District of West Vancouver will demolish the historic Navy Jack House because of its poor condition, high restoration or renovation cost.
According to the district, there has been a demonstrable lack of public support for spending money to maintain or renovate the home.
West Vancouver district council made the decision at a closed meeting on June 20.
Mayor Mary-Ann Booth said that restoring Navvy Jack House for use as a nature centre on the waterfront would not be a prudent use of $2.3 million in taxpayer dollars, even though it would be a new community amenity.
“We do, however, want to properly commemorate the historical significance of the house, which was built in 1873 and is the longest continuously occupied house in the lower mainland,” Booth said.
It would cost the district $2.2 to $2.3 million to restore or renovate the house.
Demolishing the house will alleviate the district’s ongoing capital maintenance costs for the building as well as the high cost to restore or renovate the house, says a staff report that was presented to council.
District is now contemplating a ‘commemorative’ strategy to ensure on-site interpretation that could include signs or plaques explaining the historical and cultural significance of the Navy Jack House.
As many as 26.4 % said supported a new building, while 20.7 % said it should be demolished and converted into a park.
“Take together, 56.6% of respondents supported options other than restoring or replicating the heritage house,” according to the report.
The house at 1768 Argyle Avenue was built by Navvy Jack, whose real name was John Thomas. He bought the property on the waterfront to build a home for his bride, the daughter of Chief Capilano, in 1874.
The district bought it in 1991 from Lloyd Williams, with whom the district signed a life-tenancy agreement. And it was in 2013 that the council told the staff to work on a business plan for a nature house at the site.
The idea, spearheaded by West Vancouver Streamkeepers Society, was to create an “exciting, new, intergenerational, multi-educational experience—a nature house showcasing the natural beauty of our community.”
However, the nature house plan couldn’t move forward because the house was rented out to Lloyd Williams, who lived there until his death in 2017.
Council has now directed staff to explore other opportunities for a nature house and nature house programming at other local sites.
Meanwhile, staff will also work with West Vancouver Streamkeepers Society to enhance the Lawson Creek that flows adjacent to the Navy Jack House.