Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative

Museum of Architecture

Apr 21, 2015

It is surprising how you can live in a community for many years and still know so little about its history.

I am talking about myself here.

I've lived in North Vancouver for 28 years, not ten minutes from the famed architect Fred Hollingsworth who died ten days ago at the age of 98, yet until quite recently I was unaware of the role Hollingsworth played in the development of the Edgemont Village area, a place I visit almost daily to use the library, buy wine, linger over coffee.

Edgemont is the commercial heart of a neighbourhood known as Capilano Highlands. It was developed immediately after the war and Hollingsworth, a self-taught designer at the time, was asked by the developer to design some of the streets and many of the houses. As a result the little community became a rich repository of what came to be called West Coast Modernism, a distinctive style associated with other architectural greats such as Arthur Erickson, Ned Pratt, Barry Downs, and Ron Thom. This includes Hollingsworth's own home from which he and his wife Phyllis ran his practice for many years.

The story is told in an excellent book by heritage consultant Don Luxton, The Modern Architecture of North Vancouver, 1930-1965, and by Hollingsworth himself in Living Spaces: the Architecture of Fred Thornton Hollingsworth. Several of the houses built to Hollingsworth designs are still standing, though preservationists worry that in the prevailing property boom they may be destroyed to make way for the monster homes that seem to be in fashion. One of the survivors is the so-called "Sky Bungalow" which was the show home for the Capilano development. It was constructed in the parking lot of the Hudson's Bay Company store in downtown Vancouver where it stood as a model for the good life available in post-war North Vancouver. Once that purpose was served it was moved to its present site in Edgemont.

Anyway, when I run my errands in Edgemont nowadays I am aware that I am visiting a "living museum" of precious cultural artifacts. Every neighbourhood has a history worth exploring if only there is the opportunity to discover it.