City grant helps set stage for Marpole heritage society’s performance arts ‘garage’

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The Marpole Historical Society has just received a grant from Vancouver’s city council that will potentially enable the building of a new performance arts stage.

The stage will be contained in a garage and built at the rear of the heritage house that the society calls home, situated along S.W. Marine Drive.

Grant doesn’t equal a done deal

The grant, valued at just over $3,000, will go towards an architect who will design the structure which will remain in character with the house, as well as and engineer for oversight.

Photo by Jeremy Sally
Located along busy SW Marine Drive, the heritage home occupied by the Marpole Historical Society hearkens back to a slower time. Photo by Jeremy Sally.

However, prior to the building process commencing, the society must seek permission from the local Musqueam band, with the stage set to be built on aboriginal grounds. This requires an archaeologist who must also be hired to make sure the land is not disturbed.

Artifacts may be hidden in the midden

“We have not approached the Musqueam Indians yet so it’s not a done deal, we have a lot of paperwork and planning to do,” said society director Roy Pick.

The land in question is essentially part of Marpole’s “midden” that contains aboriginal artifacts and remains.

“The land is a heritage site. It’s as though we are building in their cemetery. So if it were your cemetery, you wouldn’t feel very good about it,” said Pick.

The society will also need permission from the city itself, Heritage BC and likely the park board.

“We’ll probably have to trim back some trees that are in [William Mackie] park’s area so we’ll need to get the park board’s permission for that as well.”

In addition to the performance stage, the society hopes to add a community garden nearby to the house. This project will also require consultation with the Musqueam band.

Standing for a century

The house was built in 1912 and was sold to the Colbourne family in 1936 that occupied it till 1981 and then it was abandoned. In 1994, the property was leased to the society for 60 years by the city.

“After the property became city land, the city was going to tear it down,” said Pick. “But a group of people got together and decided that it would be something worth saving so a committee was formed, they raised money and they rebuilt it.”

The house is filled with 1920s vintage furniture and antiques including an old-fashioned phonograph and washing basin.

Volunteers provide a strong foundation

The society relies on community donations and grants to function, and holds numerous functions to raise money each year. A recent Christmas sale brought in $4,000.

Pick confirmed that $12,000 is required each year to maintain the house and break even.

“There’s 12 board members and they do most of the work but we have a lot of volunteers who come in help as well as 50 members who help whenever they’re asked.”

A house of historical significance

He also said it’s important to keep the house running to preserve some of Marpole’s heritage and history.

“This could be torn down and there’d be no recognition of what was there. We have to get young people thinking about what it was like back then with no refrigerator., said Pick. “We get lots of school kids coming in and looking because they’re interested to know what their grandparents lived like and it’s important to keep that.

The society aimed to give the Colbourne House an authentic feel.

“The big museums can keep larger more important historic things and the idea here was to keep it more working class and simple just to show people what Marpole was like 100 years ago,” said Pick.

Marpole Historical Society’s website provides information on tours, events as well as a history of the house.

Reporter Ross Armour spoke with Roy Pick, who explains why the Marpole Historical Society is an important facet of the community. A slideshow and video of some of the period-specific items contained in the Colbourne House, follow the podcast. Photos by Jeremy Sally.

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Reported by Ross Armour

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