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New book gives Vancouver Vanishes shelf life

Caroline Adderson’s morning walk with her dog Mickey has been simultaneously fruitful and depressing.
Caroline Adderson
Caroline Adderson’s concerns about the loss of character homes in Vancouver are being highlighted in a book being released Nov. 23. Photo Dan Toulgoet.

Caroline Adderson’s morning walk with her dog Mickey has been simultaneously fruitful and depressing. During the stroll, Adderson has taken hundreds of photographs for what she considers a grim task — chronicling the destruction of character homes in her West Side neighbourhood.

Photos and descriptions of close to 300 houses (some of which were taken by Tracey Ayton) have been posted on Adderson’s popular Facebook page Vancouver Vanishes, which has nearly 7,000 “likes.” Adderson says they represent a fraction of the homes lost to modern builds.

The page, and Adderson’s heritage conservation efforts, have earned media coverage over the years, including in this newspaper, but now her concerns are being highlighted in a book being released Nov. 23.

Titled Vancouver Vanishes: Narratives of Demolition and Removal, and published by Anvil Press, it’s a compilation of non-fiction pieces and poetry written by Adderson, John Atkin, Kerry Gold, Evelyn Lau, Eve Lazarus, John Mackie, Elise and Stephen Partridge and Bren Simmers. Michael Kluckner wrote the introduction. Photography is by Adderson and Ayton.

Adderson, a novelist, said she first considered writing a book about the issue with her neighbour, poet Elise Partridge, a few years ago.

Both became busy with work and later Partridge became ill. Adderson, in the meantime, launched the Facebook page, which quickly captured a following.

Then, in 2014, Anvil publisher Brian Kaufman approached Adderson about putting a book together. They approached various writers to participate.

Although Partridge has since died, she had produced extensive notes on a piece she planned to write, so her husband Stephen shaped the notes into an essay.

Some of the other pieces were previously published, while a few were commissioned specifically for the book. At the back, there’s a colour supplement featuring some of the photos from the Facebook page.

Adderson, who was troubled that no one was keeping a record of the houses being lost, said she wanted the book to offer a deeper look at the issue and she wanted it to have “shelf life.”

“Nobody’s required to archive this for the future. We’re just seeing our city disappear, so it’s my small attempt to capture some of this before it’s all gone. It’s a much more philosophical and literary book. It’s exploring the deep value of homes,” she said. “Obviously, I was thinking of Vanishing Vancouver, Michael Kluckner’s book, which continues to sell and is an archive in a way. [Vancouver Vanishes is] not focusing heavily on issues and statistics. It’s really trying to look more deeply at the problem and more deeply at what value old houses and old apartments have.”

Adderson contributed three essays to the project, focusing on how houses and buildings are repositories of narrative and how they add layers to the city that can’t be reproduced in a new home. Other pieces reflect on what character homes mean to our elders, as well as subjects including the value of the materials and workmanship and how the problem started based on the history of zoning.

The book launch is at 7 p.m., Nov. 23 at Book Warehouse, 4118 Main St.