The Vancouver house that tradesman George Leslie built on Hornby Street during the 1880s sits empty and boarded up.
One of the last remaining examples of the Queen Anne style of British architecture in the city, the Leslie House has a long history.
For 40 years and until 2013, the heritage home known as the Yellow House was part of the celebrated Il Giardino establishment of legendary Italian restaurateur Umberto Menghi.
As a city staff report on a development proposal for its downtown location notes, the conservation of the two-storey wooden home is of great importance to Vancouver.
“Built circa 1881, it is one of the oldest surviving buildings in Vancouver and may be the oldest house in the city,” according to the report written by Karen Hoese, acting assistant director of planning for Downtown Vancouver.
Hoese’s report deals with the rezoning application filed by subsidiaries of development company Grosvenor Pacific for the redevelopment of two sites.
One location is 1380-1382 Hornby Street, where the historic Leslie House is located.
On the Hornby Street location, a 39-storey condo tower is planned for development. The new building will have 213 strata units.
Currently located at the middle of the site, the Leslie House is proposed to be relocated to the southeast corner of the site, where it will face Pacific Street.
At its new Pacific Street location, a revitalized Leslie House will serve commercial uses, including retail, service, and office needs.
According to Hoese’s report, the terms of a restoration covenant will include the “condition that the future residential strata be legally responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of Leslie House”.
The second location covered by the rezoning application is the adjacent vacant property at 801 Pacific Street.
The development plan proposes the construction of a seven-storey cultural facility at the Pacific Street site, which is directly across the lane from the Hornby Street property.
Hoese wrote in her report that the developer is offering the cultural facility as an in-kind community amenity contribution to the City of Vancouver.
“Upon completion, the applicant would transfer the land and building to City ownership for a nominal amount ($10.00) …,” Hoese reported.
The city planner estimated that the total cost of the finished cultural property is $18.7 million.
Going back to the Leslie House, the building is listed in the Vancouver Heritage Register. It is also on the Canadian Register of Historic Places.
One of the appendices attached to Hoese’s report is a draft of a conservation plan for the Leslie House.
The conservation document recalled that Leslie, a plasterer originally from Nova Scotia, built the house around 1888.
In 1947, Wilhemina Meilicke bought the property and made changes to the house. Two decades later in 1967, it was sold to Mano Herendy and used as a fashion atelier in 1967.
Menghi, then a young restaurateur, bought the property in 1972, and opened a restaurant a year later.
In her report, Hoese wrote that in 2005, the 1380 Hornby Street location of Leslie House was rezoned to permit a 16-storey hotel. The house was supposed to serve as lounge for the hotel. The hotel project did not proceed, and Leslie House was designated as protected heritage property as part of that previous rezoning.