite was, and I quote: “Now that’s a good burger!” I myself will second that motion. And you may also agree with us, by checking out these pictures, that these burgers arrive looking like works of art.

Robert had the Wicked Deadly Cheeseburger: five cheeses, red onion, leafy greens and Russian tarragon dressing (11.95). I had the Chorizodor: chorizo-spiced pork and beef patty, cheddar, pepper jack, Boursin, vine-ripened tomato, sweet onion, avocado and diablo sauce (12.75). With sea salt fries (2.50).

And, of course, there was beer involved in such a situation – the Gypsy Tears Ruby Ale (5.50) for Bob and the Eastern Promises Pilsner (5.50) for myself. We cheers Canada’s hockey victories. We cheers USA’s hockey defeats. Now we just need to school those Swedes, which at the time of this writing – remains undone.*

Romer’s Burger Bar is the creation of executive chef Jim Romer. Born in Marin County, and trained at Culinary Institute of America, Jim has spent over 20 years preparing “mind-blowing” good food.

Jim believes that good food begins with fresh, locally sourced ingredients that include nothing that you can’t pronounce. Secondly, Jim’s all about the flavour: “unexpected, sublime, wonderful flavours like the melt-in-your-mouth Kobe beef in the Ultimate Kobe Classic that makes you say Holy $#!% is that a good burger.”

Romer’s philosophy is this: “Eat good food. Keep it fresh. Keep it simple. Be creative. Let seasons and farmers be our guide. Be good to the planet, and all who are on it. Laugh. Share. Do what you do best: with us, it’s burgers.”

Here, here. Mr. Romer and company – Romer’s Burger Bar rocks! In addition to the food, awesome location, cool atmosphere, the service was excellent and, everyone I talked to there, really nice. Thank you and keep up the fine work. I shall return and so should you my dear reader. Bon appetit.

*No doubt. 3-0. Way to Gold, Canada, in hockey at the Sochi Olympics!

Copyright (c) 2014 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News