Description of Historic Place
The Crosby House is a modernistic, two-storey masonry residence, with corner windows and scored horizontal lines on the exterior concrete brick walls. It is located mid-block next to an alley, just west of Granville Street in Vancouver’s Second Shaughnessy neighbourhood.
The heritage value of the Crosby House lies in its architectural, associative and contextual significance.
The Crosby House is a significant example of early modern architecture in Vancouver, reflecting a shift away from traditional domestic architecture in the pre-Second World War era. Robert A.D. Berwick (1909-1974) prepared the plans for the Crosby House for architects Sharp and Thompson. Berwick became a successful Vancouver architect, who worked in association with Sharp and Thompson between 1936 and 1968, becoming partner in 1956, rejuvenating the firm with architect Ned Pratt. As one of his first professional commissions, Berwick designed this house for his mother-in-law, Isabelle Peters Crosby (1873-1949) in 1937, before his graduation from the University of Toronto the following year. As a young architect, trained in Eastern Canada, Berwick embraced modern technology through his use of material such as concrete and glass block. This style heralded the new machine age inspired by modern technology, as reflected in curves and horizontal lines, which implied speed and aerodynamics. The overall form, scale and massing of the Crosby House remains intact, displaying modernist characteristics of irregular cubic proportions and a planar expression of wall surfaces. The garden setting was minimally developed, which presented the house in a clean and unadorned manner. The house was featured in the Journal of the Royal Architecture Institute of Canada in 1939, a prestigious achievement for a young architect, and indicates the innovation of the design.
Built in 1937-38, the Crosby House represents the ongoing development of Second Shaughnessy, a prestigious subdivision designed to attract affluent and prominent families to the area. The Canadian Pacific Railway's original land grant for bringing the railway into Vancouver included much of the west side of the city. Subdivided in 1914, Second Shaughnessy consisted of the area south of King Edward Boulevard to 37th Avenue, and had smaller lots and more modest houses than First Shaughnessy to the north. In 1922, building restrictions were implemented to guarantee prestigious residential development through minimum construction cost standards for buildings and landscaping. The Crosby House was constructed as part of the final wave of development in the area, when construction was resuming near the end of the Depression.
Source: City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program
Key elements that define the heritage character of Crosby House include its:
- mid-block location near Granville Street in Second Shaughnessy
- residential form, scale and massing, as expressed by its irregular two-storey height and split level plan
- elements of early modernism, as exhibited by its geometric expression and linear proportions; combination of curved and horizontal lines, such as the scored horizontal lines on the exterior walls, use of glass block, rectilinear corner windows, curved projecting canopy over the front entrance, and recessed exterior lighting
- flat roofs combined with a shallow hipped roof over the central portion, with raised parapets
- masonry construction of concrete lower walls, scored concrete beams over structural openings and concrete brick cladding
- fenestration, including regular and asymmetrical window openings, corner window openings with corner steel posts, and three original 3-paned steel casement windows with horizontal muntins on the second storey
- upper floor scupper drains with sheet metal leader heads and downspouts
- original exterior wooden doors with porthole windows
- features of the one-storey 1950s rear addition, including the flat roof with deep overhang, large plate glass and ribbon windows, interior brick fireplace, exterior courtyard with brick wall, exterior oven and concrete counter
- three large rectangular chimneys with chimneypots, two exterior chimneys (one in the 1950s addition) and one central interior chimney
- interior features, including the central interior staircase and the marble-faced fireplace in the living room