The Lost Houses of Vancouver’s West End | Budget Adventure Travel

| November 16, 2018 | 0 Comments

I first heard about the story of the lost houses from the Evan Penner, the co-owner of The West End Guest House (Bed & Breakfast). Evan is an excellent storyteller and he is a treasure chest of knowledge on the historical significance of the West End of Vancouver.

West End Guesthouse B&B

West End Guesthouse B&B

First, a little background on Vancouver’s trendy West End district. According to information on the City of Vancouver website:

The West End lies west of Downtown, and, on three sides, is bounded by water: English Bay, Coal Harbour, and Lost Lagoon in world-famous Stanley Park. Recreational amenities are within walking distance for residents of this high-density area. The West End includes Davie Village – traditionally a hub for the city’s gay community – and Denman Street, which together provide local shopping and restaurants. This area also has high-end retail on Robson Street.

If you plan on visiting Vancouver for the first time, or second time (3rd, 4th, 5th,……time) I highly recommend planting yourself somewhere in the West End. This neighborhood is bustling with activity along Denman Street and Robson Street, two major street front commercial corridors that is packed with local and independent eateries where locals actually eat at.

Plus, it is near a beach! Enough said.

Corniche of English Bay

Corniche of English Bay

Sunset at English Bay

Sunset at English Bay

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Tree on top of building symbolizes the height of the original trees that used to front English Bay.

Spectacular Sunset at English Bay

Spectacular Sunset at English Bay

Now back to the story on the lost houses of the West End.

The West End formed one of the early settlement neighborhoods of Vancouver during the admiralty reign of Western Canada. Traditional homes had classic Victorian characteristics but later evolved to incorporate several contemporary construction materials and methods (eg. wood post & beam instead of brick masonry). These homes were built from the late 18th to early 19th Century and several of them can still be found in nooks and corners of the West End. A walk through this district is highly recommended.

Mural of West End House  inside the B&B

Mural of West End House inside the B&B

Sadly, with the passage of time, many of these homes started to deteriorate due to neglect, economic conditions and a general lack of interest in maintaining the heritage of the district. Evan grew up in this neighborhood and recalls several of the homes that no longer exist today. In order to retain the memory of some of these homes for all guests and locals, he commissioned several murals of the original homes in his guesthouse. The murals are located in the bathrooms and each one is unique. If possible, I recommend a peek at all murals with permission of host and guests.

Not surprisingly, Evan was naturally drawn to the West End Guest House located at 1362 Haro Street when the previous owners decided to sell. After taking possession, he spent the next several years doing restorations inside and outside. What stands inside today is a testament to the labor and passion that went behind the restoration.

While I do not want to reveal too much of the inside, as a walk through the space in itself is time spent in a museum, I do want to share a few of the most intriguing pieces that I think should be shared.

Inside pictures of West End Guest House B&B

Various photographs taken by original owner of the Guest House

This turntable is still hip for a DJ

This turntable is still hip for a DJ

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The Dining Area of West End Guest house

The Dining Area of West End Guest house

The Drawing room! (oh the high and mighty ye ol' English)

The Drawing room! (oh the high and mighty ye ol’ English)

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There is no reception in here. You walk in and are greeted by one of the hosts as if you were truly a guest of the household. The entire experience is true to its heritage and character. Evan has written extensively about the restoration and general history of the West End house and area. It can be found in every guest suite.

A room with a View (@ The West End Guesthouse)

A room with a View (@ The West End Guesthouse)

I previously mentioned that the Guest House is located in the heart of the West End district that is as spectacular as it is loud on any given night! That being said, guests need not worry about lack of tranquility at the guest house. Haro street is a quiet residential street located a few blocks from Denman and my stay here was during the busy May long weekend in Canada. Save for an occasional passerby at night, the street itself is generally quite with little pedestrian and vehicular traffic. But the best part is should you wish to break the tranquil state, all the action is just a few blocks away!

Money Saving Travel Tips

Check out the website of The West End Guest House for pictures of the various rooms, themes and styles. The Guest House and Bed and Breakfast stands as a testament to old school charm, warmth and friendliness. Check out for special deals and package offers posted on there.

Among the local eateries that I tried and highly recommend, if you are up for challenging your bland palate, are Simbas Grill, an East African fusion place where the chef/owner will personally come out and check on you; and, Banana Leaf, for some Indo-Malay cuisine where the food is served on….

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I heard of both places from several friends and unlike past experiences, both recommendations were excellent. Great food that is suitable for a Budget Adventure Traveler. For additional recommendations on top picks to eat out at I recommend checking out this foodie blog by Nat and Tim.

Most folks from Calgary and area tend to drive to Vancouver especially when traveling with families. This is definitely a  budget friendly option if one is fine with an 8-hour drive through hilly terrain across the Rockies. There are occasional discount airfares to Vancouver from various US and Canadian destinations so definitely sign up for email alerts from both Air Canada and West Jet or discount airfare booking sites like CheapOair, which is what I used to purchase discounted airfares to Vancouver for two adults with additional instant cash back reward. I am a big fan of using my Travel Credit Card to rack up all travel expenses and collect travel miles at the same time. JUST MAKE SURE YOU ALWAYS PAY YOUR BALANCE IN FULL. One of the most popular travel rewards card is the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card. While I do not have this card (yet), as a budget traveler, I have definitely heard from several budget travelers that this card is one of the best out there to rack up the reward miles fast. Check out the Aeroplan Rewards Chart here and punch in your spending amounts to see how fast you can earn and redeem miles for travel rewards. JUST MAKE SURE YOU ALWAYS PAY YOUR BALANCE IN FULL. 

EPILOGUE

Incidentally, during our stay, another heritage house of the West End was planned for demolition, which I learnt only at the time of researching for writing this post. The reason for tearing it down – to save a tree! Obviously this decision by the nice folks at City Hall angered several folks, like this one, this one, this one, and this one.

Hate seeing heritage buildings go down? Well, why don’t you visit the Vancouver Heritage Foundation, who has taken up the cause to rally support against the demolition.

 I am – yet what I am, none cares or knows;
My friends forsake me like a memory lost:
I am the self-consumer of my woes — 
They rise and vanish in oblivions host,
Like shadows in love frenzied stifled throes
And yet I am, and live — like vapours tost

A verse from a poem by Poet John Clare

Portions of this trip were supported by Grayline Westcoast Sightseeing and The West End Guest House to whom I owe a generous warm and heartfelt thank you.

Thank you  for taking time to read this post. Blogging is a labor of love. Please sign up if you enjoyed this post to be updated of my future stories. Reader donations in the form of email sign up for upcoming stories, comments or sharing by any of the means below are much appreciated.

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Category: Budget Adventure Travel, Travels in British Columbia

About the Author ()

Larkycanuck is the pseudonym for the spirited, spontaneous and zestful Canadian. The Blog is focused on showcasing budget adventure travels for working families. Larkycanuck has traveled to over 15 countries, 38 cities in 10 years. He has never quit a job to do this. He travels with his wife and on some trips with the house rabbit (Pepper).

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