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Will the city destroy the last traces of Cedar Street?

August 2, 2016

Historic evidence that part of Burrard Street was once called Cedar Street looks to be threatened with destruction.

In 2015 the Hemlock Street Rehabilitation Project saw City of Vancouver Streets and Operations workers replace water and sewer mains under Hemlock Street between 6th and 15th Avenue, as well as portions of sidewalk on either side of the street.

At the time I noted, with some sadness, that every one of the stamped sidewalk squares dating back to 1912 was ripped out and replaced with new, blank concrete.

Now I see that phase three of the Burrard Corridor Infrastructure upgrade plans to do pretty much the same thing for south Burrard Street between Cornwall Avenue and 17th Avenue; namely replace the water and sewer mains, as well as some or all of the sidewalks.

The last signs of a missing “tree street”

The “CEDAR ST” stamp near 11th Avenue, photographed in 2013.

On the east side of the 2800 block of south Burrard Street—the block between 12th and 13th Avenue—there is a section of sidewalk, near the 13th Avenue end of the block, that is at least 84 years old. A square of this section of sidewalk is stamped “CEDAR ST”.

This square of sidewalk is one of only a few physical reminders that what is now called “Burrard Street” between Cornwall Avenue and 17th Avenue was originally, and for over 30 years, called “Cedar Street” until, that is, the Burrard Bridge was opened on July 1, 1932.

There’s another very sharp-looking “CEDAR ST” stamp—this one explicitly dated “1931”—close to the northeast intersection with 11th Avenue. I wrote about this “concrete bit of Vancouver’s vanished past” back in 2013.

Neither of these stamped squares are on a corner, nor are they cracked. In fact, like the 1912 segments on Hemlock Street, they’re holding up better than a lot of sidewalk concrete that was poured in the 1990s.

Regardless of their good condition though, both are marked with orange cut lines, apparently signifying that (like the 1912 stamps on Hemlock) these few remnants of Cedar Street will not survive the upgrade of south Burrard.

If this really is to be the case then I  believe that one or both of these squares of stamped concrete should be preserved in the collection of the Museum of Vancouver for the history that they represent.

But I also think that having the Cedar Street stamps on Burrard Street is historic in and of itself and I would argue that the city should install identical recreations in place of the originals (hardly difficult or expensive).

And if the Vancouver Heritage Foundation could be persuaded to mount one of its “Places that Matter” plaques explaining the history of the street, on a utility pole near one of the stamps, then we would have a small example of the best kind of heritage preservation—the kind that helps residents discover and take pride in the history of their neighbourhood. Click the image to enlarge it.

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