Nikki Renshaw is throwing a party to celebrate her house’s 100th birthday. But first she wants to invite as many former residents, owners and relatives as she can find. Thanks to help from uber house detective James Johnstone she already knows their names, but she’s having trouble tracking people who had a connection to her Kitsilano digs prior to the 70s.
Over the years the Renshaws have uncovered bits and pieces of their house’s past. The King George V playing cards behind the kitchen wall, old photos under the floor boards, names carved into the basement chimney and dozens of empty bottles of booze buried in the garden.
It wasn’t always a happy house.
“There’s been adultery, divorce, drink, destitution, mental breakdowns and of course, the odd death,” says Nikki, a former radio personality who now designs luxury bedding.
Originally, from London, England, Nikki and Chris bought the house in 1998 and put it through a massive renovation.
In one of those freaky connection things that happen when you’re investigating old houses, Denise, a friend Nikki knew from London, grew up next door. Denise’s friend Laura Finlayson had lived in the Renshaw’s house during the 60s and 70s.
It’s a lovely old arts and crafts house with its old fir floors and stained glass windows—one of the originals in the area in a neighbourhood that’s rapidly depleting its heritage stock.
Nikki says that’s one reason she wants to have this celebration. Once teen daughter Olivia goes off to university, they’ll be downsizing, and she’s worried that the house will transform into a duplex, or worse.
“This neighbourhood has changed so much since we moved in. It’s this high density neighbourhood now. Every house in this road that gets bought gets ripped down,” she says. “I just want there to be the story of all the people who lived here so there is some kind of community to this house.”
Nikki has contacted the Stockholder family, the Finlayson’s and the Greggs. But if you know any of these people or their descendants, please leave a note here and we’ll pass it along to Nikki.
Past residents of 3209 West 5th Avenue, Vancouver:
- James Arthur Bruce (Builder) 1912/13
- Catherine & John Dickson 1913
- Lena & Stanley Kilborn 1923
- John Alexander McLeod 1931
- Jules De Keyser 1942
- Annabelle McGown 1956
- Arthur and Mary Finn 1959
- Malcolm and Christine Finlayson 1962
- Angus and Margaret Finlayson 1964
- Kay Stockholder 1977
- Chris and Nikki Renshaw 1998
- Stuart Davies 1921
- Fred and Mabel Byers 1927
- Jo and Ellen Donnelly 1929
- Harry and Mabel Aley 1935
- James and May Hasler 1936
- Doug and Mabel Davies 1939
- Joe and Irene Lewis 1942
- John and Evelyn Dalgleish 1944
- Robert and Millicent Gregg 1955
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Eve Lazarus is a writer with a passion for history and heritage houses. She is the author of Sensational Victoria: Bright Lights, Red Lights, Murders, Ghosts & Gardens; and At Home with History: the Secrets of Greater Vancouver’s Heritage Houses. Eve blogs obsessively about buildings and their genealogies at evelazarus.com/blog/.