Early Vernacular1870 - 1910

Early Vernacular Gable Roof Double Hung Window Porch Cladding Column Trim Board

Early Vernacular Features


Three major influences for Vancouver’s pioneer houses were first, the cottage plans as published in pattern books by American A.J. Downing in the 1850’s with styles such as Carpenter Gothic with its board and batten exteriors and steeply peaked cottages which appeared in Barkerville and rural B.C. Secondly, much of the houses in Strathcona and Mount Pleasant were influenced by the standard plan of the English row house of the 19th century, with the only bathroom placed upstairs above the kitchen on the entry side, and the living and dining room on the other side. Thirdly, at the turn of the century, “kit” houses – either local pre-fab houses such as the B.C. Mills houses or mail-order kit houses from Eatons and other manufacturers – reflected the most popular plans seen in the pattern books extensively used by builders.


Early cottages were one storey gabled houses – often one room deep – with shallow front porches such as the Clarke House (relocated to West 10th Avenue). In the late 1880’s, two storey houses with a full length gable roof running perpendicular to the street appeared with a bay window on the first and sometimes on the second floor above. In upscale versions a recessed balcony was seen over the front entry with a third floor open gable recessed slightly. Other upscale versions introduced a hipped roof as a harbinger of the Edwardian Box house of the early 1900’s. Some of the lane houses had a strong affinity with the massing of early New England houses.


Windows were double hung with the upper half often diamond or losenged-shaped leaded glass windows. Hall windows, front doors, and the middle light in bay windows often had a centre single clear glass pane surrounded by a border of small square stained or textured glass panes. Front doors were paneled vertically with later versions introducing a large oval pane of glass or the Victorian version of a single light surrounded by the stained/textured glass border – both styles with a horizontal raised panel below. Chimneys were simple brick structures with corbelled caps. Kit or pre-fab houses had a strong modular look with windows and door assemblies spanning the spaces between full height vertical battens. Front yard fences had a distinctive horizontal board at ground level with square pickets with tapered upper ends placed at alternating heights.


Roofs, gabled or hipped were made up of cedar shingles. Front porches were sometimes covered in standing seam metal such as tin. Siding was usually drop siding with a pronounced channel or concave cove shape at the top of the board. Some rustic houses were shingled or board and batten, a popular Carpenter Gothic siding in the States.