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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

The Vancouver Heritage House Tour

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Cypress Street House. Image courtesy of Martin Knowles Photo/Media

[Authors Note: Coming up on Sunday, June 3rd from 10 am – 5 pm is the Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s 10th Annual Heritage House Tour. This year’s one-day self-guided tour of 10 houses includes a church converted to strata units, Shaughnessy mansions, Cedar Cottage homes, a restored corner store, and an old wood frame bank building with strata units to the rear. Tickets are $40+hst. To purchase tickets or for more info visit: or call 604 264 9642. You can win two tickets to the Vancouver Heritage House Tour by entering the contest at the  Every House Has A Story website.]

My first stop on Sunday, June 3rd will be at one of the two 100 year-old Shaughnessy mansions featured on the Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s 10th annual tour. According to the write-up, the Cypress Street house has an amazing collection of leaded and stained glass windows.

The house’s first owner Arthur Bogardus, was a director of the BC Plate Glass and Importing Company and obviously brought his work home with him. The library has three stained glass windows with the heads of William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and Lord Tennyson, while at the top of the staircase, there is a massive stained glass window called “A Reading from Homer” set in an ancient Roman garden.

And, while I get a kick out of seeing where the wealthy hang out, sometimes it’s that quirky little miner’s cottage that really captures my attention.

The VHF’s Diane Switzer, says the tour has evolved from pretty houses in pretty neighbourhoods to creative uses of old spaces. “What we’ve learned is that people are curious to see other people’s creative use of buildings and they get a real charge out of seeing what others are doing,” she says.

And, of course, every one of the buildings has its only unique story.

If you’ve been a regular tour-goer over the years, you’ve seen everything from converted hydro-substations to multi-million dollar estates and warehouses.

This year’s self-guided tour also includes a church converted to strata units, Cedar Cottage homes, a restored corner store that’s now a cafe, an old wood frame bank building with strata units to the rear, and two really interesting looking newly renovated houses in Strathcona.

Built in 1892, the Keefer Street house is also the oldest on the tour. Switzer says the owners have completely restored the original house, but otherwise left it alone, and added a large extension to the back separated by a two-story light-well that divides old from new.

Tickets are $40 plus tax. To purchase tickets or for more information: call 604 264 9642 or visit




Eve Lazarus is a freelance writer with a passion for history and heritage houses. She is the author of At Home with History: the secrets of Greater Vancouver’s Heritage Houses, a member of the North Vancouver District Heritage Commission, and blogs obsessively about buildings and their genealogies at Her next book with house stories of Victoria’s murders, ghosts, brothels, artists and sea captains (not necessarily in that order) will be published this fall.