Peter Miller is leading a fight to save history, and he’s looking for new recruits.
The West Vancouver resident, president of the North Shore Heritage Preservation Society, has been involved in the non-profit group’s efforts to preserve the community’s historic buildings since it was founded seven years ago. Now, with the organization’s annual general meeting coming up, he’s hoping to attract more like-minded residents to the cause.
“We always encourage people to become a member,” said Miller. “They will be part of an organization which is like a watchdog.”
The society, which has seen numerous successes in North and West Vancouver, was born, counter-intuitively, from failure. Some years ago, when an elderly resident of Dundarave died without any heirs, her old craftsman home on Marine Drive came to the attention of the community’s history buffs.
“Somebody . . . alerted the District of West Vancouver museum and archive staff and said: ‘There is this whole house that’s like a time capsule,’” said Miller. “The staff went in and looked around and found a wonderful treasure trove of domestic effects and clothing.”
Staff called up Miller and other members of the community with an interest in heritage preservation, and they scrambled together a proposal aimed at saving the property.
“While we were in the middle of those discussions, somebody bought the house, put it on a barge and took it across to Nanaimo lock stock and barrel,” said Miller.
The home’s contents were salvaged, but the loss of the building itself lit a fire under Miller’s group. They formed the society in 2005, and since then have been involved in the preservation of properties across the North Shore, including Saint Mary’s elementary, Chesterfield Lodge in North Vancouver, West Vancouver’s Binning House and numerous others. Most recently, they have focused their attention on the historic industrial properties on the North Vancouver waterfront.
Many of the group’s 54 members are themselves owners of heritage homes, said Miller. The organization not only offers an opportunity for like-minded people to work and socialize together, he said, but it serves as a resource for members who want information on upkeep, restoration, insurance and other issues relating to their properties.
“(Members) have told us they enjoy just the chinwag with a bunch of other homeowners of old buildings,” he said.
Miller is hoping the upcoming AGM will attract some new blood. To that end, the group is aiming to keep things interesting.
“The formalities are quite brief; they’re usually over in 10 to 15 minutes,” he said. “Then we have a guest presentation.”
This year’s speaker is Elaine Graham, resident caretaker of West Vancouver’s Point Atkinson Lighthouse, which was itself threatened with redevelopment recently when the federal government put the building up for sale.
“Elaine agreed to come along and show us a little about the history of the place and photographs of lighthouse families who used to live there and (to talk about) the importance of it as a piece of heritage of the West Coast.”
The meeting, open to the public, will be held Thursday, Nov. 22 from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at West Vancouver’s Silk Purse Gallery on Argyle Avenue. RSVP to 604-926-6096. For more information, visit northshoreheritage.org.
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