Electric house 2017
The Electric House is located at 1550 West 29th Avenue in Vancouver and was a showcase to demonstrate the first domestic use of automated electricity throughout a single family home. Credit: Heritage Vancouver

A 1922 heritage home in Shaughnessy known as the “Electric Home” is about to be demolished.

The home, designed by the same architects as Vancouver City Hall, was originally constructed to show the public how a fully-automated house of the future could operate. It was outfitted with electrical gadgets and appliances never-before-seen and was open to the public for tours.

Features of the home included interior closet lighting that triggered when doors opened, intercom systems, furniture with built-in electrical outlets and exterior lighting around the property. Remember this was in 1922 — many homes in 2017 still don’t have these features!

All of the materials used in the house were advertised as being “made-in-B.C.”

In 2016, the home was temporarily spared from demolition after the City of Vancouver granted an emergency Heritage Inspection Order. Temporary Heritage Protection was granted, to give city staff time to assess the property. It was assessed as an A-listing, but approval of the assessment is still in progress.

Even with an A-listing, the city’s Heritage Register does not offer legal protection, but opens up incentives for the owner to retain the property.

According to Heritage Vancouver, the owner of the Electric Home has decided not to take the incentives and will proceed with demolition. Abatement of the house started two weeks ago, and most of the home’s interiors are already stripped.

Heritage Vancouver says the city’s architectural legacy is quickly being eradicated.

“If an architectural and culturally identified resource such as the ‘Electric House’, assessed as an A-listed heritage resource, cannot be saved, the City’s built character and heritage resources that aren’t legally protected through Heritage Designation throughout the city, are in serious threat,” the agency posted on Facebook.

The Facebook group Vancouver Vanishes is also urging Vancouverites to write to the Mayor and city council in hopes of saving the Electric Home.

The text of the template letter is as follows:

To: mayor.media@vancouver.ca; CLRaffleck@vancouver.ca; CLRball@vancouver.ca; CLRcarr@vancouver.ca; CLRdegenova@vancouver.ca; CLRdeal@vancouver.ca; CLRstevenson@vancouver.ca; CLRreimer@vancouver.ca; CLRlouie@vancouver.ca; CLRjang@vancouver.ca; heritage.commission@vancouver.ca

I am writing to express my outrage over the imminent destruction of 1550 West 29th Avenue, the Townley and Matheson’s 1922 “Model Electric Show House.” This house is significant as both a creation of one of Vancouver’s most important architectural firms and as a formerly pristine showcase home built to demonstrate the automated use of electricity to the public, the first house of its kind in Western Canada. 

In 2016, the City enacted for the first time an emergency Heritage Inspection Order and subsequently approved Temporary Heritage Protection to give staff time for a heritage assessment. The home was then assessed as an A-listed property for the Vancouver Heritage Register. Despite this, the current owner has rejected incentives to retain the home and it is currently in deconstruction. The replacement home will be over 9000 square feet and include a 6-car garage.

This is yet another example of the city’s disregard for its built character and heritage resources. Our architectural legacy is quickly being eradicated for luxury redevelopment.

I call on you to immediately begin talks with the new provincial government to create a suite of laws to prevent rampant demolition of livable homes for luxury redevelopment, and to preserve our more sustainable and affordable original housing stock. I also ask you to call a moratorium on the demolition of livable homes until such laws are in place.

This is a priority issue for me and I will be voting according to your action, or non-action, in the upcoming civic election.

Electric House original ad
An ad for the “Electric House,” when it was Vancouver’s first showcase home to demonstrate the automated domestic use of electricity throughout a home to the public. Credit: Heritage Vancouver
Demolition Electric House July 2017
Heritage Vancouver says abatement of the home has begun, with most of the interiors now stripped. Asbestos removal has also begun. Credit: Heritage Vancouver
Electric House
Electric House at 1550 West 29th Avenue. Credit: Heritage Vancouver
Electric house 2017
The Electric House is located at 1550 West 29th Avenue in Vancouver and was a showcase to demonstrate the first domestic use of automated electricity throughout a single family home. Credit: Heritage Vancouver