North Shore Heritage laments loss of Brissenden Park House

Brissenden House was an early example of West Coast modern post and beam design.

Brissenden House was an early example of West Coast modern post and beam design.

The North Shore Heritage Preservation Society is lamenting the loss of a historical house on Brissenden Park that was recently demolished by the District of West Vancouver.  The District had recently informed the community that contractors would be removing the existing house on Brissenden Park to provide space for park improvements, which include a new walking trail from the corner of 25th street and Rosebery Avenue.

“The loss of the historical house is an emotional issue for us,” says Peter Miller, president of North Shore Heritage. “It is one of the early examples of the West Coast modern post and beam design. It is one of West Vancouver’s earliest examples of the mid-century “West Coast” modern house and lifestyle for which West Vancouver became known,” he said.

The Brissenden family donated their two lots (2519 and 2539 Rosebery Avenue), to the District in 1990 stipulating that the 2.4 acres of their donated land be used as a public park.  It was never designated as a park and the Brissenden residence was given over to a caretaker.

The District recently moved ahead with a legal application to amend the trust donation so the lots could be sold, worth about $10 million, to buy two private properties on Argyle Avenue, vital for the District’s ambitious Ambleside waterfront vision.

The District has promised to honour the memory and the contributions of the family with a “Brissenden Waterfront Park” on Argyle.  

The house was demolished for public park use, but Miller says the property could have been retained and used as a retreat, a workshop, or an art gallery. It was allowed to deteriorate however, much like the Klee Wyck house, he adds.

“If the Brissenden Park lands were to be sold and a waterfront park named in recognition of their bequest, it would seem only fitting that their original house and landscaping at 2539 Rosebery Avenue be preserved,” he noted.

Miller said the Brissenden Park saga has set an unfortunate precedent in the district.  “No one wants to leave property to West Vancouver if they just play fast and loose with it,” he said.

The house on the Brissenden Park was built in 1948, and was classified as a secondary heritage building in the West Vancouver Survey of Significant Architecture, but there are no restrictions against alteration of demolition of the house due to this classification.

The District’s community charter provides that if a council determines that a trust is no longer in the best interest of the community, a council can apply to the court to vary the trust

-This article originally appeared in The Global Canadian newspaper