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ISSUES

The Future of Gertrude Lawson House


The following is a copy of the letter sent to the Mayor and Council on June 15, 2011:

Dear Mayor and Council,

We are writing to you to express our deep concern over the future of Gertrude Lawson House, the Archives, the Museum and our office and meeting space in Gertrude Lawson House.

We have not received from you any correspondence as to your intentions with respect to the above and have only the information we have read in the local newspapers or heard at community meetings.

We would like to request a meeting with you as soon as possible to discuss our concerns and suggestions.

Gertrude Lawson House   Gertrude Lawson House has historical and sentimental value to the residents of West Vancouver. It was built by Gertrude Lawson, daughter of John Lawson and was designated a Heritage Property in 1990 by the District of West Vancouver. It has served as the West Vancouver Museum and Archives and home of the West Vancouver Historical Society since 1994. We hope that the Council and staff of the District of West Vancouver are fully aware of the history of Gertrude Lawson House, its purchase and the involvement of the West Vancouver Historical Society and West Van Rotary Club. If you have any questions about its history please do not hesitate to ask us.

Although many of our members would like to see Gertrude Lawson House remain as it is in its Heritage Garden, the West Vancouver Historical Society understands that the land is suited to multifamily development and the house would have to be removed. We also understand that the interior is not functional for its current use as a home for the Archives and Museum and would need major reconstruction inside to be able to serve any purpose.

However, as the house is of such historical significance, we would like to see the house saved and moved to another location and used as a Museum, art facility or tearoom.

If this cannot happen then we would like to see the House saved in part, perhaps saving the facade as it is the most recognizable feature of the house and most likely to satisfy the historical and sentimental attachments of many of the long term residents This facade could be incorporated in the new building on site. This practice has been very successful in Vancouver for decades and currently is being done on many buildings in Victoria. If the facade could not be incorporated on site it should be incorporated into a building along the waterfront as part of the Ambleside redevelopment.

The West Vancouver Historical Society hopes that the District of West Vancouver will consult us on the preservation of the history and heritage of West Vancouver, particularly in the absence of any Heritage Advisory Committee. Other communities in BC are very active and concerned about their history and we do not want our community to look back and regret any loss of its heritage. A community's history is its roots and it cannot grow and evolve in any meaningful way without roots.   Archives and Museum   The West Vancouver Historical Society would also like the District of West Vancouver to recognize the importance of the Archives and Museum in our community and ensure that there is an active policy to preserve them.

Archives

The West Vancouver Historical Society would like the Archives of pictures, home histories and other items of general interest to the public to be in a location that is accessible and conducive to general public visits. We do not think that the planned Public Safety Building is an appropriate location of the Archives, which are currently located in Gertrude Lawson House. A visit to the Archives should be a comfortable experience similar to visiting the library and residents in the community will not feel comfortable visiting the basement of the new Police Station.

We have done a study of the location of the Archives in 15 communities in BC and are impressed with their facilities. We invite you to visit the new Archives in North Vancouver, which has moved into a newly renovated former school.   We should also like to see the Archives well funded with a full time Archivist. The Archives should have storage space for the collections and artifacts from West Vancouver's history (which are currently kept in the garage at Gertrude Lawson House or still in residents' possession as the Museum is unable to take possession of them).

We expect when our Centennial book "Cottages to Community", about the history of the neigbourhoods of West Vancouver, is published in September that visits to the Archives by the general public will increase dramatically.

Museum

The West Vancouver Historical Society would like to see the Museum included in the 1300 block Marine Drive redevelopment as we feel it needs to be in a high traffic area.   We feel that the current focus of the Museum is more about the art and architecture of West Vancouver and less about the historical artifacts and collections of residents, and we would like these artifacts and collections preserved and displayed. The artifacts could be integrated with Archives and displayed in a museum within the archives or preferable in a public facility along the waterfront such as an artifact based museum, tearoom or display window attached to one of the buildings.   West Vancouver Historical Society

If the West Vancouver Historical Society loses its home due to the demolition of Gertrude Lawson House we would like to have a new home in an historically Significant house owned by the District of West Vancouver such as Naavy Jack House.

Our new home could also house an artifact museum or a tearoom where artifacts could be displayed.

In summary, the West Vancouver Historical Society was instrumental in the purchase and restoration of Gertrude Lawson House and the development of the Archives and Museum in West Vancouver. We want to be involved in the future of these important community components.

Yours truly, Jim Carter Past President, West Vancouver Historical Society   We will report in our late October issue of our newsletter the response of the Mayor and Council to this letter and result of any meeting with the Council on your behalf.