Hands down, my favourite local annual event is the Vancouver Heritage House Tour. Every year, on a Sunday in June, ten houses selected by the Vancouver Heritage Foundation are opened to the public from 10 to 5. They're usually grouped in three or four clusters across the city. You simply drive, bus or bike to any house on the list, present your ticket at the door, and then wander around to your heart's content. You're provided with a booklet with descriptions of the homes' histories and architectural details.
Some of the houses have been virtually untouched since they were built in the early 1900's, others have been beautifully restored and some have been completely modernized within the original frame. There are tiny workers' cottages in Strathcona, grand mansions in Shaughnessy and row houses in Kitsilano.
People actually live in these homes - they're not museums - and part of the fun is seeing baskets of toys in the corner of the living room and photographs on the fridge.
The first house we bought in Vancouver was a small 1912 home with most of the character features long since renovated away. The next one was a three-story 1910 Edwardian with original toggle light switches, pocket doors, fir flooring and ornate heat register covers. At that time, the Heritage House Tour was particularly enjoyable for us, for the education and inspiration.
Eventually Pete tired of our house's outdated features. The creaky floors, drafty windows, lack of closets and single bathroom on the top floor wore him down. Last year, I went on the Heritage House Tour alone. "I'm done with heritage," Pete told me. "Give me modern." I came home to tell him that Koo's Corner, an old Strathcona garage that had been converted to six ultramodern townhouses, had been the best stop on the tour. He's regained some interest.
This year's tour is on Sunday, June 1. Tickets are $35 and can be ordered online. If you see a girl exclaiming over the tiled fireplaces and pantries, trying to convince her somewhat bored-looking husband that they must move back to Vancouver, into a pink heritage house with a veranda on a tree-lined street, that will be me. Say hello!
(The photo is mine, and of a house in Hastings-Sunrise, Vancouver. It is not and has not been featured on the Tour.)