DORMERS and DOORWAYS
For nearly a decade, Suzanne Wilson has snapped off photos of North Vancouver houses slated for demolition. It's a passion that started in 2000 when Wilson, a retired school teacher, photographed 2,000 houses in the City of North Vancouver as part of her "Year 2000 Photography Project: Your House/Our Home". The houses that she shot came in all different shapes and sizes and ages, and Wilson mounted every one of them on a card and made them available to the homeowners. In 2002 she began scanning the demolition permits and documenting disappearing houses in the City and the District for her North Vancouver Museum and archives project, "Demolition and Construction".
In 2007 she distributed copies of 1,000 of the photos from her Year 2000 project in celebration of the City of North Vancouver's Centennial Anniversary. She's shot another 112 rolls of film of about-to-be demolished houses and figures that over nine years that's more than 3, 300 photos!
Wilson checks out building permits, city directories and often talks to the homeowners to compile a fascinating architectural and social history of many of the houses. The pictures and information are documented and available to researchers at the Community History Centre in Lynn Valley.
"I don't like it if I miss a picture," she says. "I think there should be a photographic record in the archives."
Wilson, now 71, will hang up her MZ-10 SLR Pentax camera at the end of this year. " figure 10 year should give a good documentary record of what has gone on in North Vancouver," she says, add that that she's lived in the same house in the Cloverley area since 1972.
Pre 1911 Cloverley area home
To celebrate the last year of the 10 year project Suzanne Wilson is writing a daily Blog, http://www.demolitionmama.blogspot.com/ , inspired by the 2009 movie Julie and Julia. Each day Wilson features a picture of a different house, church or commercial building along with a detailed history of the building and the surrounding area.
"These blog entries are meant to be a tribute to the people who called these houses 'home', she says. "I'll go to the archives and research and I get so that I'm part of that person's life. Someone will start off as a labourer and then he has a carpenter job, then he as a construction company, then he's president of the construction company, and then only his wife's name is listed. So whole lives are told in the city directories."
Both Wilson and June Thompson, a retired archivist from the North Vancouver Museum and Archives, and now herself a volunteer, would love to see someone else take over Wilson's legacy. "It's very valuable. Once these building go, often all that's left is the photographs," says Thompson, adding that the job requires a multifaceted approach. "It's not just photography, it's not just history, it's not just personal skills-it's a combination of all those things."
Courtesy of Eve Lazarus
Member, Community Heritage Commission
Dormers and Doorways is a publication of the Community Heritage Commission of North Vancouver, B.C., Canada