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Editorial: Navvy Jack House is a heritage asset we must save

Editorial: West Vancouver owes it to the community to see this heritage asset restored and protected
The Navvy Jack House as it looked in 1957 on the West Vancouver waterfront.

West Vancouver council isn’t shy to tell a developer they can’t demolish a heritage home, at least until they’ve researched all possible avenues to save it. So, when it comes to Navvy Jack House, the granddaddy of all heritage assets in the district, we expect nothing less.

The 1872 home of the district’s founding settler and his Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) wife Row-i-a may yet survive as a waterfront cottage café. We love the idea.

Unlike some relics of colonization, the Indigenous descendants of Row-i-a want to see the building stay. That means the district should treat this as an opportunity to advance reconciliation and education.

Council has agreed to put up $1 million from community amenity contributions. It’s frustrating, however, to think though that the burden of raising at least $1.6 million to restore the district-owned asset is being put onto the shoulders of a group of community volunteers. Two years is a short deadline. We are wishing them every success.

We’d like to think there are some generous West Vancouverites who will see this as an opportunity to carve their own legacy into local history by stepping up where their successive miserly councils have failed. At the very least, the district should be providing assistance from staff in seeking grants from senior levels of government.

It doesn’t speak well of a community that forsakes its heritage and lets its cultural assets rot to save a buck.

Years from now, when the community can watch the tides sweep in and out while enjoying a drink on Navvy Jack's patio, we will all be proud.