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This Week in History, 1979: Old airplane hangar used in Habitat conference at Jericho Beach Park is torched

A number of outdated hangars had been transformed into buildings for the Habitat convention in 1976

It’s arduous to think about at present, however Jericho Seashore was as soon as an air pressure base.

In 1920, a “flying boat” (seaplane) base was established there, and in 1942, a number of airplane hangars have been constructed. They remained into the Seventies, though the federal authorities handed a lot of the positioning to the Metropolis of Vancouver for a park in 1969.

After Habitat, many individuals thought the hangars ought to be transformed to civic use.

“A number of proposals have been submitted, together with utilizing the hangars as an Olympic coaching camp, airplane museum, arts centre and scholar housing,” mentioned a Vancouver Solar story on Nov. 15, 1979.

However the land was managed by the Vancouver park board, which wished to tear the hangars down. It tore down two hangars within the spring of 1978, together with a well-known one which featured a shocking Invoice Reid mural executed in a First Nations motif.

However a few hangars remained.

Mysteriously, on Oct. 12, 1979, one went up in flames on a foggy Friday evening.

“Firemen have been powerless to save lots of Jericho Hangar No. 7 from a blaze that ripped by way of it shortly after 8:30 p.m.,” mentioned a Vancouver Solar story. “A fireplace division spokesman on the scene mentioned the blaze had apparently raged for ‘fairly a while’ within the fog earlier than anybody seen it.”

Simply over a month later, a second hangar caught hearth on Nov. 14.

“The Jericho hangar controversy which has raged in Vancouver for years ended Wednesday when the final of the hangars slated for demolition was destroyed in a roaring blaze,” the Solar reported the next day.

“Firemen from seven pumper vans stood by helpless, managing solely to cease the flames from spreading to energy strains and dry grass close by as Hangar 7 burned.”

Reid
March 2, 1978. Habitat Discussion board Constructing painted in a Haida motif by Invoice Reid being torn down. Colin Worth/Province.Photograph by Colin Worth /PNG

Arson was suspected in each blazes. Simply over a 12 months later, one other construction the park board wished to raze, Englesea Lodge, caught hearth on Feb. 1, 1981. A second hearth in June, 1981 struck the constructing and it was torn down.

The five-storey brick condo block at 2046 Seashore Ave. dated to 1911, and was the final non-public residence on the water facet of Seashore Avenue on English Bay. The park board had torn down all different waterfront buildings on Seashore through the years, creating the waterfront park of at present.

The homeowners of Englesea Lodge had held out till 1967, when it was bought by town. However lots of the renters within the constructing have been seniors, and amid a lot controversy, council determined to not tear it down.

The Englesea Lodge hearth was additionally attributable to arson. Nobody was ever prosecuted for both the Englesea Lodge or Jericho hangar fires, however some individuals suspected the park board was concerned.

The park board arson idea resurfaced on a Fb submit lately, and I requested Mike Harcourt, a former Vancouver mayor and B.C. premier, about it.

He laughed.

“There was some suspicion, no proof, that (longtime park board superintendent) Stuart Lefeaux noticed that the hangars at Habitat, at Jericho, one way or the other burned down earlier than they might be was the longest bar on the planet, and the outdated hangars fastened up,” he mentioned. “However the rumours could be libellous or slanderous when you voiced them.”

Harcourt doesn’t imagine the rumours.

However he does suspect the 2 fires weren’t a coincidence.

“Effectively, if I used to be sittin’ round with you havin’ a beer, and we have been simply speaking BS, which may come out within the dialog as a chance,” he mentioned.

Terri Clark was the pinnacle of communications for the park board, and truly drank on the “world’s longest bar” Harcourt referred to. It was reportedly greater than 24 metres lengthy and was in one of many Habitat hangars.

“It was unbelievable,” she remembers. “It was manufactured from clear cedar or one thing. The younger parks individuals all actually liked going over there.”

Clark “used to listen to every part” on the park board, and mentioned the hearsay concerning the board being concerned in any arson is “completely not true.”

“Mr. Lefeaux was such a correct man,” she mentioned. “He would by no means, ever ponder something like that. No.”

Nonetheless, when the buildings burned down, Clark mentioned “I don’t assume he was sad about it.”

masses
The lots mill about an outdated plane hangar with a Invoice Reid mural on the Habitat Convention, June 4, 1976. George Diack/Vancouver Solar.

englesea
Postcard displaying Englesea Lodge on English Bay. Undated however most likely Twenties.Vancouver Solar

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