Jericho Beach Wharf, where so many dignitaries and Vancouverites gathered during Habitat Forum in 1976, is being demolished this week by the Vancouver Parks Board. Once the wharf is gone, the beach will undergo ecological restoration. Despite the merits of removing the creosote-soaked wharf, it still seems a sad event, especially in 2011 which is both the 35th anniversary of Habitat and the 125th anniversary of the City of Vancouver. And because so little is left of the amazing seaplane military base which served so many community purposes before it was all needlessly demolished.
Above you can see Jericho Wharf, the vintage railings, and two of the old military base’s seaplane hangars in the Moderne style. This photo actually shows a Greenpeace anti-whaling expedition launch which took place the day after Habitat Forum ended. The following photo shows a view of the very same portion of the wharf and railing. Jericho Wharf was refurbished for Habitat using the original railings from the Lion’s Gate Bridge. These had been removed from the bridge the year before in 1975 during its restoration. After many discussions with the Parks Board, it looks hopeful that these railings will be repurposed yet again, possibly in Stanley Park. I had also been hoping for a small commemorative installation at Jericho Beach in memory of Habitat, and who knows, perhaps a length of that railing wil be used for that purpose too. These are beautiful iron railings of a type not seen anymore. They were forged in England (and the post caps were actually hand-forged) and installed on the Lion’s Gate Bridge in 1937. My photos of the wharf’s demolition can all be found here.
While I’m a little sad about the demolition of the wharf—it was part of Habitat and also part of the setting of my Vancouver childhood—I’m still far sadder about the short-sighted demolition of the hangars in the late 1970s, after Habitat. The five vintage seaplane hangars at Jericho Beach were of value for many reasons. Their inherent architectural qualities, their beautiful refurbishment by the Habitat crew, and the habits the community had built up around them—all of these things are lost permanently. I don’t mind saying goodbye to the wharf, but its demolition does rekindle my outrage over the arbitrary demolition of the hangars by the Parks Board of the day. Though I’m impressed by some of the things the current Parks Board is doing, I’m profoundly disappointed by the new plans for Jericho Beach and find them utterly inadequate to the site. Doing nothing would be better than what’s been proposed. (Please see the next post for that story.) Some of us Habitatites would like to propose an alternate plan: forget the current design and rebuild one of the hangars for multipurpose public use. The Bill Reid mural below decorated the south end of the hangar at top left of the aerial photo above. This is just east of the current Jericho Sailing Centre, which is the small white building at extreme top right. I can forego the wharf, but it’s criminal that not one of these hangars was retained.