Life looked differently in District of North Vancouver in the first half of the 20th century. For one, the newspaper was delivered on horseback.
If you lived in the Upper Lonsdale area back then, you may have received a copy of the North Shore Free Press from Wendy Woods.
She lived in a home, called Norwood at the time, that was designed around 1920 by her grandfather, a man named William Henry Woods. A war veteran and statesman from the U.K., Woods continued his political career in North Van, serving as councillor from 1928-1930 and as reeve in 1931.
Today, Woods’s legacy lasts not only in documents, but also in the Norwood home itself, which has been incredibly preserved by several generations of residents.
Its owners today – Richard Brail and partner Adrien Ross – who came in possession of the home 34 years ago, have received heritage awards in 1996 and 2021 for their efforts, which include recently restoring the roof back to as it originally appeared.
Brail estimates around 75 per cent of the home has been preserved. The large living room, with its large wood beams across the ceiling and granite fireplace, is in its original condition. A couple rooms have been added over the years, but the original doors and windows were incorporated into the new construction.
Visual comparisons are possible through a catalogue of photographs kept by Saundra Potter. Her grandfather Graham helped Woods build Norwood. A picture of Graham and his two brothers, Jack and Eric, in cowboy hats recalls a time when the property was a riding academy.
“My grandfather was a big entrepreneur,” Potter said, naming several businesses that were run from the property. “Woods Hauling, Woods Dairy – they were into it all. Also the horses, and they had a farm there.”
After Norwood was sold around 1945, it changed hands a couple times before Brail and Ross bought it. Then, in 1990, Potter knocked on their door, and gave them a picture of the house when it was newly built. The three have kept in touch ever since, and Potter has brought relatives by on several occasions to the heritage home. Those include her aunt, now Wendy Nielson, who used to deliver the paper on horseback.
“Every time I go there – it’s sacred – I feel my family there,” she said. “And because my dad grew up there, it’s extra special. He’s no longer with us.”
“All the stories he told us of the bears, and going out to feed the horses in the morning,” Potter continued. “These boys were all six-foot five, living in that small house. I don’t know how they did it.”
Potter showered praise on the home’s current owners. “They’re curators of my family history. They’ve just done such a beautiful job. I’ve given them lots of photos, when I’ve come to visit them ... and they’re always so open and willing to host my family.”
Brail said that he and Ross are driven by the usual reasons people are interested in heritage: recognizing the importance of the past, and being able to preserve it to the degree that they’re able to.
The pair have acquired many photos of people who have lived in the home before them. “And when we’re sitting in our living room, we have a sense of who’s been sitting in it for the last hundred years,” Brail said.
“We wonder who will be sitting in it a hundred years from now.”