The second phase of hunting for information on 2116 Maple Street, after locating it on fire insurance maps, getting the water service records, and getting the building permit register information, involves delving into the Archives’ photographic holdings.
The ideal for every house history researcher is to find an old photograph of his or her house in the Archives’ holdings. I hate to burst their bubble, but this often doesn’t happen. However, it is feasible to find photographs of the neighbourhood, which often give a sense of what the area was like throughout the years.
A concerted effort has been made to scan and describe much of our street and neighbourhood photographs. These digitized images can be found from the comfort of your home through our online database. Knowing how to search for these photographs, however, does take a bit of creative thinking and practice. Simply typing in an address or street name into the search bar won’t bring up the masses of results one might have been expecting or in most cases, any results. This is where I recommend a pause from the computer, grabbing some scrap paper and a pencil and brainstorming different search terms.
Although we likely don’t have a photograph described by the exact address of the house in question, it is always worth a shot to start by using the house address as a first search term. Other potential search terms could be the street name (and variations e.g. 6th Avenue, 6 Avenue, Sixth Avenue, etc.*), other local streets (particularly the cross streets), nearby commercial districts (e.g. 4th Avenue), the name of the neighbourhood (e.g. Kitsilano), as well as nearby landmarks or well-known buildings (e.g. British Columbia Electric Railway).
It is always good idea to keep track of search terms, because as much as I may think I will remember what ones I have tried, often I do not. Also, when it comes time to search our database it can be helpful to note how photographs are described, which can help refine or expand your search terms.
For street names, it is also a good idea to double check Elizabeth Walker’s Street Names of Vancouver to see if the streets being searched ever went by any other names. If so, then there are a few more search terms to add to the list.
For 2116 Maple Street, my initial search terms list include:
|2116 Maple Street
|Main nearby roads & commercial districts
|Nearby landmarks, well-known buildings, etc.
British Columbia Electric Railway
Note that we will usually write out the words “avenue” and “street” in full in the description of the photographs, but not always; and sometimes either will be plural.
Now it is time to hit our database. I click in the search bar, and then click on “Advanced search”.
With Advanced search, I can choose to filter the results of my search to photographs, by clicking on the “General material designation” and choosing “Photograph”. I can also limit my search results to a certain date range.
In the “Search” box, I will insert the first of the search terms. I must use quotation marks around the term if it is made up of multiple words. For example, I will search “Maple Street”, not Maple Street. If I forget to use quotation marks, the database will return all results with the word “maple”, and all the results with the word “street” in it. Instead of getting 53 results, I will get 20,931 results, most of which I don’t want.
I now am ready to start my search. I start with the address, “2116 Maple Street” and, as luck would have it, 1 photograph turns up. This doesn’t happen often, and actually, I was quite shocked there is a photograph. I have looked into a number of house histories, and this is the first time where there was a direct hit. This photograph is from 1985, which is interesting, but I also would like to get a sense of what the house and neighbourhood was like further back in time. This is what the next search terms will hopefully help me discover.
As I work my way through the various search terms, along with a visual scan of the thumbnails and descriptions, I find another photograph of the house from 1978. The search also brings up an aerial photograph from 1956 (which is like an early version of Google maps) and two photographs taken at the corner of 6th Avenue and Maple Street in 1900, and one in 1906, before the house was built.
It also locates a photograph of somewhere along Maple Street the year the house was built.
And it finds a view of the city taken from a biplane in 1919 (where the house can be located).
This last example is where the house is not in the photograph’s description (it was found under the search term “B.C.E.R.”), but the house can be located in it.
Searching through photographs can be time consuming, but it does give me a better sense of the neighbourhood through time. Here are some other interesting photographs of the Kitsilano neighbourhood, which provide me a visual of what the neighbourhood looked like in the past, which helps place the house in a larger historical context.
Now that I have a visual of what Kitsilano was like in the first few decades that the house existed, it is time to search for names of the people who occupied the house through the years, and for that, I will use the city directories. Stay tuned.